As we study the seriousness of sin in this lesson, let me warn the viewer: we are going to study a passage of Scripture toward the end that I have seen make people physically sick. Let the Lord’s word pierce your heart. But it might also churn your stomach. If it does, I think it’s doing its job.
Are you struggling with staying faithful to the Lord? You’re not alone if you find it difficult sometimes to resist sin. Of all the passages and images in the New Testament, there is one that has been quite helpful for some people in staying in the light, and I think it’ll help you too.
After becoming a Christian, the temptation to sin does not go away. Writing to Christians, James says:
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.James 1:14–15
He says this after encouraging the Christians, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (v. 12).
James, I want to endure temptation! But it’s so hard when I am tempted by my own desires! If the Lord has forgiven us and washed us by His blood, we should live in constant service and thanksgiving to Him. But if you’ve found that this isn’t easy, you’re not alone. Most of the New Testament was written to people who were in your same shoes—having been born again, but still struggling to live a life of holiness while being among the world.
Now, for the main passage in this lesson. Peter says:
For if, after they [that is those who walk according to the flesh, v. 10] have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.2 Peter 2:20
This is not a good state to be in. These people had learned about the Lord, and He had taken them out of the pollutions of the world. But now, they’ve returned to their old life of sin. The next verse says:
For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.2 Peter 2:21
Peter mentions this situation after talking about those who are reserved under punishment on the day of judgment (v. 9). Truly, this is a terrible state to be in. How do you avoid it? Let God rescue you out of the world through the knowledge of Jesus and do not get entangled in the world again! Easy, right? It might be a bit easier after reading the next verse, which has the potential to make you sick—
But! Before we read the verse, let me say this: sin is what sent our Lord to His death. So if you’re looking for some trick or hack to avoid sin, your motive is wrong, and you’ll never find the secret to living a holy life. Focus on the true cost of sin: the cross of Christ. Meditate on His love, which should always be our motivation. Every time we sin, we give our Savior another reason to die.
Here’s what Peter has to say about the one who would look our Savior in the face and still choose to sin:
But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”2 Peter 2:22
Read Psalm 119 and practice this truth: hiding God’s word in your heart will keep you from sinning. But sometimes that’s a stomach-churning process.
Peter says someone who goes back into the world after being cleansed by Jesus is like a pig that goes back to the mud after a bath. That’s a helpful illustration, isn’t it? The next time Satan tempts you with your old way of life, remember this passage inspired by the Holy Spirit. Satan wants you to become like a pig who desires the mud. Jesus wants you to stay clean.
Did you catch the other illustration? This is where it gets extra gross. Going back to sin after tasting the kindness of the Lord is like a dog that goes back to its vomit. Many people enjoy the companionship of a pet dog, but as domesticated as they get, they can still be pretty gross. They’ll snack out of the cat’s letterbox, and they’ll lap up their own vomit after a sick spell. And then they’ll lick your face while you giggle.
Why did God create us to vomit? When we vomit, it’s usually because a poison or virus has entered our system. God created our bodies to fight such things with vomiting. As terrible of an experience vomiting is, we usually feel better afterward. We vomit into the toilet or a bucket for quick and easy disposal. Let’s get rid of the sight and smell of the sickness as quickly as possible. When you’ve felt the urge to vomit, have you ever grabbed a bowl to save some for later? Of course not! When the Lord offers to forgive us, He is offering to purge from us the sin that will destroy us. When that’s on offer, why would we ever have in the back of our minds to save some sin for later? Why would we ever want to go back to the poison that Christ vomited out of us?
The psalmist reminds you that hiding God’s word in your heart will help you from sinning. The next time you’re tempted to go back to sin, remember this image the Holy Spirit has provided in the Scriptures: a dog returning to its own vomit.
Isn’t it true that “…the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations…”? (2 Peter 2:9).