Specific Strategies For Defeating The Deceitfulness of Sin


Sin lies. Sin deceives. Sin constructs an artificial world, opens the doors, and invites you to move in. The more you begin to dwell in the construct world, the more it feels like home. Soon it’s more inviting than the real one.

If we’re going to stand against sin’s lies, we need to learn to know our enemy. Just like a man with a pocket full of money needs to know beforehand the moves of a con artist, so too we need to recognize the tactics sin uses to deceive us. Here’s one primary way sin pulls the wool over our eyes: sin makes us selectively blind. Not totally blind – that would give away the con – but partially, selectively blind. Listen to John Calvin describe this ploy:

In reply to the general question, every man will affirm that murder is evil. But he who is plotting the death of an enemy contemplates murder as something good. The adulterer will condemn adultery in general, but will privately flatter himself in his own adultery. Herein is man’s ignorance: when he comes to a particular case, he forgets the general principle that he has just laid down (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.ii.23, emphasis added).

Do you see the pattern? Sin blinds us to the particulars, to our concrete, 7:35am-on-Monday-the-20th behaviors, all while letting us still see clearly the general, abstract principles of obedience. So, as Calvin says, a man can trumpet his belief that adultery is wrong yet still convince himself that, in this particular case, his wife’s failings justify his own infidelity. The pattern holds at every level:

I’m not an angry person! I’ve just had such a hard day at work…I just lost my cool for a moment, that’s all.

I know nagging is wrong – but this time he really does need to be reminded one more time.

I’m not defensive! It’s just that this time I’m right and you’re wrong!

Do you see the method? Of course we believe anger, nagging, or defensiveness is wrong – it’s just that this time there are mitigating circumstances. But we’re not angry, nagging, or defensive people!

So here’s how we defeat this tactic: when it comes to sin, don’t deal in generalities. Pursue godliness and obedience at the specific, concrete level. Don’t ask, Do I love my spouse? Instead ask, Was that response loving or unloving? Don’t ask, Am I a defensive person? Instead ask, Did I just respond with pride or humility? Sin can’t be beaten at the level of abstractions. Victory happens in the trenches, on the streets, moment-by-moment.

And remember the good news. Once we believed lies so deeply we didn’t even know there was such a thing as truth – until the Way, the Truth, and the Life burst into our world, shattered the shackles of deception, and brought us out of sin’s fantasy land into the real world, the kingdom of light. Sin can outwit us, and left to our own devices, it still will. But sin cannot outwit or con King Jesus. And because he has broken its power and opened our once-blind eyes, we can now fight and resist sin’s deceitfulness with confidence that the war has been already been won.

Sin lies. Sin deceives. But Jesus tells us the truth. And the truth shall set us free.

Photo by David D

Could I End Up Selling Meth?


Unlike most of my friends, I did not rabidly watch every episode of “Breaking Bad” as soon as it aired. Only recently have I started making my way through the series, and I’m currently about halfway through season two (if you want to know, Walt just got his good diagnosis). Now, let me just say up front that this post is neither an endorsement of or condemnation of the show. If you watch the show or abstain from watching, that’s between you and the Lord. There is certainly some objectionable content in the show, given the fact that most of the show centers around meth.

One of the things that makes the show so brilliant, is how perfectly it captures a man’s slow descent into absolute destruction. As the show progresses, Walter White makes a series of small choices which have exponential consequences. One lie leads to another, bigger lie. One act of intimidation leads to another, bigger act of intimidation. A small act of violence leads to a much bigger act of violence. Almost every show contains a perfect, poignant moment, in which Walt is perched on the edge of decision. He can choose good or he can choose evil, and as time goes on he increasingly chooses evil.

As I watch the show, I can’t help but be reminded of Galatians 6:7-8, which says:

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

I’ve been in various positions of church leadership for many years, and during those years, I’ve seen a lot of fantastic things. Kids saved. Marriages restored. Sinners rescued. There’s nothing better than seeing the power of God transform a life!

But I’ve also seen a lot of really terrible things. Marriages destroyed. Faith abandoned. Friendships destroyed.

In almost every case of a Christian committing massive sin, it didn’t start big. Big sin never starts big. The guy who cheated on his wife didn’t wake up one day and suddenly decide to commit adultery. It wasn’t like he woke up and said to himself, “Today is a good day for some wickedness.” Rather, it started with small, seemingly “innocent” compromises. Sitting together with the woman while eating lunch. Having extended conversations with the woman. A few semi-flirtatious emails. Beginning to text message the woman outside of work hours. Small acts of sowing to the flesh which, when added together, result in massive corruption.

The woman who ended up rejecting the church and walking away from Jesus, didn’t suddenly decide to go apostate. Rather, her apostasy was the result of a hundred small choices. Slowly abandoning the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading and prayer. Gradually neglecting to fellowship with other Christians. Experimenting with pornography. Again, small acts of sowing to the flesh which then snowball into massive corruption.

I’m not writing this as some sort of scare tactic, like that show “Scared Straight”. Rather, I’m writing this as a sober reminder to myself and you. By the empowering of the Holy Spirit, who gives me all that I need to overcome temptation, I want to take sin very seriously. I want to flee big sins and little ones. I want to take evil seriously. I want to heed the warning of Hebrews 3:12-13, which says:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ?today,? that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Lust Has The Worst Credit Rating

Illicit sexual pleasure is everywhere. Internet porn is two clicks away. An affair can be born out of simple Facebook chat. Inappropriate pictures can be exchanged via sexting. Lust is so easy, so accessible, so cheap. And it looks so good! So craveable. So satisfying. The burning desire inside us feels so natural, so normal, and so appropriate. In the words of Solomon, lust looks sweet like honey and smooth like oil:

For the lips of?a forbidden?woman drip honey,?and her speech?is?smoother than oil… (Proverbs 5:3)

Lust looks so sweet, so smooth, so good, so seductive, so appealing, so satisfying. It promises satisfaction and release and unending pleasure. It promises pleasure without consequences. It masks itself as need.?I need to look at porn. I don’t have a girlfriend and I need to find release somewhere. I need to have an affair. My spouse is not fulfilling my needs so I need to look elsewhere.?

But lust has the worst credit rating in the universe. It always defaults on its promises. It never delivers as advertised. It always takes more than it gives. The honey is actually poison and the oil covers a sword.

…but in the end she is?bitter as?wormwood,?sharp as?a two-edged sword. (Proverbs 5:4)

Giving in to sexual sin always, always, always has consequences. Every time we open the door to lust we bring another truckload of bitter poison into our lives. Every time we indulge in sexual sin we are essentially ramming a sword through our chest. We are committing spiritual suicide. We are poisoning our relationship with God and our relationships with others.

Lust is a honey-coated sword. It is a bankrupt borrower. It always takes and never gives, always promises and never delivers, always kills and never gives life.

Contrast this to Jesus, who said:

The thief comes only to steal and?kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

Jesus always delivers on his promises.

Just A Little Sin


May I take my sin more seriously.

So often I don’t view it as being that big a deal.? “Oh, it’s just a little bit of fear of man…I was kind of proud…I was just a little jealous…some slight discontentment…got a little hot under the collar.”

I think that often I don’t take my sin as seriously as I should because I view it in terms of its effect on me.? It hinders me, it makes me unhappy, it hurts me.

God stood David on his ear when he spoke through Nathan the prophet about David’s sin:

Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? … because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah… Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord… (2 SA 12.9, 10, 14).


David’s sin of adultery was horrible because of what it did to Bathsheba and Uriah her husband.? It was horrible because of the consequences it would have for David and his family.? But the worst thing about his sin was that it was despising God, the God who had blessed and prospered David so much.

That “little fear of man” is despising God’s word.

That “slight discontentment” is despising God.

All sin – even “small” sin – is scorning the Lord.

May we see our sin for what it is and vigorously hate it.? May we hate every sin, even those that don’t seem that blatantly foul.? And may we continually appropriate the mighty power of the Holy Spirit to put sin to death and run hard after God.

photo by Prof. Jas. Mundie

Our Ultimate Hope

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” – Hebrews 3:12-13

This is a sobering, frightening, soul-gripping text. I confess that as I think about the possibility of becoming hardened by my sin, I am tempted to be afraid. After all, I know the depths of my own depravity. I’m wicked and ungodly, often straying, and with a heart that quickly loves other things. How am I to be sure that I won’t stray from God or let my heart become deceived by sin? How will I ever make it to the end?

Then I remember glorious passages such as Jude 1:24, which says, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy…” Oh what sweet words these are! My confidence does not ultimately lie in my ability to fight sin or the spiritual insight of those in my accountability group. My confidence is in our great and glorious Savior, who promised that He would never lose me or leave me or let me go. My confidence is firmly placed in the one who hung upon the cross and died in my place. My hope for heaven is in the One who purchased heaven for me. Christ, and Christ alone is my hope.

Take time today to thank Christ that He is the One who sustains you and keeps you. Thank Him that He will never let you go, and that nothing can snatch you from His hand. You are His forever, purchased by blood and sealed by the Spirit. That is our confidence.

Who Do You Need?

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” – Hebrews 3:12-13

This passage highlights two questions that we should ask of ourselves:

1) Who do we need to invite into our life? The sad fact is, we won’t accurately see and understand our sin apart from the input and correction of others. God has created us in such a way that we need others, and He has ordained that the Christian life be lived out within a community of other Christians. Those who seek to follow God without the help of others are fools, setting themselves up to deceived and hardened by sin. God speaks to us through the insight and wisdom of other believers.

And yet many times we don’t invite other Christians into our lives. We don’t want their correction and don’t desire their help. In fact, when someone brings correction or rebuke, we act offended, irritated that they had the audacity to tell us where we are failing. In our pride we end up being fools. We’re like a blind man with a fly swatter. We know sin is there, and we can hear it buzzing around, but we can never quite seem to hit it.

Who do you need to invite into your life today? Are you asking for correction and rebuke from those near to you? Are you aware of your blindness and asking others to help you see?

2) Who do we need to initiate with? Most of us don’t like correcting people. It feels awkward, and people don’t always respond well. And most of the time we’re not even sure if someone is really sinning. We just have some vague thoughts about something that might be sin. I can’t count the number of times I have neglected to correct someone because I was afraid of what they might think of me.

But the truth is, scripture calls us to correct others in love. If we truly care about someone and are truly concerned for their soul, we will help them see their sin. If we are passionate about the glory of God, we must initiate correction and rebuke with those around us. It is terribly unloving to leave someone blinded by their sin. And our correction should be marked by humility and gentleness, and always done with the motive of helping someone draw near to the Savior.

So who do you need to initiate correction with today? Who do you need to admonish and encourage today? Who do you need to exhort? If we are to please God, we must invite correction and initiate correction.

Exhortation and Insight

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” – Heb 3:12-13

How do we fight against spiritual hardness of heart? How do we avoid being deceived by our sin? In His wonderful kindness, God has provided the answer. He is passionate that we grow in godliness, and has graciously instructed us how we might do so. The solution is clear, and because of the gospel we have much hope for growth.

In this passage we are charged to exhort one another as a means of guarding against the deceitfulness of sin. We are called to exhort, encourage, and challenge one another for the purpose of helping them grow in godliness. And by the same token, we are desperately in need of exhortation and encouragement from other Christians. The fact is, without the involvement of others, we will not grow as God intends and we are in danger of being hardened and deceived by sin. We have pockets of sin that we are blind to, and without the insight of others we simply won’t see them. As Paul Tripp puts it, “Personal insight is the result of community.”

The solution is obvious but not always easy. We must involve others in our spiritual lives. It’s crucial for us to be surrounded by people who know us well, who can identify our spiritual blind spots, and who can graciously correct us. And we should make it easy for these people to correct us. We should beg them for correction, and plead with them to point out our sin. Most people are reluctant to point out areas of sin and we should do everything possible to make it a pleasant experience for them. Take notes, ask questions, whatever it takes.

Do you have a few, well-trusted individuals in your life who will correct you, challenge you, and encourage you? Do you make it easy for them to correct you? Are you grateful for their correction? Husbands, do you ask your wife for correction on a regular basis? Do you humbly and gratefully respond when she brings correction? We are blind to sin, and we desperately need the help of others. If you don’t have someone in your life who serves this role, get someone…soon.

Fight The Hardening

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” – Hebrews 3:12-13

If there’s one thing I know, it’s how to take care of a paintbrush. My dad, who was an art major in college, was very careful to teach us the proper procedures for cleaning out a paintbrush after a painting session. Why? Because if you don’t take proper care of your paintbrushes, they become hard and unusable, and must be thrown away.

Our hearts are like paintbrushes. Without diligent care, they can become hard to spiritual things and the flame of our love for God can dwindle to just a flicker.

But how does this happen? Is it an overnight thing, kind of like the twenty-four hour flu? Do we go to bed with a passion for God burning in our hearts and then wake up the next morning as apostates? No, scripture tells us that hardness of heart is the result of being deceived by sin.

Sin is deceptive, isn’t it? It doesn’t come right out and say, “Hey, I’m sin, and I’m here to hurt you.” No sin looks attractive and enticing. It lies to us, telling us that it won’t matter if we give in just this once. It tells us that one lustful glance never hurt anybody, that one little lie isn’t a big deal, that just a little discontentment is normal. Sin promises happiness, satisfaction, and long-lasting pleasure. But it lies. Never once has it made good on its promises. It deceives us.

Believing the lies of sin leads to a gradual hardening of the heart. The heart doesn’t become hardened all at once as a result of some massive sin. No, it’s a gradual, subtle, and yet deadly process. Often it begins in the mind when sinful, ungodly thoughts are left unchecked. Thoughts then turn to small sinful actions, such as a short lustful look or a quick outburst of anger. If these sins are not cut off quickly they will grow. And all the while the heart grows progressively harder. Sin is subtle, and its effect is gradual.

Friends, we must fight against this hardening process! As I mediated on this passage I was made aware of an area where I had failed to fight against sin. I don’t want my heart to grow hard, and by God’s all-powerful grace, I will fight my sin. I would appeal to you to do the same.

Caretakers of the Heart

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” – Hebrews 3:12-13

I take care of my car. I get the oil changed every three-thousand miles and make sure the tires are in tip-top shape. I attack the carpets with a vacuum, the outside with soap and water, and the dashboard with some sort of cleaner that leaves a greasy film . When I hear strange, moaning noises coming from within, I take it to the mechanic. Every six months I receive a new shiny plastic card informing me that I am a privileged member of Automotive Association of America (AAA). I keep diligent watch over my car. Yet as I read this passage of scripture, I’m forced to ask myself, “Do I watch over my heart with the same diligence?”

In these verses we hear God Himself exhorting us to “take care” of our hearts. Why? Because dwelling within each of us is an enemy of our souls. Sin lurks within our hearts, always watching and waiting for an opportunity to ensnare us. Our battle with sin doesn’t end at the moment of our conversion. The power of sin has been broken, yes, but the presence of sin remains entrenched in our hearts. And sin hates God, and it hates us. It is always seeking to tempt us and to lead us away from God. It doesn’t sleep, doesn’t rest, is always seeking to harden and deceive us. Sin doesn’t take breaks.

Therefore we cannot rest in the battle of sin! We would be wise to heed the words of Proverbs 4:23, which says, ” Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” The very springs of spiritual life flow within our hearts, and we are called to guard those springs passionately.

Christian, are you taking care to guard your heart? Are you a scholar of your heart, taking time to study it carefully that you might know its sinful tendencies? Sin is deceitful and it has a distinctly hardening effect. Are there any areas where you are not carefully guarding your heart? Television? Relationships with the opposite sex? Work?

Christ is supremely glorious and worthy of our deepest affections. Let us guard our hearts against anything that might steal those affections.