A Thorn in the Conscience

Have you ever shut your fingers in a door or slammed your thumb with a hammer? Have you ever been blind-sided by a door frame or a child running around a corner? We wince at the former and chuckle a bit at the latter. We are all familiar with pain and understand the aggravation that can be misplaced doorframes or rambunctious children. I wonder, however, if we view sin merely as a pain that will go away or a slight aggravation to be laughed at.

Sin is aggravating and sin does cause pain, but when we look to Scripture, we discover that sin is so much more than pain and aggravation. We need to understand that sin’s purpose is to kill us and lead us into an eternal hell apart from the goodness of God. We must remain vigilant because, “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

The context is extremely important since Peter was writing to the “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:1) which includes all of us today who are in Christ. That is, Peter is warning Christians that Satan is prowling around seeking to devour you even now!

How does Satan devour us? Through sin.

Sin demands radical action

We play around with sin. We joke about sin. We take sin for granted. All the while, sin is looking to swallow us whole and drag us, often willingly, away from God.

This is why Jesus is so adamant in Matthew 5:29-30 that we take radical action. He says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

Again, it must be stated that Jesus is talking to His followers, and, therefore, He is talking to us as His followers…those who today have been redeemed by His shed blood. As pastors are quick to point out (and I am one of them), Jesus does not mean we literally are to amputate limbs and pluck out eyes lest all of us would be unable to see due to a lack of eyeballs or do anything due to a lack of arms and legs.

But what if Jesus meant what he said?

How painful the memory if whenever we went to use one of our hands, we remembered it was gone because we stole something! How painful to have to grab a pair of crutches every time we wanted to walk because of a particular sin! How painful to reach for the eyepatch because you lost an eye!

How painful to live with the daily reminder of our sinfulness?

When King David said, “My sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3) we understand that he had a daily constant reminder of his sinfulness. In this case, it was the death of his illegitimate son due to his affair with Bathsheba as well as his ensuing marriage to her. He was reminded of his sinfulness every day. He was reminded because his son was not there and because his wife was. How painful was that memory?

Yet, in our fallen way of thinking, sometimes we find not sinning in a specific manner painful because we enjoy our sin. I know I have been guilty of this kind of thinking. Paul struggled with this in Romans 7:15, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” We can all relate to Paul and he had the constant reminder that he was a murderer!

Sin is more than pain and aggravation. Sin is a fleeting pleasure that causes so much destruction. To sin is to die just like Adam and Eve. Not immediately but very slowly. And if we continue in sin, we will eventually find ourselves in eternal hell apart from the goodness of God.

Sin’s solution

The solution to sin is found in Another’s pain and aggravation. The passion of Jesus Christ dealt with sin in the radical way in which we are called to deal with sin. Jesus was mocked and ridiculed (aggravations) and scourged and beaten (pain) before he was put to death on the cross (radical) because it was the only way for Him to redeem for Himself a people (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Repentance of sin and faith in Christ for salvation is just the beginning. You will spend the rest of your life understanding what it means to work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Christian, I cannot stress enough the radical nature necessary to deal with your sin. Do what you must to flee from sin. Do not entertain it because it will kill you. It may be painful to the flesh to deny yourself whatever sin or sinful pleasure in which you are engaged, but I can promise you that Jesus is worth it. Whenever fall short of God’s glory, repent. No Christian I know has ever said they repent too much or too often. As Adrian Rodgers once said, “It is better to have a thorn in the flesh than a thorn in the conscience.”

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