As a pastor for almost 30 years, I have experienced firsthand the enormous spiritual warfare that is unleashed when either I or someone in our congregation opens a door to the devil, either through sin or a lack of wisdom in their actions. When Satan gets involved, he distorts, embellishes and magnifies everything so that, in addition to an individual’s sin, lies are tacked on to the sin, which results in a distortion of the truth through maligning character and slander. For example, if you were caught stealing $100, by the time Satan gets finished with the story, the story is that $1,000 has been absconded, and it is much worse than what actually happened.
Along with this, unrepentant sin also destroys key relationships. For example, if a person commits adultery, even though they may have repented and asked God to forgive them, the trust they broke may result in divorce and the loss of family, friends and even ministry.
Even though God forgives us, there are certain qualifications He gives for those qualified to serve as a leader in His house (as shown in 1 Timothy 3:1-15). Although our sins can be forgiven and forgotten by God in the context of our legal standing as His children, the consequences of those sins follow us throughout our lives and may cause us to step aside in ministry for a time until full restoration is complete.
All relationships in life are fragile because they are built upon trust. Thus, although we may confess our sins to God and be forgiven, this does not mean others will forget the sin. Relational sins cause wounds that can only be removed by an act of God’s restorative power that sometimes, through the eyes of wounded relationships, can take years to recover.
Finally, when we sin, we run the risk of reorienting our hearts and minds away from the mind and heart of God. Proverbs 4:23 says to “keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
As a passionate person, I have intentionally attempted to fill my heart daily with the things of God as well as to avoid those sinful things that pull upon my heart. I am well aware of the fact the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick, who can understand it (Jer. 17:9)? Hence, I am afraid of my own heart’s sinful desires, and I take heed to the admonition in Proverbs to guard, keep and protect my heart! In my 35 years as a Christian, I have seen many sincere, on-fire believers totally fall away from God because they allowed a sinful area of their lives to remain undealt with in the presence of the Lord.
Furthermore, certain sins are so addictive to a person that, once entertained and acted upon, it is difficult to gain back the ground lost with God because the sin has captured and reprogrammed their soul. Proverbs 2:19 is a scary warning for a young man not to follow the way of a seductress: “None who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life.”
Even though the book of Proverbs sometimes engages in hyperbole to make a point, this passage should be a reality check for anyone contemplating intentionally opening a door to sin. I have seen many people recover and be restored from drug addiction, pornography, adultery and the like; but I have also seen many not restored who battle their entire lives with these issues because they allowed their hearts to experience something pleasurable in the natural that is destructive to their hearts and minds.
Finally, we need to take heed to the last words God spoke to Cain before he murdered his brother Abel: “If you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Gen. 4:7).
Joseph Mattera has been in full-time ministry since 1980 and is currently the presiding bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and the overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church in New York, a multiethnic congregation of 40 nationalities. He has hosted his own radio show, Light Your City, and a weekly cable television program, The Ekklesia. He is the author of four theological books on the kingdom of God, entitled Ruling in the Gates (2003), Kingdom Revolution (2009), Kingdom Awakening (2010) and Walk in Generational Blessings (2012).
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