A biology professor once told me that he was experimenting with a poison so deadly that inhaling it would have the effect of simultaneous multiple rattlesnake bites. Needless to say, he handled the stuff very carefully! A casual attitude about sin can also result in deadly consequences.
Consider the words from the Bible: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). As you read over this list of sins, you may respond in one of several ways.
You may think that some of these activities are clearly sinful, while others are not so bad if done in moderation. Usually we think the sins we commit regularly are the moderation ones, while the sins of others are the clear cut sins. In our age of relativism where there is no absolute truth, you might think that the Bible is completely out of date. Perhaps, on the other hand, you see your lifestyle written out in that list of deadly sins.
Let me strongly caution you not to take these words lightly. These come straight from the Bible, God’s inspired Word. Paul was not a mere opinionated author, but an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. An apostle is an official representative sent out on a mission. Paul was one of Jesus’ authorized spokesmen to the church. His words are not to be trifled with. Several considerations spring from these verses.
1) These sins represent patterns of lifestyle, not isolated incidents. Notice that at the end of the passage Paul says, “those who do such things.” The idea is an ongoing activity. Certainly it is true that everyone sins, but the issue here is character. What kinds of attitudes and actions characterize your life? Some athletes who get in trouble say, “Well sure, I burst out in anger last night, but that is not me.” That may or may not be true, but sin is serious. Don’t play games with God. Take the time to carefully examine your life.
What if I asked those who know you the best if such sins make up the habit or even the way of your life? If a certain sin such as Paul listed above is a way of life for you, you must take radical steps to remedy the problem.
2) God takes sin very seriously. This may seem too obvious to state, but I think the shallow view of sin many in our day hold results from the failure to realize God’s seriousness. The Lord is so concerned with your sin, he instructed Paul to offer severe warnings to the Galatians about sin patterns.
Note how he gave them multiple warnings: “I warn you, as I warned you before.” Then notice the severity of the warning: “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Do not be fooled, if your life is marked by ANY such sin you are NOT headed for heaven when you die.
You may remind me that one time you prayed a prayer at the front of a church, but according to the Word of the Living God it didn’t take—you are not a true believer. You may be sincere in your mental beliefs, but if your faith doesn’t result in works, it is dead faith (see James 2:14-26). Dead faith does not result in eternal salvation. The third consideration follows this one.
3) True faith in the Lord Jesus Christ produces real changes in a lifestyle. If your life is marked by the “works of the flesh,” you can be sure that you do not have true faith. Look at how Titus 1:16 describes false teachers: “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” Clearly a mere profession of faith is not a sure-fire indicator of the condition of a person’s soul.
The Bible fills out the lifestyle contrast of Christians and unbelievers in the next verses of Galatians 5. These qualities, called the fruit of the Holy Spirit, are being worked into the lifestyle of ALL true believers. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). As you read back through both lists, ask yourself honestly, “Which list best characterizes my way of life?”
4) Christ is the cure for the serious disease of sin. The entire letter to the Galatian churches is to remind them of the true gospel. The good news (which is the meaning of “gospel”) is that though you are indeed a sinner, in that you have willfully sinned against God by your words, thoughts, and deeds, God has made provision for you through Jesus, his Son. When Jesus died on the cross, he did so as a substitute, taking God’s wrath on behalf of all those who would put their trust in him alone. You cannot earn your way to God by your behavior. To escape from the fierce wrath of God, you must throw yourself entirely on his mercy and grace, on the basis of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
Although sin is far worse than rattlesnake poison, our society takes sin less and less seriously. It must not be that way for you. Right now, examine your heart. Does sin or righteousness mark your lifestyle? You will never realize your need for a Savior until you see and feel your sinfulness. Ask God to show you what is inside of your heart. When you see your sin, go directly to God and cry out for his mercy. He receives all who helplessly come to him. Do it today.
By John Crotts