Cancerous Sin

Cancer.

Such a small, simple word, and yet it has the ability to strike fear in our hearts the instant we hear it. The dreaded news of it halts our lives in a moment, turns our world upside down. It often comes as a death sentence, taking family members, close friends, and loved ones. It is accompanied by pain, tears, sorrow, and often death.

Sin.

Does this word have the same effect on us? When we hear it, think about it, and see it in our lives, do we flee from it as urgently as we do from terminal illnesses such as cancer? Cancer can take our physical lives, but that’s where its power reaches its limit. Sin’s devastating effects penetrate much deeper than the physical. It eats away at and destroys the soul. It pulls us away from the sole source of everlasting life and results in spiritual death. The Bible speaks of this in multiple passages:

“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12).

“For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

“Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15).

Sin is described in the Bible very similarly to cancer. Cancer often begins as a relatively small mass, yet remaining unchecked it metastasizes throughout the entire body until it has completely taken over. Sin is much the same way. One sin in our lives leads to another, which results in many more. That is why sin is often described in Scripture as leaven – it may begin as one small, seemingly insignificant sin, but it will spread until it has permeated the whole of our lives.

“A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).

“Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us” (I Corinthians 5:6-7).

What is our reaction when we see sin and the effects of sin in our lives? As soon as we receive news of cancer, our immediate response is to want to fight it with everything we have without delay. We allow harmful drugs to be injected into our bodies in an attempt to erase the cancerous mass. We even allow surgeons to cut into our flesh and remove entire vital organs in order to rid ourselves from the malignant cancer. We flee from cancer. We want nothing to do with it. As soon as it makes an appearance we battle it with everything we have until we have destroyed it and there is no trace of it left.

Is that how we react to sin in our lives? Do we hate it and flee from it with as much conviction as we ought? If we convince ourselves that we can hoard just one little sin in our lives, that is not possible – it will inevitably multiply and reap destructive fruits. All it takes is a little leaven – one “little” sin. Sin brings death – spiritual death. How much more precious is our spiritual life and communion with God even than earthly life itself!

Anna Langerak

Rescued from the Depths

It seems to me that when we discuss the story and book of Jonah, we very often miss a key element.  There is much talk of the first chapter, which features the well-known Bible story of Jonah’s stubborn disobedience of God’s command to cry against Nineveh and the ensuing stormy voyage, as well as the detail of Jonah being swallowed up by a fish prepared by the Lord.  We also spend much time on chapters 3 and 4, in which Jonah does go to Nineveh and preach to them a gospel of repentance for sin, and Jonah becomes angry at God’s will for the city.  However, we seem to frequently glaze over chapter 2.  This chapter contains the words of Jonah while in the belly of the fish.  It is a very beautiful prayer, and we would do well to study it as much as the other chapters for its instruction regarding our prayer lives.  It also serves as a preparation for worship of Jehovah.

Verse 2 sets the tone for the prayer.  In it, Jonah acknowledges that he cries out to God “out of the belly of hell” and “by reason of [his] affliction.”  He also makes mention of God’s ability and willingness to hear him.  This is a good way for us to formulate our own prayers, as well as to approach the house of God tomorrow – in total admission that we are sinful creatures worthy of hell and unworthy to be heard by Him apart from His grace, but also recognizing that that grace is present for us and that He does hear us.  Proper reverence is vital in worshipping God, and reminding ourselves that we need Him for all things is a good way of obtaining that reverence.

Verses 3 and 5 are closely related, describing the horrors of drifting into the depths, suffocated by weeds.  The literal nature of this part of the prayer is obvious, but it has a symbolic component as well.  When we become ensnared by a besetting sin, we are Jonah, trapped by seaweed and pressed on every side by the increasing burden as we continue to sink further and further into the depths of sinfulness.  At times, we, as did Jonah, can feel as though there is no escape, and we destined to drown in our wicked way.

However, there is hope for the child of God.  Verses 4 and 7 both mention turning to God’s holy temple.  It is the natural reaction to attempt to swim to the surface on one’s own power, but we know in our hearts this is foolishness.  Our only salvation is in God, and to obtain it, we must turn to Him and own that we are sinful.  This too is mentioned by Jonah; in verse 8, he says that others “observe lying vanities,” and in so doing “forsake their own mercy.”  However, he makes a beautiful confession in verse 9, stating, “But I will sacrifice unto Thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.”  As we come into the holy temple of God tomorrow, let us do so with hearts full of sorrow for our sinfulness, but also filled with thanksgiving, remembering that “Salvation is of the Lord.”

God’s answer to the prayer is seen in verse 10: the fish vomits Jonah out.  There is much practical instruction for us here.  His prayer is answered because it is a true prayer, the only kind God heeds.  May we come to Him on Sunday with a pure heart, prepared to rightly worship and petition Him, as Jonah did.

A good summary of the prayer is found in verse 6: “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me forever: yet hast Thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God.”  Remember tomorrow morning when you go to the house of the Lord that in the past week, you have truly descended to the bottoms of the mountains and have become imprisoned in your sinfulness.  But remember too that God, through Christ’s work, lifts you out of the depths of sea, removing you from the ensnarement of your sins.  As we sing in Psalter number 29:

“My soul in death’s dark pit

Shall not be left by Thee;

Corruption Thou wilt not permit

Thy holy one to see.

Life’s pathway Thou wilt show,

To Thy right hand wilt guide,

Where streams of pleasure ever flow,

And boundless joys abide.”

Matt Koerner

Help for the Destroyed Christian

Hosea 13:9-10 – “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help.  I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes?”

Think back on your recent behavior.  What have you allowed yourself to be ruled by?  Maybe you have become a bit too interested in making another dollar, driven almost solely by a desire to obtain greater wealth.  Or have you gone out of your way to attract attention, constantly seeking validation from those around you and wanting nothing more than to be accepted?  Has a longing to escape the boredom or the trouble of life led you to the sin of drunkenness?

We all do this.  Whether it is greed, excessive desire for popularity, alcoholism, or any other besetting sin, it makes no difference.  None of these things can save us.  All are sinful and temporary – “vanity,” as Solomon might say.  Yet we have no qualms about making these sinful behaviors our idols; we reject our true King and turn to our own devices.  This is what Hosea means earlier in the chapter when he writes that we have made “idols according to [our] own understanding” (verse 2).  The verses leading up to verse 9 make this a frightening passage for the unrepentant sinner.  God reveals that He “will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart, and there will I devour them like a lion: the wild beast shall tear them” (verse 8).  Thinking about such things is enough to bring us to our knees in shame and sorrow.  We confess that Hosea’s words apply to us as much as they did to Israel, if not more so.  We often have refused to repent and have tried to make our own decisions, choosing sin over God, destroying ourselves in the process.

But fret not, fellow Christian – in the midst of these clear reprimands and warnings, there is hope for the child of God.  That hope is God Himself, as is laid out in verse 9 – “[He] is thine help.”  Let us not collapse to our knees in self-pity, but in total confession to God of our own short-comings, acknowledging our complete reliance on the redemptive work of Christ.  Having done so, let us ascend to the house of God tomorrow with joy; we may have spent the last six days destroying ourselves, but in the end, it matters not for the redeemed.  Regardless of who or what you may have made your King as of late, the true King reigns, and by His work, we are made whole.  Our help is in Him; thanks be to God!

Matt Koerner