Sermon illustrations


Accepting Guilt and Sinfulness, A Psychologist’s Perspective

Hobart Mowrer was Research Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois. Mowrer critiqued Freudian psychology and its assertion that guilt was merely a pathology to be dispensed with. In this excerpt, he describes the importance of forgiveness as it pertains to guilt and sin:

Just so long as a person lives under the shadow of real, unacknowledged, and unexpiated guilt, he cannot…‘accept himself’….He will continue to hate himself and to suffer the inevitable consequences of self-hatred. But the moment he…begins to accept his guilt and his sinfulness, the possibility of radical reformation opens up, and with this…a new freedom of self-respect and peace.

Hobart Mowrer, The Crisis in Psychiatry and Religion, 1961, p.54.

Afraid of Myself

Adolf Eichmann was one of the Nazi architects of the Holocaust who escaped after World War II to South America, where he was caught in 1960 and taken back to Israel for a trial. He was tried, found guilty, and executed. But there was a very interesting incident during the trial. They had to find witnesses who saw him commit the terrible crimes against humanity he was charged with. They needed to find people who saw him participate in atrocities at the death camps. One of the material witnesses was a man named Yehiel De-Nur, and when he came in to testify, he saw Eichmann in the glass booth and immediately broke down, falling to the ground and sobbing.

There was pandemonium. The judge was hammering to get order. It was very dramatic. Sometime later De-Nur was interviewed by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes. Wallace showed De-Nur the tape of him falling down and asked him why it happened. Was he overwhelmed by painful memories? Or with hatred? Is that why he collapsed? De-Nur said no—and then said something that probably shocked Wallace and should shock almost all secular Western people. He said that he was overcome by the realization that Eichmann was not some demon but was an ordinary human being. “I was afraid about myself. . . . I saw that am capable to do this . . . exactly like he.

Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions, Penguin Publishing Group.

An Advance of 90,000

Millions of golfers know the name of Harvey Penick. His first book, Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, became a surprising best-seller, selling more than 1 million copies in 1992, quickly earning the title of the best-selling sports book of all time. But by the time Penick even showed his notes – the genesis for his book – to a local writer, he was nearly 90 years old. Penick wanted to know if the book was worth publishing. The writer read it, and told him he liked the book. In fact, by the next evening, the same man left word with Penick’s wife that Simon & Schuster had agreed to an advance of $90,000.

When the writer saw Penick later, the old man seemed troubled. Finally, Penick came clean. With all his medical bills, he said, there was no way he could advance Simon & Schuster that much money. It took a while, but finally the writer convinced Penick that the publisher would pay him the $90,000 . . . not the other way around!

What a joy to realize that instead of needing to pay God an insurmountable bill for sins already committed, God has decided to give us the priceless gift of grace – our sins are already paid for, in full. (Source: Leadership Journal, Fall 1995)

Andy Cook

Anger Isn’t the Opposite of Love

Think how we feel when we see someone we love is ravaged by unwise actions or relationships. Do we respond with benign tolerance as we might toward strangers? Far from it…. Anger isn’t the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference…. God’s wrath is not a cranky explosion, but his settled opposition to the cancer…which is eating out the insides of the human race he loves with his whole being.

Rebecca Manley Pippert, Hope Has Its Reasons, Harper Publishing.

Are All Sins Equal?

Like many popular adages, this one about all sins being equal before God is not entirely wrong. Every sin is a breach of God’s holy law. And whoever fails to keep the law in one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). So any sin committed against an infinite God deserves punishment. We’re all born sinners. We all sin. Every sin deserves death. That’s why the truism is half-true. But it’s also a lot not true. As R. C. Sproul puts it, “The idea of gradation of sin is important for us to keep in mind so we understand the difference between sin and gross sin.” All our sins are offensive to God and require forgiveness. But over and over the Bible teaches that some sins are worse than others.

…Here’s the problem: when every sin is seen as the same, we are less likely to fight any sins at all. Why should I stop sleeping with my girlfriend when there will still be lust in my heart? Why pursue holiness when even one sin in my life means I’m Osama bin Hitler in God’s eyes? Again, it seems humble to act as if no sin is worse than another, but we lose the impetus for striving and the ability to hold each other accountable when we tumble down the slip-n-slide of moral equivalence. All of a sudden the elder who battles the temptation to take a second look at the racy section of the Lands’ End catalog shouldn’t dare exercise church discipline on the young man fornicating with reckless abandon.

When we can no longer see the different gradations among sins and sinners and sinful nations, we have not succeeded in respecting our own badness; we’ve cheapened God’s goodness. If our own legal system does not treat all infractions in the same way, surely God knows that some sins are more heinous than others. If we can spot the difference, we’ll be especially eager to put to death those sins which are most offensive to God.

Taken from The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung, © 2012, pp.71-73. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

A Biblical Understanding of Sin

In the New Testament sin is not merely an individual, privatized transgression of a moral standard (sins is typically used for specific transgressions). It is far more radical than that. Sin is a mistrustful state of being that moves us from communion to alienation by means of disobedience and pride. Scripture uses the term rebellion to designate this state of being. Rebellion focuses on a reaction to a prescribed code of conduct. Indeed, we have all rebelled against God’s holy law.

The term reactive nuances how rebellion expresses itself in our relationships. Our reactive state of being is like a virus infecting every relationship. It is like a cancer wreaking havoc on the relational core of our very being. Because of its reactivity we fall short in our capacity for communion in profound ways. In fact, our communion experience is now restricted and ruptured. It is bruised and broken because of its reactive mistrust of God and each other. We are conscripted to our “willed aloneness.”

Richard Plass, The Relational Soul: Moving from False Self to Deep Connection, InterVarsity Press.

The Center of Our Own World

He may have been the hardest person I ever counseled. He was self-assured and controlling. He argued for the rightfulness of everything he had ever done. He acted like the victim when in fact he was the victimizer. He had crushed his marriage and alienated his children. He loved himself and had a wonderful plan for his life. It was his will in his way at his time. He made everyone a slave to his plan or he drove them out of his life.

He made incredible sacrifices to get what he wanted but chafed against the sacrifices God called him to make. But in a moment of grace I will never forget, he quit fighting, controlling, and defending. He asked me to stop talking and said: “Paul, I get it. I have been so busy being God that I have had little time or interest in serving God.” It was one of the most accurate moments of self-diagnosis I had ever experienced. He was right.

No sooner had the words come out of his mouth than he began to weep like I had never seen a man weep. His body shook with grief as grace began its work of freeing him from his bondage to himself. But my friend was not unique. If you’re a parent, you know that your children are collections of self-sovereignty. All a child really wants is his own way. He doesn’t want to be told what to eat, what to wear, when to go to bed, how to steward his possessions, or how to treat others. He wants to be in the center of his own little world and to write his own set of rules.

And he is surprised that you have the audacity to tell him what to do. But it isn’t just children. Sin causes this self-sovereignty to live in all of us. We tend to want more control than we are wise enough or strong enough to handle. We want people to follow our way and stay out of our way. But when we wish for these things, we are forgetting who we are, who God is, and what grace has blessed us with. We are always either mourning the fact that we aren’t getting our way or celebrating that grace welcomes us to a new and better way.

Taken from New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp, © 2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

The Center of the World

Former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple describing original sin

I am the centre of the world I see; where the horizon is depends on where I stand…Education may make my self-centeredness less disastrous by widening my horizon of interest; so far it is like climbing a tower, which widens the horizon for physical vision, while leaving me still the centre and standard of reference.

Christianity and Social Order, 1942; SCM Press edition, 1950, pp. 36–37.

Confession is not…

Confession is not telling God what he doesn’t know. Impossible. Confession is not complaining. If I merely recite my problems and rehash my woes, I’m whining. Confession is not blaming. Pointing fingers at others without pointing any at me feels good, but it doesn’t promote healing. Confession is so much more. Confession is a radical reliance on grace. A proclamation of our trust in God’s goodness. “What I did was bad,” we acknowledge, “but your grace is greater than my sin, so I confess it.”

Max Lucado, Grace: More than we Deserve, Greater than we Imagine.

Coming to Grips with the Reality of Sin

The psychotherapist M. Scott Peck spent many years of his practice as an agnostic. He, along with thousands upon thousands of his colleagues were taught that evil was a social construct, and therefore did not exist. Some time later, Peck became a Christian, and around the same time he began questioning the standard psychological belief that evil did not exist. What he found were specific instances in his practice that demanded some alternative explanation than merely “mistaken” or “mis-guided” behavior. There seemed to be a deeper, darker dimension of human behavior that could only be described by one word: evil.

In his book, People of the Lie, Peck argues against the psychological establishment that there is a force, or forces, of evil which emerge in individuals and even in some cases, in entire societies. From a biblical perspective, these evil forces can be attributable to Satan, the demonic, or both.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

A Different Approach to Baptism

Pastor Bob Beasley recounts this story:

Our three-year-old daughter, Rena, sat with us during the baptismal service last Sunday night, which was a new experience for her. She exclaimed in surprise, “Why he pushed that guy in the water? Why, Dad, why?” My wife tried to explain briefly and quietly, but Rena just wouldn’t be satisfied.

Later that night we tried to provide an answer that a child’s mind could comprehend. We talked about sin and told Rena that when people decide to live for Jesus and “do good” they want everyone to know. We then explained that water symbolizes Jesus’ washing people from sin; when they come out “clean,” they are going to try to be “good.” A moment later, we realized we’d have to work on our explanation a bit. Rena had immediately responded, “Why didn’t Pastor Bob just spank him?”

Bob Beasley, Pastor of Gregory Drive Alliance Church

Disregarding God’s Prohibitions

Some years ago I had a pastoral relationship with a couple of people who were deeply in love with each other. They believed that God wanted them to get married so they could consummate their love. There was a problem with this plan, however, since they were each married to someone else. Their relationship was an adulterous one, something clearly forbidden in Scripture.

Yet, they were truly convinced that God was bringing them together, so they acted on this conviction. Later, after they were married, they confided in me that the pain they had brought upon themselves and their loved ones was so great that, knowing what they knew then, they would not have pursued the course they chose.

Had they taken seriously God’s prohibition of adultery in the first place, they might have spared themselves and their loved ones much hurt. Of course, God’s grace is wide and God’s redemptive ability is immense. Yet, it is wrong to disregard God’s prohibitions of sin because God’s grace is abundant (Romans 6:1-2). If we wish to live our lives as worship to God, and if we desire to live abundantly, then we will receive God’s prohibitions as gracious guidance that point us toward the positives of kingdom living.

Taken from Mark D. Roberts, Life for Leaders, a Devotional Resource of the DePree Leadership Center at Fuller Theological Seminary

Don’t Look Down But Up

In his excellent book on the desert fathers, Where God Happens, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams tells of an encounter between two monastic fathers. The first was Macarius, famous in that time as a man of God, humble, gracious, and loving. The other, Theopemptus, exhibited a judgmental self-righteousness that discouraged those who visited him and sought his counsel:

When he was alone with him, the old man [Macarius] asked, “How are things going with you?” Theopemptus replied, ‘thanks to your prayers, all is well.” The old man asked, “Do you not have to battle with your fantasies?” He answered, “No, up to now all is well.” He was afraid to admit anything. But the old man said to him, “I have lived for many years as an ascetic and everyone sings my praises,’ but, despite my age, I still have trouble with sexual fantasies’’

Theopemptus said, “Well, it is the same with me, to tell the truth “And the old man went on-admitting one by one, all the other fantasies that caused him to struggle until he had brought Theopemptus all of them himself. Then he said, “What do you do about fasting?” “Nothing till the ninth hour,” he replied. “Fast till evening and take some exercise,” said Macarias. “Go over the words of the gospel and the rest of Scripture. And if an alien thought arises within you don’t look down but up: the Lord will come to your help.”

 Self-satisfaction is dealt with not by confrontation or condemnation but by the quiet personal exposure of failure in such a way as to prompt the same truthfulness in someone else: the neighbor is won, converted, by Macarius’s death to any hint of superiority in his vision of himself. He has nothing to defend, and he preaches the gospel by simple identification with the condition of another, a condition others cannot themselves face honestly.

Rowan Williams, Where God Happens: Discovering Christ in One Another, New Seeds Books, 2005, 12.

Equivocating on Promises: Pierre from Tolstoy’s War & Peace

In this excellent little character study, Tolstoy describes the inner monologue of the character Pierre Bezuhov from War & Peace, who is able to justify and convince himself that a promise made to avoid the hedonistic charms of gambling and partying was in fact, rendered useless by an earlier promise. The excerpt is an excellent example of the kind of reasoning we often use to justify sinful behavior.

“On the way Pierre remembered that Anatole Kurágin was expecting the usual set for cards that evening, after which there was generally a drinking bout, finishing with visits of a kind Pierre was very fond of. “I should like to go to Kurágin’s,” thought he. But he immediately recalled his promise to Prince Andrew not to go there. Then, as happens to people of weak character, he desired so passionately once more to enjoy that dissipation he was so accustomed to that he decided to go.

The thought immediately occurred to him that his promise to Prince Andrew was of no account, because before he gave it he had already promised Prince Anatole to come to his gathering; “besides,” thought he, “all such ‘words of honor’ are conventional things with no definite meaning, especially if one considers that by tomorrow one may be dead, or something so extraordinary may happen to one that honor and dishonor will be all the same!” Pierre often indulged in reflections of this sort, nullifying all his decisions and intentions. He went to Kurágin’s.”

Leo Tolstoy, War And Peace, HarperPerennial Classics.

The False Self

All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real.

And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface.

Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, New Directions 1972, p.34.

Fearing to Want

In her thought-provoking book, Teach us to Want, Jen Pollock Michel describes the tension in listening to our deepest desires: some of them these desires are integral to our identity, but they also can easily be marred by sin:

Brennan Manning was a man ordained into the Franciscan priesthood who struggled with a lifelong addiction to alcohol. He writes in The Ragamuffin Gospel, “Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.” Like Manning, every human is drunk on the wine of paradox and riddled with fear. We each have great capacity for evil and terrific incapacity for good.

These fears can obstruct our will to want. How can we allow ourselves to want, especially when we’re so infinitely adept at sin? How do we ever decide that our desires are anything other than sin-sick expression of our inner corruption? Can we trust our desires if we ourselves can be so untrustworthy?

Taken from Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition, and the Life of Faith by Jen Pollock Michel Copyright (c) 2014 by Jen Pollock Michel. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Fly at Once

Arthur Conan Doyle, the ingenious creator of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries, once found great humor in a practical joke he played on 12 famous friends. Each of these men was virtuous and highly respected. For the joke, Doyle sent every one of them the same telegram: “Fly at once, all is discovered!” Within 24 hours, the dozen men of noble reputation had taken a trip out of the country! 

Andy Cook


Hanging out in the Dark

A few years ago, a journalist named Joseph Blackman wrote an Op Ed on an interesting subject, “Why Clubs are Dark.” That is, why is it when you walk into a nightclub or a bar, the lights are off, or at a minimum, very low? It’s probably something you’ve noticed before, but did you ever take the time to wonder why? This journalist, who acknowledges spending a lot of time in clubs and bars did, and his reasons are quite interesting.

He said, “The more we know that we are concealed by darkness, the less self-conscious we are…Darkness hides things. One is more inclined to approach a woman at night in a jam-packed room with loud music than in broad daylight in a quiet coffee shop.” You combine this with alcohol and the results are rather obvious: anonymous hookups. 

Darkness, “Blackman” goes on, “heightens anonymity. The “mask” of darkness allows one to act other than themselves.

A part of the stain of sin is that we do those things we are ashamed of in the dark, not allowing the light of Christ to break through. And while you can inhibit your self-consciousness for a season, at some point you have to face yourself in the mirror. Eventually the booze and the music and the drugs will wear off.

Stuart Strachan Jr, Source Material from Joseph Blackman, Article: “Why Clubs are Dark”, Medium, February 17, 2018.

“He Was Against It”

President Calvin Coolidge returned home from attending church early one Sunday afternoon. His wife had been unable to attend, but she was interested in what the minister spoke on in the service. Coolidge responded, “Sin.” She pressed him for a few words of explanation. And being a man of a few words with his wife, he responded, “Well, I think he was against it.”

Paul Tan Lee, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations.

A Leg is a Leg…

Abraham Lincoln once asked a deputation, “How many legs would a sheep have if it called his tail a leg?” The deputation promptly answered, “five.” “No,” said Lincoln, “it would not. It would have only four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.”

Source Unknown

Merton’s Turn to Christ and Virtue

In The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton describes his life of sin and his eventual turning to God in his early years. He despised and ridiculed the word virtue, which had come to mean “prudery practiced by hypocrites.” But Merton discovered that virtue, the power that comes from moral excellence, is the only way to the good life.

Without [virtue] there can be no happiness, because virtues are precisely the powers by which we can come to acquire happiness: without them, there can be no joy, because they are the habits which coordinate and [provide an outlet for] our natural energies and direct them to the harmony and perfection  and balance, the unity of our nature with itself and with God, which must, in the end, constitute our everlasting peace.

Quoted in James Bryan Smith. The Good and Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character of Christ.

Miserable Elvis

Like many others who find themselves in the spotlight, Elvis Presley struggled with his fame, as well as the many temptations that befell him during his time as an iconic musician. In 1958, following an Easter Service at the First Assembly of God, Elvis told Rev. James Hamill, “Pastor, I’m the most miserable young man you’ve ever seen. I’ve got all the money I’ll ever need to spend. I’ve got millions of fans. I’ve got friends. But I’m doing what you taught me not to do, and I’m not doing the things you taught me to do.”

Stuart Strachan Jr. Source Material from Godvine.com

The Mule in the Well

A Louisiana farmer’s favorite mule fell into a well. After studying the situation, the farmer came to the conclusion that he couldn’t pull the mule out, so he might as well bury him. It would be the humane thing to do. So he got a truckload of dirt, backed up to the well, and dumped the dirt on top of the mule at the bottom of the well. But when the dirt hit the mule, it started snorting and tramping. As it tramped, it began to work itself up on top of the dirt. So the farmer continued to pour dirt in the well until the mule snorted and tramped its way to the top. It then walked away, a dirtier – but wiser – mule. What was intended to bury it turned out to be its salvation.

Andy Cook

One of the Great Ironies of Sin

One of the great ironies of sin is that when human beings try to become more than human beings, to be as gods, they fall to become lower than human beings.  To be your own God and live for your own glory and power leads to the most bestial and cruel kind of behavior.  Pride makes you a predator, not a person.

Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters (New York: Dutton, 2009, p.121).

Our Problem

Dear Everybody,

We have a serious problem:

All of us think we’re good people.

But Jesus says we’re not.

Sincerely, Brant P. Hansen

…PS. IF YOU THINK I’M WRONG—about how we think we’re good people—I offer this challenge: Go ahead and ask someone. Seriously, if you’re reading this at a coffee shop, ask the stranger sitting at the next table, “So, are you a good person? Would you say you’re more moral than the average person?”

Given my studies in this area, I can predict their response with 98 percent confidence, and it’s “I’m calling the police.” But while the authorities are being dispatched, try to get a serious answer.

If they give you their honest take, you’ll hear something like, “Why, yes, I do think I’m more moral than the average person.” This is predictable because social scientists have asked these questions for decades, and the result is the same: We all think we’re more moral than average. It’s remarkable how good we are. Just ask us, and we’ll tell you about it.

The Truth about Us: The Very Good News about How Very Bad We Are, Baker Publishing Group.

Persuading Ourselves of the Truth

When we observe evil, sinful behavior from a distance, the inclination is simply to see people as acting with malicious intent. We assume they are “bad people.” But often the motivations that lead to significant lapses in moral behavior are quite different. Because most people want to see themselves generally as “good,” they engage in a complex game of rationalizing and self-deception that enables them to perform these sinful acts. Over time, what starts as a set of questionable lies we tell ourselves becomes capital T “Truth.” An excellent example of this from history took place during the Watergate scandal. In an interview from 1975, the whistleblower of Watergate, John Dean, explains just how this worked with those involved in the scandal:

INTERVIEWER: You mean those who made up the stories were believing their own lies?

DEAN: That’s right. If you said it often enough, it would become true. When the press learned of the wire taps on newsmen and White House staffers, for example, and flat denials failed, it was claimed that this was a national-security matter. I’m sure many people believed that the taps were for national security; they weren’t. That was concocted as a justification after the fact. But when they said it, you understand, they really believed it.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Lyndon Johnson was known as a master at the game of self-justification. His biographer, Robert Caro, described what would happen when Johnson came to believe something to be true, he would believe in it “totally, with absolute conviction, regardless of previous beliefs, or of the facts in the matter.”

George Reedy, an aide who witnessed the same behavior, described LBJ as having “had a remarkable capacity to convince himself that he held the principles he should hold at any given time, and there was something charming about the air of injured innocence with which he would treat anyone who brought forth evidence that he had held other views in the past. It was not an act … He had a fantastic capacity to persuade himself that the ‘truth’ which was convenient for the present was the truth and anything that conflicted with it was the prevarication of enemies. He literally willed what was in his mind to become reality.”

Stuart Strachan Jr, with Source Material from John Dean, interview by Barbara Cady, January 1975; Robert A. Caro, Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (New York: Knopf, 2002), p.886.

The Problem with the Human Race

Imagine you have an invisible recorder around your neck that, for all your life, records every time you say to somebody else, “You ought.” It only turns on when you tell somebody else how to live. In other words, it only records your own moral standards as you seek to impose them on other people. It records nothing except what you believe is right or wrong.

And what if God, on judgment day, stands in front of people and says, “You never heard about Jesus Christ and you never read the Bible, but I’m a fair-minded God. Let me show you what I’m going to use to judge you.” Then he takes that invisible recorder from around your neck and says, “I’m going to judge you by your own moral standards.”

And God plays the recording. There’s not a person on the face of the earth who will be able to pass that test. I’ve used that illustration for years now and nobody ever wants to challenge it. Nobody ever says, “I live according to my standards!” This is the biggest problem of the human race. We don’t need more books telling people how to live; people need the power to do what they don’t have the power to do.

Taken from Timothy Keller in Coming Home edited by D.A. Carson, © 2017, p. 22. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

Reclaiming the Problem of Eye-Sin

“If your eye causes you to sin…” is one of the boldest phrases from the mouth of Jesus, appearing three times in the gospels. Our eyes not only leads us into sinful behaviors, but also to take in sinful images. We may think of our eyes as neutral or innocent receptors, but they are not. Eyes have inherent appetites and desires.

Sinful eyes rove unchecked, looking for sin. We would do well to reclaim the phrase “the lust of the eyes” (1 John 2:16 NIV) because even redeemed eyes are lustful, insatiable, never satisfied, even susceptible to spectacles of wealth, sex, power, and violence. Instead our eyes must serve as guardians of the heart. When they fail, they leave the heart exposed and unguarded. As one Puritan said, there are no means to guard the heart if we leave our eyes unguarded.

Taken from Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke, © 2019, p.127. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.

The Scorpion and the Turtle

One lazy afternoon day a turtle was swimming happily along a lake. As the turtle was nearing land he heard a scorpion hail it from the muddy shore. A scorpion, being a very poor swimmer, asked the turtle if he would carry him on his back across the lake. The turtle thought it was the craziest thing he ever heard, “Why would I carry you on my back?” he boomed, ‘You’ll sting me while I’m swimming and I’ll drown.”

“My dear turtle friend,” laughed the scorpion, “if I were to sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you and drown as well. Now where is the logic in that?”

The turtle pondered this for a moment, and eventually saw the logic in the scorpion’s statement. “You’re right!” said the turtle with a smile. “Hop on!” So the scorpion climbed aboard and the turtle paddled his big fins in the water. Halfway across the lake the scorpion gave the turtle a big sting, and he started to drown. As they both sank into the water the turtle turned to the scorpion with a tear in his eye. “My dear scorpion friend, why did you sting me? Now we are both going to drown…” the turtle was gasping for air. “Where is the… logic in that?”

“It has nothing to do with logic” the scorpion sadly replied, “it’s just my nature.”

Source Unknown

Sin in the New Testament

In the New Testament sin is not merely an individual, privatized transgression of a moral standard (sins is typically used for specific transgressions). It is far more radical than that. Sin is a mistrustful state of being that moves us from communion to alienation by means of disobedience and pride.

Scripture uses the term rebellion to designate this state of being. Rebellion focuses on a reaction to a prescribed code of conduct. Indeed, we have all rebelled against God’s holy law.

The term reactive nuances how rebellion expresses itself in our relationships. Our reactive state of being is like a virus infecting every relationship. It is like a cancer wreaking havoc on the relational core of our very being. Because of its reactivity we fall short in our capacity for communion in profound ways. In fact, our communion experience is now restricted and ruptured. It is bruised and broken because of its reactive mistrust of God and each other. We are conscripted to our “willed aloneness.”

Taken from The Relational Soul: Moving from False Self to Deep Connection by Richard Plass and James Cofield, Copyright (c) 2014, p.166 by Richard Plass and James Cofield. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

The Symptoms of Moral Disease

Sin not only alienates; it enslaves. It separates us from God and it also brings us into captivity. We need now to consider the ‘inwardness’ of sin. It is more than the wrong things we do; it is a deep-seated inner sickness. In fact, the sins we commit are merely the external and visible indications of this internal and invisible illness, the symptoms of a moral disease. The image Jesus used is that of a tree and its fruit. The kind of fruit a tree bears, he said (whether figs or grapes, for example), and their condition (whether good or bad), depend on the nature and health of the tree itself. ‘For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.’

Taken from Basic ChristianityThe IVP Signature Collection  by John Stott. Copyright (c) 2019 by John Stott, p.100. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Taking Sin Seriously

In his short publication, What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said Follow Me? author and pastor David Platt describes an encounter between a friend of his and an American Taxi driver regarding the seriousness of sin:

Azeem, an Arab follower of Jesus and a friend of mine, was talking recently with a taxi driver in his country. The driver believed that he would pay for his sin for a little while in hell, but then he would surely go to heaven after that. After all, he hadn’t done too many bad things. So Azeem said to him,

“If I slapped you in the face, what would you do to me?”

The driver replied, “I would throw you out of my taxi.”

“If I went up to a random guy on the street and slapped him in the face, what would he do to me?”

“He would probably call his friends and beat you up.”

“What if I went up to a policeman and slapped him in the face?

What would he do to me?”

“You would be beat up for sure, and then thrown into jail.”

“And what if I went to the king of this country and slapped him in the face? What would happen to me then?”

The driver looked at Azeem and awkwardly laughed. He told Azeem, “You would die.”

The driver got Azeem’s point and realized that he had been severely underestimating the seriousness of his sin against God.

Taken from David Platt, What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said Follow Me?, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Thirty-one New Testament Descriptions of Sinful Mankind

  1. Alienated from God (Eph. 4:18).
  2. Blind (John 12:40; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 2:11).
  3. Carnally or fleshly minded (Rom. 8:6, 13).
  4. Corrupt (Matt. 7:17-18; 1 Tim. 6:5).
  5. Darkened (Matt. 6:23; John 3:19; Rom. 1:21; Eph. 4:18; 1 John 1:6-7).
  6. Dead in sin (John 5:24; Rom. 8:6; Col. 2:13; 1 Tim. 5:6; 1 John 3:14).
  7. Deceived (Titus 3:3).
  8. Defiled or filthy (Isa. 64:6; Titus 1:15; 2 Pet. 2:20; Rev. 22:11).
  9. Destitute of truth (Rom 1:18, 25; 1 Tim. 6:5).
  10. Disobedient (Matt. 7:23; Eph. 2:3; Titus 3:3).
  11. An enemy of God (James 4:4).
  12. Evil (Matt. 6:22; 12:33-34; John 3:20).
  13. Foolish (Matt. 7:26; Eph. 5:15; Titus 3:3).
  14. Going astray (1 Pet. 2:25).
  15. Hateful (Titus 3:3).
  16. Hypocritical (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16; 23:13, 28).
  17. Impenitent (Rom. 2:5; Heb. 3:8).
  18. Malicious and envious (Titus 3:3).
  19. Pleasure or world-loving (2 Thess. 2:12; 1 Tim. 5:6; 2 Tim. 3:4; Titus 3:3; 1 John 2:15).
  20. Proud (Rom. 1:30; 1 Tim. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:4; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5).
  21. Refusing belief (John 3:35; Titus 1:15).
  22. Rejecting truth (2 Tim. 4:4).
  23. Resisting God (Acts 7:51).
  24. Guided by Satan (John 8:44; Eph. 2:3).
  25. Lovers of self (2 Tim. 3:2).
  26. Self-satisfied (Rev. 3:17).
  27. A slave of sin (John 3:34; Rom. 6:16-17, 20; Titus 3:3).
  28. Subordinating God (Rom. 1:25).
  29. Unconscious of bondage (John 8:33; Rom. 7:7).
  30. Unrighteous (1 Cor. 6:9; Rev. 22:11).
  31. Vain in their imaginations (Rom. 1:21)

L. Meredith, Meredith’s Big Book of Bible Lists, pp. 457-458

What is Wrong with the World Today?


“What is wrong with the world today?” a Times newspaper editorial once asked. G. K. Chesterton wrote in reply, “Dear sirs, I am. Yours faithfully, G.K. Chesterton.”

Taken from John Blanchard, Truth for Life, p 263.

What is Wrong with Us according to Traditional and Modern Cultures

Up until the twentieth century, traditional cultures (and this is still true of most cultures in the world) always believed that too high a view of yourself was the root cause of all the evil in the world. What is the reason for most of the crime and violence in the world? Why are people abused? Why are people cruel?

Why do people do the bad things they do? Traditionally, the answer was hubris – the Greek word meaning pride or too high a view of yourself. Traditionally, that was the reason given for why people misbehave. But, in our modern western culture, we have developed an utterly opposite cultural consensus. The basis of contemporary education, the way we treat incarcerated prisoners, the foundation of most modern legislation and the starting point for modern counseling is exactly the opposite of the traditional consensus.

Our belief today – and it is deeply rooted in everything – is that people misbehave for lack of self-esteem and because they have too low a view of themselves. For example, the reason husbands beat their wives and the reason people are criminals is because they have too low a view of themselves. People used to think it was because they had too high a view of themselves and had too much self-esteem. Now we say it because we have too little self-esteem.

Timothy Keller, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness, 10 Publishing.

See Also Illustrations on ConfessionEvil, Idolatry, PrideRepentance, Sinners, Violence

Still Looking for inspiration?

Consider checking out our quotes page on Sin. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!

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