Sin can be thought of as the bad news behind the good news. The Good News of salvation in Christ is, indeed, great news and yet, our understanding and appreciation of this message are enhanced by a deeper understanding of that from which we are being saved – sin.
The battle with sin is more than a personal battle as it takes place within the context of cultural influence. Such cultural influence trickles down, eventually becoming a personal challenge. Israel discovered and demonstrates this as they experienced the tension between that which God called them to be (and not to be) and the influence of the surrounding culture. Cultural influence is very real and weak-minded people with questionable commitment to God and His kingdom will often find cultural acceptance more appealing than the challenges that come with being God’s agent of change in the midst of wayward cultures.
Sadly, even clear instruction does not guarantee that people will choose the right path. Consider the instruction given in Dt.18:9-14 which reads, “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so.” The history of Israel reveals the disturbing departure of God’s people as He addresses them through the prophet Jeremiah saying, “Behold I am about to bring a calamity upon this place, at which the ears of everyone that hears of it will tingle. Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind; therefore, behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Ben-hinnom, but rather the valley of Slaughter” (Jer.19:3-6).
Fast forward slightly to the apostle Paul who stated to the Christian converts in Ephesus (largely Gentiles from a pagan culture with disgraceful practices, even within their religious observances), “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret” (Ep.5:6-12). “Do not participate…expose them.”
Fast forward again and we arrive at our contemporary cultural struggles. The church exists in the midst of cultural voices that are reminiscent of Satan speaking through the agency of a serpent. Deceiving words that entice and invite the undiscerning to embrace that which God has declared to be immoral and unacceptable. We find it necessary to navigate, both, blatant declarations that sin is good (Is.5:20) and subtle deceptions that convince us that we must embrace evil and become like our culture in order to have our voice heard.
It takes strong, courageous, wise and discerning people to remain standing in the midst battle. Ps.94:16 asks, “Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?” (NIV).
Please take time to read and seriously contemplate the strong words recorded in 2 Peter 2.