Living In Sin

“Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.”
Ephesians‬ ‭2:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Paul starts the second chapter of his Epistle, looking back at what his readers, entitled the Ephesian church, used to be like. He pointed out that they “used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil”. And he continued, pointing out the status and work of the devil and his demonic resources. He rounds up these three verses by exposing the fallen state of mankind, with no one escaping their lot in life, being “subject to God’s anger”. But how did it all come to this? As we know, it all started in a garden in an episode that must have broken God’s heart. When the devil exposed his strategy and through his temptation led the first couple into sin. And so the door opened, allowing sin to enter the world, infecting every human being who has ever lived. Everyone follows “the passionate desires and inclinations of [their] sinful nature”. Paul chose his words carefully, he didn’t use the excuse “the devil made me do it”, as some try to do.

It can be hard to get over to godless people the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “But I’m a good person” is a response often heard. “I pay my taxes”, “I try to help others”, “I give money to charity”, and so on, are reasons for the “good person” response. But four words in the verses above expose the real issue – “refuse to obey God”. Sin is all about rebellion to God. Notice that living in sin is a choice and is not inevitable. We can choose to be obedient to God, a choice that starts at a place called Calvary.

We live in a world infected by a sin pandemic. As Paul said, the word “All” implies that everyone catches this disease, and it is inescapably fatal. No ICU or Nightingale hospital will save us from the consequences of our disease. And there is no vaccine other than that supplied by God through His grace.

In our earthly pilgrimage, we journey in an atmosphere of sin. Temptations often and unrelentingly crop up, trying to draw us away from the right paths into the mud and mire of all sorts of transgressions. But God is always there to help us. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we read, “ The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” What a faithful, loving and gracious God we serve!

But we have a Heavenly Father who loves us too much to leave us at the end of verse 3 – there’s more to come in the next verses in Chapter 2.

Lost Sheep

I have wandered away like a lost sheep;
    come and find me,
    for I have not forgotten your commands.”
Psalm 119:176 NLT

Psalm 119 ends with a strange verse. How can the Psalmist find himself in this position, describing himself as a “lost sheep”, after such a cornucopia of expressions of the greatness of God and His wonderful works and laws, and His relationship with the writer, who had been clever enough to devise a Psalm of sections, each of eight verses and each beginning with a letter in the Hebrew alphabet? What happened to him?

Sheep are animals with a predisposition to get lost. They wander off, steadily grazing their way into places where they shouldn’t be. And then they can’t find their way back to the rest of the flock or a safe place. A lost sheep is very vulnerable, at the mercy of predators and prone to get caught up by its wool in thickets or trapped somewhere by a difficult terrain. In spiritual terms, we can be like “lost sheep”. We wander off the track marked out for our pilgrimage through life, and before we know it we are in a place of great danger, in a place of temptation and sin.

Jesus was very aware of the challenges facing us, God’s “sheep”. In Matthew 18:12-13 we read, “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away!“. There are two significant pieces of information here that are worth considering. Firstly, Jesus Himself searches for His lost sheep. He calls, He looks, He goes to extraordinary lengths to find us when we stray. Secondly, finding us is not guaranteed – we also can go to extraordinary lengths to avoid being found by Jesus. We can ignore His calls. We can hide away from His gaze. I have known good men and women who have wilfully deserted their Christian faith, no longer counted in Jesus’ flock.

A sheep gets lost when it abandons its familiar territory. When it thinks the grass elsewhere is greener and more palatable. And so it is with us. We can leave the familiar territory of God’s Word and be attracted to something new. Then we can become “lost”, and the frightening thing is that we might not even know it. I think the Psalmist ended this Psalm, with a warning. Don’t abandon God and get lost. Always keep home in sight by checking things out with His word. Always be aware of dangerous terrain, where sheep should never go.