1 Samuel 27:1(2)

Sermon preached on December 30, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Over the past months you've no doubt heard a lot about Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. Some of his former teammates, I think it was 11 of them, testified that he had doped extensively in his career. Most, if not all of them, said that not only had Lance doped, that that he had encouraged them to dope as well. They were on his team to support him, to help him win. The thinking was that they could do that better if they doped. So they started doping.

One of the common themes from their stories is that it soon got out of control. They had to hide what they were doing from some of the people around them. So they began to be deceptive about it. But then some of them tested positive. The common tactic they used was to maintain their innocence. They lied about it. They denied that they doped. They lied to family, friends, to the press, to the world. Not only did they deny it, at least one of them sued a newspaper that printed allegations of their doping. They set up funds that the public could contribute to so they could defend themselves.

Sin spreads. One sin lead to more sins, different kinds of sins. Mark Webster had a wonderful quote about sin a few weeks ago in Sunday School. He said,

"Sin will take you where you don't want to go. It will keep you there longer than you want to stay. And it will make you pay more than you want to pay."

The little sin we start with leads to another sin, which leads to another and the next thing you know it's out of control. You're not controlling sin, it's controlling you.

Sin is like a germ that enters your mouth and multiplies and multiplies and spreads to different parts of the body—to your nose, to your lungs. The next thing you know you're very sick, your whole body aches.

Sin is like that. But what we see from our text is that sin also spreads from person to person. Just like a cold or flu virus spreads by someone coughing or something like that, so sin spreads from person to person. Sin is like a plague. It doesn't stay isolated. It spreads, not only in an individual, but it infects others. Your sin can lead to sin in others.

One of the things that cyclists involved in doping said was that when they were young, just entering professional cycling, they were idealistic and wanted to race clean, without drugs. But when they entered cycling and found out that so many others were doping—they felt that they themselves had to dope. This is two ways. First, they felt that with so many other doping, they felt that the only way for them to compete successfully was for them to dope themselves. They said that there was pressure on them to use illegal drugs so that they could be competitive. Then, of course, was the pressure from teammates, from team leaders. They needed help and you could be a better rider if you doped. So there was incredible pressure from their environment, from other riders, that caused them to dope.

Sin is like that. Sin spreads. Not only does it grow in us when we give it a foothold, but it can cause others to sin.

Consider Saul's sin. It spread in him. At first he was just jealous of David. At first he tolerated just a little bit of disobedience in himself. We have an example of that in 1 Samuel 15. He kept back the best of the sheep and cattle when the Lord told him to destroy all the sheep and cattle of the Amalekites. But at the time he was telling himself that he had obeyed the Lord. But his sin spread in him. Later his heart departed from the Lord altogether. He killed the priests of the Lord at Nob. He was fighting against the Lord 100 per cent. He was trying to kill, David, the Lord's anointed. Sin spread in Saul until it had him completely.

We also see how it progresses in Peter during his denials. Mark's gospel tells us that when Peter was confronted the first time, with the fact that he was with Jesus, Peter denied it. But he tried to evade the accusation. He said, (Mark 14:68)

"I don't know or understand what you're talking about."

When he was accused again, Mark merely tells us that he denied it. But it appears that there was no attempt at evasion the second time. The third time, Peter's sin grew worse. We read, (Mark 14:71)

"He began to call down curses
on himself, and he swore to them,
'I don't know this man you're talking about.'"

Sin is lawlessness. It is totally against God and His rule.

But sin also spreads to others. Consider the impact that Saul's sin had on David. One of the things that we see is that

Saul's sin contributed to David's sin.

David is on the run because of Saul's sin. Saul was trying to kill David. He was pursuing him and David had to be careful that Saul didn't capture him. After a period of time, David's faith wavered. That's what we see in our text. He said to himself, (1 Samuel 27:1)

"One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul.
The best thing I can do is to escape
to the land of the Philistines.
Then Saul will give up searching for me
anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand."

Saul's constant harassment had a detrimental effect on David and led him to sin. It was one of the causes that contributed to David stopping trusting the Lord. It wasn't the only cause, but it was a contributing factor.

It should be clear that Saul's sin didn't give David an excuse to sin. David should not have sinned.
But the nature of sin is that it spreads. We see that in the very beginning. Eve's sin spread to Adam. He saw that she sinned and he decided to join her in her sin.

This is the nature of sin. It spreads. It is part of an all out war.

1 John 3:4 defines sin this way,

"sin is lawlessness."

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Question 14) summarizes the Biblical teaching and tells us that sin is,

"any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God."

Sin is against God's law. It is against God's character. As such the law is all interconnected. James 2:10 says,

"For whoever keeps the whole law
and yet stumbles at just one point
is guilty of breaking all of it."

Keeping the law is an all or nothing thing. John Frame tells us that the law is all interconnected, because, (Salvation Belongs to the Lord, p. 103)

"sin is of the heart. If you have the kind of heart that would disobey one word of God, you have the kind of heart that would disobey any other word of God. Either you are wholly devoted to serve God or you aren't."

We usually don't think of lawlessness as an all or nothing thing proposition. We think of lawlessness in terms of degrees. We view lawlessness as something that we can stop. We can decide to commit this little sin but we are determined to go no further. We won't commit a bigger sin.

For example, when I was a kid, my mom would sometimes go out and she would tell us that we weren't allowed to have any cookies while she was gone. The cookie jar was off limits. In a situation like that, I might be tempted to have one cookie. I might have the idea that I could get away with stealing one. But I would never even think of eating a whole lot or of emptying the cookie jar.

That's the way that we view sin. We view it like a water faucet that we can control completely. We can turn it on just a little and have it drip just a little, or have it half turn on so that the water comes out pretty good, or we can turn it on full force for a little while and then turn it off completely.

But that's not the proper way of viewing sin. We should not look at it that way. That's not really the way that sin operates.

Viewing things like that makes it seem that sin is something external to us, that it's outside us. But that's not the way that it is.

What we see from scripture is that

sin is associated with individuals, it corrupts them.

It becomes part of them, part of their nature.

Sin does not seem to be a force that exists by itself, as a force of nature that exists apart from individuals. Wayne Grudem writes, (Systematic Theology)

"it would be wrong for us to say there is an eternally existing evil power in the universe similar to or equal to God himself in power. To say this would be to affirm what is called an ultimate 'dualism' in the universe, the existence of two equally ultimate powers, one good and the other evil."

I don't believe that we are to think of sin as something that merely exists on it's own, apart from individuals. Sin came into the angelic world when Satan and other angels sinned. Sin came into the world of man when Adam and Eve sinned.

Sin is associated with individuals. It corrupts the heart. It overpowers. It changes the principle of life.

When Eve sinned, it corrupted her. It took over the core of her being. It overpowered her. Sin was not something that she controlled, it was something that controlled her.

With sin it's all or nothing. Once you sin, you've turned against God. You've changed sides. Adam and Eve went from being God's friends to being His enemies.

Think about how quickly Eve went from being the one who was tempted to being the one who was doing the tempting.

Not long after she fell into sin, she took on Satan's role. Consider that. Satan had tempted her. Now, in front of Adam, she's the tempter, tempting her husband to sin by giving him the forbidden fruit. Satan was the tempter of Eve, then Eve became the tempter.

Sin had totally changed her. It had totally corrupted her. Every important aspect of her being had changed. The core principle of her life had changed. She was not now serving God—she was serving Satan. She was like Satan.

Thus, even though we are not to think of a power, existing on it's own, apart from God, external to us, what we see is that it has a horrifying power that corrupts. This power is stronger than the individuals. Eve could not control her disobedience. It controlled her. For instance, in John 8:34 Jesus said,

"I tell you the truth,
everyone who sins is a slave to sin."

The apostle Paul also speaks of this in Romans 6. The idea is that sin is something that is overpowering. It corrupts to the core of one's being so much so that it becomes the new principle of life. Sin came into the lives of Adam and Eve and set itself up in their hearts in opposition to God.

Yet, we think that sin is something that we can control, that it's somehow external to us. It's not like a water faucet that we can turn on and off.

Yet, it seems that way—doesn't it? It seems that we can sin just a little bit. We can decide to just take one cookie out of the cookie jar. We can decide not to eat all of the cookies. Why is that?

It's only because of God's grace that we can think of sin like that.

God so often restrains sin. He boxes it in. He keeps it from spreading. That is the only reason we can think of sin like a water faucet that we can turn on and off. It's the only reason we can think of it in terms of taking one cookie out of the cookie jar. God's grace restrains sin.

If you thought of sin properly, according to its nature, you'd think of putting your hand in the cookie jar and it biting your hand off. If you thought of it properly, it would be like going to turn on a water faucet just a little and the whole thing breaking so that water just exploded out of it and you couldn't turn it off. If you think of sin properly you'll think of it something like a jack-in-the-box, that once you let it out of its box—it's coming with great force. It's like one of those things you open and three or four spring loaded contraptions come flying out of it and scare you. That's what the nature of sin is like.

We're like,

"Oh, I'm just going to look in this box and take a little piece of chocolate out and then I'll close it up again."

No. No. No. That's not the way that sin works. You really want to think of sin as a IED, an Improvised Explosive Device—if you mess with it, if you go near it, if you fiddle with it—it's going to explode and do all kinds of damage. The aim of an IED is to kill, wound and maim. It's not a toy. It's not a play thing. It's something you want to stay away from because it's purpose is to destroy you or make your life miserable.

The only reason we can think of sin in such wrong terms is because of God's grace in holding back, restraining evil and sin.
But to think in such terms is to misuse God's grace. We totally draw the wrong conclusion. We see God holding back sin, restraining it and we see sin as something we can indulge in, something we can play with. Rather than being amazed at God's grace, mercy and goodness to us—we sin by not seeing sin as it really is.

God restrains sin. He holds it back. He keeps it from accomplishing its goal. We see this in many places in Scripture. For example, 2 Thessalonians 2:7 says,

"For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work;
but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so
till he is taken out of the way."

God restrains sin. He restrains sinners. He is protecting His people. He is planning to save them.

How often has God kept you from sinning against him. When Abigail met David, she said, (1 Samuel 25:26)

"Now since the LORD has kept you,
my master, from bloodshed
and from avenging yourself with your own hands,
as surely as the LORD lives and as you live,
may your enemies and all who intend
to harm my master be like Nabal."

God kept David from sinning. He also does that with unbelievers. In Genesis 20:6–7 God said to King Abimelech,

"Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience,
and so I have kept you from sinning against me.
That is why I did not let you touch her."

Joseph's brothers wanted to murder Joseph. That was the goal of their sinful jealously. But God wouldn't allow Joseph to be killed. Instead God send Joseph to Egypt to save many lives. (Genesis 50:20)

God restrains sin. Satan wanted to make Job suffer and then kill him. Again, God wouldn't allow it. He prevented Satan from killing Job.

Satan wanted to have Peter, to sift him as wheat, to cast him into hell. Jesus wouldn't allow it.

In each and very case, God restrained the evil. Without His restraint, sin would destroy and destroy. It would make us worse and worse.

What does all this mean?

First of all,

you should have a deep and abiding hatred for sin.

How you should hate sin.

You should hate sin because of what it is.
Sin is bad. All the misery, pain and sorrow in your life has come to you because of sin. Sin is against God. God is good. God is right. God is righteous. Sin is an offense to God.

You should hate sin because of how it spreads. Sin is like the spark that James writes about in James 3:5–6.

"Consider what a great forest
is set on fire by a small spark.
The tongue also is a fire, a world of
evil among the parts of the body.
It corrupts the whole person,
sets the whole course of his life
on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell."

Unchecked by the grace of God—your sin would turn you into an absolute monster.

Not only that, but your sin has bad effects on others. Saul's hated of David led to David being an outlaw, to him getting discouraged and coming to a point where he had very little faith in God.

Did you ever consider how your sin has affected others? It's easy for us to consider how Saul's sin affected David. But what effect does your sin have on others? Ananias and Sapphira—one of them came up with the idea of lying about the price of the land they sold. What a disservice they did to the other. Some children grow up and they justify they lack of interest in Christianity because of the hypocrisy of their parents.

You should do everything you can to stop the spread of sin. Don't sin yourself. Set a pattern of righteousness in your life. See sin for what it is and what it leads to.

Secondly, this means that

you should marvel at God's grace.

How remarkable God's grace is! God's grace is so evident in this world. It is full of His special grace to believers. It is full of His common grace to unbelievers. Without it sin—in all its forms, violence, injustice, theft, murder, abuse—would be sweeping across the face of this earth. Without God's grace you would be so bad that none of us would recognize you. Without God's grace things like the shooting of the school children in Connecticut would be happening every day.

Yet, we take this grace for granted. God's grace greatly restrains the spread of sin and we take it for granted.

Christians, praise God for His grace, to you, to this fallen world. How wonderful He is to us.

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians.

This means that you're not nearly as bad as you could be. The sin that you inherited from Adam is inside you, yet it's effects have been greatly restrained by God's grace. How good God has been to you.

Yet, if you do not go to Jesus, this sin will have it's way with you. It will destroy you. It will make you totally and utterly miserable. Don't let that happen. Go to the One who has been so good to you. Go to Jesus for salvation.