Painting Sin with Virtues Colors
I hate to spill such a valuable secret lest it mean that we can’t do this again, but several years ago, during a youth activity, we had a contest to see who could eat a caramel-covered apple the fastest. Only, the apple…. wasn’t! The caramel was real enough, but it encased a crisp yellow onion!!! After choosing two guys who were known for being a little care-free, they were each given one of these tantalizing creations and told to eat it as fast as they could. Oh, to see their faces as the gooey caramel gave way to the familiar crunch of a crisp apple and then to an unfamiliar bitterness that took a few moments to fully recognize. That’s the stuff a youth-pastor’s dreams are made of right there!
In the second chapter of Brooks’ Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices, he explains that
“Satan knows that if he would present sin in its own nature and dress, the soul would recognize and potentially flee from it; and therefore he presents it unto us painted and gilded over with the name and show of virtue that we might be more easily overcome by it and take the more pleasure in committing of it.”
In other words, we often re-define sin in order to make it seem more palatable. Pride can be disguised as “self-confidence or doing your best.” Brash arrogance and a quick temper hide behind the belief that one may be a “Type-A” personality or even a “strong leader.” Peter explains (1 Peter 2:16) that it’s possible to use Christian liberty as a costume to hide selfishness and a lack of love for others. Or perhaps you’d say you’re being prudent to buy a high-quality, high-priced item because it will last longer than a cheaper one. This provides the perfect cloak for covetousness (1 Thess. 2:5) or a desire to have the best things or things that other people will admire, because it’s usually true! Often higher priced and name brand things ARE held to a higher manufacturing standard and might last longer.
Regardless of the potential for good that we may convince ourselves exists in such attitudes, Brooks reminds us that sin is destructive in all its forms and urges the following renovations in our thinking:
First, remind yourself that sin is no less filthy if its socially acceptable
A poisonous pill is never less poisonous because it is coated in sugar. Consider the “sugar coating” that the pharisees used to cover up their sinful selfishness in Mark 7:9-13.
9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. 10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: 11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. 12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; 13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
“Corban” means “Devoted to the Lord as gift.” On the outside, giving to the Lord’s work seems to show the virtue of generosity. However, the Lord’s rebuke reveals that the Pharisees gave money to the temple, but not to care for aging parents in their time of need. What could motivate that? Think about the honor the person in this scenario would have gotten from people when they brought their big gift to the temple and presented it before the crowd. On the other hand, no one sees those wearying days and nights spoon-feeding mom or dad when the body begins to fail. With perfect X-ray vision, Christ sees right through to the wicked and despicable self-serving heart hiding behind this show of religiosity.
It's no more difficult for Him to see our worry, fear or lack of faith that is concealed behind a veil of “wise preparation.” Or the Vanity about our appearance that might hide behind the notion of “Just keeping fit and staying healthy.” We must not allow the approval of others based on what they may observe externally to be what determines whether or actions are pleasing to the Lord or not, but need to learn to pray that the Lord would renovate our hearts from the inside out.
Second, remember that the more sin is painted under the color of virtue the more dangerous it is.
A wolf isn’t less dangerous if it’s wearing sheep’s clothing, but in fact is more so! It’s more dangerous because we’re less likely to recognize it and feel the convicting pressure that enables us to deal with it. Because of this, we learn to be content with what appear to be very minor sins, if we see them as sins at all, and sometimes even feel righteous in our sins.
For example, a person with a sharp and condescending tongue may be quite proud of the way they “Speak the truth without pulling punches” or “say it like it is.” On the other hand, the New Testament describes a growing and maturing believer to be one who is learning to be more and more sensitive to these dangers and discern them in their own soul.
o Hebrews 5:14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil
Because Sin is deceptive, pray that the Lord would reveal your root desires and motives to us. And don’t be surprised if his answer comes through the influence of another believer. Because self-deception is nearly impossible to see without an external source pointing the light at it, be humble when those who love you bring their concerns up to you. Appreciate their love and respond in humility.
Third, look at Life from God’s perspective.
In a few days, children dressed in costumes will likely appear at your door asking for free candy that they clearly don’t need or deserve! I learned recently of one of our church members who, as a child, used to go out in one costume and then, after canvassing the entire neighborhood, changed into a new outfit and made his rounds again!!! Brooks reminds us that one day we are going to stand before God and there will be no more costumes or masks. The reality of our true motives and will no longer be hidden and, in the light of the glory of God. This is especially helpful to consider when our masquerading is intentional. Think of your life in light of the day of the Lord and ask yourself what God’s penetrating eyes know to be true of your motives and desires. As that thought moves you, you will most certainly need to heed our brother’s final encouragement and think on Christ.
Remedy 4: Remember Christ’s death and see how “pretty” sin truly is.
In our Wednesday Bible Study time, we’re using Brooks’ framework and filling it in with our own study of Scripture. The following, however, comes directly from the text of Precious Remedies because of it simply cannot be restated any better.
Brooks says to consider
· “that HEAD, before which the angels do cast down their crowns, should be crowned with thorns,
· and those EYES, purer than the sun, put out by the darkness of death;
· those EARS, which hear nothing but hallelujahs of saints and angels, to hear the blasphemies of the multitude;
· that FACE, which was fairer than the sons of men, to be spit on by those beastly wretched Jews;
· that MOUTH and TONGUE, which spoke as never man spoke, accused for blasphemy;
· those HANDS, which freely swayed the scepter of heaven, nailed to the cross;
· those FEET, “like unto fine brass,” nailed to the cross for man’s sins; each sense pained with a spear and nails”
…and all this for those very sins that Satan paints and puts fine colors upon! Oh! how should the consideration of this stir up the soul against sin, and work the soul to fly from it, and to use all holy means whereby sin may be subdued and destroyed!”