A few years ago, an employee of a plant nursery in England perpetrated a very dangerous practical joke. He was in charge of the tags that would be placed on the plants before they were sent out to the show room for sale. The tags had the name of the plant, instructions for feeding and care, and any other important information. One particular plant was supposed to have a warning on its tag, stating as follows: “All parts of this plant are toxic.” The employee, however, changed the tag to say, “All parts of this plant are tasty in soup.” He claimed later that he just assumed the nursery’s staff horticulturist would see the tags before the plants hit the show room, would freak out, and everyone would have a good laugh. Unfortunately, no one noticed the tag for eight days. For over a week in April, those plants sat on the shelves of the nursery. When the error was finally discovered, the nursery was horrified to find out that 17 of the plants had been sold with the misleading tag. They scrambled to find the 17 purchasers before they made a fatal mistake. Eventually, they managed to track down 8 of the plants. But that of course left 9 more people out there who might reap the deadly consequences of a bad joke.
In a very real way, that is what the world has done with the concept of sin. When God created humanity, He put a label on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The label said, “on the day you eat of it, you will die.” That is still true today. The wages of sin is death; not immediate physical death in most cases, but death in the form of destroying relationships, killing hope, separation from God. But Satan changed the label on sin. The new label says, “This stuff tastes good! It makes your life more fulfilling! You would be crazy to deprive yourself of all that this has to offer!” And the world buys it. Increasingly, there are voices in our world that say there is no such thing as sin. Going back to our analogy of the poisonous plant, they would say, “There is no such thing as a plant that is poisonous at all times, in every situation. What is toxic to you may taste just fine to me. Who are you to say that your moral standards should apply across the board?” For most of us, it’s easy to spot the flaw in that thinking. As pervasive as it is today, we have been so steeped in the commands of God, we know there is such a thing as right and wrong. But there is another way to buy into the world’s lie, and this is one that afflicts many Christians. It is the idea that sin, while toxic, is a necessary part of life. So we can indulge in a little of it, as long as we do so in moderation. Just like drinking a few beers probably won’t give you liver disease, and like smoking an occasional cigar probably won’t give you lung cancer, a little sin never hurt anyone. It’s just part of life. I hear Christians say two things that exemplify this attitude: “I’m not perfect, just human. I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” The other one is “God forgives every sin. He’ll love me no matter what I do.” Both of those statements are true. But they aren’t the whole truth about sin. David found out the truth about sin. Late in his life, something devastating occurred, something that rocked both his family and his kingdom. And it was all the result of sin. In telling this story Sunday, I want to share with you the truth about sin; three truths that the world (and in some cases, the church) won’t tell you.
And by the way, when we think about sin, we often think of the sins of others. As you prepare for Sunday, ask the Lord to help you to hear this message for YOU, not for your neighbor. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the areas of your life where you are currently in rebellion against God's perfect will, or places where you are one step from stumbling into an abyss. This message is not going to be cheerful, but it's necessary for all of us to hear. "Let the one who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."