Summary: It’s time to break the sin cycle.
Breaking the Cycle of Sin
Rev. Brian Bill
[Take phone call] Excuse me for a moment while I take this call. It must be pretty important. You couldn’t hear it ring because I have it on vibrate – I’m assuming that your phones and pagers are set this way too.
“Hello, this is Brian…no, it’s OK, I’m not busy…you’re having a meltdown? What’s happening…is everything alright? I see…you feel miserable…you’ve been drinking and you feel bad about it…it sounds like you feel stuck and you’re in a downward spiral…you don’t want to live like this any longer…I can tell you feel guilty…no, God hasn’t left you…and He can break the cycle of sin in your life – if you’ll let Him… you’ve been trying to do everything on your own? How’s that been working for you?...I didn’t think so. Let me ask you a question: “How bad do you want to get better?” Tell you what; I’m going to put you on hold while you think about your answer to that question. I have something I need to do and then I’ll be right back with you. It may be a few minutes. Hold on.”
Like my friend, do you ever feel like you’re in a cycle of sin that you can’t seem to break? If so, then this message is for you. God’s Word comes to us as many different types of literature. We find poetry and proverbs and prophecy as well as letters and laws. In addition, much of the Old Testament is history. This history is not to be read as just dates, names and places however. We must see it as “His-Story” as God weaves His redemptive thread through these events which end up at the Cross and culminate in the righteous reign of Christ in the world to come.
As we read His Story, we can find at least two points of application:
• Encouraging examples. When we discover what happened in the past, we can find models to mimic and examples to emulate. Listen to Romans 15:4: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
• Wise warnings. Sometimes when we read the Bible we come across people who did not obey and did evil. This kind of behavior, and its consequences, serves as a warning for us as stated in 1 Corinthians 10:6: “Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.”
The Book of Judges is the second book of history and is full of wise warnings with just a few encouraging examples. This book chronicles a very tough time in the history of Israel, serving as a hinge between the successes of Joshua and the establishment of the monarchy in 1 Samuel. Covering around 400 years, God’s people progressively drift away from the Lord. Judges 2:18-19 summarizes the spiritual situation: “Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived…But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers…” They were on a slippery downward cycle of sin.
The very last phrase of this book gives us insight into why things were going south for them: “…everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25). And because of that, on seven different occasions we read of God’s people cycling through a period of rebellion which led to retribution from God. After suffering for some time, they would eventually cry out to God and then be restored to a time of rest and peace. But then they’d begin the process all over again. This diagram of their dilemma is from the Ryrie Study Bible:
Do you see yourself somewhere in this cycle right now? We’re all prone to drift downward because our bent is toward backsliding. Bill Hybels often says that without attention our spiritual lives will head south, not north. Sometimes when our lives are too comfortable we start to coast. I’d like to suggest seven steps that often mirror our own slippery slope.
1. Conquering. In the opening verse of the book we read that after Joshua died, the people asked the Lord: “Who will be the first to go up and fight for us against the Canaanites?” Under Joshua the people had conquered thirty-one kings and after his death each tribe traveled to the place of their inheritance. However, there were still a lot of enemies to be extracted. I want to pause here and consider why God instructed His people to wipe out the wicked Canaanites. In the second century Marcion had such a hard time reconciling the loving God of the New Testament with the violent God of the Old that he did a cut-and-paste job and just removed the Old Testament from his Bible. That’s not an option for us because God is the same in the both testaments. Perhaps you’ve wondered why the Israelites were told to annihilate the nations around them. It seems pretty severe, doesn’t it?