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TEXT: II Corinthians 2:11b
SUBJECT: Precious Remedies #3
Tonight we shall continue our study of the great Puritan book, "Precious Remedies against Satan's Devices". The author is Thomas Brooks, an English pastor who died in 1680. The aim is to expose the secret workings of Satan and to equip us to overcome his evil temptations.
We studied his work of concealment--"presenting the bait and hiding the hook". Last time, we looked at Satan's false advertising--"painting sin with virtue's colors". Tonight, we take up his third device which is,
"Satan draws the soul to sin by extenuating and lessening of sin".
If Satan cannot make you think your sin is good, he will make you believe it's "not that bad". He can do this is various ways. He can do it directly--"What's the big deal?" he whispers in your ear. Or, he can do it by comparing your sins (which are small) to those of other people which are "whoppers". Or, he can do it by pointing out the small chances of being caught, Or, by minimizing the consequences if your are caught. In each case, what Satan is doing is not denying your sin, but making it seem small or "nothing much to worry about".
Have you felt his way? If so, who do you think suggested it to you? Was it the Holy Spirit? Or some other spirit? You know the answer to that one. Now, what do we do about it?
Thomas Brooks offers seven remedies to this device, some of which I think are redundant. And so, I'll reorganize them a bit, and try to present four of them in an edifying way. And add one of my own. The first remedy for tonight is:
"Consider that giving way to a lesser sin makes way for committing a greater sin".
When it comes to sin, the Bible agrees with Darwin. It has a way of evolving from amoeba to Tyrannosaurs Rex. But unlike Darwin, it doesn't take aeons to do it!
Lying is a prime example. One lie creates the need for another; the second for a third; the third for a fourth; and so on. Before you know it, the fib you told months ago has made you a liar! What's the best way to avoid this web of deceit? Don't fib in the first place!
Murder is another example. It doesn't start with blazing guns, but with an unkind word. Answered by an insult. Met with a challenge. Causing a punch. A knife is drawn. A gun is pulled. Someone is dead. How could this murder be prevented? By banning guns. Maybe. But why start there--so late in the process? Why not skip the unkind word? Or soften the heart that formed it?
Sexual sin is a third example. It doesn't commence in your bed--but in your head! Thinking about sin leads to dwelling on it. This leads to looking for it. This leads to doing it. This leads to practicing it. The young man in Proverbs is loitering in the harlot's neighborhood, then looking at her, then chatting with her, then with her. There is an arc to his life; a momentum. How could he have done otherwise? "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished".
And so, when Satan tells you, "Ah come on, it's no big deal" agree with him. But remind him of what it could become.
A second remedy Brooks proposes is
"There is a great danger, many times most danger, in the smallest sins".
In one way, small sins are more dangerous than big ones. How can that be? Because they don't alarm us. If the sin is common and respectable, we don't recoil from it in horror. The man who fears and flees adultery may be quite comfortable with a lewd jesting. Yet the path to adultery is paved with dirty thoughts, words, and humor.
Also, small sins don't seem to demand immediate responses. If you were guilty of something gross and scandalous, you'd cry your eyes out in repentance and beg God to forgive you and to cleanse you from the evil of sin. But little sins? Needn't do anything about them, of course. At least not now. But think about it: a hole the size of a nickel will sink a battleship if it's never plugged. A hole in the hull twelve feet in diameter will get your attention! But a leak? I will sink the ship too. Slowly. Unspectacular. But sink it nonetheless.
What was the sin of Judas? Everyone knows that: He betrayed the Lord. But that wasn't his sin, was it? It was the result of his sin. What was the sin? The most common and respectable of sins: the love of money. Had he resisted the first impulse to steal, maybe he wouldn't have earned those "thirty pieces of silver".
Remember this when tempted with a small sin. They're often more dangerous than the big ones. Tell Satan that when he comes along with a trifle to tempt you.
A third remedy
"Those sins which we are apt to account small, have brought upon men the greatest wrath of God".
What we call "little sins" have gotten people into "big trouble". Picking up sticks on the Sabbath, for instance, got a man stoned to death with God's approval. When Uzzah steadied the Ark with his unholy hand, he was struck dead for it. When Gehazi asked for the Syrian's shekel and two shirts, he got his leprosy too. A white lie buried Ananias and Sapphira. If I were judge, I'd let all these go with a mild reprimand, but I'm not! Divine judgments don't conform to human standards. And so, before committing a little sin, remember they have sometimes brought down big judgments.
Why shouldn't they? Judgments serve a dual purpose. They punish the wicked. And they warn others. Why should God wait for a man to become as evil as he can be to cut him down for his sin? The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira put the church on notice. "Great fear came upon the church and on as many as heard these things".
Sin needn't be very big to be very dangerous.
A fourth remedy is to recall
"Other saints have chosen to suffer the worst of torments, rather than commit the least sin".
Holy examples are worth thinking about...and following. That's one reason they're in the Bible, "for our example". To what extremes did they go to avoid "little sins"?
Daniel and his friends preferred lions and fire to bowing the knee to idols. Could they have knelt without meaning anything? Of course they could have; most people did! But they would have no part of it! "Flee idolatry" was their motto. Integrity cost them dearly.
Paul was so concerned to not hurt anyone for whom Christ died, that he gave up meat, drink, and other lawful pleasures for their sake.
We do the saints a disservice by reading their example, admiring it, and then disregarding it. They suffered much to keep a good conscience. Now, in glory, do you think they regret their choices? I doubt it. Now, they're thankful they chose pain over sin. You will be, too.
The last remedy is not from Brooks, but from me. It is
"Remember who is hurt by the least sin".
"Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God" says the Apostle. To "grieve" is to sadden and to hurt someone. Who is grieved when we sin? God. Of course He is hurt by sins--as long as they're appalling sins like murder and torture, rape and child-molesting. We all agree with that.
But if you check the context of that verse, Ephesians 4:30, you'll find Paul was talking about sins not nearly as shocking as these. What did he have in mind? "Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking, and malice".
These aren't nearly as bad as the others, are they? Who doesn't yell at his kids now and then? Who doesn't harbor a bad thought or two? Who doesn't go to bed angry with her husband once in a while? These are no big deal--until you recall that these things "Grieve the Holy Spirit of God". Because He is hurt by them, they are "a very big deal".
Minimizing sin is one of Satan's most effective "devices". As believers in Christ, we mustn't be "ignorant" of it. God give us the wisdom to see through his strategies and the power to overcome them for His glory. Amen.
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