Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sin In Small Doses

Buried beneath the earth is a chemical element of creation called "arsenic" that, by its very nature, is deadly.   The origin of the word comes from the Syriac (Middle Aramaic) word "(al) zarniqa," which is derived from the Persian word "zarnikh," meaning "yellow," or literally, "golden colored."  Because arsenic is belched from the earth in the form of volcanic ash which dissolves in groundwater, it is found in the water, soil, and air.  Since it is absorbed by all plants, especially leafy varieties, this deadly mineral takes up residence in nearly everything we drink and consume for food, including seafood.

Since the discovery of arsenic in ancient times, its application and use has been broad.  Originally, man's ignorance compelled him to mess around with the stuff by adding it to bronze to strengthen the alloy, and in the Victorian Age, women actually mixed it with vinegar and chalk, foolishly thinking that by ingesting the poison, it would improve their complexion.  

During World War I, the United States stockpiled 20,000 tons of a chemical weapon called "lewisite" that included arsenic, and that was used against the enemy as a blistering agent and lung irritant.  Eventually in the 1950's, the chemical weapon was "neutralized" with bleach and dumped into the Gulf of Mexico.  During the Viet Nam War, "Agent Blue," a chemical weapon containing arsenic, was used as a herbicide to kill the foliage cover and rice paddies that hid the North Vietnamese soldiers.

Arsenic is found in our car batteries, in bronzing and pyrotechnics, in lead shots and bullets, is used to prevent corrosion, in electronic circuitry, in wood preservation, and for the last four centuries has been used in medical compounds to treat ailments, such as syphilis and psoriasis.  Its most recent application is in the battle to fight cancer.  In 2000, the Food and Drug Administration approved "arsenic trioxide" for the treatment of a form of leukemia, and even more recently, the injection of "arsenic-74" has replaced "iodine-124" to locate tumors using PET scans to eliminate the "noise" that iodine causes and the scan picks up as it travels to the thyroid gland.

Some may think that, even though arsenic is dangerous, the element has some usefulness, as long as it is handled properly and the allowable limits of its concentration set by the FDA are strictly adhered to.  But as history has proven, ultimately, mankind quickly learned of its poisonous properties.  It then became a useful and effective method of murder.  Our history books are replete with accounts using arsenic or other poisons to rid a throne of a despot, and disgruntled spouses secretly slipping small doses of the poison into the pot roast dinner.  Unless the unlucky recipient of continued exposure and ingestion of this toxic cocktail undergoes screening of blood, urine, hair, and nails to evaluate its presence, and is put on a drug regimen to cleanse the body of arsenic, eventually a painful and untimely death, resulting from multi-system organ failure, is realized.

Now that I've educated my readers,
as well as myself, on arsenic, you may be wondering why a Christian blog is spending so much time on the subject.  If you will bear with me for a few more lines, I'll try to draw my thoughts to a conclusion you can appreciate.

We have already established that death can be brought about by continued exposure to arsenic.  Taken in small doses over a period of time, or massive doses in one fell swoop, life here on earth will end.  But there is an even more dangerous toxin that can not only bring life to a sudden end in this world, but will insure an eternity of pain and suffering in the next:  unrepentant sin.

When arsenic is viewed in its natural state, its appearance is appealing, even beautiful.  The crystals form into a variety of geometric three dimensional shapes and vary in color, from whitish gray and black, to brilliant hues of yellow, orange, and blue.  But it's what is hidden in its anatomical structure, unseen to the naked eye, that is extremely dangerous.

The same can be applied to what many foolishly refer to as "little sins" - those seemingly innocuous, harmless acts of disobedience mankind refuses to acknowledge are a grievance to God and an affront to the Son who shed His blood for each and every one of them.  Far too many confessing Christians love their sins, examining them on the surface only and finding them appealing to their senses which causes them to not want to let go of them.  Often the excuse to continue in their sin is that the person repented when they responded to that altar call and, therefore, wrongly believe there is no need to continue to feel guilty over a continued pattern of behavior.

When sin is willingly and presumptuously taken in small doses, the poison it harbors spreads like a cancer, affecting one's entire life, until the person is completely consumed by it.  What once appeared pleasing to the senses, suddenly becomes dark and ominous as its true purpose becomes evident: the destruction of the soul and a guarantee of an eternity full of misery and separation.

Like arsenic which, when a person is exposed to it, requires immediate medical attention or death is a certainty, there is a cure for sin, as well.  Acknowledging that we are sinful and in constant need of repentance is required of us.  In 1John, we are reminded that, until we receive our glorified state in heaven, sin is present and repentance is a necessity.  John puts it this way:

"If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.   If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us."  (1John 1:8)

The apostle Paul is even more clear regarding the depraved state that he knew lurked within him:

"Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.  For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.  For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.  So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

"So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."

Paul recognized his sinful state while he dwelt in his earthly body, and he also understood his need for continued repentance.

If you have become aware that you are attempting to hide sin from God, or even if you are overconfident that you are in good standing in spite of your sins, go to God's Word.  Pray for discernment.  Study it and apply it.   And if you are convicted that you have taken sin in small doses and the venom is about to consume you, go to the One who was sinless, our Great Physician who has the cure, and ask Him to cleanse your heart, mind, and soul of the poison that's coursing through your veins.

As God told Cain, who was angry because God found Abel's offering more acceptable, "... sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7b).

Sin, like deadly arsenic, is a destroyer of life.   Recognize it, confront it, then rid yourself of it for God's honor and glory.

1 comment:

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