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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10:45am service, 2008-09-28

Text: Proverbs 6:16-19

You may recognise that the title of this message is derived from a book that was popular in the 1990s: 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People' by Stephen Covey (5 million copies sold). In it Covey described 7 personal habits that can turn anyone who has them into a highly effective person. This may sound very nice, but the problem comes with the implementation of these habits. That problem comes from the sinful nature that is found in man. As Paul says, 'For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.' (Romans 7:19). Covey's book on the 7 habits states that there are natural laws that govern human effectiveness. But one very important law that he missed out of his diagnosis is the one that is found in Romans 7:21 'I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.' This law makes it impossible for anyone to implement the 7 habits fully and consistently. 

The bottom line is this: Unless we deal with this root problem of sin, we will never be effective people of God. But how should we define effectiveness? The right way to define effectiveness is by how much we are fulfilling our purpose or chief end in life - (Shorter Cat Q1) 'Man's Chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.' This, according to the Bible, was what man was made for. But since the time sin entered into the world, man has been an ineffective creature. Sin causes man to glorify himself instead of glorifying God, and sin prevents him from enjoying fellowship with God because it separates man from God.

Such was our state before Christ saved us: We were all under the power of sin. Sin dominated our thoughts and actions like a hard and cruel tyrant and we were helplessly under its control. But the Good news is that those who are saved have been delivered from the power of sin through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although sin may still be present in your life, its power is broken. You do not have to serve sin anymore, and hence you can be an effective person - You are able to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, as God had originally planned. 

And you are now able to mortify the habitual sins that you were once enslaved to. The process of mortifying these habitual sins began at the moment you were saved, and it ends only at the time when you depart for heaven. And God has wonderfully provided all that you need for this process - 

The Holy Spirit to fill your heart, and the Holy Scriptures to fill your mind with. This brings us to the main purpose of this sermon: It is to fill your mind with what the Bible teaches you about your sins, so that you will want to rid yourself of them. It teaches that God takes a very serious view of sin. Let us turn to our passage of Scripture to see how God regards our sins: (Read Proverbs 6:16-19).

Can you see how God regards sins? According to v.16 He hates them. And more than that, according to v.17 they are an abomination to Him. The word 'abomination' is used for something that is so horrible that it evokes feelings of intense dislike. If you do not place a piece of meat in your refrigerator but leave it outside for a few days, you will greeted with a nauseating smell and the dreadful sight of rotting meat, teeming with maggots and covered with flies. You won't wait to get it out of your sight! It is an abomination to you. And that is the way you should regard sin - it is an abomination. Your sins should be so abominable to you, that you cannot wait to get rid of it, by repenting of it and confessing it to God. 

Regarding sin as an abomination is also an effective deterrent. You will be more careful with every thought, every word and every deed, lest at any time you might bring an abomination into your life. This is why the title of this sermon is the 'seven deadly sins' The term 'deadly' shows that they must be acted on swiftly and decisively before they ruin your spiritual life! 

Now, we must not think that these 7 sins are the only ones that are deadly, and the only ones that we should be taken very seriously. Actually every sin deserves eternal death! Our passage of Scripture shows this. The introduction in v.16 gives us the impression that the sins about to be mentioned would be the worst sins which deserve the death penalty. But of the 7 sins given in our passage the only one that is linked with the death penalty in OT law is in v.17 'hands that shed innocent blood' (v.17). 

There was no death penalty for those who had a proud look, or a lying tongue. The selection of sins in this list, therefore gives us a new understanding of how we should regard every sin, great or small. The point of listing them here is not to show them to be the worst sins that man can commit, but to show us that every sin that man can commit, is deadly. We must therefore take every sin in our life seriously, and strive to remove each sin with urgency and diligence. Let us now take a closer look at the 7 deadly sins listed here. The first one is 

III. A Proud Look

Pride is the 'Number One' sin - it makes us think we are number one! It is also a sin that is often easier to detect in others than in oneself. Its most obvious forms are boasting, attention-seeking, and desiring to be honoured and praised. Some forms of pride are quite subtle: For example putting others down all the time, becoming easily offended, and indulging in self-pity. Pride is the root cause of many other sins. Someone put it this way: 'Pride is the cause of all disobedience and rebellion against God. Pride is the mother of all vices.' Pride is often the cause of ongoing strife and problems in human relationships. It also tends to make a person isolate himself from others and from God. It is pride that says, 'I am self-sufficient, I can do everything on my own. I don't need anybody's teaching or advice. I don't need anybody's help. I don't want to share the credit for what I am doing with anybody else.' 

Pride begins when a person thinks too highly of himself. The remedy for pride is therefore to have a correct view of oneself. This is the view that we are nothing but hopeless, helpless sinners, incapable of gaining acceptance with God by our own self-efforts. Most people will never want to admit that this is what they really are. But the sin of pride can never be dealt with effectively until one admits it. 

Now, while this is the way to begin having a correct view of oneself, the picture will not be complete until we realise one more thing: that if we have been saved through Christ, our life has now found great worth in the sight of God. You who have turned to Christ must always remember that you are not only a sinner, but a sinner saved by grace. That makes a great difference. Because of God's work in you, you can be glad that you have the ability to do what is good and to accomplish great things in life. But it is all entirely by God's grace alone and depending daily on Him for help. 

All the credit belongs to Him. Paul said, in Philippians 4:13 'I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.' And in 1 Corinthians 15:10 'By the grace of God I am what I am.' So, if someone praises you for something you have done, say, 'Thank God for it.' 'It is all His doing' 'All glory be to God.' And whenever you are tempted to be proud of your own abilities and talents, remind yourself, 'By the grace of God, I am what I am. I am only a sinner saved by grace' Now, pride is the first of the 7 deadly sins. Let us go on now to consider the rest:

IV. The Sins of the Tongue

If you were to look at our passage again, you will notice that 3 out of the 7 sins have something in common: The lying tongue (v.17), the false witness, and he that soweth discord among brethren (v.19). These 3 have to do with the use of the tongue. We shall therefore deal with them together under 1 category: The sins of the tongue.

It is interesting to note that sins of the tongue take up a large proportion of the 7 sins in our passage. That is probably an indication of the pervasiveness of such sins and of the awful destructive power that words can have, as compared to other means of sinning. In the book of James this little organ of speech is compared with two things: the bit that is placed in a horse's mouth to direct its movements, and the rudder of large ship, which can turn it around. The point in these illustrations is that we must not underestimate the power of the tongue. What we say that it can do either a lot of good, or a lot of harm. 

When the tongue is controlled by a sinful heart, the amount of destruction that can result is appalling. In Romans 3:13,14 the apostle Paul described it as follows 'Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness' Human history abounds with stories of how lies, deceit, boasting, flattery, false accusations, and gossip have not only caused much pain and suffering, but also brought lives to ruin, and destroyed fellowships, churches, movements, kingdoms and empires as well. The Bible tells us that the 'heart is deceitful and desperately wicked' (Jeremiah 17:9). Therefore the only way that the power of the tongue can be subdued and harnessed to do good instead of evil, is to change the heart.

This take place when a person becomes a Christian. One of the first signs of this change is in his speech. As Our Lord said in Matthew 12:34,35 - 'for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.' As a Christian grows spiritually the words he speaks will increasingly show integrity, honesty, and truthfulness. But this change does not come without effort. We still need to exercise great care about whatever we say to ensure that there is no deceit on our lips. There is no more sure way to destroy a relationship than to deceive. Once a person has been deliberately deceived by another, it is difficult to restore complete trust and confidence. There will always be the thought or suspicion of more deceit to come.

And so the important guideline for all that you say is: truthfulness. Make sure that everything you say is true, or based on the truth, or a true reflection of your intentions and motives. Unfortunately there are many do not make an effort to ensure that that there is truthfulness in everything they say. They regard lying as a small sin, and certainly not as serious as many other sins. 

But in Revelation 21:27 we are told that God hates lying so much that no lie will be allowed to enter heaven. And Revelation 21:8 tells us that all liars will have a part in the lake of fire and brimstone together with Satan, who is the father of lies. Every lie is an abomination to God. Let us therefore regard all sins of the tongue the same way that God Himself regards it - they are deadly sins and He hates them. We have already considered 4 out of the 7 deadly sins. Now we want to deal with the 3 remaining ones which are:

V. Sins of the Hand, Heart and Feet

'hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, and feet that be swift in running to mischief.' What these 3 sins share in common is their association with parts of the body - the heart, the hands and the feet. Another passage of Scripture that teaches us the right and wrong use of our body parts is Romans 6:12-13 'Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.' In daily living our body parts are involved either as instruments of unrighteousness or as instruments of righteousness. There are no other options besides these two. Our members are involved either one way or the other, and we are commanded by God to yield them as instruments of righteousness. 

One thing that should motivate us to yield the members of our body to be instruments of righteousness every day is to consider the terrible things that will happen if we do NOT do this. Just like what we saw about the tongue a while ago, our hands, feet and other body parts can bring about much damage both to ourselves and to others. 

Noah built the ark to save his family from the flood with his hands. But those same hands later planted a vineyard that brought about his downfall into drunkenness and shameful behaviour (Genesis 9:20-21). The skilful hands that played David's harp in praise of God were the very same hands that wrote the letter which put Bathsheba's husband to death (2 Samuel 11:14-15). When King David did this, his hands fitted the description given in Proverbs 6:17 'hands that shed innocent blood.' This brings us to consider the sin of:

A. Shedding Innocent Blood

Human life is sacred because of the image of God that we all bear. In Genesis 9:6 God's Word says, 'Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.' There is no need for me to elaborate further on the sins of murder and manslaughter since they are universally recognised as criminal offences and abominable acts. But there are two sins involving the taking of human life that even Christians are sometimes unsure about.

The first is suicide. This is now a growing problem in Singapore and more people are attempting suicide now, because of depression, stress and broken relationships. What does the Bible teach about suicide? It teaches that man is not the lord and owner of his own life. Your life belongs to God. Therefore determining the moment of death is not your prerogative at all, but God's. In the Bible there are at least 5 persons who took their own lives: Saul and his armour bearer (1 Samuel 31:3-5), Ahitophel (2 Samuel 17:23), the Israelite king Zimri (1 Kings 16:18-19) and Judas Iscariot (Matthew 27:3-5). The biblical condemnation of their actions is seen by taking their entire lives into account.

Therefore suicide must never be considered as an option. You have been bought with a price and your body is now the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). It is the home of God Himself. Suicide is sinful because it destroys God's Temple. When you are in deep depression, don't let suicidal thoughts enter in your mind. Turn to Jesus for refuge and hope (cf. 1 Samuel 30:6). Perhaps you may ask: What if I am terminally ill? Would it be wrong for me to refuse special medical treatment? Would this be like suicide? The answer to this is No. When hope of being restored is very slim, and special treatment is going to be very costly, it would not be wrong to cast oneself on the Lord to dispose one's case according to His divine will, rather than to struggle on for some uncertain hope of healing. 

But it would be wrong to refuse ordinary means of medical care which are needed to sustain life such as oxygen, warmth, food, and water. To refuse this is to terminate life, and hence, to attempt suicide. To request for a lethal dose of medicine (euthanasia) is also to attempt suicide. Rather than ending his own life, a terminally ill believer may pray that God will take him home soon (cf. Philippians 1:23; 2 Cor 5:2,8). This acknowledges that God alone has the right to terminate our life.

Another form of shedding innocent blood is through abortion, which is the killing of an unborn child. This is sinful and morally wrong, because it violates the sanctity of human life. There is however one exception: the life of the unborn can be taken when a continued pregnancy would put the mother's life in jeopardy. This is justified on the basis of self-defense and also on the basis of choosing the lesser of 2 evils. Due to rapid developments in medical science however, this situation has become very rare. 

Most who have an abortion do so to avoid the shame of being an unwed mother or the inconvenience of an unwanted pregnancy. Instead of opting for an abortion, a pregnant mother ought to make sure that the child is wanted either by her or by couples who stand in line waiting to adopt children. By keeping the baby to full term she will at least live with a clear conscience, and with the comfort that she has helped to bring a new life into the world and has brought joy to its adoptive parents.

Some choose to abort their child because they have found out through amniocentesis that it has Down's syndrome, or that it lacks an arm or a leg. Having a physical or mental handicap does not necessarily mean that the child will surely have a miserable life. Some would never have won medals at the recent Paralympics in Beijing if their parents had opted for abortion. May we all have a high regard for the sanctity of human life. Let us now go on to consider the next category of sins:

B. Devising Wicked Imaginations

This phrase in Proverbs 6:18 is linked to Genesis 6:5 'And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.' The Bible has many examples of men who devised wicked imaginations to do evil. For instance, Jacob cheated his own brother Esau of his blessing, using a scheme devised by his mother. Taking advantage of his father's blindness, Jacob fooled his father well enough to steal Esau�s blessing (Genesis 27:5-29). 

Another person who devised a wicked scheme was Jezebel. She did it to help her husband, King Ahab, to confiscate the vineyard of Naboth, which the King coveted, but could not obtain. Jezebel hatched a plan to have Naboth falsely accused in public of blaspheming God and the King. Because there were 2 witnesses to this alleged crime, Naboth's innocent blood was shed and his vineyard was taken over by Ahab. 

In both of these instances, the motivation for plotting evil schemes was covetousness. To covet is to seek to obtain something, someone, some position, some recognition, or some pleasure that is not in the will of God for us - e.g. someone's position or popularity. The way to avoid being coveteous is to be content with God's plan and provisions for us. In Philippians 4:11,12 Paul said, 'I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.'

If you want to keep your heart from devising wicked imaginations you must be content with whatever God has given to you: your possessions, position in life, abilities, opportunities, and whatever legitimate pleasures that you can enjoy. Then you will not desire what is beyond God's will for you, and you will not devise any wicked imagination to obtain them. We proceed now to consider the third and final category of sins. Those described in v.18 of our text as feet that...

C. Running swiftly to Mischief

The main idea in this expression is the speed with which people rush into doing things, and especially to do those things that are evil. In our fast-paced environment, everything must be done quickly, with great haste. We live in an age of instant food, instant coffee or tea, instant delivery, instant photos, and instant communication. Many things can now be done at lightning speed.

But this can produce some very unrealistic expectations in us. It fosters a selfish desire to see the quickest results within the shortest time - we want quick profits, quick returns, quick success and quick promotion to the top of the corporate ladder. Those who want to get rich quickly will gamble and take huge risks with their assets. Those who want immediate action against people who have offended them will take matters into their own hands. Those who want to get to the top will use every means - whether fair or foul - to get there. E.g. Cutting a queue, cheating in tests and exams, and procuring favours from certain officials secretly.

Let us be careful of any desire for quick returns or else we may be tempted to cut corners and take unethical short-cuts. Do you become very frustrated and impatient when you can't get what you want immediately? When you face a difficult problem and pray about it, do you murmur and complain when God does not answer your prayers instantly? Do you become impatient with your children when they respond too slowly to your efforts to nurture them? Or have you become impatient with yourself - that you have failed to meet the unrealistic goals you imposed on yourself?

Some things in life simply cannot be done in a hurry. They need time. Some of the most important works of God take time to accomplish. If you cannot see instant results, or immediate deliverance, don't be discouraged, or become impatient, or question God, or change your path or direction. Be patient to wait, and learn to persevere right till the very end. Then you will see the wonderful results it brings. 

With this, we complete our study of the seven deadly sins, as given in Proverbs 6:16-19 'These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.' 

May the Lord keep us from falling into these 7 sins and other sins which He hates. May the Lord also help us to do the things which He loves. And may we all learn to be God's effective people - effective in glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11