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The Progressive Nature of Sin

by John Kilpatrick

“Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:12-14, NKJV)

A man’s sins are not just actions he feels bad about. Sin has a far greater ramification than bad feelings. When men don’t really understand the power of sin, they are more likely to get involved in it and fail to understand the future consequence of it. Sin is progressive – there are five categories of sin that are progressive in nature. If not dealt with quickly, sin can snowball.

What is sin? Sin is transgression against God and His Word. Some men get by with things that God won’t let them do. Sometimes God deals with people about idols in their lives that seem so benign -fishing, sporting events, leisure activities. It was a sport, but to that person it was a sin. There are lists in the Bible of things God hates, but it is difficult to find an exact answer for this question.

I believe sin is anything that you put before God; anything with a hold or power over you. There are five categories of sin and they progressively build in your life.

ERROR – The first level or category of sin is “error.” The person is unaware of the fact that what he is doing offends God. Unintentional sin seems innocent, and I believe to a great degree it is. How many times have we offended God and walked away without knowing it? An error is something a person does but doesn’t mean to do it. It is an error. New believers especially commit sin without knowing they violated God’s Word. They commit things that are wrong and don’t know they are wrong. Later, as their understanding and knowledge grow, God sheds light on their error, helping them realize their former ignorance, and it brings a new level of responsibility to their life. Before his salvation, my father-in-law got drunk every weekend. After he became a believer, he still drank beer. He didn’t get drunk anymore, but he still had a beer in the evening. My mother-in-law didn’t condemn him; she just decided to leave it to God. One day, after cutting the grass, he went in for a cold beer and he heard the voice of God saying, “I’m displeased with that.” For my father-in-law, it was over. As soon as God showed him that drinking was wrong, it was over. Before that, his drinking was an error. God knew he was saved and gave him time to get established. But then the Lord put His finger on the drinking and said, “I don’t want you to do that any more.”

SECRET SINS – Secret sins come in three levels. Secret sins are those hidden to others and the person but God knows. As long as my father-in-law was going to the refrigerator for a beer, it was an error because he didn’t know better. But as soon as the Lord put emphasis on it and showed His displeasure, then if my father-in-law had consumed a beer, it would have been a secret sin: trying to hide it from the Lord. At that point, he would be sneaking around.

Another kind are those sins hidden to others, but the person is aware of it, and tries to guard the sin from being exposed. A secret habit, something a person knows is wrong and does in a secret, hidden place. They partake and indulge in this sin in private. Others never know about it, including the man’s wife or children, but God is acquainted with the sin.

The last type of secret sins are those hidden to the person, but known to others. Sins in this category include things like pride and stubbornness. They are evident to others around the person, but he is not conscious of them. If he is prideful or has a proud spirit, they are usually deeply ingrained and other people know about them long before the man does because he won’t face up to them.

Stubbornness shows itself when the man knows something is right and has wisdom, but refuses to change his position even though he knows it is wrong because he doesn’t want to let his pride be offended.

Pride and stubbornness are brothers. Many men have wives and families that have put up with their stubbornness for a long time. These sins are rebellion against God. Other people know about them, but they aren’t free to talk to the man about it, or confront him because they know he will respond in anger.

PRESUMPTUOUS SINS – With presumptuous sin, God lets other people know about the sin to bring accountability into the man’s life. The word presumptuous means, “to boil over.” What does it mean when a sin boils over?

Several years ago, my wife and I were home for a quiet evening and she cooked some of my favorite foods. She had some diced up potatoes cooking on the stove for potato salad when the doorbell rang. Some unexpected guests – friends from Georgia – stopped by. While we were visiting in the family room there was suddenly a sizzling sound from the kitchen as those diced potatoes boiled over. As soon as the water hit the burner, everybody’s head turned toward the sound.

If a man won’t deal with his sin, God allows it to boil over on him and everybody’s head will turn. What he thinks is done in secret will be shouted from the rooftops. When God lets a man’s sin boil over, it is not so much an act of judgment as it is an example of mercy. Because when God lets his sin boil over, He is ultimately trying to bring him to repentance. If he won’t repent in secret, if he won’t judge himself in secret – and He may let him sin for a season – He will let his sin boil over. People will find out, and hopefully the shame and exposure will bring him to his knees.

DOMINION – When God allows sin to be discovered and the man doesn’t repent or respond by seeking true repentance, the sin grabs him and he becomes dominated by it. Once sin takes dominion over a person, he won’t be truly free from it without deliverance. If he does not really repent, God allows that sin to throw him down, bring him under subjection, and bring him under domination by that sin. Homosexuality causes many men to become bound. I’ve seen a lot of men bound by pornography, by money, and by public opinion. Men become bound by their sins when they don’t seek true repentance.

GREAT TRANSGRESSION – The great transgression is not so much a sin as it is an attitude. Pornography is a sin. It involves an action a person does. Pride is a sin; it is an action. Embezzling money is a sin; it is an action. Taking up alcohol is an action. All these things are sin. In Psalm 19, David pleaded with God to be kept from the great transgression. The great transgression happens when someone arrives at the point where they don’t repent of their sin any longer because they feel that they’ve reached a deal with God. They think God is okay with their habit of pornography. They think God is okay when they lose their temper and strike out at people in anger. They think God understands. They justify their sins by saying, “God understands, He knows how I am. “God never understands sin. Jesus didn’t die on the cross to condone our sins; He died on the cross to forgive our sins. There will be no forgiveness of sin until the man repents of his sins. The great transgression happens when he gets to the point where he won’t repent anymore.

Don’t let your heart harden and get to the point where you arrive at the great transgression. Take care of the sin in your life before it takes dominion over you. Repent, truly repent, before your sin boils over. Stay clear of trying to hide those secret sins. As soon as God reveals an area of sin in your life, let it be over for you. In this way, you can conquer the progressive nature of sin.