I returned last week from leading a Holy Land study tour. One of my favorite experiences was visiting the traditional site of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River. Our group walked to the open-air plaza constructed on the bank of the river, where we shared an unforgettable time of worship.
However, for Christians who come from the Jordanian side of the river, the story is far different.
This area was part of the Six Days War in 1967. After Israel took control of the territory from Jordan, it mined the Jordanian side to ward off attacks from across the border. Since Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994 the region has been quiet. But access to the Jordanian side remains treacherous, as more than 3,000 mines and explosive devices still litter the area. Now a plan has been announced to clear the mines within the next two years.
This is good news. Christians should not have to risk their lives to worship where Jesus was baptized. But in a larger sense, the unseen has always been the greatest threat we face: "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).
So-called private sin never stays private. Just ask the people of Brazil, whose impeached president is not the only official facing scrutiny these days. According to The New York Times, more than half of the 594 members of the country's legislature face legal challenges. Some are accused of murder and drug trafficking.
Meanwhile, a fake bomb from a security exercise closed down a soccer match in England last Sunday. In the age of terrorism, what we know causes us to fear what we don't know.
We should feel the same way about our souls.
One reason Satan tempts us with so-called private sin is that he knows how it hinders our public ministry. We think no one is harmed, when in fact everyone we influence pays the price of our disobedience. The reason is simple: the Holy Spirit uses holy vessels to do his work. Private sin hinders him as much as public sin. And it is more insidious, since we think we can continue in it without consequence.
Pornography is an obvious example, but there are others. Jesus warned us that hatred and lust are sins whether we act on them or not (Matthew 5:21–30). The "works of the flesh" grieve God even when no one else sees them (Galatians 5:19–21).
And sin always progresses—Paul warned us about "lawlessness leading to more lawlessness" (Romans 6:19). As I have often observed, sin always takes us further than we wanted to go, keeps us longer than we wanted to stay, and costs us more than we wanted to pay.
The converse is true as well: when we pay the price of personal purity, we can know that the Holy Spirit is using us for eternal significance. We may not be able to see the results of present faithfulness, but that makes them no less real. And, as Paul assured us, "the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18).
So remove the landmines that threaten your soul today. The rest of us will be grateful, today and forever.
Note: For practical steps to personal holiness, please see Craig Denison's Moses, Isaiah, and the Holiness of God.
Publication date: May 17, 2016
For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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