The Deceitfulness of Sin
A sermon on 1 Corinthians 10:12 by Coty Pinckney, Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary Chapel, April 8 & 9, 2002
Are you standing firm?
Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 10:12: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you do not fall.”
Why did I trick you with that question? This year at the seminary – in chapel and at the Family Festival – we have had numerous skits and sermons exhorting us not to be hypocrites, not to live lives that fail to reflect what we teach. This warning against hypocrisy is good, biblical advice.
But such warnings can leave the impression that the way not to become a hypocrite is to aim at avoiding hypocrisy. These warnings imply that there are two categories of people, hypocrites and non-hypocrites. By avoiding hypocrisy, we become what we want to be.
But my guess is that most graduates of this seminary who fall into sin and become hypocrites were not hypocrites while they were here. Furthermore, they knew at that time that hypocrisy is wrong. They left here with no intention of becoming hypocrites.
I contend that they did not fall into persistent sin because they were hypocrites. Rather, they became hypocrites after falling into persistent sin. So the most important question is not: Why did they become hypocrites? But: Why did they fall into persistent sin?
This morning I will suggest that the answer is clear: the deceitfulness of sin. They thought they were standing firm, and did not take precautions against falling. They thought such sins would never ensnare them, so they were not careful. And then, once they fell into sin, they remained stuck in that mire through further deceitfulness of sin. So in the end, they became hypocrites.
That’s why Paul writes: “If you think you are standing firm, take care that you do not fall.”
We will examine this topic under three headings, three pieces of knowledge we all need to have in order to stand firm:
John tells us this about Satan:
He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44, NIV)
Satan speaks lies and partial truths, even twisting Scripture to his own purposes. Remember how he tempts Jesus to throw Himself off the top of the temple, quoting Psalm 91 to “prove” that Jesus will not be hurt. This is his normal procedure. He will take good desires, good words, good advice – and twist them seemingly just a little bit to tempt us to follow him.
How effective is he at this? He is a master. Indeed, none of us can fight him alone. He will always win. In Revelation 12:9 we are told that Satan deceives the whole world. Matthew 24:24 clarifies the meaning of that statement:
For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect-- if that were possible. (NIV, emphasis added)
Satan is so cunning, it will appear that even those chosen by God to be His are deceived. By God’s grace, in the end they will not be. God protects His own. But without that protection, every one of us would fall prey to Satan’s lies.
Satan has one fundamental lie that he tells us in multiple ways. He used this lie in the Garden of Eden, and uses it against you and me every day. This fundamental lie is:
God is not Who He says He is.
In particular, Satan attacks different aspects of God’s character, such as His goodness, His power, His wisdom, His holiness, and His justice. Remember how he does this in the Garden? Satan calls God a liar – “You will not die if you eat of this tree.” And then he questions God’s goodness, accusing Him of trying to protect His unique position of knowing good and evil: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
But Satan has many different ways of stating this one, fundamental lie. So in the context of our primary text Paul writes that God informs us of the sins and failures of people in the Bible so that they might be examples and warnings to us. Thus, this morning I want us to examine briefly the sins of three great men. Peter, Solomon, and David. If these men were deceived by Satan, surely you and I can be deceived. And so we need to take care to learn from their failures.
Peter lived with Jesus for three years and was a leader among the twelve. Jesus Himself called Peter a Rock. Yet Satan deceived Peter. Please turn with me to Mark 14:27:
27 "You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written: "'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' 28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee." 29 Peter declared, "Even if all fall away, I will not." 30 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "today-- yes, tonight-- before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times." 31 But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." (NIV)
Question: This last night of Jesus’ life, when did Peter first sin? At the courtyard of the high priest, when he denied knowing Jesus? Or earlier, in the garden, when he fell asleep after Jesus asked him to pray with him? I think his first, fundamental sin earlier, in these verses we just read. His fundamental sin was confidence in himself.
So what effective lie did Satan tell Peter? How did Satan deceive him? I think Satan said something like this:
Lie #1: “Peter, you’re a rock! You’re strong! You’re the leader of Jesus’ disciples! Others may fall, but you won’t fall to those temptations!”
“If you think you are standing firm, take care that you do not fall.”
Think about this lie. Satan is actually saying that he has no power! Satan tells Peter not to worry about temptation, because he is strong enough to resist it. My friends, this is one of Satan’s favorite lies – claiming that he himself is weak. The first thing we need to realize in our battle with Satan is that we are the ones who are weak. Whenever we fight him alone, we lose.
How does this lie question God’s character? By suggesting that we don’t need God’s power, Satan is actually belittling God’s power. Satan exalts our strength relative to God’s strength. Jesus tells us, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” Satan says, “Apart from God’s power, you can resist me. Don’t worry about it.” And Peter fell for this lie.
Let us now turn our attention to Solomon. Please turn to 1 Kings 4:29:
29 God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than any other man. (NIV)
“Wiser than any other man” – and yet Satan deceived him. Turn over to the beginning of chapter 11:
1 King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh's daughter-- Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2 They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, "You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods." Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. 3 He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 4 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. (NIV)
How did Solomon sin? There are three parts of this sin, each worse than the previous:
What led Solomon into this grievous sin? What lies did Satan tell him? I suggest there are three.
Lie #1: “Marrying multiple wives is just a little sin – and Abraham and Jacob both committed it!”
Every time we hear a voice saying, “This is just a minor sin – it really doesn’t matter” – Satan is questioning God’s holiness. And the end result is never little. Supposedly little sins become obvious big sins, as in Solomon’s case.
Lie #2: “Surely God’s restrictions on marriage don’t apply to me – I’m the king!”
None of us is a king, but Satan uses the same basic lie. “You’re different. That rule is for other, weaker people, not a strong person like you.”
This is somewhat similar to the third lie:
Lie #3: “God couldn’t possibly intend for you to do that; it’s completely impractical. Here’s an easier way to accomplish the goal.”
Solomon must have thought: “No king can only marry one person. A king has to make political alliances – he might offend other countries, necessary allies! No, that restriction is impractical.”
These last two lies call into question God’s wisdom and power. Satan says that God is not wise enough to know my particular situation, and not powerful enough to arrange matters so my “impractical” action will lead to His glory and my own good. But our God is wise and powerful. He is indeed in control of all things, and works all those things together for the good of those who love Him.
So the wisest man in the world was deceived by Satan’s lies. May his example serve as a warning to all of us: “Take care that you do not fall.”
God calls David a man after His own heart. He was undoubtedly the greatest king of Israel. Most of all, David serves as a picture of Jesus himself – indeed, in the book of Psalms he even speaks words that apply to Jesus (for example, Psalms 22 and 69). And yet, Satan deceived him.
Please turn to 2 Samuel 11.
1 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. 2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, "Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" 4 So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (ESV)
While his troops are out fighting, David is standing on the flat roof of his house, looking over Jerusalem, the city he had conquered. Most roofs are flat in this city, and he notices on a lower roof a beautiful woman bathing. Now, David at this time already had multiple wives. Like Solomon later, he had fallen prey to the lie that he as king did not have to abide by God’s plan for marriage. Indeed, David had indulged himself in the past by taking women he desired as his wives. Thus, when he notices this lovely woman, he thinks he can do the same again. What difference before God will one more wife make? After all, he is the king.
So he sends to get information about her. But the news is bad: the woman is married. And not only married, but her husband is one of David’s friends, one of his most loyal army officers – he is listed among David’s thirty “mighty men” in 1 Chronicles 11.
Upon receiving this news, David should have gone back into his house and taken a cold bath. Or he could have visited one of his wives. But instead, he sends for Bathsheba and commits adultery. His attempt to cover up this sin results in the murder of Uriah.
Why did David do this? What lies did Satan use to deceive this man after God’s own heart? We will consider four:
Lie #1: “You’ve served God so faithfully – now you deserve a little break.”
This is a particularly subtle lie. We do need breaks from some types of work. But what does Satan imply by saying that we need a break from serving God? Do you need a break from being with someone you love? Do you need a break from giving joy to that loved one? No! So in this lie, Satan infers that serving God is drudgery. Fundamentally, this lies questions God’s goodness. Obedience to God is not missing out on life, but the way to find true life.
Lie #2: “Just this one time!”
This is one of Satan’s favorite lies. He says, “Surely once won’t matter; you can always repent and go back to the way you used to live.” But if you do give in and commit the sin, what does Satan say next? “Just one more time! One more time won’t make any difference!” And now, after you have given in once, it is harder to resist the temptation than the first time.
This lie is another that questions God’s holiness. Jesus tells us, “Be perfect as you Father in heaven is perfect.” Every sin matters. Every sin is an affront to the God who loves us, to the God who provides us with a holy calling, to the God who calls us His own children, to the God who empowers us to resist Satan.
Lie #3: “No one will ever know.”
This is another of Satan’s favorite lies. David must have thought, “Other than a few palace servants, no one can know what happens tonight. This will be a pleasant evening, she’ll go home secretly in the morning, we’ll never meet again and that will be the end.” But David neglects to consider that God knows. God always knows all that we do. And God tells us that what we do in secret will be shouted from the rooftops. Recall that this becomes true literally in David’s case during his lifetime. For some, the secret may be kept successfully from men during this life. But God always knows.
Once David had lusted after Bathsheba, had pondered the thought of having sexual relations with her, he was excited; he wanted her, not one of his present wives. At that point, one final lie pushed him over the edge into his great sin:
Lie #4: “You can’t resist this temptation – so don’t try!”
So David gave in. Thinking that he deserved a break, that this would be the only time, that no one would ever know, and feeling like he could not possibly suppress his desire, David took Bathsheba to himself. And the result was disaster for himself, his family, and his country. Even more importantly, this sin by the man after God’s own heart gave occasion for God’s enemies to mock the name of the Lord (1 Sam 12:14).
So Satan successfully deceives Peter, Solomon, and David. If these men fell to his lies, how much more easily will we fall? How, then, can we fight against these lies? That is, how do we put into practice Paul’s injunction: “If you think you are standing firm, take care that you do not fall”?
In 1 Timothy 6:12, Paul writes, “Fight the good fight of faith.” What does he mean by that? John Piper elaborates on this idea: “The fight of faith is the fight to keep your heart contented in Christ – to really believe, and keep on believing, that he will meet every need and satisfy every longing.”
All of Satan’s lies attack the character of God. We therefore fight Satan’s lies by remembering and relying on God’s character. You see how this fight of faith is tied to God’s character? Satan tells us that sin will provide more pleasure and joy than what a stingy God will give. Satan tells us that God will let us down, that God will not give us what we really want and need, that we can’t trust God with the future. We fight those lies by going deeper and deeper with God, learning more and more of His character, delighting in Him more and more - and then stepping out in faith, trusting God to be faithful to His character.
Let’s discuss three means that God gives us to help us fight this fight: Prayer, Fellowship, and the Word.
We could spend hours profitably discussing prayer. Here let me make only one point: Prayer is putting into practice your faith in God’s revelation of Himself. If we truly believe God’s Word, we will say with the Psalmist:
Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25,26 NIV)
So if God is our heart’s desire, if God is our portion, we will desire to be in His presence. And the more we are in His presence, the better we will know Him and the more we will delight in Him. Certainly we are to ask for God’s assistance in avoiding temptation. But even more important is our learning more of God through our times of prayer. The better we know God, the better able we are to resist Satan’s lies.
To effectively combat Satan, we need to cultivate our time with God. This is not easy. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “Everything we do in the Christian life is easier than prayer.” Prayer is difficult, but it is absolutely vital.
God gives us the great gift of being in fellowship with other members of the body of Christ, our brothers and sisters in the faith. And Scripture specifically commands us to watch out for each other so that we will not be deceived by Satan:
All of you, brothers, must take care lest there will be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, so that he falls away from the living God. But all of you, encourage each other every day, as long as it is called Today, so that not one of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13, own translation)
Notice how the author of Hebrews commands all of us to watch out for every one of us. We are put in one body so that we might serve each other, so that we might help each other to fight the fight of faith. Satan can easily deceive one of us. But he has a much harder time deceiving several of us together. The lies that Satan uses against me are likely to be different than those he uses against you. You can help me see through the lies he tells me, and I can help you see through the lies he tells you. We all have the responsibility to help each one of our brothers and sisters to combat our Enemy.
To do this, we need peers. We need to be meeting regularly with those who will watch us, encourage us, and help us to fight the fight of faith. You all know very well that this is a particular challenge for pastors. But I encourage you: Develop solid peer relationships with people who have your permission to challenge you, to keep you from falling, to hold you accountable to God.
The Bible is God’s revelation of His character. So, since Satan attacks God’s character, we fight his attacks by leaning on that revelation. To fight this fight effectively, we need to use the Word both extensively and intensively. We use the Word extensively by reading large portions regularly, even daily. Over a period of time we need to read the Scriptures in their entirety in order to see the big picture, to see all of God’s revelation of Himself.
But we also need to read the Word intensively: memorizing and meditating on those specific Scriptures that combat the particular lies with which Satan deceives you. Then, like Jesus, you can fight the lies of Satan with the truths of God’s word.
To see how this is done, let us match the eight lies Satan used against Peter, Solomon, and David with Scriptures that can be used against those lies:
The Lie: “You’re strong! You don’t need to worry about this temptation!”
The Word: John 15:5: Apart from me, you can do nothing.
The Lie: “This is just a little sin – it doesn’t really matter!”
The Word: Matthew 5:48: Be perfect, therefore, as your Father in heaven is perfect.
The Lie: “Surely this restriction doesn’t apply to you – you’re different!”
The Word: Matthew 5:19: Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
The Lie: God couldn’t possibly intend for you to do that; it’s completely impractical. Here’s an easier way to accomplish the goal.”
The Word: Isaiah 55:8,9: For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
The Lie: “Just this once!”
The Word: 1 John 2:5,6: This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
The Lie: “No one will ever know!”
The Word: Luke 12:2,2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
The Lie: “You can’t resist this temptation – so don’t try!”
The Word: 1 Corinthians 10:13: No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
So I encourage you to identify the lies Satan uses regularly against you. Then work to identify Bible verses you can use against those lies. This is the fight of faith.
Do you think you are standing firm? Are you stronger, more gifted, or closer to God than Peter, Solomon, or David? If these men fell prey to the lies of Satan, you and I must take great care.
Have you given in to the lies of Satan? As I read these lies, did you realize that you have heard him speak those very words to you? You are not alone. Charles Spurgeon says, “There is enough tinder in the heart of the best of men to light a fire that shall burn to the lowest hell, unless God shall quench the sparks as they fall. . . . May infinite wisdom cure us of the madness of self-confidence.”
With Satan roaming around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour, we must fight diligently to hold on to our faith. This is a fight that will not end until we are before the throne of God. Every day, for the rest of your life, you must fight this fight – or you will fall.
But by God’s grace, we all can stand. By God’s grace, we can reach the end of our lives and say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight [the fight of faith!], I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
Preached at Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary Chapel, Ndu, Cameroon, April 8 and 9, 2002. The John Piper quote is from The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace, Multnomah, 1995, p. 222. The Charles Spurgeon quote is from his evening devotion for March 16, from Morning and Evening, 1865. The Martyn Lloyd-Jones quote comes from Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Volume 2, Eerdmans, 1960, p. 46.
Copyright © 2002, Thomas C. Pinckney. You may copy this text for distribution to others, but only in its entirety for circulation freely without charge. All such copies of this text must contain this copyright notice. You may also use brief excerpts in sermons, reviews, or articles. Other than these exceptions, this text may not be copied in part, edited, revised, copied for resale or incorporated in any products offered for sale, without the written permission of Thomas C. Pinckney, firstname.lastname@example.org, c/o Community Bible Church, 160 Bridges Rd, Williamstown, MA 01267, USA.