What does it mean to be aware of sin? To be “aware” means to be vigilant in observing, or alert in drawing inferences from what one sees, hears or learns (Webster). Those who are aware of sin, therefore, are able to detect sin in what they see, hear or learn. Scripture beautifully describes them in Hebrews 4:15 as “those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” They use their senses, exercise their senses spiritually to judge and examine all things (I Cor. 2:15), including their own thoughts and feelings. Paul prayed that the Philippians might abound more and more in knowledge and discernment (Phil 1:9 ASV). Webster defines discernment as “keenness of insight, stressing accuracy especially in reading character or motives.” Applied here, that means spiritual wisdom, accurately measuring up to God’s standard.
How do we become able to discern between good and evil? How does one exercise his senses? David says, “Thy word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against Thee” (Ps. 119:11). We must “hide” God’s Word in our hearts, that is, memorize, study and meditate on it, so that our spiritual eyes will be keen to perceive sin as sin, and we will have strength to abstain from it. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of Truth” (II Tim. 2:15). A well organized, consistent, diligent study and searching of the Scriptures will sharpen that keenness of insight, that sensitivity to sin, and will also develop personal discipline.
Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation (Matt. 26:41). Our Lord found His disciples sleeping in the garden. Will He find you spiritually asleep, your mind dulled by the seeking of the treasures and pleasures the world has to offer? Are you “conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2)? Be not conformed, but transformed by the renewing of your mind. Watch and pray!
Discerning sin is not simply an intellectual verdict on all we do, see, or hear, but it is a spiritual war. And no one goes to war unarmed. “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” and “to withstand in the evil day.” Just think of that mighty armor: Truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit – God’s Word (Eph. 6). And of course, praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit.
What are some practical ways we can be aware of sin in our own personal lives? Specifically, in the area of fun and entertainment, do you glorify God, by faith, in all you do? Are you very discriminating in your choice of what the world offers or do you forget God and accept everything blindly? Remember, that if any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Take, for example, music. Are you aware of the ideas and philosophies advocated in the music you enjoy most? It is our calling to measure everything from hymns to rock according to the standard of Scripture. Be on the lookout for Arminian hymns that exalt the “free” will of man. Be aware of certain flippant, irreverent, “Christian” folk songs so popular with the campus groups and in modernist circles. In this category would fall some of the lyrics from “Godspell.” Many “Godspell” lyrics are taken directly from Matthew’s Godspel and put to a very captivating beat, while other songs are so flippant as to approach blasphemy. The whole production portrays the Lord as a sweet, milksop clown accompanied by his flower-children disciples. On that basis, it should be rejected for the damnable blasphemy that it is. I doubt that many Protestant Reformed youth fall for the likes of “Godspell,” but many outside our circles (possibly some of your friends) utterly fail to perceive the evil in “Godspell.”
What about the everyday pop music on your radio, the records you play? Do you just mindlessly sing along with the tune regardless of what’s being said? This was apparently the case on the bus to the Iowa convention, and it happens all the time. The music of Elton John is enchanting to many, even in the church. Let’s examine the words. A top hit you all know, “Bennie and the Jets,” was sung in a way to make some of the words a little indistinct. Everyone loves the tune and beat, but how may know what’s actually being said about the “weird and wonderful,” “spaced out” rock group, Bennie and the Jets?
“Hey kids, plug into the faithless
Maybe they’re blinded.
But Bennie makes them ageless.
We shall survive, let us take ourselves along,
Where we fight our parents out in the streets
To find out who’s right and who’s wrong.”
Covenant youth who are aware of sin must reject this as a violation of the fifth commandment and an attack on the Covenant. Elton John’s entire “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” album is full of songs of death, violence, adultery, alcoholism, and songs explicitly glamorizing prostitution and lesbianism. His latest, “Island Girl,” is an obvious eulogy to a black prostitute. How many of you will mindlessly let that play on your car radio?
Rumors are going around modern religious circles that singer Paul Simon is a Christian. Jesus said ye shall know them by their fruits. What are the fruits in this case? A brief check of the lyrics written on the back of Simon’s latest album will reveal the world’s adulterous view of love and profane use of God’s name. Are these fruits of a Christian writer? Do you allow these things to enter and take possession of your mind?
Many parents condemn pop music as a whole, often because it is totally foreign to them. This often encourages your people to rebelliously defend it all the more. Beloved parents, take the time to examine the records your teenager brings home. Lyrics are often on the inside of the jacket. Look closely and, if possible, listen carefully so that you may help your son or daughter develop an awareness of sin.
Discernment of sin must also be applied to all dating activities. Of course, you may be physically attracted to your date (or prospective date), and that’s not wrong in itself. But do not let physical charm or even a “nice personality” blind your spiritual eyes so that there is no longer a spiritual attraction between the two of you. Remember, to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Rom. 8:6). Recognize and immediately reject feelings of lust, using prayer as a powerful source of strength against temptation.
Do not let your date draw you away from the preaching and teaching you know to be the truth. He or she may be a born-again Christian, but to sacrifice the truth for the sake of that person’s companionship is, in fact, basing that relationship on a foundation which is not spiritual, nor of Christ, but carnal.
Young People who are careful and discerning will make sure that all dating activities glorify God and edify one another as responsible members in the church of God. Can you do this “rocking and rolling” to the band at the local night spot? Be aware of the fact that enough alcohol soon destroys one’s sin awareness, and that the music and dancing are intended to glorify fleshly lusts. In the light of this, and as children of God seeking to spiritually edify one another on your dates, you should never want to take part in any activity that places both of you under temptation.
Of all modern entertainment, television and movies have the greatest power to destroy our sensitivity to sin. We are so tickled by a hilarious comedy, or enthralled by a suspense thriller, that our spiritual eyes are again blinded to the multitude of sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant sin and error. Maybe one detects sin in what watches but allows it to pass. This only hardens his heart so that soon it is no longer sin. Murder, theft, adultery, homosexuality, blasphemy and all other vile wickedness are presented as commonplace. Do Christian youth accept these as commonplace? Must not our awareness to sin be horrified at these? Are not we called upon to abstain from all appearance of evil? (I Thess. 5:22). The Bible also depicts many forms of wickedness, but surely portrays severe condemnation and udgment against it, and creates in God’s people a hatred towards sin. Stories built on themes of adultery, violence and perversion do not create a hatred against sin, but at best a hardening to sin, and at worst a glamorizing and applauding of sin.
Don’t think that simply because it is rated “PG” that it is harmless, or that it loses its corrupting power simply because you are watching it in the privacy of your own home. Any entertainment that deadens your awareness to sin by exalting evil glorifies the kingdom of Satan and should be avoided by all Christians. It is your duty as members of Christ’s Body, as responsible members of your local church, and as witnesses Of God’s righteousness to do this not because you have to, but because you want to.
Eschewing evil implies the positive activity of seeking the righteousness of God. “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” We are to “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). How re we to do this? Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, and He shall abide with you forever” (John 14:15-16). The Holy Spirit shed God’s love in our hearts (Rom. 5:5) and enables us y His effectual grace to live a life of holiness (Gal. 5:22). God speaks to us in Proverbs 3, which says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” In other words, if you do everything by faith in Him, He will guide you safely and surely in the course of your life. What a promise!
In conclusion, on the positive side of being aware of sin, is Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 4:8, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”