We face a tricky foe who promises a great deal of enjoyment, but in the end, only results in destruction. In addition to sin deceiving us with fleeting pleasures, our tricky foe also tries to hide the consequences of sin from us. We are fooled by sin into believing that there will be no real damaging consequences for our actions. We may suffer a little discomfort here or there and maybe have a guilty conscience for a while, but the payoff for the pleasures of sin far outweighs whatever consequences we might have to endure. Not only are we blinded to the immediate consequences of sin, but we fail to see the ultimate future repercussions for giving in to this deceptive enemy. In Romans 2:5 we find these terrifying words: “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” The end game for the unrepentant sinner who remains in a state of hardness is the full wrath of God’s fury. Ultimately it ends in eternal conscious torment the Bible calls hell.
Because sin is so deceitful, it tries to conceal this ultimate reality from us by diverting our attention from the pains of hell to the immediate pleasure we will experience if we just give in to temptation. One of the most heartbreaking illustrations of a person being deceived by sin manifests itself in the story of David and Bathsheba. Blinded by lust and power, David had no idea what the long term ramifications of his illicit rendezvous with Uriah’s wife would be.
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” 2 Samuel 11:1-5
What started out as an innocent walk on his roof devolved into a saga of treachery and betrayal. Did David truly understand the consequences of committing adultery with Bathsheba? Could he see the long term violence and sexual perversion that would plague his family? He was blinded by the deceitfulness of sin and thereby chose not to fully examine the ramifications of taking that second look at the bathing beauty below. What started out as a hot afternoon of “fun” resulted in murder, mayhem, and the menacing sting of the deceitfulness of sin.
Sin not only promises fleeting pleasure and tries to hide its consequences, but it also distracts us into committing idolatry. Sin may deceive us into taking good things such as a spouse or family or career and then distorts these into ultimate things that in turn become idols. That is why sin is so tricky. These gifts from God are not bad things in and of themselves, but they can be elevated to idol status if we exalt them above our love for Christ. Timothy Keller in his excellent book “Counterfeit Gods” says, “The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life…a counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”
For example, the driven workaholic who finds ultimate satisfaction in a career may not think he is committing the sin of idolatry. He has been deceived into taking a good thing such as a satisfying job and transforming it into his “god”. He is driven by this job and finds his identity and ultimate purpose in climbing the corporate ladder instead of finding that satisfaction, identity and joy in Christ.
The doting mother who worships her children has also been duped by the deceitfulness of sin because she has taken God’s precious gift of motherhood and elevated it to ultimate reality. Her children have become her idol and she may not even know it because she has been so blinded by sin. While she may not be out committing adultery or cheating on her taxes or backstabbing her neighbor, she has a false sense of religious pride in that she is doing okay in her spiritual walk because she has not committed any grievous sins. Yet, because sin has deceived her into making her children an idol, she in turn commits the gravest offense in the Bible—idoltary. She is living a false reality all because she has been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
 Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods, (New York, New York: Dutton, 2009) , xvii-xviii