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Our starting graphic was shared on Facebook by GodVine and it hits on part of our subject matter, today. Back when I worked in broadcasting, there were a few jazz clubs that I’d go to for interviews with some of the musicians. One had a bartender whose regular question was, “What’s your poison?”. At a conference I attended, Pastor Jim Scudder Jr gave a great illustration that fits right in with that. And with the thought behind the graphic.
Picture having a freshly opened bottle of water. Ice cold, inviting, refreshing. Any one of us would be happy to twist off the top and take a swallow. But, next to it, is a small vial of another liquid with a dropper. And someone puts a few drops from the vial into the water bottle. Suddenly, that bottle of water isn’t so tempting or attractive. Why? Because we don’t know if that liquid in the vial is safe. Will it make us ill? Will it kill us? How potent is the vial of liquid? That vial may be perfectly safe, but the possibility that it’s not stops us in our tracks. Spiritually, that’s not always the case.
There are a couple of passages with a similar analogy. When we read 1Corinthians 5:6, it says, “Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?”. Or there’s Galatians 5:7-9, which reads, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”. Just like the liquid drops added to the bottle of water, the leaven (yeast) spreads throughout the lump of dough. But in the moral and spiritual realms, we don’t find it so easy to push away trouble. At least it would seem that way or God wouldn’t need to warn us about it. Let’s look a little closer.
The verse in 1Corinthians follows a passage reproving the church for immorality and allowing incest. And yet they gloried in their supposed spirituality. Paul was concerned with the immorality, but even more that sin had infected the church. As any drug addict will tell you, the start of an addiction is very small. But, over time, the need and the quantity are ever increasing till the addict reaches a level just shy of killing themselves.
Actively condoning our own sin works the same way as addiction. We may start with a little lie, or looking at “safe” but risque pictures, or using things from work for our personal use. And our sin becomes comfortable. We like it. It’s an OK sin, compared to other sins. Whatever level of sinning becomes acceptable in our eyes opens the door to do just a little more the next time. Some describe it as a “slippery slope”. That’s a pretty fair assessment. It usually calls for exactly the issue described in the graphic that starts this post. That allows hanging onto our own sin, because it’s different from what we’re condemning.
Galatians 5 deals with what seems like a slightly different issue with similar results. Diluted doctrine. The Galatians started with the Grace of God, then added other requirements. Remember that graphic at the top of the post? It fits even more for this. What the Galatians did was take the Word of God, then superimpose their own thoughts on Biblical Truth, changing it to Grace plus something. The something can be doing something extra to please God or it can be doing something to avoid a certain area of sin – as long as it’s not our area of sin. Sounds like the Corinthians, doesn’t it? And maybe us?
If we want unleavened bread, we don’t put yeast in. And, if we want pure water, we don’t drink any that’s had something added from that other vial. No matter how little. But we seem to forget that when it comes to living our lives for God or otherwise. If we avoid some sin, even if we have a laundry list of others, we’ll be OK. Or we can accept the Grace of God, but add some requirement – maybe ceremony, maybe ritual, maybe doctrine taking away something God says He gave us.
There’s another analogy that may better illustrate the problem more clearly. Imagine being out on the plains somewhere in a wagon, going on a trip. But, out of 360 degrees, we’re just 1 degree off our course. While we’re close to our starting point, that 1 degree doesn’t seem like much. The wagon may be moving over both lines of travel. But 50 miles later we find ourselves at a location very different from where we intended to be. And we may be far enough off that we can’t see where we ought to be. That sounds pretty final, but it’s not.
God continually tells us that our failures never have to be the final result. Continuing in the Word, regularly confessing to God and repenting, continual prayer all give us open lines of communication between us and God. And options to do things His way instead of our way. Are you ready to do that, today?