Hebrews 3:13

Sermon preached on August 20, 2017 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2017. 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.

When I was 10 or 11 I was with a few friends walking along the shore near where I lived. In that part of town the shore was rocky with a little cliff near the shore and on top of the cliff was the main street. To our great surprise we came upon a real fancy boat on the shore. It wasn't even pulled up on land. There was no one around and we couldn't understand why someone would leave a nice boat like that unattended. From what I remember it didn't have a motor on it but it did have some oars. We knew we should report it and we decided to do that. But someone suggested that we take it out and row around for a few minutes before we reported it. That sounded like a great idea. What could be the harm? Some of us had row boats that we used to play around in and we knew how to handle row boats. So we all agreed to go for a little ride and we pushed off, jumped in and starting rowing out a little way from shore. It was then that I got one of the biggest surprises of my young life. It seemed like weren't in that boat more than 30 seconds before there was a police car on the street above the shore with lights flashing and siren blaring and a policeman or two waving to us to come to shore. How could they catch us so fast? It was almost unbelievable. We hardly got any enjoyment out of that joy ride—just seconds. We found out later that the boat had been stolen and the owner found out about it almost right away and he notified the police. Because it had just happened all the police cars and the owner of the boat were driving along the main street (which ran along the harbor) looking for it. They knew the boat couldn't have gotten far. But they problem was they couldn't see the boat on the shore from the street. The little cliff in that part of town was just high enough to hide the shoreline. As soon as we pushed the boat away from shore the police spotted us and came rushing to where we were.

It was actually really embarrassing for a couple of us. My father was a policeman and one of my friend's father was a town policeman. The cops seemed to know right away that it wasn't us who stole the boat. Maybe the owner saw who took it or maybe we were such small kids that they knew we couldn't have gotten it to where it was in the time since it was stolen. One of the memories of that story that I find amusing in that it happened right in front of the house of my friend whose father was a policeman. When the police brought us up to the road and were questioning us his mother looked out the window and saw us with the policemen. She came storming out, shouting at her son. She grabbed him and dragged him away from the policemen and into the house. The policemen never lifted a finger to stop her. The rest of us were glad to be left with the policemen as we knew that G. was in a lot more trouble than we were. His mother was dealing with him a lot more harshly than the police would. The rest of us left there with the police knew we were better off with them than with G.'s mother.

One of the lessons I learned from that is that

sin deceives.

If we had known we were going to get caught so quickly, even before we could enjoy our little ride—we never would have pushed that boat out into the water. We were going to have a little joy ride for 5 or 10 minutes. But we only got seconds of enjoyment out of it. Sin deceived us. We thought we were going to get some enjoyment out of it with no negative consequences. But as it turned out there was no joy and a lot of negative consequences.

Sin sometimes promises a great deal a but it doesn't deliver on its promises. It promises joy, pleasure, success, happiness. Sin tells us that we can just indulge in a little sin and pull back. It tells us that we can keep it a secret, that it won't blow up in our face. But those things often aren't true.

One of the ways that sin is deceitful is that

it doesn't deliver what it promises.

I read somewhere when it was said that people sin because they believe that they'll be better off sinning than not sinning. There's a lot of truth in that. Sin promises pleasure, happiness, gain. It does indeed promise that you'll be better off if you sin than if you don't sin.

We see this in Satan's temptation of Eve. After Eve told him about God's prohibition from eating the tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil and the consequence of eating its fruit, (Genesis 3:4–5)

"You will not surely die,'
the serpent said to the woman.
'For God knows that when
you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Satan told Eve she wouldn't die. That's what sin promised. It also promised that she would become like God. Vod Rad writes, (Quoted from Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, NICOT; p. 190)

"the serpent's insinuation is the possibility of an extension of human existence beyond the limits set for it by God at creation, an increase of life not only in the sense of pure intellectual enrichment but also familiarity with and power over, mysteries that lie beyond man."

But that wasn't true either. But Eve believed those two lies and she did die. She did not become like God. By sinning she became more like the devil than like God.

Queen Jezebel told her husband King Ahab that he'd be better off with Naboth's vineyard than without it. (1 Kings 21) So she murdered Naboth and Ahab took possession of Naboth's vineyard. Was Ahab better off? No. God cursed him for it. He was told that dogs would lick up his blood in the place where they had licked up Naboth's blood. God said to Ahab through Elijah the prophet, (1 Kings 21:21,24)

"I am going to bring disaster on you.
I will consume your descendants
and cut off from Ahab
every last male in Israel—slave or free.
Dogs will eat those belonging
to Ahab who die in the city,
and the birds of the air will feed on those
who die in the country."

Sin doesn't deliver what it promises. Acts 5 tells us about the greed of Ananias and Sapphira and how they lied about how much they sold the land for. Instead of gaining from the money they kept, it lead to their deaths.

There are many examples of this in Scripture. It doesn't just apply to getting things we wish we had. It also related to unbelief, fear etc. For example Numbers 14 describes the behavior of the Israelites after the spies came back from exploring the land. Ten of the twelve spies gave a bad report—telling the people that there were giants in the land, that they seemed like grasshoppers before those giants. They said that they couldn't attack the people because they were stronger than them.

If the people were going to be faithful to God, they should have listened to Caleb and Joshua and got ready to attack the people. Their sin was lack of faith and fear.

Their fear made them irrational. They said they wished they had died in Egypt or in the desert. They feared that their wives and children would be taken as plunder. Then someone suggested the some of the stupidest ideas recorded in the Bible. It was suggested that they stone Moses, choose another leader and go back to Egypt.

Can you imagine? Stoning Moses, one of the greatest men of God in biblical history? Wanting to go back to Egypt? What kind of welcome would they have received in Egypt? You'll remember the 10 plagues on Egypt, especially the last one, the death of the firstborn. Remember Pharaoh's army perishing in the Red Sea? How do you think that Pharaoh would have received them? It would have been anything but a warm welcome. But somehow they thought that would be preferable to going up against the giants in Canaan.

The people sinned. What happened to them? God told them that they would wander in the wilderness for 40 years, one year for every day the spies were exploring the land. He told them that every one of them who were 20 years old and older, would die in the wilderness. The only exceptions were Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who urged the people to go up and take the land.

The Israelites were afraid. They thought it would be better to disobey God rather than go up and take the land. They all died in the wilderness. Sin didn't deliver them from what they feared—it brought a greater disaster on them.

If they had obeyed God, they would have defeated the giants and conquered the land. What they feared would not have come upon them. Sin lies. Sin made them afraid of the giants when they should not have been afraid.

Sin lies. When Satan tempted Jesus he took him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. He said to Him, (Matthew 4:9)

"All this I will give you,
if you will bow down and worship me."

But Satan was lying. He didn't own all the kingdoms of the world. Even if he did, Satan is a liar. He would not have given them to Jesus. In John 8:44 Jesus said about Satan,

"He was a murderer from the beginning,
not holding to the truth,
for there is no truth in him.
When he lies, he speaks his native language,
for he is a liar and the father of lies."

If Jesus had sinned He would not have gained all the kingdoms of the world. Satan's suggestion was a lie. In order to save people Jesus had to go to the cross. There was no other way.

Sin doesn't deliver on what it promises. Sin is like the scroll that the angel gave John in Revelation 10:9–10. The angel said to John,

"Take it and eat it.
It will turn your stomach sour,
but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.
I took the little scroll from the angel's hand and ate it.
It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth,
but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour."

That text is not about sin—but it does illustrate what sin is like. Sin brings misery. It does not deliver on what it promises. Sin brings disappointment, misery.

The second thing we see about the deceitfulness of sin is that

it traps.

Sin doesn't look like a trap. But it is. Proverbs 7:22–23 speaks of a man that goes to an adulteress. It says,

"All at once he followed her
like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deer stepping into a noose
till an arrow pierces his liver,
like a bird darting into a snare,
little knowing it will cost him his life."

Sin tells you that you can indulge in a little sin and then pull back. But that is not the case. Sin is like a spider's web. A bug gets caught in it and it can't get out. The more it struggles the more it gets trapped. It doesn't matter if it struggles or doesn't struggle, the bug is trapped. Sin is like that. It traps.

I love the ocean. But growing up near it I learned to respect it. You'd hear about people who went out on the rocks to look get a close look at the ocean. They might walk on the rocks or maybe sit on the rocks and tip their toes in. It's usually okay to walk on the rocks. But you have to keep your eyes open for big waves. And you should never go where the rocks are black from their contact with the ocean. Rogue waves have come in and washed people to their deaths.

Peggy's Cove is one of the most picturesque spots in Nova Scotia. There's a beautiful lighthouse and majestic huge rocks to walk on right next to the ocean. It's a very popular tourist spot. But as you get near the ocean there are signs warning people to be watchful of waves and not to get too close to the water. The signs are quite blunt. One of them reads,

"Warning Injury and Death Have Rewarded Careless Sight Seers Here The Ocean and Rocks are TreacherousSavour the Sea from a Distance"

But people still die on those rocks. The ocean doesn't seem that dangerous to them but it kills them.

Sin is like that. It doesn't seem all that dangerous. In fact it often looks inviting, attractive. But it's all a trap. Sin hardens people's hearts. I don't think there's a bigger trap than that. Lord willing we'll look at that next week.

The third thing we should understand about the deceitfulness of sin is that sin is deceitful in that

it leads to more sin.

Sin tells you that you can indulge in a little sin and then stop. But it doesn't often work that way.

David's sin of adultery led him to commit murder. When he found out that Bathsheba was pregnant he knew that she was in a lot of trouble. The punishment for adultery was death. (Leviticus 20:10) Bathsheba's husband was away in the army. She was going to be found out. David tried to get Uriah to go home but he refused. So David had Uriah killed. To cover up his first sin David committed another sin.

The deceitfulness of sin. It tells you that it can be contained. It tells you you can indulge in it and then withdraw. It's like a bag of chips telling you that you can only eat one.

Our society tells us that we should accept all the sins that are allowed by our society. They want you Christians to accept their sinful behavior. Basically they're saying that you shouldn't be so judgmental, that you shouldn't be so hateful, so narrow.

But the nature of sin is that it seeks to grow, to expand. It's like an aggressive form of cancer. If cancer stays localized and doesn't grow, you don't have to worry too much. But most cancers seek to grow. That's also the nature of sin.

It grew in David. It grew it King Saul. It grew in King Ahab.

There are already homosexual men publicly suggesting that homosexuals should be allowed to have sex with children. Of course they were quickly shot down. But just give it a few years. The nature of sin is that what is abhorred today can become acceptable tomorrow.

Our world is so used to abortion that some countries are moving on to making sure that babies with Down's Syndrome are aborted. I read an article last week which predicted that soon there will be no children with Down's Syndrome in Iceland.

In some countries euthanasia is moving from being something that requires the consent of the person to something that will be done to them without their consent. We see the beginnings of that in the Netherlands. In the past it was restricted to patients who repeatedly requested it and who were currently competent. But that's being relaxed. Last year Dutch doctors were given permission to end the life of dementia patients if they had sometime previously signed a form to that effect. They're not currently competent, they can't currently consent but that doesn't matter. What's next? It's easy to predict. Doctors will be given the okay to put all dementia patients to death.

Sin grows. It expands. Unless the tide is turned Christianity will not be permitted to legally exist in our society. Society will not tolerate people who call sin sin.

Fourthly, sin can deceive you into thinking it's a disease instead of chosen behavior.

Psychiatrist Floyd P. Garrett writes, (Addiction, Lies and Relationships)

"The first casualty of addiction… is the truth."

Garrett goes on to say that addiction is like,

"a malignant tumor, slowly and progressively expands and invades more and more of the healthy tissue of his life and mind and world,"

The addict lies to himself and to others. Lies are such a integral part of addiction that,

"They precede the main body of the addiction like military sappers and shock troops, mapping and clearing the way for its advance and protecting it from hostile counterattacks."

Sin is addictive. It seeks to advance and hold on to advances it has made. It deludes people. It tells them that deviant behavior is normal, acceptable, even necessary for them. It will tell them that it's genetic, that they can't help it, that they should just accept it. Lies, deception and dishonesty are part and parcel of addiction.

Fifthly, sin is deceitful in that

it blinds people to the righteousness of Christ that they need.

Our righteousness is defective. Yet people trust in their righteousness. Sin has deceived them. Martin Luther wrote, (Luther, Early Theological Works, Westminster Press, 1962, p. 83-84)

"It is rightly called the deceitfulness of sin because it deceives under the appearance of the good. This phrase 'the deceitfulness of sin' ought to be understood in a much wider sense, so that the term includes even one's own righteousness and wisdom. For more than anything else one's own righteousness and wisdom deceive one and work against faith in Christ, since we love the flesh and the sensations of the flesh and also riches and possessions, but we love nothing more ardently than our own feelings, judgment, purpose, and will, especially when they seem to be good. For the same reason Christ said, when he healed the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, that it was impossible for such people to be able to believe: 'How can you believe who receive glory from one another?' (John 5:44) Why are they not able to believe? Because the 'deceitfulness of sin', that is, the love of their own righteousness, blinds them and hardens their heart. Yet at the same time they think it is a good thing to glory in their own righteousness and be pleased with it, though that indeed is the very worst of all vices, the extreme antithesis of faith. Faith rejoices and glories in the righteousness of God alone, that is, in Christ himself."

Our righteousness is filthy rags in God's sight. Don't be deceived by sin about that. Don't trust in your filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6)

The sixth thing we should see is that

in Jesus, the deception of sin has been lifted.

Jesus brings light. Matthew 4:16 speaks of Jesus' ministry in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali, fulfilling Isaiah 9.

"the people living in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land
of the shadow of death a light has dawned."

Jesus brings light.

Jesus brings truth. He is the way, the truth and the life. (John 14:6) Grace and truth come through Him. (John 1:14) He brings truth. He showed sin for what it really is—a path that leads to death.

Jesus shows us that sin leads to misery. Through Jesus you can see that obeying His commands brings joy, peace, contentment and satisfaction. Believe Him. Trust Him.