20 And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” (Mark 7:20–23, NKJV)
Billions of people do not regard sin as sin. That word has been all but stricken from the lexicons of languages around the world. What Jesus said here reminds us that we are dual beings, made of both flesh and spirit; both mortal and immortal. The inner person – the person possessing identity, volition, conscience, intelligence and emotions – is identified as the heart, from which comes our words and actions. Jesus identified sexual immorality of all sorts (including adultery, homosexuality and premarital sex) as sin that comes from the heart. Oppression of one’s neighbor, whether by murder, thievery, covetousness or deceit, is also sinful. See how pride is considered evil along with all the rest. Sin is real, and we must define sin the way Jesus does. If not, we will likely call evil good, and good evil (Isa. 5:20). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18, NKJV)
The rock upon which Jesus built His church is not Peter; it is the confession Peter had just made: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Without this great truth, there would be no church, no “called out” body of redeemed souls who are purchased by the blood of the Son of God (Acts 20:28; Eph. 1:22-23; 25-27; Rev. 5:9-10). It is an obvious, yet neglected truth, that the church belongs to Christ. The church does not belong to you or me, or any other person. Therefore, no one has the right to alter it, abuse it, disrespect it, discount it or corrupt it with the “commandments and doctrines of men” (Col. 2:22; Matt. 15:7-9). The death of Jesus did not prevent the building of His church. Indeed, His death and resurrection declares His great power over sin and death. The church is the result of Christ’s great victory over sin and death. So, rather than minimizing the church as an afterthought, or as a non-essential, personal choice, let us praise God for the church of Christ and the heavenly blessings Christians have in Christ (Eph. 3:10-11; 1:3). There is only one church, and that is the church we must choose; the church which Christ built. The churches of men are not, and never will be, the church of Christ.
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them. (Ephesians 5:6–7, NKJV)
Fellowship with sinners in their sin is repeatedly warned against in the Scriptures (Eph. 5:11; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 1 Tim. 5:22; 2 Jno. 9-11). And yet, many Christians refuse to teach on the subject of fellowship, much less follow the New Testament teaching on the subject. This invariably leads to confusion, accommodation with error and compromise with sin. Ultimately, being a “partaker” (co-participant, an associate, a sharer) causes one to be eternally lost. We cannot share in the sins of the disobedient and expect heaven to be our eternal home. Furthermore, we cannot condone or encourage them in their sin – even if we do not overtly commit the sin with them (2 Jno. 10-11). The subtle deception of fellowship with sin convinces many that if they do not commit the sin themselves, then they are innocent. (We ought to remember Pilate, who could not wash the blood of Jesus from his hands when he delivered Jesus over to the Jews to be crucified, Matt. 27:24-26; Jno. 19:16). We cannot share in sin with sinners, and be blessed by God. Neither can we tolerate, condone or accommodate sin, without guilt. Do not be deceived.
Good understanding gains favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard. (Proverbs 13:15, NKJV)
Sin is a choice that brings hardship to everyone who is enslaved by it. The consequences of sin are hard, and can be permanent (as is indicated by the Hebrews word which is translated “hard” in today’s verse). When we choose to be unfaithful to God’s standard of truth, under which we live and to which we are accountable, the course of our life will be difficult. When we choose to be unfaithful to God, we only hurt ourselves (cf. Acts 9:5). Unfortunately, evil influences in this world are at work to play-down the age-old truth, that “whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7). Many think they can sin without consequences or punishment. They have been deceived by a permissive society that glamorizes and rewards sin. It is a hard, yet necessary lesson, to accept the consequences of our sins. Only by acknowledging the reality of our own sins against God – as well as the consequences they bring – will we ever be willing and able to repent and obey the Lord to be saved by His grace (cf. Acts 2:37-41). Good understanding of sin’s difficulties helps us avoid sin, and obtain favor from God and men. Sinners will obtain favor from God by coming to Jesus. His yoke is far easier, and His burden is far lighter, than sin (Matt. 11:28-30).
31 “Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezekiel 18:31–32, NKJV)
That fact that a child of God can fall away and be lost (“die”), does not mean God desires it to be so (see 1 Tim. 2:3-4). The prevention lies with the child of God who sins. God calls on His sinning children to repent: “cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.” Without doing so, they would die in their sins. But, with a new heart, a new life can be lived. Without the change of heart that is called “repentance,” one’s conduct will not be successfully corrected. And so, sinners, including Christians, are urged to repent when there is sin in their lives (Lk. 13:1-5; Acts 8:12-13, 22-24). The world is lost, and needs salvation in Jesus (Acts 4:12). For a Christian to live in sin and not turn to Christ by repenting and ceasing his sin, is to invite certain and eternal death. Turn and live, “For why should you die?”
But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die. (Ezekiel 18:24, NKJV)
We are tempted to think of our lives like scales, and as long as the good outweighs the bad, we are okay. But, God will not judge us based on whether we have more good than bad, or vice versa. “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). Today’s verse assures us that if we turn away from righteousness and commit iniquity (lawlessness against God), our righteous deeds will not be remembered. We will experience the punishment of death because of our unfaithfulness. The guilt of our sin brings eternal death (Rom. 6:23). This is another verse that teaches the possibility of apostasy. If it is true that once you are saved you can never be lost, then this verse is meaningless and God’s word is false. John said, “everyone who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 Jno. 3:7). But if we commit sin, we commit lawlessness (1 Jno. 3:4). We cannot live in sin and be counted righteous. Let us heed Ezekiel’s warning and not turn away from righteousness, but instead, pursue it (2 Tim. 2:22).
14 I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. 15 For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you, imitate me. (1 Corinthians 4:14–16, NKJV)
We ought to be ashamed when we sin against God. Paul did not take shame off the table as an incentive to obey the gospel (see 1 Cor. 6:5 and 15:34: “I say this to your shame”). Here, he was not only shaming them for their pride (that was dividing the church, 1 Cor. 4:71-13), he was also (and especially) warning them as his own children in the faith. They must humble themselves, stop their divisive conduct, and imitate the apostle (cf. 1 Cor. 3:18-21; 4:6). Shame over our sin is a valid reason to repent and change our conduct, when we learn of sin in our lives. Yet, too many who profess to follow Jesus are ashamed of Him and His words. Jesus warned against making this sinful decision: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mk. 8:38). If you are ashamed of your sin, then act upon that shame. Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins, or as a Christian, repent and pray to be forgiven (Acts 2:37-38; 8:22-24).