By Pastor Pete Smith
September 14, 2023

A co-worker once told me an unnerving story about his friend that took an interest in exotic snakes.  The guy decided to purchase a python that was almost as long as him and, after taking it home, allowed it to roam free.  It even slept next to him.  The owner became concerned when the snake became increasingly inactive.  It would lay next to him, stretch out straight and remain motionless all night.  After several days he returned to the reptile store to ask if there might be something wrong with it.  He was told the snake needed to be removed from the house immediately because it was trying to see if the owner would fit!

I know what you’re thinking.  How crazy does someone have to be to sidle up and sleep next to a creature that can do him so much harm?  The psalmist observes that the same kind of irrational foolishness is exercised by those who do not distance themselves from their sin.

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.  For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.  The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good.  He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil. (Ps. 36:1–4)

Sin is always a matter of the heart.  For the one that has no fear of God there is an open line of communication between his sin and his selfish desires.  Through self-talk he charms himself into believing that his sin will not be found out.  As self-flattery grows into self-deception, overlooked sin transitions to premeditated sin.

Cain is Exhibit A.  God warned him, “If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”  God was pointing right at the snake he was sleeping next to.  But Cain did not do well, he did not rule over it and he did not reject evil.  “And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.”  Neglected sin gave birth to first degree murder.

Of course the sin of others is easy to see and even easier to condemn.  “C’mon Cain.  God told you and you still didn’t distance yourself from the snake.”  Unfortunately, Christians also exhibit a Cain-like disposition.  In Psalm 97:10 God puts it as plainly to you as He did to Cain.  “O you who love the LORD, hate evil!”  Does that verse direct your attention to your own sin, or does your mind jump to the unrighteousness of others? I’ll ask it this way.  Do you find yourself looking past the sin crouching at your door to focus on the evil reported on your television?

Hating evil is not just an emotional response.  It is a choice that results in action.  In Psalm 36, what begins with a lack of fear of God ends with “He does not reject evil.”  Proverbs 8:13 puts it exactly the opposite way.  “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.”  Fearing the Lord is not an emotional sense of terror, but an acknowledgement of (and healthy respect for) His power.  It is a conviction that leads to action.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding” (Ps. 111:10).

Likewise, to hate evil involves an acknowledgement of its danger and results in the rejection of it.  The one that loves and fears the Lord will not indulge evil.  Pet sins are like pet snakes.  They grow and eventually stretch out with the intent to consume you.  Do not flatter yourself by excusing sinful habits.  Instead expose them, repent and then “look carefully how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.”

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. (Rom. 6:20–22)

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