Sin can be both bold, clear and direct, as well as insidious and deceptive. Some sins are just direct transgressions of God’s holy law — choosing a course of action, knowing that it is against God. As morality generally becomes more accepting of sinful behavior, God’s people can find themselves doing things they would not have thought to do decades ago.
The deceptive aspects of sin evolve from the dichotomy Paul addressed in the book of Romans. “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin” (Romans 7:14). The carnal and the spiritual don’t get along very well together. The carnal looks to, and trusts in, the natural human mind. God informs us through His prophet Jeremiah that this mind is deceitful above all things and incurably sick. This sick, deceitful mind justifies its own actions as being right, whether sin is involved or not. It tends to see no sin in what it feels compelled to do.
The carnal mind is not very good at assessing itself in terms of sin. “No man repented of his wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turned to his own course …” (Jeremiah 8:6). God, through Jeremiah, laid this mindset out clearly. “Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’? … Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward” (Jeremiah7:8-10, 24). Going backward has consequences, as there is a penalty for sin. It is not unusual, when a negative arises from this action, that the blame is laid on God.
Jeremiah records that God had him issue a call for the people to repent. Their response was, “That is hopeless! So we will walk according to our own plans, and we will every one obey the dictates of his evil heart” (Jeremiah 18:11-12). A realistic summation of the carnal mind. God’s way is seen as without hope, useless. With this mindset the mind is the dominant factor in a way of life.
This is where we are today. We live in an environment which vividly follows this destructive course. As lawlessness increases, love waxes cold, allowing more self-justified lawlessness. But those participating in the lawlessness don’t identify it in these terms. It is a vicious cycle that will continue to draw mankind inevitably to its destruction as Christ implied. Jeremiah simply stated, “I will hand them over to trouble, to all kingdoms of the earth … “ (Jeremiah 15:4). A clear reference to the time of Jacob’s trouble.
However, people of God should not be allowing the driving forces of this world to determine interactions with sin and God’s law. Spiritual law requires a spiritual mind to assess and to apply its intent. God has given us a spiritual mind. “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man” (Romans 7:22). A spirit-led mind will acknowledge the carnal mind. “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). It will not trust in man. This mind will easily ask the question, “What have I done?” Not in order to justify, but to genuinely seek to understand our own intents. The desire will be to search the heart to see if any insidious and deceptive thoughts are covering sins that need to be identified and dealt with.
Christ taught that sin begins in the mind. “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts …“ (Matthew 15:19). When these thoughts are not dealt with and remain in the mind, sin is conceived. “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).
The Apostle Paul warns us of the hardening aspect of sin. “… but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today’, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
Most of God’s people do not wrestle with bold, direct sin. It is the insidious, deceitful sin that can rob us of a close, purpose-filled relationship with God. God’s instruction to each of us is: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth” (Jeremiah 9:23, 24). As there are consequences for sin, so there are consequences for the absence of sin.