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May 25, 2014

the sewage of sin

Our land is dry. Outside of a freak rainstorm with high winds, and a few unusual rain sprinkles, we have not had rain in many months. The roads are dusty and a slight gale kicks it all up. The top of everything catches filth. If the floor hasn't been mopped in the last 24 hours, my bare feet sense the dust. This corner of Asia has taught me what parched means.

Which is why it stood out as unusual when my auto bounced through a monsoon-like puddle near our office building one morning. I saw some birds happily splashing in what must have felt to them like a lake. They flapped their grey feathers. One dipped his beak in the puddle, as if delighted to find such a large and luxurious birdbath in the middle of the hottest and driest season.

Of course, I wondered at the source of their bathing water. It didn't take long to see what was feeding the birdbath. From around the edges of a manhole cover, greyish-brown water gurgled out. The water was sewage, pouring over the already-filthy dirt street, lined in garbage and construction debris.

As my auto driver navigated the puddle that morning, I thought about those commonplace pigeons basking in grey sewage. I wondered: do they know that across the city there is a large, man-made lake, which, while it might be a bit dirty, is a real treat compared to sewage? Better yet, do they know that in some parts of the world, other birds (which are in no way superior to them) splash in pristine, glacier-fed lakes? Do they know what's out there? If they knew the options that exist, would they be so happily flitting through grey, watered-down excrement...the very thing that will kill them?

And it was like the Father told me: you are that pigeon with your face in the sewage, Julie. When you choose sin over righteousness, you're choosing sewage over glacier-fed lakes. You're holding close to yourself something which, in the hot season of life's trials might feel like instant release, or easy pleasure, but it will ultimately kill you. As Paul wrote to the Romans, in 7:11, "Sin...killed me." The Father reminded me, sin is sewage.

But what is sin? Some people think of the "seven deadly sins". But Susanna Wesley penned a brave and broad definition for sin, which convicts me every time I read it:
"Whatever weakens your reason,
impairs the tenderness of your conscience,
obscures your sense of God,
takes off your relish for spiritual things,
whatever increases the authority of the body over the mind,
that thing is sin to you,
however innocent it may seem in itself."
For me, it helps to list a specific sin, and remind myself that that thought or act is killing me:
Gossip...will kill me.
Laziness...will kill me.
Prayerlessness...will kill me.
Lust...will kill me.
Bitterness...will kill me.

Sewage, will kill me. Is killing me. Remember the happily ignorant pigeons.

C. S. Lewis is known for saying, "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea." Lewis speaks from the perspective of the joy that is missed when we don't accept God's good gifts, and I speak from the disaster that is imminent if we continue to cherish sin. What is at stake is not only that we might trade a holiday for a slum, but that ignorance of or willful disobedience to God's design kills us. That is not to say it causes us to lose our eternal salvation, but...
It kills our spiritual fellowship with God.
It makes us unable to bear good fruit.
It renders us useless to Him and powerless for spiritual battle.

God says sin kills.
"In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
"For if you live according to the flesh you will die; 
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

The world, the flesh and the devil sell us the idea that sin will not kill. 
"You will not surely die." 

Every decision comes down to who we trust. Who we believe. Will we believe what He says about sin, whether or not we see the long-term consequences or understand the why

Perhaps you, like me, have trouble forsaking those sins that don't seem to have negative effects at present. Perhaps you think of sin lightly. Your sin was and is so terrible that the only sufficient payment for it was the violent death of the only Son of God. Thomas Kelly addresses this in a song that is relatively new to me:
Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed!
See Who bears the awful load!
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God.
Killing sin is serious business. John Owen wrote, 
Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you. 
A trial is never so hot that bathing in sewage is a good idea. No matter the short-term relief that it seems to provide, fix this in your mind: sin kills me. Our insistance on drinking in sewage proves that we "don't know what's out there" when it comes to our relationship with God. And we can never begin to delight in a holy lifestyle if we don't actively flee sin and fly toward righteous J'esus. Let's get our faces out of the gutters of sin: He's calling us to the abundant life of Living Water, on the mountain of God.

When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin;
and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

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