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The Subtle Deception of Sin

By:  C. Arrington

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye" (Matthew 7:3 NIV).

Recently celebrated cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted he cheated to win. Although it's been a while since allegations emerged, this was the first time he stopped denying the charges. I read an account of the interview and then fumed about the bad example he set for aspiring athletes, annoyed by his seeming lack of remorse.

And then, as is often His way, the Lord whispered, "You're like Lance Armstrong."

"Me? No, I'm not!"

"Remember high school Latin class?"

"Oh. That."

It began innocently, if cheating is ever innocent. There were only four of us in the class and our teacher was old and partially blind. One day we had a pop quiz and one of the girls slid her open book into her desk and looked up the answers. Soon, the others were doing the same. I resisted until a day when I hadn't studied the vocabulary. I was going to fail the quiz. ... unless.

Everyone was doing it. Why shouldn't I? Soon, an open book in my desk was commonplace. Then, prior to the exam, which we all would exempt because of our high, ill-gotten grades, the one who began the practice of cheating outed us all. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and mad. Why had she exposed us without warning, without giving us a chance to stop? I'd been caught, and my sin was out there for all to know.

"For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies" John 8:44

Satan is a sly guy. He convinces us sin is fine, as long as we don't get caught. He whispers, "Go ahead. You're safe. No one will find out." So we reason there is nothing wrong with your tiny sins—jumping a turnstile, running a red light, fabricating reasons for incomplete tasks, blaming others for mistakes, twisting the truth slightly. But don't be deceived by the father of lies. Sin is sin and all sin is equal. There is no grading scale—no this-sin-is-less-bad-than-another. Every sin has the same effect—separation from God.

Aren't we all like Lance Armstrong? We cheat and expect not to get caught. We look at others, measure our sin against theirs, and think what I'm doing isn't as bad. Perhaps the greatest deception of sin is the lies we tell ourselves to justify our actions and attitudes, and the only way to avoid deceiving ourselves is to actively work to stay off the slippery slope of lies. You see, sin has a snowball effect. Once you lie, to yourself or someone else, you usually have to tell another lie to cover the first one.

My grandfather was a wise man. One of his life precepts was: "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember what you said." In other words, if you lie, you have to remember the lie so you can make sure you re-create it later. Most of us aren't smart enough to juggle that many lies for very long. So why try?

Start today. Make a conscious effort to change the things in your life that you consider "tiny" sins. Ask God to help you. One of the first steps in overcoming sin is admitting what you're doing is sin and that it's wrong. Then repent, which means to go in the opposite direction, making an intentional about-face.

While we may be indignant about the sin of others, we're all just as tarnished as a cheating multi-medal-winning cyclist. Admit it, and then move forward with honesty, believing you can change through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit within. God doesn't expect us to be perfect, but He does expect us to make an effort to be more like Him.


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