October 24

Where Sin Begins

James 1:14-15 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Psalm 7:14 Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity; yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood.

Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.

Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.

We all know what the wages of sin is: death (Romans 6:23). We see it played out all around us. We see murder, addiction, adultery, anger turned to violence—each one an outward manifestation of sin.

Yet these horrible ends all had a similar origin—they began in the heart and mind. They all started with a thought that came from within or without, but which somehow “caught” inside. To use other translations of Psalm 66:18, our mistake is that we “regard” iniquity, or “entertain,” or “cherish” it. Instead of rejecting it, we often hide it inside and treasure it quietly, pulling it out and spending time with it when we are frustrated or unhappy.

Following the conception-to-birth picture in James and Psalm 7, the beginning of any kind of destructive, life-changing sin is a quiet thought accepted. This is the conception. Like human conception, it’s invisible to the naked eye, and it happens quietly. But it grows.

We all know what happens to a conceived egg, given time and nourishment—a human is brought forth. “Bringing forth” sin and death is what the enemy is at work trying to do. Using another metaphor, the enemy, like God, has a crop he is hoping for as well—sin and its wages—and the seeds are the thoughts we receive and “regard.”

This is why it’s important to guard our hearts and master our thoughts. We can’t prevent every evil thought from entering our brain; even if there are no outward temptations, Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23 that “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts…All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” From without or within, we all have to wrestle with these thoughts at times. It’s what we do with them that matters.

The issue isn’t having an evil thought; it’s “regarding” it. We can reduce temptation by listening to the Lord as well as we can and looking to follow Him daily: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). But these thoughts will come, and as they do, we look again to James (4:7) for our instructions: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It’s never easier to submit or resist than when the stakes are small. Let’s bring to fruition peace, joy, love and righteousness, and let’s destroy the beginnings of sin before it even gets a chance to grow.

Prayer: Father, help me to recognize evil thoughts when they come. Forgive me for entertaining and cherishing them. Help me to submit to You quickly and resist the devil right away. Thank You that You’ve already won the victory.