The Deceitfulness Of Sin
By Charles H. Spurgeon (1834 – 1892)
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13).
The deceitfulness of sin is most ruinous. We have grave cause to watch and pray against secret sins, veiled sins, popular sins, fascinating sins, deceitful sins.
Sin has singular power to deceive. Its deceit may be seen in the manner of its approaches to us. Sin does not uncover all its hideousness, nor reveal its horrible consequences; but it comes to us in a very subtle way, offering us advantage. The practice of sin may be encouraged by a doubt as to its penalty. “Yea, hath God said?” is the speculative question which is meant to undermine the foundations of godly fear in the heart. How tiny a drop of sinful distrust of God’s Word will poison all the thoughts of the soul!
Sin frequently comes as a bare suggestion, or an imagination; an airy thing, spun of such stuff as dreams are made of. You do not think of committing the fault, nor even of talking of it; but you think of it pleasantly, and view it as a thing bright and lustrous to the imagination. The thought fascinates, and then the spell of evil begins its deadly work: thought condenses into desire, and desire grows to purpose, and purpose ripens into act. So slyly doth sin come into the soul, that it is there before we are aware of it.
Sin has a way of adapting itself to us and to our circumstances. Sin’s quiver has an arrow for the rich, and a dart for the poor: it has one form of poison for the prosperous, and another for the unsuccessful. This master fisherman in the sea of life does not use the same bait for all sorts of fish; but he knows the creatures he would capture. If sin find thee poor as an owlet, it will tempt thee to envy, or to steal, or to doubt God, or to follow crooked ways of gain. If sin find thee abounding in riches, it will follow quite another tack, and lure thee on to self-indulgence, or to pride, or worldly fashion. Satan knows more about us than we know about ourselves: he knows our raw places, and our weak points, and in what joint there was a breakage in our youth. Sin, like the north wind, finds out every cranny in the house of manhood, and comes whistling in where we fondly dreamed that we were quite screened from its intrusion. Sin creeps towards us as a lion stealthily draws near to his prey. Watch well against the temptation whose words are smoother than butter, but inwardly they are drawn swords.
The Glitter of Sin
Next, sin is deceitful in its object, for the object which it puts before us is not that which is its actual result. We are not tempted to provoke our Maker, or willfully cast off the authority of righteousness. We are not invited to do these things for their own sake. No, no; we are moved to do evil under the idea that some present good will come of it. The man thinks, when he yields to sin, that he shall enjoy an additional pleasure, or shall gain an extra profit, or at least shall avoid a measure of evil, and escape from something which he dreads. He does the wrong for the sake of what he hopes will come of it. In brief, he does evil that good may come.
Thus, the seeming good is dangled before the shortsighted creature, man, as the bait before the fish. In every case, this object is a piece of deceit. Evil does not lead to good, nor sin promote our real profit; we are fooled if we think so. Yet, in most cases, the man does not commit the sin with the design of breaking the law of God, and defying his Maker, but because he fancies that something is to be gained; and, in his judgment, he better understands what is good for him even than the Lord God, by whose wisdom he ought to be guided.
Just as in the case of the old serpent, the argument is – God refuses you that which would be for your advantage, and you will be wise to take it. The arch-deceiver insinuated that God knew that if Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit their eyes would be opened, and they would be as gods; and therefore, to keep them under subjection, he denied them the charming fruit. The object set before us is delusive: the reward of sin may glitter, but it is not gold, and yet as gold it thrusts itself upon our erring judgment. This deceitfulness of sin is everywhere present: the street, the house, the private room, all come to be enchanted ground unless we dwell in God. Are we not often caused to think that we could make at least a little gain, or do a measure of extra good, if we might just to a small degree quit the straight and narrow way? This is falsehood, base as hell.
Sin also shows its special deceitfulness in the arguments which it uses with men. Have you never heard its voice whispering to you, “Do not make much ado about nothing. Is it not a little one? There is no need to boggle over so small a matter as this. It is not right, but still it is a mere trifle, unworthy of notice. Do it! Do it!” My friends, can there be such a thing as a small sin? The point of the rapier is small, and for that reason the more deadly. That which grieves the Lord cannot be a little evil. To pluck the fruit from the forbidden tree was of all actions the simplest, yet brought it death into the world, with all its train of woe; and that which seems most trifling may have infinite consequences following in its track.
Then will sin raise the question, and say, “Is this really wrong? May we not be too precise? Are not the times changed? Do not circumstances alter the command?” He that wills to do wrong is eager to find a loophole for himself. He that has begun to seek an excuse is on the borderland of the enemy. He that is loyal to the core and true to his King in everything makes short work of questions; for when he is not sure that a thing is right he lets it alone.
Sin will also flatter a man with the notion that he can go just so far, and no farther, and retreat with ease. He can tread the verge of crime and yet be innocent. Another person would be in great danger; but this self-satisfied fool thinks that he has such power over himself, and that he is so intelligent, and so experienced, that he can stop at a safe point. This moth can play with the candle, and not singe its wings. The deceivableness of sin is such that it makes those most secure who are most in peril. Oh, for grace to watch and pray, lest we also become “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin”!
Sin will also add, “And, after all, though you were wrong, yet you were not so bad as you might have been; and, considering the temptation, you may wonder at your own moderation in transgression. On the whole, you have behaved better than others would have done.” Thus, the sinner will weave a garment out of the cobwebs of his sins. Self-righteousness is poor stuff when it can be fashioned even out of our faults. Such is the deceivableness of sin that it makes itself out to be praiseworthy.
Then sin will suggest, “Well, you can soon make up for lost time. Live nearer to God, and be more useful! And then your little divergence will soon be made up.” It even ventures coarsely to propose a price for pardon. “Give something extra to the good cause, and make amends for offenses.”
The deceitfulness of sin is seen again in its promises; for we shall not go far into sin without finding out how greatly it lies unto us. It promises liberty, and the man who yields to it becomes the veriest slave. It promises light, and the man gives up the old faith to go after the new light, and before long the darkness thickens about him into sevenfold midnight. Sin promises elevation of mind and spirit, and before long the wretch is worldly, pleasure loving, groveling, superstitious. Sin keeps none of its promises, save only to the ear. Holiness is truth; but sin is a lie. Sin is false through and through: it promises pleasure, and it leads to misery; it feigns a heaven, but inflicts a real hell.
Trust in the Lord to Keep You True
Let no man think that he cannot be deceived; he is already deluded by his pride. Let no woman dream that she has come to such a state of perfection that she cannot be deluded by sin: she is even now in imminent peril. We have a cunning enemy, and we have no wit of our own wherewith to match the subtlety of the old serpent, and the deceitfulness of sin. Unless we call in the help of Him who is “the Wisdom of God,” we shall be led as an ox to the slaughter, and perish in our folly.
This deceitfulness of sin, and the tendency to become hardened, need to be fought against. How is it to be done?
The way to keep from hardness of heart, and from the deceitfulness of sin, is to believe. We read, “To whom sware He that they should not enter into His rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb. 3:18-19). Believe! faith has saved you. Believe! faith will save you! Believe! faith has brought you to Christ. Believe! it will keep you in Christ. Believe against the present temptation. Believe against all future deceitfulness of sin. You shall find that, just in proportion as faith grows strong, the deceit of sin will be baffled. Believe in the living God, and in His righteousness, and in your obligation to serve Him – then sin will appear exceeding sinful. Believe in Christ, who took your sin, and bare it in His own body on the tree – then sin will be seen in its black colors. Believe in the Holy Spirit, by whose power you can be delivered from the deceitfulness of sin; and as you believe, so shall it be unto you, and you shall stand fast where the half-believer slides.
The next advice I would give is this – if you would be saved from the deceitfulness of sin confess it honestly before God. It is necessary to lay bare your heart before the living God. Confess the great evil of your wickedness; for this humble penitence will be not only your way to pardon, but to future purity. Oh, that the Spirit of God may teach you this!
Again, cultivate great tenderness of heart. As for myself, I would be swayed by the Word of God as the ripe corn is swayed by the summer wind. I would be by God’s Spirit as readily moved as the leaves of the aspen by the breeze. I would be sensitive to the gentlest breath of my Lord.
And then let us endeavor, if the Lord is keeping us by His grace, to “exhort one another daily.” The best of believers may grow better by the communications of his friends.
But, oh, dear friends, after all that I have said, he is well kept whom the Lord keepeth. Commit yourselves unto the Lord, the Holy Spirit, who is able to keep you from stumbling. Trust in Him, who is the faithful and true Witness, to deliver you from all falsehood and sin, and to keep you true to the end.
– Condensed from a sermon.