God has written a law into the constitution of the universe which says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). As a result, many persons today are grieving over the harvest that has come from a life of foolish decisions made over the past years.
All of us reap what we sow. Some people believe that it is possible to sow to the flesh and still reap a good life. It’s true that some live in sin and engage in a variety of pleasures and are sometimes healthier, stronger, and richer than those who live godly lives. But we must remember that God does not settle His accounts every month or every year. Sooner or later, whatever a person sows, that will he reap!
The point is that a time of reckoning will come. Every time we allow our minds to harbor a grudge or entertain an impure fantasy, we are sowing to the flesh. Every time we linger in bad company, or spend time viewing pornographic literature, or do things that strain our self-control, we are sowing to the flesh. And those who sow to the flesh will “reap corruption” (Galatians 6:8).
You cannot sow wild oats when you are young, then settle down when you are older without paying for it. Job, an ancient man of God, says that “they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same” (Job 4:8).
Ernest Hemingway was an influential American writer in the early 1900s. He snubbed his nose at morality and at God. He said that his own life proved that a person could live any way he wanted to without paying any consequences. Hemingway considered the ideas of the Bible to be outdated and irrelevant. His debauchery led to despair. He committed suicide shortly before his 62nd birthday.
I remember reading an account about how, some years ago, two men tip-toed out of their rooming house in Oakland, California, and broke into a hardware store. They stole a paint sprayer and some cans of paint. They walked back to their room, apparently thinking they’d never get caught. But a few hours later the owner of the store along with a city policeman had tracked them down. One of the cans of paint had leaked and left a brightly colored trail all the way from the store to their front door. Their sin had found them out!
Sin has tragic consequences! The Devil doesn’t tell people about the awful cost of sin. He only shows the attractiveness and glitter and the immediate thrill. But someday, those who violate God’s laws will discover that the price indeed has been high.
1. Consequences in Our Bodies
Sin always leaves behind a disfiguring trail. Sometimes it lets marks on the body. If we break God’s laws, we will reap what we sow, sometimes even in our bodies.
Things like a rebellious spirit, criticism, envy, and anger will leave marks on our faces. A grumbling, complaining, ungrateful attitude can interfere with our digestive systems. The use of alcohol brings disease to the liver and can lead to a breakdown of one’s entire disposition. Those who practice sexual immorality are not only troubled with venereal disease, but often suffer serious emotional disturbances as well. No one can smoke, drink, use drugs, and live a fast and loose immoral life and at the same time keep a strong, clean, healthy body.
Good, clean, moral living does not guarantee top-notch health, but it does pay off in the end. On the other hand, an immoral lifestyle tends toward a breakdown of one’s physical condition.
Sin finds us out in our bodies.
2. Consequences in Our Character
Sin does not stop with merely distorting one’s face and body. It destroys character as well. A rotting character is worse than a festering body.
A young girl that flirts around with men and boys for the first time, for example, is not the same girl that she was before she began letting the boys toy with her body. During a close embrace, she experiences for the first time a deep sexual thrill. And you know, something takes place within her character. Part of her modesty is gone. The God-given inborn modest resolve, that was with her from the time of adolescence, begins to break down.
The man who drinks beer and whiskey and uses drugs is not the same man that he was before he started drinking. The worst thing that alcohol does for the drinker is not to injure his lungs, or to cause a disease of the liver. The worst thing that alcohol does is that it produces a change in the person’s character. His will-power is weakened. His self-control is gone. His perception of right and wrong may be affected.
No person can indulge in sinful living without some kind of injury to the inner character. The Apostle Peter warns that fleshly lusts war against the soul (see 1 Peter 2:11). They let scars on the inner character that can never be erased.
I was preaching in the Bowery Mission in New York City a number of years ago. One of the men who came forward when the invitation was given was named Barney. His breath smelled of whiskey. His wife had left him. He had lost his job many years before. Barney was an intelligent man. He previously had a good job, a family, a wife, two daughters, and two grandchildren. But he was a drunk, roaming the streets, and found that he could not let liquor alone. He was using an old bread-wrapper for a handkerchief. He craved alcohol so much that he drank rubbing alcohol, hair tonic, and even certain kinds of automobile antifreeze! Some of Barney’s problems could have been turned around if he would have sobered up and proved himself upright and true. He told me his wife would have come back. But standing in the way of all this was the simple fact that his character had been damaged. He had become a slave of sin. He had no self-control. He was not the same man that his wife once married and loved.
Friends, the wages of sin is death; death not only to the body, but also death to one’s character.
3. Consequences in Our Children
One of the dreadful things about sinful living is that the consequences affect other people. If the sinner himself were the only one who suffers for his sins, it would be bad enough. But our sins hurt other people.
This principle is clearly illustrated in the life of King David. David lusted after Bathsheba one night when he saw her taking a bath, and he ended up committing adultery with her. That sin with Bathsheba led to other sins, which harmed other people. David used deceit, and saw to it that Bathsheba’s husband was killed. Later, David married Bathsheba. But his sins of deceit, adultery, and murder led to some very serious consequences.
First of all, the child born out of the illicit relationship soon died, and David seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. He probably thought that was the end of the consequences. But it doesn’t work that way! Sin pays wages, and David reaped the repercussions of his sin in his children.
David had a son named Amnon who was a wild and reckless young fellow. No doubt he knew about his father’s affair with Bathsheba, and he most likely was influenced by it. Amnon lusted after his half-sister, Tamar. So he pretended to be sick one day and had Tamar brought into his room under the pretense of making a meal for him. While she was preparing the food, he raped his own half-sister. David’s son did that!
Imagine the shame and grief that must have come to David’s heart when he learned that his daughter Tamar had been raped by her brother. Can you imagine how David must have blamed himself, and no doubt said to himself, “How can I punish this boy? He’s committed the same sin that I committed; I’m reaping just what I have sown.”
David had another son named Absalom. When Absalom learned what happened to his sister, Tamar, he devised a scheme whereby his half-brother Amnon was murdered in revenge.
To summarize: the little child died, Tamar was raped, and Amnon was murdered. Absalom was eventually killed also after attempting to usurp David’s throne. The Bible says that David wailed and wept for a long, long time. He cried, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33)
Friends, the way of the transgressor is hard. David many times would gladly have traded his tragic life story for the innocence he had once known when he was still a shepherd boy tending sheep for his father on the hillsides near Bethlehem.
4. Consequences in Our Consciences
The function of the human conscience is to remind us of the standards we have decided to live by as God’s people. The story of Joseph and his brothers illustrates this fact very clearly.
Joseph’s brothers sold Joseph as a slave into Egypt. They covered their tracks pretty well. They smeared Joseph’s coat with goat’s blood. They deceived their father, Jacob, who believed that a wild beast must have slain Joseph. Jacob had no idea that the brothers had sold Joseph into slavery. He thought they were innocent. The brothers thought it was all over and all covered up. But they didn’t get by with their sin. It found them out in their consciences.
Many years later, when the brothers went down to Egypt to buy grain, they were forced to leave their brother Simeon behind in Egypt. They said to each other, “We are verily guilty concerning our brother [Joseph], in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us” (Genesis 42:21). They remembered how, twenty years earlier, they had rudely sold Joseph into the hands of strangers. And now their consciences were accusing them!
I recall reading a newspaper clipping many years ago which told about a businessman in one of the western states who went into a sheriff’s office one day, and said, “I’ve come to give myself up; I’m wanted for murder.” He told how he had slain a man 23 years before, back East in the state of Vermont. The man was never suspected. He was a well-known citizen and a respected man in the community. He had a nice family and had made a good name for himself, yet he insisted that he had committed murder.
The sheriff sent a telegram to the state of Vermont, where 23 years before, this respected man said he had committed a murder. Sure enough, a man had been murdered 23 years before, and the killer had never been found. The crime had baffled the police for nearly a quarter century. So the confessed killer was sent back to Vermont to face the charge, and to receive the penalty that would go with it.
The policeman who was called in to investigate the case said to the man who had committed the murder: “Why did you come and make this confession? You’ve made good; you’ve gone straight; certainly you repented long ago. Why did you ever come back and confess a crime which after all these years could likely never have been tracked down?”
The trembling man who made the confession replied, “I never walk down the sidewalks of my home town, but what if somebody bumps my elbow without my expecting it, my heart leaps with fear. I’m always expecting an officer to say, ‘Come and go with me; you’re wanted for murder.’ I’ve lived in fear and misery for 23 years. If the wind blows a tree-branch against the side of our house at night, I have a fear that someone is going to be beating on the front door, charging me with murder. I’ve got to face this matter, and get it off my conscience.”
Friends, there is no suffering in all the world that can equal the torment of an accusing conscience. If we break God’s laws, and fail to acknowledge those transgressions, our sins will find us out in our consciences.
5. Consequences in Eternity
God spoke through Moses to the two-and-one-half tribes of Israel who wanted to settle east of the Jordan River, and said, “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). This passage implies that every sin we commit lets a trail behind us just like the dripping can of paint that we talked about at the beginning of this message. That trail is not always visible to other people, but it is always known and visible to the all-seeing eye of God.
Not every sinner is found out as quickly as the paint thieves were! Some are not found out for long years afterwards. Some are never found out here in this life. Some live and die without ever being discovered by other human beings. But every person will meet his unconfessed sins in eternity, and there it will be too late to plead forgiveness.
Many years ago in a small town of Illinois, a farmer had gone to the bank one evening to withdraw some money. Just after dark he untied his horses and started toward home. But he was never seen alive again. The next morning, neighbors found his team of horses standing at the gate. There was no evidence of any kind of struggle. Everything was neatly in place, but the farmer was not found. Soon afterwards the authorities arrested a neighbor who had been quarreling with the man not long before. They were almost certain that he was the man who disposed of the farmer, but there wasn’t quite enough evidence to convict him. So he was set free.
A few years later, the accused neighbor sold his farm, and moved away to another community. Many years went by. One summer there was a prolonged hot, dry spell and the pond on the farm of the man who had been accused of the killing went dry. In the middle of the pond, they found the skeleton of a body with a log-chain around it. On the chain was the initial of the neighbor who had earlier been arrested.
The authorities scoured the country, and finally they found him in Pasadena, California, dying of tuberculosis of the lungs. He was too sick to move. But a few hours before he died, he confessed that it was he who had committed the murder, and dumped the body into the pond.
This man was able to hide his sin until the day of his death. But whether or not sin is found out in this life, one thing is sure: “God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Jesus said, “For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad” (Mark 4:22). The point is this: if sin does not find us out here, it will most certainly find us out in the world to come!
All that has been said about the consequences of sin in the preceding paragraphs is true. But I would not be giving the whole message of the gospel if I stopped at this point. The Bible says that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20). If sin is the strongest, darkest, most terrible fact in life, it is matched by another fact (a mightier and stronger fact)—and that is the great truth that “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
The good news I have to bring is this: to those who sincerely repent, confess their sins, put their faith in the Lord Jesus, and turn from their wicked ways—there is no more condemnation for sin. That indeed is good news! The Bible says, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). This doesn’t mean that the consequences of sin will be completely erased. Sin is a terrible thing, and its consequences may not be totally obliterated. But your sin can be completely forgiven. If a man in an unguarded moment gets into a fight and loses an eye, he can be forgiven. But he will be a one-eyed person for the rest of his life. He will still suffer some consequences.
George Truett was a long-time pastor of a church in Dallas, Texas. He wrote about a conversation he had with a man who was in deep distress. His sinful living had brought him to a place of misery, and he came to the preacher for help. Truett said to the man: “If you could see Jesus Christ face to face, and if you could talk to Him right now, what would you ask Him to do for you?” The man quickly replied: “Sir, I would ask Him to make me all over again!”
That’s exactly what Jesus Christ wants to do for every non-Christian reading this article. He can take people all contaminated with sin, and make them into new persons. It requires letting go of your own pride and your own will, and saying, “Lord, take me and make me a new creation!”
Jesus says (John 5:24): “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”