Just as when a baby is born to a woman in prison, the baby is also in prison, we are all born into this world as prisoners of sin (we are inherently sinful). We have all been born to parents who themselves are suffering the consequences of their own and, in turn, their parents’ sin. Or, as David the psalmist expressed it, ‘in sin did my mother conceive me’ (Psalm 51:5). Sinfulness, therefore, is an inherited condition of the human heart.
Each and every one of us has a carnal nature which instinctively wants to respond to the attractions posed by the sins of the flesh. None of us are exempt from having the potential for such carnal desires, which have a habit of relentlessly pulling on the strings of our heart! But there is a massive difference between having the carnal desires (inherent sinfulness) and doing things that are wrong (actual sin!) None of us is exempt from sinfulness, but we can all make choices as to whether or not we choose to actually sin!
On holiday this summer we had great fun setting crab and lobster pots on the sea bed and then going back a few days later to see what we had caught.
The lobster in the picture provided us with a very tasty supper a few hours later! But how did that lobster get caught?
A lobster-pot is a simple framework which, as you can see, is covered with a strong net. On one side of the pot is a small hole shaped like a funnel and the bait is placed inside the pot – usually a dead mackerel. The lobster first smells the mackerel, then sees it inside the pot and finally does everything it can to get inside. Eventually it finds the funnel leading to the tasty bit of mackerel and climbs down the funnel, but once inside it’s impossible for the lobster to enter the narrow end of the funnel and get out again. It’s trapped by its own desire.
As I looked at these lobster pots the Lord was showing me how sin operates in our lives. We are tempted by something sinful that we would like to have or to do. We make a choice to go after it and look for a way of getting what we want – preferably without anyone else knowing. We enter the ‘sin-pot’ by something equivalent to the funnel on the side of the lobster-pot and enjoy the ‘sin’ (the mackerel). But then we realise that the choice we made has trapped us into the consequences of that choice – we are caught in the pot! This is the essence of sin – choosing to do what we know to be wrong and finding a way of doing it. No matter how much inherited sinfulness we may have, we cannot ever blame anyone else for the sins we commit, they are always a consequence of the choices we make.
But how can we ever make the right choices knowing that the enemy will constantly use the carnal nature to tempt and test us? Praise God, there is an answer! For, not only have we inherited a carnal nature, because our very life comes from God himself we have also inherited what Ecclesiastes describes as “eternity in our hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This operates in our conscience like a plumb-line of truth giving us the opportunity to know what is right and wrong and respond accordingly. Instinctively, therefore, we have a choice – whether or not to respond to the desires of the carnal nature or to choose to look at our desires against God’s plumb-line. We can then decide what we’re going to do – go ahead anyway and sin, or reject anything that’s out of line with His truth.
So what can we do about it when we’ve made the wrong choices and got it wrong? For, just as the lobster cannot get out of the lobster-pot, we cannot get out of the ‘sin-pot’! We are trapped through our own sins and we need help. Our sin has left us under the control of the ‘sin-pot’ and there’s no escape!
The mercy of God is centred on the cross, the place where God stretched down into time, and into what had become the kingdom of the god of this world, to rescue us from the consequences of both our iniquity (inherited sinfulness) and our sins (the wrong choices we deliberately make). Jesus paid the price for our sin and thankfully, when we come before Him with a repentant heart, He lifts us out of the ‘sin-pot’, restores our soul and puts us back in the sea of life. But without obtaining His forgiveness and mercy, we remain trapped by those sins forever.
Many of the people who come to us for help at Ellel Ministries have entered the ‘sin-pot’, often many years previously and have needed to come to a place before God, whereby they honestly confess their sins and begin to receive the forgiveness and healing that God promises in His Word (James 5:16).
I couldn’t help but contrast the destiny of the lobster after it was caught in the pot with that of believers who have been redeemed and set free! That old chorus says it all:
“Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan,
Oh, the love that brought it down to man,
Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span, at Calvary!
Mercy there was great and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty,
Why would anyone ever want to reject such love? Perhaps it’s because the god of this world has blinded their eyes to the reality of what happens to those who are trapped in prison by their inherited sinfulness and have then been caught in the enemy’s ‘sin-pot’ – as a result they never discover the remedy for sin and the only way of escape. And perhaps it’s because there is now so little teaching of what the Bible says about judgement and hell, that so much of the church has lost the desire to evangelise. After all, why would we need to bother telling people about the Saviour, if we have no understanding of what it means to be ‘lost’?