What actually causes us to be hardened in our response to the living God? The answer lies in the exceeding deceitfulness of sin. If sin is such a powerful agent of deception, then we must understand how sin actually deceives us. How does sin in and of itself pull the wool over our eyes? What makes sin so exceedingly deceitful?
The Ultimate Lie
To answer these questions, we must again go back to the beginning when Eve was tempted in the Garden of Eden. In this tragic fall, we discover that the deceitfulness of sin comes primarily from a lie.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees with this statement about the true nature of Satan in John 8:44: “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” As the father of lies, Satan deceived Eve by tempting her to question the very word of God. The most insidious words that anyone can utter are these: “Did God actually say…?” By planting a seed of doubt and confusion in Eve’s mind over the authority and validity of God’s word, Satan tells the biggest lie this world has ever known— the God of the universe cannot be trusted. Sin can be so devious because it presents to us a lie that God’s word cannot be trusted and that there must be some better alternative rather than to obey Him.
In 2 Corinthians 2:11 Paul reminds us about our ruthless enemy who stands behind all lies. He writes, “So that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” The word used here for “outwitted” means to be greedy with insatiable covetousness. Satan tries to take advantage of us by defrauding and cheating us. He has this lust for power and wants to deceive us with the deceitfulness of sin. And he also uses “designs”—these evil intentions, wicked plots, and sly strategies to keep us buying into the great lie that sin is better than obedience to God.
The infamous former investment broker Bernie Madoff pulled off the largest Ponzi scheme ever in American history by defrauding investors of billions of dollars. Starting in the early 1990’s, he orchestrated a plot that would eventually cause his clients to lose almost $65 billion. In June 2009, he was sentenced to 150 years in prison. Basically a Ponzi scheme is a con game where stock brokers take advantage of those who have no real knowledge of the financial world and promise them major returns on investments that will never happen. The hope is that the instigator gets all of the unsuspecting victim’s money before the authorities figure it out. While Madoff’s sly scheme sent shockwaves through the financial world and caused irreparable damage to many, they come nowhere close to the damage inflicted by the wicked plots and evil intentions of the devil who deceives us with sin.
All sin stems from a lie that obedience to God does not pay off in the end. Sin does a masterful job of deceiving us into believing the lie that it is actually good for us to surrender to our lusts. We buy into the lie that sin brings pleasure, enjoyment, satisfaction, and joy. Sin makes a huge promise that it cannot fulfill. Sin promises pleasure, excitement, and fulfillment, but these benefits are not really benefits at all. We have been tricked by sin and these are only fleeting pleasures.
The writer of Hebrews describes the active faith of Moses who suffered the reproach of Christ rather than rushing headlong into the bountiful pleasures of Egypt. Hebrews 11:24-25 states, “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” The word for “enjoy” in the original language means “to cling tightly.” Moses did not want to hold on tightly to the fleeting pleasures of sin although he had every pleasure at his disposal. As a member of the royal court of Pharaoh, he could have had all the women, money, food and delicacies his heart desired. He had every pleasure imaginable at his fingertips. But instead of buying into the deceitfulness of sin, Moses understood that the pleasure it offered was only fleeting.
We must pay careful attention to this passage and understand that sin is actually defined as pleasurable. We would not sin if we did not think it brought us pleasure. Sin feels good. Sin is fun. Sin promises great excitement and allures us with enjoyment. But these promises are empty. These pleasures of sin are fleeting. They are temporary. They only last for a season. Sin is so deceitful because it tricks us into believing that disobedience is fun. If we are honest with ourselves, we know all too well that sin can be fun. We happily rush into sin because we believe that we will experience ultimate pleasure in that moment. But what does sin reap in the end? How do we experience the crash and burn of this deception when the fleeting pleasure passes? Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:7-8 with these words: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
In my next post find out how sin hides its evil consequences from us…