I know how to ride a bicycle.
You probably do, too. But the fact that I know how to ride a bike does not make me a cyclist. Similarly, I might go for a jog a few times a week. But the fact that I have a good pair of shoes and can rip off a couple of miles without falling does not make me a “runner.”
In both of those worlds, you can go as deep down into the rabbit hole and subculture as you want to. You can, if you have the inclination and the energy, get down into all the smallest details of the frame size and weight of a bike. Or you can get into the specifics of the pace of your mile and the exact amount of arch support you need. You can get very specific into the type of clothing, the nutrition that improves your time, and the latest articles on how to cut wind resistance. You can go deeper and deeper and further and further as long as you have the time, energy, and money to do so.
But not me. Once again, I can ride a bike, but I am not a cyclist. You might say that I have a “casual” relationship with the bicycle. And there are all other kinds of things we might have this sort of working knowledge of without going to deep into. You might have a casual relationship with investing in the stock market. Or you might have a casual relationship with lawn care. Or woodworking. Or Civil War battles. Or whatever. Because we live in a world where information is very easy to come by, we have the luxury of having a working knowledge – a casual relationship – with a vast multitude of subjects.
But you cannot have a casual relationship with sin. When it comes to this particular area, you will always, always, always progress further. Psalm 1 gives us the pattern:
How happy is the one who does not
walk in the advice of the wicked
or stand in the pathway with sinners
or sit in the company of mockers!
See the progression? The man described here did not intend to keep company with the wrong crowd. At least not at first. At first, it was just a conversation that led to a decision. Just walking along. But then walking turned stationary and the man was a little further along. Until eventually he took up some kind of residence with evil. He walked, then he stood, then he just sat down. Deeper, deeper, deeper. Further, further, further.
Here is the creep of sin. Sin starts small – just a little compromise. But it never stays that way. We walk with it, then stand with it, then sit down right in the middle of it. And the most frightening part is that we never really intended to. It just sort of happened. Like an untethered boat in the middle of a lake, we slowly drift into a place we never intended to be. If we accept that this is the nature of sin, then we must also accept some of the lies we tell ourselves:
“It’s just one time.”
“It’s not that big of a deal.”
“It’s okay if no one knows.”
Surely you can add to the list, but all these lies tell us that we have convinced ourselves that we can have a casual relationship with sin. That we can keep it on the periphery, without it truly tainting who we are. That sin can be left at the doorstep of our lives without ever really coming into the heart of our homes.
Lies. We will always progress. Sin will always progress.
Don’t be fooled today, Christian. Don’t believe the lies from outside or inside yourself telling you that you can have this kind of casual, occasional, relationship with sin. Believe the words of Jesus, who told us to take drastic and immediate measures to stop this progression:
If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell (Matt. 5:29-30).
The life of the Christian is a life spent on guard. A life aware of the creeping nature of sin. And life committed to quick repentance, knowing that regardless of whether you’re walking, standing, or sitting in sin, we have a gospel great enough to bring us home.