It was as if I were suddenly asked to give a speech on a topic I knew little about. I felt two individual beads of sweat run from my armpit and down my side, giving me chills. Yet the temperature outside the vehicle was north of 90 so I couldn’t turn off the air conditioner but a few seconds. It is strange feeling simultaneously cold and hot. But that’s where I was.
No worries. The window would be down soon enough, equalizing the opposing forces of the AC and Oklahoma sun.
|Michiel Jelijs (CC)|
Of course the wait from the time you pull over until the officer approaches your window seems longer than it is. I’m not sure what he’s doing in there. Probably running the plates to check for warrants, liens, and proper registration. But I also imagine him doing normal stuff you and I do at work like finishing the last bite of Snickers and texting his wife to remember to pay the vet bill. Besides that, all the cruisers have those laptops in them now, and it’s gotta be tempting to check up on Facebook every once in a while.
So my angst grew minute by minute, primarily because of the unknown. Why had the police officer pulled me over?
The department had recently switched from outdated Crown Victorias to brand new shiny Dodge Chargers complete with "Police" spelled out in some garish typeface meant to convey authority.
I wasn’t speeding. Maybe a brake light was out? Yeah, I bet that’s it. Brake light. Then again, I wasn’t wearing my seat belt. But he wouldn’t pull me over for a seat belt, would he? Is that even legal?
Twenty minutes and twenty dollars later, I’ll tell you he would, and it is. I couldn’t believe it.
Lies and Consequences
When God called Jeremiah, Judah was in a bad way. The people had turned to false gods—Baal the most infamous. They sacrificed children (Jer. 19:5). They met with prostitutes in cultic rituals (2 Kings 23:7). They broke just about every Mosaic law in the book.
So God sent His prophet Jeremiah to warn them of the approaching destruction. Babylon was coming and the result would be disastrous.
Yet Judah took comfort in its pleasure, and sought assistance from Egypt rather than from God. Of all places. God had already done battle with Egypt, and we know how that turned out. To add to Jeremiah's credibility, Judah's brothers to the north had already been carried away by the Assyrians.
And Nebuchadnezzar would make the Assyrians look like chumps.
So against all logic, despite all of the prophetic warnings of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others, Judah refused to believe there would be consequences for its sin. As Jeremiah said:
The have spoken falsely of the LORD and have said, ‘He will do nothing; no disaster will come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine.’ (Jeremiah 5:12)
The people of Judah justified their actions by wishing away the consequences. Lying to themselves seemed better than repenting. Of course God did do something. Disaster did come. The Babylonians invaded with sword and spear, carrying away the majority of Judah to exile throughout the Babylonian empire.
The Allure of Hell-less-ness
The way I see it, there are three rationales for sin:
2. Belief that I can deal with the consequences
3. Belief that there are no consequences
First, ignorance is off the table for the Christian. As Paul wrote, “The people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). You can feign ignorance, but it will fall on deaf ears.
Second, if you think you can deal with the consequences, you’re delusional. Romans 6:23 tells us the wages of sin is death. By the way, the worst part of Jesus’ death wasn’t the physical pain. Yes that was brutal, but separation from the Father was exponentially worse. That’s why Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46).
Last is the lie we all want to believe at some time or another. It’s the lie that there are no consequences for sin. How did the serpent tempt Eve? “You surely will not die!” (Gen. 3:4 NASB). The people of Judah wanted to believe the lie too, and that’s why they raised up false prophets to tell them there would be no consequences for their sins against God.
When reading these passages it’s so easy to marvel at the foolishness of God’s people. After all they’d seen and heard—especially the Assyrian assault on their northern brethren—you’d think they would have listened to the prophets. But isn’t this the lie we all tell ourselves at some point? The lie that there will be no consequences for sin.
I wasn’t wearing my seat belt because I thought nothing would happen to me. As long as I obeyed other traffic laws, I thought, the officer can’t pull me over. Because I believed I was immune to the consequences of not following the law, I had no problem breaking it.
But it’s not just for our own sin that we use the lie, but for others too. This accounts for the appeal of universalism and for books like Rob Bell’s Love Wins asserting hell isn’t real.
And can you blame them? The thought of hell is horrifying, devastating. I shudder when I think of people—including many I love—possibly entering damnation. (All the more reason for us to double down on our efforts.)
But the truth doesn’t change. The Bible is not unclear in regards to consequences: "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16).
And again, in John's vision of end times, "Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:15).
Sin is antithetical to God, so by definition one can’t be in sin and in God at the same time; don’t believe the lie there are no consequences for sin.
I referred to Romans 6:23 above, but I left out the latter part of the verse: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Christ died in our place that we could avoid damnation—the ultimate penalty for sin. And although God offers forgiveness to the contrite, there are always consequences for sin: broken relationships, broken bodies, emotional scars.
The lie is tempting; don’t let it ensnare you. (And don't forget to buckle up.)
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