“The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:56-57
Have you ever been stung by a bee? I have a few times in my life and the effect is rather painful. But, after some time passes the pain subsides and it becomes a distant memory – one that doesn't make one think it really hurt as bad as the pain of the sting was made out to be.
As I read through the verses above this morning, the word “sting” reminded me of those bee stings I have experienced in my past. Because, just like a sting that passes along pain to my body because of the foreign object pushed into my skin, so too the sting of sin passes along the spiritual pain of having an object that is foreign thrust into a soul that longs for peace and eternal righteousness.
People who experience stings long enough become desensitized to them, not that the stings don't hurt, but by their definition they become part of their normal. (My case for this point is a bee keeper my kids and I visited a few years ago to learn about bee keeping and honey making and he said he got stung every day and then proceeded to show us a bee that was stinging him as he was talking!) Desensitization of sin though is an even greater foe than a desensitization to bee stings.
It is for the reason that the human heart can become desensitized toward sin that God established the law – His holy word which is then inspired by the Holy Spirit in the heart of every believer. The word of God is the law that, if a person is willing to subject him/herself to its confines and the personal revelation God brings with it, keeps the human heart sensitive to those stings of sin no matter how many times it has been stung. Read what Romans 3:20 has to say in that effect:
“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
It is too easy for our sinful nature to walk away from truth, to make our our form of righteousness to appease our sinful desires, and to harden our hearts to the only means of peace for our soul. The warning of Romans 4:15 is not something to take light-heartedly. Our hearts are too easily deceived as to what right and wrong are when we gauge those parameters from what we feel, think, and internally justify. The warning we must always remember is that God makes judgment according to His law, not the law we justify in our own hearts.
“...the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.” Romans 4:15
My final warning to all of us is one that I talk about when I speak to parents about diverting their anger when raising their children. Here is what I tell them to keep in mind when their righteous anger starts to boil regarding something their son or daughter has done. “The more you think about not wanting to take your anger out on your child, the more likely you will. Our minds are the controlling factor of our actions and if you want most to not act out in anger the best method is to 'think on something else' – praying to God for wisdom is a great use of that energy – until you are able to see the situation without your anger getting in the way.”
“But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.” Romans 7:8
Thinking on sin produces more sin. Just take as an example that dessert you didn't want to eat, but the more you thought about it the more you wanted it anyways. But, thinking on God gives us victory over sin. His ways are righteous, His mercy is always ready and waiting, His love is all-consuming, and His faithfulness is never-failing. In Jesus we already have victory over sin, but we must be careful not to lose sight of how easily the ways of sin can ensnare us when we put our guard down.
Today as you encounter the sinful desires of your heart make sure to turn them over to Jesus the instant you recognize them as being in direct opposition with the law of God. Then think on Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of your heart, mind, body, and soul.