(Part Five of the Playing King of the Mountain with God, Series)
I once asked a group of Christian college students if there was any sin we could commit, for which there would be no negative consequences to them, in this life. (Let’s set aside the fact that God knows everything and will judge all humans someday)
“Lying. If I tell a lie and no one ever finds out, I can get away with it, without any consequences in this life,” one guy answered confidently.
“Are you sure?” I responded. “When I’ve lied in the past, and have ‘gotten away with it,’ it emboldens me to lie again. People become known as liars, not because they’ve told just one lie in their life, but because they’ve developed the habit of lying, that began with an undiscovered lie, or lies. There are always consequences for sin, in this life.”
You just have to wonder if God sometimes scratches his head in disbelief, that we’d actually think we can get away with sin. Now, to be fair, there are some good reasons why we might get that impression, so let’s explore a few of them. But first, a word about moral laws to lay the foundation. The moral and natural laws of God There is a common misunderstanding that the natural laws and physical laws of science, involve facts that are constant, reliable, and true, while moral laws are based on values that are subjective, evolving, and relative to the individual or to societal norms. A biblical worldview draws no such distinction. It insists that all God’s laws, natural and moral, govern all creation, at the time.
“Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?” Job 38:33
The reason these two types of laws appear to be so different is that in the physical world, stones fall, planets move in orbit – all with no choice in the matter – because here God rules directly. However, in culture and society, God has chosen to rule indirectly, entrusting humans with the task of living in community, and in families, doing justice, acting morally, conducting business, etc. And although a stone cannot defy God’s law of gravity, human beings can and do try to get away with violating God’s moral laws. Still, that should not blind us from the fact that there is a simple, objective, purposeful, and planned universal order covering both nature and human nature.
The irony is that modern man has accepted the truth regarding natural laws as a fact. That’s why we call them laws. No scientist doubts the laws of thermodynamics, gravity, or quantum physics, etc. In fact we depend on the reliability and truth of those laws for our very existence, and everyone agrees that to ignore them is foolish and dangerous. If I step off a 10-story building, I’m confident the law of gravity will end my life. The only reason we obey natural laws is because we have no choice in the matter and it’s to our advantage to do so.
It will never happen to me But, when it comes to moral laws, humans, even Christians, are always trying to beat the system and disobey God. This is because man has a free will and can choose to violate them. However, there are always unintended consequences for violating God’s moral laws.
But, why would Christians risk it? Because the consequences for disobedience are not always immediately obvious and there are often short-term “benefits” for disobeying them. In my opening example, it’s possible to avoid some pain or anger if we lie. If a person has an affair and “gets away with it,” that person is under the illusion that there are “benefits” to be enjoyed and no obvious consequences for that sin. No alcoholic, drug addict or person addicted to pornography believes there is anything but good times ahead, with “the first time.” And generally, they’re right.
The “advantage” of sin And when one person disobeys a moral law and thereby gains a momentary “advantage,” it creates tremendous incentive for disobedience by everyone, even those who say they “believe” in God’s moral laws. For example, if one person is dishonest, or exaggerates the value of a product or service, and appears to prosper, it creates a power incentive and temptation for others to do the same. (Just think of the unethical practices of the sub-prime loan industry that brought down markets and ruined the lives of millions!) This is why immorality in society is so difficult to stop – it’s often profitable in the short run!
The truth is, both physical laws and moral laws are God’s gracious gifts to mankind. They are like the boundaries and rules loving human parents set to protect their children. It saddens God to no end to see the self-inflicted misery of people who just don’t trust his wisdom and love for man as expressed in his laws. When and if they are obeyed, God has promised prosperity, longevity, and contentment to individuals, communities, and nations – when they are violated, just the opposite.
So take this teaching back to the men or women you’re spiritually mentoring. Also, consider teaching this to your teenage children or grandchildren. It will provide a framework for them, understanding why we can trust the king of the mountain – the creator and sustainer of all natural and moral laws. We can never “get away with it.” (And shouldn’t want to).
“The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.” Psalm 19:7-9
How following Jesus works in real life.
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