Seeing Sin Clearly
By Josh Petras on November 20, 2023
Seeing Sin Clearly
By Josh Petras on November 20, 2023
Amen. Well, good morning. If you have your Bibles this morning, I'd invite you to turn to the book of Joshua. We’ll be in Joshua, chapter 7 this morning. As you turn in there, I do know we have a new auditorium, which means we always have new people; we just want to welcome those of you who are joining us for the first time. We're so glad you're here. I want to introduce myself real quick. My name is Josh Petras. I serve as one of the pastors here, and a couple different roles. I get to preach up here, occasionally. I lead our single's ministry, known as the Press. And my family and I've been here for a little over a year now, because the elders of our church were compelled to work towards planting a church in Long Beach. How many of you come from the Long Beach, Lakewood area, just by show of hands? Okay, I see you people. I like that. So, our church is working; I've been called to lead that team. And we're very excited to see how the Lord is helping us get in that direction. And so, I do want to let you know, in the bulletin next week, there's going to be an announcement. We have a prayer meeting on December 10. We're going to establish a church that honors the Lord's name; we need his help. And so, we need to pray. So, December 10, right after church, there'll be an announcement, you'll see information, and a way to RSVP for that next week, but I just want to let you know about that. Now, with that, let's go to Joshua 7 is where we'll be this morning.
About five years ago, I was sitting in a room, listening to a lecture, which I thought was one of the most interesting talks I've ever heard. The professor was talking about church history. And he was talking about famous theologians throughout church history, going from the third or fourth century up to our modern times. And what was compelling about it was the way he was doing it. He was comparing famous theologians, their life, their doctrine, with their sort of theological adversaries, men who taught different things and taught unbiblical things, and how they interacted. So, it was kind of interesting, I get good guys and bad guys. And so, he's doing Agustine from the fourth century, who's talking about how we're saved by grace alone, and Pelagius, who's talking about how we need to perfect ourselves. And then he goes to the 16th century with Luther and Luther’s understanding of who man is. And this guy named Erasmus, who had a different understanding about the nature of man. But the most interesting one had to do with two men, one who you've probably heard of before, and one who I guess you haven't heard of before. See, in the 17th century these two men never met each other, they never interacted, but they dealt with the same issues. One of them was a man by the name of Jonathan Edwards, who has preached one of those famous sermons ever preached in the United States, who lived here before they were the states, when they were just the colonies. And the other man is a man you haven't probably heard of before, is a man by the name of Friedrich Schleiermacher. Friedrich Schleiermacher was his name. And what was interesting is that Schleiermacher is known as the father of liberal theology. So why did they compare these men? Well, these men, why they were compared in this lecture, is because they dealt with the exact same issue, and here's the issue. What is the nature of true religious affections? What role do emotions; what role do feelings have in the Christian faith? Now both men agreed on the same thing. Emotions and affections are important. Christianity is not just a boring list of doctrines and do's and don'ts. There is real emotion in real spirituality. But the relationship between doctrine, practice, in our feelings, our emotions, our affections. Well, these men took a totally different stance. So, Edwards famously said something like real, religious affections are not heat without light. He's saying they're not heat. They're not the heat of emotion without first the light of truth. See, Edwards, if you read his writings, he's deeply affection, he's deeply emotional. But he says it's truth that springs forward into that love that we have for the Lord. And you've noticed that even this morning, right, like the words that we sing, we sing them zealously and passionately, with our hearts inflamed with love for the Lord. Why not? Just because what we're singing is good, but it's true. Jesus has paid for all my sin. That's why I could sing that song so zealously. That was Edwards’ approach. It's the truth that then brings forth the deep affection.
Schleiermacher took the complete opposite approach. It's our feelings that determine what's true. And what's true only matters to the glory of how it makes me feel or how practical it is. It's not our feelings being subjected to the truth. It's the truth being governed by our feelings. And we've seen that sort of false thinking influenced the church at large, really for the last two hundred years. Like, if you look at a lot of the wrong thinking that happens in the name of Christianity, it stems from not what is true, as the first question, but how does it make me feel? And how useful is it. And so that's why you'll hear things like, I'm a spiritual Christian, I just don't go to church because it doesn't make me feel a certain way. Or, you know, I don't really need to have a full life devoted to God, or I don't feel like the Bible is just, so I don't have to believe everything that it says. There are all sorts of wrong teaching about the virgin birth, the deity of Jesus, the death and resurrection of Christ, that all have been muted, because, while our feelings is what's most important, right, not doctrine. And I think this idea of putting our feelings first and letting our feelings determine the truth.
No doctrine has suffered more misunderstanding from this than the doctrine of sin. Sin has become something that we define not by God's Word, but by how the culture at large just feels about sin. Christian, you have to realize that your view of sin is constantly being undermined by your own flesh, by a hostile world, and by a pseudo-Christian culture that wants to define sin, not on God's standards, but our own feelings and affections. And so, we need as believers to constantly have our minds renewed, so that our thinking of sin would be correct.
And one of the chapters that helps us with that, there's the chapter right in front of us this morning, Joshua, chapter 7. This passage is such an important text for us to understand. So, if you're not there, turn that tune there. Now, once you're there, I'd ask you to stand for the reading of Scripture. This passage, this important scene right after the famous victory in the battle of Jericho. Joshua 7. These are the very words of the living God. Let's read them together now.
But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.
2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water. Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?” The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man. And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’” So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.
This is God's very Word. You may be seated. And as we begin, let's ask the Lord's help. As we look at this passage this morning.
Heavenly Father, your Word says that you are matchless and holiness. That in you is light. And there is no darkness at all. You are indescribably pure and Holy. God, too often, we do not see you as holy as you are. And we don't see our sin rightly. Help us to understand things clearly this morning. We pray these things in Your Son's name. Amen.
This point in the book of Joshua, you could describe it as the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Because in Joshua 6, they just had the best victory they've had to this point. They just conquered Jericho, that mighty fortified city that they could not conquer on their own strength. God had helped them win. And as we've been going through this book, which we have now for about the last six months, whenever Pastor Bobby is not going through Romans, we've been seeing how this book is about God giving his people the promised land. This is God giving his people the land he had said he was going to give them hundreds of years before. And we find that, you know, Joshua was told be strong and courageous, to obey everything I've commanded you. And when the nation obeys, they succeed. They defeat their enemies, and again, they just overthrow Jericho. But now they go to this little city called Ai, and they lose. They're defeated and they're stunned by what happened. We read the story. It begins with this insider information that we get as the reader in Joshua 7:1 that God knows that this man named Achen had sinned. Israel was told in Joshua 6 not to take any of the gold and silver when they ransacked Jericho, but Achen did. He took some of the treasure. And so, Israel goes to battle the city called Ai. And you know, what you see with Ai, what's going to destroy us all one day, but both work, you're fine. Israel goes to battle this little town and they are defeated. And Joshua cries out thanking God what happened? Did I miss something? God says Yes, you did miss something. There is sin in your midst, and I cannot be with you. And so, God accuses Israel of sin. He has this long sort of parade to expose to the sinner as Achen is found out. Achen confesses. Achen is executed. And then, in Joshua 8, they go to battle again. And they win. And it's almost like there's this little interlude in the middle that's supposed to help us understand the seriousness of sin. Do you notice?
Let's read this story from backwards. Look at Joshua 7:26. It says, they raised over Achen and his family, who they executed. they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Or if you were with us earlier, you'd realize that a pile of stones was meant to be a memorial in Israel, they would use stones to commemorate the great acts of God. So, in Joshua 4, when they crossed the Jordan River, hey, here's a pile of stones. So, you remember how God brought us across. And then in later chapters, they're going to have these piles of stones to remember, hey, here's a victory God gave us that we couldn't win for ourselves. But now you've got an entire family killed, with a pile of stones over them, right in the middle of Israel as a reminder to them, your God will not tolerate sin in your midst.
This chapter is meant to warn us about the seriousness of sin. It's supposed to help us see sin clearly. And what I want to do this morning is I want us to learn six lessons from this chapter. Six lessons about sin. Lest we forget how sinful, six lessons that kind of remove the fog and help us understand with clarity, once again, the sinfulness of sin. So, let's get to it.
Number one lesson is this: “Sin is always serious.” Sin is always serious. Now, this seems obvious from the text, it almost goes without saying you have a man and his family dead because of sin at the end. So, it's true, circumstantially, it's also true just from the language of the passage. Sin is not a casual thing or a small thing. In this text, we read in Joshua 7:1. It says at the end of verse 1, that “the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.” God here is enraged with their sin. He’s not calm about it. He's not just filing a small complaint; he is upset, he is angry with sin. At the end of the book, or at the end of the chapter, it says, “the Lord turned from his burning anger.”
That's how we describe God's attitude towards sin in this chapter. And some of you are thinking, what's the big deal? That seems like this, God is ready to fly off the handle whenever something doesn't go his way. All he did was take like a little cloak, and some cash, maybe he needs some cash, and he's got short on cash. Doesn't he own the cattle on thousand hills? That's not the point. God is angry with sin, because of the relationship Israel had with God. Turn if you would to Exodus chapter 19. I want us to understand this, it's going to exercise it because we don't want to just think of God as a cruel taskmaster. He's not an heavy-handed teacher. He's not an unreasonable boss. No, God has every right to respond the way he's acting. This is not absurd, or over the top by him. So, Exodus 19. While we're in Exodus 19 … some of you have been reading through Exodus with Scripture of the Day. Exodus 19 is what I call, it's a little bit of a DTR. So, you know what a DTR is? Let's define the relationship. It's a DTR. Let's talk about what the relationship is like between God and his people. And he's going to tell them what that relationship is like. And it's not a master-slave relationship. It's not a tyrant-servant relationship. Oh, no. It's a deeply affectionate relationship. Look at Exodus 19:4. God says, “’You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’” See, God says, Israel, here's our relationship. I rescued you, to bring you to me. I wanted to be with you, and if you obey, you will be my treasured possession. I'm going to delight in you because you belong to me and I claim you as my own friends, that's what our relationship is like with the Lord today. We get to walk close with him. He doesn't just love us covenantally, he actually likes us and delights in his people. And we are also supposed to delight in him. We're supposed to walk close to him. Obedience, according to Colossians1:9-10 is about are pleasing him. We want to honor the Lord. We're in a covenant relationship with him.
But let's go back now to Joshua 7. Because understand the relation, understanding the relationship that's supposed to exist between God and his people, helps us understand the severity of what's going on. It says verse 1, the “people of Israel broke faith.” That word there “broke faith” speaks of covenant, disloyalty. It speaks of shattered promises. And most of the time, when it's used in the Old Testament, it talks about the people being disloyal to God. Almost every single use of it has to do with breaking the covenant, God's people disobeying God. Except there's one other time it's used up between a human-to-human relationship unit is for adultery. It's her breaking the marriage covenant. God views the sins of his people as adultery. Why? Because they were supposed to be pleasing to Him. And He was going to light in them. They were his and he was theirs. But what does he say? Look at the second half of verse 15. It says, “he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of YHWH.” His sin was not just taking some stuff, his sin was personal rebellion against God.
God takes all sin personally. He sees all sin as against him, not just against the big US morality that's out there, not just against cultural norms. Sin is always against God. And if you don't believe me take the word of the guy who's executed at the end of this chapter. Look at Joshua 7:28. Good answer, Joshua. Truly I have sinned against YHWH, God of Israel. Yes, thirty-four people are dead because of my sin. But my sin first and foremost was against God. This is exactly what David says in Psalm 51. For Psalm 51. For David says, “God against you, and you alone, I have sinned. Yes, I sinned by taking Bathsheba as my wife. Yes, I sinned by killing her husband, but God against you, and you only, against you primarily is all my sin.” Friends, we have to see sin this way. Like every treason we commit, every lie, every outburst of anger, every lustful glance and thought, every act of selfishness, every time we're just snarky and harsh with people, all of it is first and foremost against God. He's always the primary victim of our sin, especially if we're believers, and we say we love him and want to please him, but then do that which displeases Him.
All sin is serious because it's all against him. Look, if you want at the end there of Joshua 7:15, again, it says, “he has transgressed the covenant of YHWH because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.” That's God's words. He says he, this man Achen, has done an outrageous thing. That Hebrew word there is “emphatically foolish” would be the idea. Extremely foolish and wicked, we could translate it heinous or audacious. This is horrific. This word is only used in like the most horrific of circumstances like Genesis 34, the defilement of Dinah or the end of judges, that woman who is abused at the end there, it's that same word is used there. This is wicked because it's against God. And it's wicked because it's against the God who's done so much for them. We think about that God delivered them from Egypt, God provided for them every day for 40 years in the wilderness, he stopped the Jordan River, he's brought them into a land that they did not earn, he set their love upon them, and they're sinning against him. Just like we sin against the God who has done so much for us, and has been so good to us. I just think a fair question for us to ask ourselves is, do we see our sin as outrageous? And do we see all our sin as outrageous? Or do we have categories of sin? Really, really bad ones? Which are things that other people usually do? And not so bad ones? The things that we do. Are we thinking in biblical categories with our sin, or thinking about our sin the way God thinks about it? If we want to see sin clearly, we have to remember that sin is always serious.
Next lesson number two. Number two: “Sin is always sinful regardless of who commits it.” Sin is always sinful regardless of who commits it. One of the things that becomes very clear with sin, as in this chapter is that there's no impartiality with God, no favoritism. He doesn't have different standards for different people. God does not care who the person is that's obeying, or who the person is that’s sinning. He's going to bless obedience, and he's going to judge the sinner. And we see that because, leading up to this story we've been reading in the book of Joshua about a woman named Rahab. We meet her in Joshua 2. And she is a Canaanite prostitute. If you wanted to invent the most wicked sinner, you could, you have an idolater and an immoral person. And yet she professes faith in God. She aligns herself with YHWH and his people. She says, hey, I know that your God is the One True God over all the gods. And so, she's given some instructions in chapter 2, hey, if you want to be delivered, here's what you need to do. And in Joshua 6, She obeys those instructions because she wants to follow God. In fact, you could see it right there, Joshua 6:25. At the very end, it says, “But Rahab, the prostitute and her father's household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive.” That is amazing. Even the worst of sinners can be forgiven if they turn to God in faith and obey his commands. That's awesome, right? But then here, you have this man Achen, from the tribe of Judah. Don't miss that. That's the good tribe. That's the tribe you want to be associated with. That's the tribe that it's told that God's Kingdom is going to come from that tribe. This is some excellent family background right here. This is a good family tree. Have you ever noticed in our culture, that someone who's wealthy, or someone who's famous, usually is able to get away with more than you know. The average Joes of society, like, it seems like if you commit a crime, the wealthier you are, or the more popular you are, the less your sentence will be. And the more comfortable the location you serve your sentence will be. Like some of the celebrities who serve their sentences, you find out where they're staying. And it's like nicer than some of the hotels some of you will be staying in this week, as you travel for the holidays, right? It's like, well, it doesn't seem like everyone got the same degree of punishment. That's not how things work in God's justice system. God doesn't care about background. He's not impressed by resume. He's going to punish sin. And what happens here, let me just show you a few things, is you now see Israel experiencing a Canaanite experience. They're going to go through facing punishment, like the Canaanites are supposed to. Let me just show you a few of the things that the author is purposely trying to echo is you're going to go through the same thing. The very end of verse 5 talks about thirty-six of their man were chased down. At the end it says, “And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.” Same expression is used for the wicked people. In chapter 2 and chapter 5, their hearts had melted, they have lost all their confidence of being under judgment. Now Israel is facing that. Take a look. Let's turn back to chapter 6. Look at verse 17. I want you to see this word. This is an important word. That's a word that comes up a lot. Joshua 6:17. And this is God saying, he says in the city, so this is Joshua speaking on behalf of the Lord Joshua to the people, “Shout, for Yahweh has given you the city, and the city and all that was in within it shall be devoted to YHWH for destruction.” That word, “devoted for destruction,” it's a Hebrew word, haram. It's a word that does mean destruction. Otherwise, other times it's translated “under the ban.” It's like judgment has been set. And now the execution is going to be carried out. And it's used a lot for these nations. They're put under the ban, there's haram against them, they're devoted to destruction. But in verse 12, of now our chapter seven, Israel sin, therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies, they turn their backs before their enemies because they have become devoted to destruction. And what God says in verse 15, “whoever did this sin, they are going to be burned.” The last imagery of fire we had in Joshua was in 6th when they burned the city of Jericho. It's as if God is saying, you want to act like Canaanites, you're going to be treated like Canaanites. God does not show partiality with sin.
Sometimes I think that we begin to believe that God treats our sins differently than other sins, that God, you know, will be really harsh with some people, will see some people act a certain way, speak in a certain way, disregard God's commandments. Is there a way we go? Oh, yeah, God's going to get them one day, praise God for his justice. But we think about our sin. And we start doing things like, yeah, but God understands my heart. I did the same thing that that person did. But God knows that my heart was okay in it. Or God understands the circumstances behind my sin and why I did it and why it wasn't really my fault. Praise God is not biased in his dealings with sins. He is not impartial, sin is always sinful, regardless of who commits it. Let's keep moving.
Number three. Number three: “Personal sin affects more than the person who sinned.” Personal sin affects more than the person who sinned. There is a mysterious reality in this passage. That's kind of hard to math out a little bit. It's God deals with sin personally, for sure, but God also recognizes sin communally. He recognizes it in the community. This is a term that some theologians use, it's corporate solidarity, that is the one person is part of the unit. And the unit takes responsibility for the one person. And we see this just in the language that's used throughout this chapter. So, for instance, verse one says, “The people of Israel broke faith.” But then it'll say, “for Achen stole something.” And so Israel sinned, and Achen sinned. And akin sinned, and it's as if Israel sinned or the community is part of it. That's why in verse 4-6, men die. And Joshua was like, well, why did they die? What's going on? Are God's promises untrue? Oh, God tells them in verse 10, “Get up. Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned, they have transgressed my covenant. They are,” verse 12, “devoted to destruction.” Achen sinned. And as a result, the people that he was associated with suffered the consequences. And they were also viewed as if they sinned. You know what's interesting? In Matthew 5, Jesus talks about believers. He says, “You are a city set on a hill.” He doesn't just mean you individually. He means like, y'all like when they say in the south, y'all are sitting on a hill, you, y'all collectively are supposed to represent me. People are supposed to see you and know what I'm like. That's sort of actually what Israel was told at first, Israel was supposed to be God's representative people, that the nations would see Israel and see these people go. Who are these people? What kind of God do they serve? I want to go worship that God. But God wasn't going to let them represent him if they were going to not walk according to his ways. He wasn't going to tolerate them. Now, this point here, there are so many applications of this, like this would be a good one this week just to sit down and think, man, how does my sin affect other people? And how does this reality that nobody sins in isolation, shaped the way I live? But let me just flesh out a few applications for us. I think this is one of the reasons why the Scripture talks about church discipline. So in Matthew 18, Jesus will say, hey, if you have a brother who sins, you go and talk to them, and if they don't listen, if they, you know, don't repent, they say, no way. I'm not going to change my ways. Then you bring one or two others. And if they still don't listen, you go to the church. And if they don't listen, you send them out. The goal there in Matthew 18 is restoration. You want to win that person. You want to win them to a life of faith. That's the first goal. But another goal in church discipline is purity of the church. Let's do what Paul says. This is 1 Corinthians 5. I have on the screen up here. The context is, the Corinthian church has a guy who's having an affair with his mother-in-law, and they're like, it's okay. God is so gracious. And Paul says this, your boasting is not good. “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be, a new lump, as you really are unleavened. He says, hey, you are a holy people. You've been made holy in God's sight so live like it reflected. Don't confuse the unbelieving world about what it actually means to be a Christian. Verse 8, “Let us therefore celebrate the first spooled out with the old leaven, the level of malice and evil but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
Friend, your holiness matters to our church. The way you act affects our reputation outside the church, and your holiness will influence your impact inside the church. One of my favorite verses you could jot this in your notes is 2 Timothy 2:20-21. In 2 Timothy 2:20-21, Paul talks about “vessels of honorable use, vessels of dishonorable use” there are in ancient homes. There are these vessels that you'd put up these jars vases, that you'd put up and use as display. And there'd be ones that would be trash cans. Be a vessel for honorable use, be useful, clean, be ready for use for good purpose. And it talks about “being wholly ready for every good work.” There is a relationship between holiness and readiness. Some of you aren't active and serving, not because you don't know how to do stuff, you just feel guilty every week, because you're not restrained with your sin during the week. And so, you want to hide behind your secret sin and not serve. Friends, our church needs you. We're being impacted by your lack of obedience. I think there's a lot of different applications to this, as well. Think about work. Think about sharing the gospel in the workplace and think about your reputation before non-Christians. I just think, again, as a final application, think about it in the home. I think this especially hits us as parents. Now listen, as parents, there are plenty of godly parents whose kids don't end up following Jesus. There are plenty of people, some of you are saved today, though you came from an ungodly home. So, the way we live doesn't automatically mean our kids, that kids end up a certain way. But you know, the way we live is having some impact on our kids. And so, parents, I'm not saying that our kids are never going to see a sin. My question is, what do they see after they see it? And do they see that like we confess and repent, try to walk in holiness. Do we apologize even when we've sinned against them? Or are some of our kids being taught there's a type of Christianity that, as long as you do this on Sunday, Monday through Saturday is free game. Let that not be the case with us. You know, at the end of the story, Achen’s whole family suffers, and there's some debate like did they know about this? And it's not clear from the text. You know, I think they did. They didn't all have like separate rooms, they all were kind of like in one big tent, that they would have had to have known about it. At the end of day it doesn't matter. The point is Achen’s sin caused suffering for others. How is that the same in our life as well? Let's keep it moving.
Number four. Number four lesson: “Sin and success cannot coexist.” Sin and success cannot coexist. What becomes clear in this chapter is that Israel's military victories will not be based on their military strength. It will be based on their obedience, because in chapter 6, they're outmatched, just like they will be in chapter 10 and chapter 11. But they obey and God gives them the victory. But here they noticed they have a clear advantage, since they returned to Joshua and said to him, this is verse 3, they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but just let about two or three thousand go up, in that precise number, two or three thousand. US you see there, they're very confident, have them go up. Do you not make the whole people toil up there for they are few, so they only sent three thousand men, half their army of six thousand men. They thought this is easy, okay, they just had the biggest win against the toughest city, they're going to conquer. Now they're looking at this little city called Ai, and they're thinking themselves, let's just send the JV team out. They will still come away with a win, this is going to be fine. And they lose. Why did they lose? Well, God tells them why they lost. Look at verse 12. Again, it says, “therefore, the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, but because they become devoted for destruction, I will be with you no more unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. If you walk in sin, I will not be with you. I will not be on your side. I will not be supporting you. You will not be getting my blessing. My favor. My smile. I'm not on your team when you act like this. Now let's take a step back. This is a different time. We live three thousand years past the time that these events occurred. These don't work out the same where every good thing happens because we obey. And bad things happen because of disobedience. There are plenty of godless people who succeed in life and godly people who seem like they get passed up. Okay, so it does work a little different today. That's the story isn't telling us how things always work. But what it does give us is heaven’s perspective on life. Though things may not always succeed on earth, if you live godly, heaven has a perspective on the situation, and heaven’s perspective, God's perspective is faithfulness, is success. Disobedience is failure. Success is measured by our obedience.
And, Christian, your actions cannot be successful and sinful at the same time. We say that again, your actions cannot be successful and sinful at the same time. See, sometimes we think the ends justify the means. As long as things turn out well, then things are spiritually okay, no matter what I did in the middle. That's just not true because you can get away with some sin in this life and trick yourself into thinking God blessed me anyway. So, let's just have a little quiz here, right here. Here's a three-question quiz for you. And let's ask these questions. So here we go. Two situations. Number one, what the first parent berates their kids, rips into them, harsh with them and ends up with a clean room. The second parent is truthful, but gracious, firm, but never responding to a temper with a temper. If they give consequences; they don't sue; don't do so out of anger but out of love, and still ends up with a disobedient kid. And even worse, an unclean room. Which parents succeeded in that situation, the one who got what they wanted, or the one who remained godly.
Let's take another situation. One man insults his coworkers, fudges a little on the truth, closes the sale. The other is marked by a consistent Godward integrity but gets passed for the promotion. Which one was successful in heaven's eyes? It's the ones that were obedient. That's what God wants is obedience. That's what he views as success. In every situation, every trial, you're in every shift you're on every relationship you're in, just ask yourself, am I succeeding in God's eyes? The answer to that is, well, am I obeying, it will leave the results to him.
Let me help you here with some divine math. You have on your handout, there are some blanks, and a little arrow. Some of you remember from your math days, Inequalities; not talking about social inequalities, I'm talking about like math Inequalities “Greater Than” sign. You know, the mouth eats, the bigger number, etc. And some of you know what I'm talking about. Anyway, let me give you some divine math or you could jot this down. “Godliness” is greater than “Giftedness”. God does not care about your skills as much as he cares about your holiness. The second one you could write is “Obedience” is greater than “Outcomes”. How I did in a situation is more important than how it went. Does that make sense? We need to see things from God's perspective, because we can sometimes think just because it went well, it was okay, even though I wasn't well. Friends, God wants our obedience. And if we sin all the way, and still get what we want, that's not a win. That's a failure in God's eyes. You want to be successful, be holy, and you'll never fail.
Let's go to number five. Number five: “Secret sin is a myth.” Secret sin is a myth. The idea of having secret sin that nobody knows about is a cultural invention. It's a figment of your imagination. Put it up there with the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot. It's not real. God knows every sin we commit. He sees plainly every sinful act we do. He not only sees the action, but he knows every day wicked intention of our hearts. And so, Joshua 7:13-15 is told to make an announcement. Hey, everyone, we've sinned. So, get ready tomorrow, all the tribes are going to pass by and then we're going to pick a tribe, and then all the clans are going to pass by, and then all the households of those clans, and then all the men of each of those households are we're going to find out who did this sin. Did you feel the tension of Joshua 7:16-18, and imagine being there for this scene? “So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel near tribe by tribe, and the tribe of Judah was taken. And he brought near the clans of Judah, and the clan of the Zerahites was taken. And he brought near the clan of the Zerahites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. And he brought near his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.” some interesting things here in Achen’s confession. Joshua tells him give glory to God. Look at verse 19. He says, “My son give glory to Yahweh God of Israel, give him praise.” And tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me. Give God glory by confessing your sin. Now, how does he do that? We'll see this in a second.
But notice the clarity with which Achen sees his sin. First, he understands who he has sinned against. Joshua 7:20. He says, “I have sinned against YHWH, God of Israel. And this is what I did. I took a nice cloak and I took some silver and some gold.” Achen notice not only confesses what happened, he understands who his sin was against. It's against God first. He also understands how his sin happened in his heart. I want you to notice this. Look at Joshua 7:21, he says, “when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shine are two hundred shekels of silver, bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, then I coveted them. And I took them.” A kid says, I saw it, I coveted it. I took it. And as I read that, I was like, man, I feel like I've heard this somewhere before. And so, I did a little work here. I have it on the screen for you. Take a look. So here on the left side, we have Joshua chapter 7. He says, rah, I saw, he says hamad, I coveted, I desired. And it's a different conjugation of the word laqach. It's, I took it. Alright, so I saw it, I covered it, I took it. I'm like, I feel like I've seen it in the Bible before. And I have, because I looked it up. And it's the exact same in the Hebrew. Go ahead. And next slide. It's the exact same thing as Genesis 3, that “the woman saw the fruit. And she saw that it was desirable.” It was intriguing, and she took it and gave to her husband. Now in one sense, this is just a side note. This helps us understand how sin works. Sin has this seeing, coveting in the heart, and taking pattern to it.
Unless you think that's just an Old Testament idea, I have up here James chapter 1 that says, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire, when it is conceived, gives birth to sin. And sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death. So, this is how sin works. This is a huge help for us. Because if we want to fight sin, we understand there's a seeing level, a desiring level, and then an actual action level. So yes, fight it on the actions, and maybe fight it on the scene, and also fight the desires first, before you get to the action. But that's not the point of this.
Achen’s understanding of sin further incriminates him. It shows how wicked his sin was. It shows that he's fully aware of the night before, when Joshua makes this announcement. And Achen, sitting there in his bed, and possibly his whole family is thinking the same thing. And maybe they're talking about it going twelve tribes. That's a one and twelve shot. We're fine. And then think about all the clans that are within Judah and think of all the households in each clan. The odds are so low, we're fine. And as every single time there's one less person and the net is getting narrower and narrower. Achen is going, now they're not going to figure out it's me. They're not going to know it's me. I can hide it. I can hide away from it. I don't have to confess this. Achen refused to confess his sin even though he clearly understood it. Now, some of you are thinking, what are you talking about? Doesn't he confess his sin? And I thought if we confess our sins, we are socially forgiven. This guy seems to confess his sin and ends up dead. So why would I confess mine? That's a good question. That's a good observation, if that's what you're thinking. Well, let me help us with that though. The word confession doesn't just mean to reveal. Like God knows we have to tell him and he's like, I know you did that. Like, God knows our sins before you know, we even tell anyone else he sees them in real time. You know, 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he's faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins.” That's 1 John 1:9. That word “confess” is helpful. It's homologeo, the Greek word “homo,” meaning “same,” and “logos,” meaning “word,” or sometimes “to speak.” It's to speak the same.
Confession is to talk about sin the way God talks about sin. That's why confessing your sin gives glory to God. Because you're agreeing with God. You're saying, God, you're right. I'm wrong. My sin was wicked. My sin was awful. My sin was as bad as you thought it was, not as bad as I think it is. And I'm agreeing with you, and I'm sorry. And guess what? When you do that, God is happy and quick, and it's within his nature to forgive us of our sins. Achen does not confess the way we mean confess. Achen was caught in his sin. His time to confess had ran out, the word “to be taken” means “caught” or “overtaken”. And Achen was caught by friends. He had the chance to confess, and he did it. But not because he wanted to, he was finally forced to.
Let's take our Bibles if we would, we're going to go here, Proverbs 28. Let's go to Proverbs 28. Because this is a helpful little verse on confession. This helps us think about confession rightly, because God is so merciful and ready and eager to forgive us of any sin that we turn to him broken over that sin, not just saying, agreeing with God and what we say, but agreeing with God and how we feel about that sin. But unconfessed sin will go unforgiven, every time, sins that we don't speak to God about, he will not forgive us for them. So, Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals his transgression will not prosper. But he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” If you conceal your sin, one of the ways we can seal our sins, we hide it, we cover it up. We have different bank accounts, or we go to different locations, or we turn off our location on our phone, or we delete our search history or we have all sorts of ways we try to hide our sin, or we lie about our sin. Or we mislabel our sin. I don't talk about sin in a way that's me doing something bad. I talk about sin as me as a victim of someone else's actions are a victim of my upbringing. We blame the devil, we blame our culture, we blame our parenting, we behave, we hide behind how civil, you know, everybody sins, they're doing it, too. So, I don't need to confess mine, or will hide behind these other things. We're doing good. So, we don't have to talk about the things we're doing sinful and wicked and wrong. There are so many ways that we try to avoid confession. And proverbs 28:13 reminds us of what's true with Achen. Those who do not confess their sin will not prosper. In fact, staying here in Proverbs 28. We see this with Achen already.
Number six lesson: “Sin must be judged.” Sin must be judged. God will judge sin, God's holiness demands justice, and you find Achen dead, and you find his family dead, and you find all he owed. And this happens again and again in the Bible. Those who are associated with God, but do not confess their sin, from King Saul to end and eyes and Sapphira. God eventually kills them because of their sin. In fact, when we were in Joshua there, it said there “in the Valley of a Achor,” like Achen, “Achor” means “trouble”. Trouble will come if you don't confess your sin. If you try to hide your sins, if you don't talk to God about your sin and ask for mercy, you likewise will perish.
Friend, if you're here this morning, and you're not a Christian, if you've not turned to Christ, this is a warning that judgment is coming. That God is going to judging it. Notice there is so much grace in this passage. Why? He can get a warning. He got a 24-hour warning. Hey, tomorrow, we're going to take care of this. Tomorrow this can come. Achen had time to say something. How would it have gone? We don't know; the text doesn't say. But I'll say this. You don't know when your last chance will be to uncover your sin. You don't know when your last chance will be to confess your sin to God. You don't know when your last opportunity will be. Even this morning, it might be for you, God's grace that you get to hear this message again. There's a lot you don't know. But you do know this. Proverbs 28:13, “Be he who confesses and forsakes them, his sin will obtain mercy.” You can receive mercy today. God is a God of justice. And he is as ready to show mercy on any sinner who repents, any sinner who uncovered their sin. That's for you, Christian, if you've had some sin in your life that you've not talked about, talk to him, and he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins. And if you're not a Christian, no matter how much you've sinned, if you confess your sin today, he will forgive. He did this for Rahab. Already in that same book of Joshua. He'll do this for you today, because that's who he is. Because there's more grace in Christ than there is sin in you. Because he is the God who is happy and willing to take your sins, cast them into the sea and remember them no more. He is the one who slaughtered his son, whose Holy Son died for sinners. That, as we say, at the beginning, when sinners plunged themselves beneath that flood, they lose all their guilty stains. If you uncover your sin before God, he will happily and quickly and permanently and eternally recover them with the blood of Jesus as if they never happened. That's the kind of forgiveness you can have today in Christ because that is who our God is. He gives mercy, mercy that on the cross, he had his Son take the judgment that you ultimately deserve, so that you don't have to face an Achen-like judgment for eternity. There are people who would love to talk to you about the grace and mercy of Jesus, the God who doesn't just say, straighten up and then I'll be nice to you, who says, oh, no, I love you. And I'll give you mercy. And I'll change you, after I forgive you. Uncover your sin. Better they be uncovered on this day, than that day. For Christians, we need to view our sin rightly. And we need to be thankful. I’ve got to be honest, it's the week of Thanksgiving. And there's a strange providence of God that we're tackling this passage Thanksgiving week. Because as I'm asked to preach four days before Thanksgiving, I'm going to Joshua 7. Just doesn't seem like the warm fuzzy passage that you like would go with a Thanksgiving, right? I just have a hard time putting like orange and yellow autumn leaves over Joshua chapter 7. Can we find something a little nicer, right? It was something to give thanks for. For believers, there's nothing we could be more thankful for. Then all our sin was paid for by Christ, that on the cross; he bore it all. And we bear our sins on our account. No more. I'm accepted by God now because of Jesus. And when I get to Heaven one day, and if some angel were to say how to get here, how'd you make it? I'm not going to say, well, it's because I did this, because I clean myself up, because I lived a good life. I'm going to say, no, it's because Jesus died for my sin. I uncovered my sin before God, and he showed me mercy and forgave all my sin. All Glory be to him alone. Let's pray together.
Heavenly Father, we do praise you and thank you for your grace. God, we do ask that you would forgive us for the ways that we minimize sin on our own hearts, often that we have certain sins that are pet sins that we don't think are that big of a deal. God, I do pray that you would forgive us if there are sins that we've not been thinking about clearly. God, I pray that you forgive us if we've been numb to sins that are affecting others in our life. Father, I pray you'd help us, maybe not just a confession to you this week, but to confess secret sins to others, maybe even others in this room that we've been harming or lying to. And Father, I do pray that everyone in this room will at least confess their sins to you. And if there are any in here that do not know you, that you would save them and help them to see there's no such thing as secret sin, and they would confess it and find, as you promise, mercy. We thank you that you're a good and gracious and forgiving God. May we boast in your forgiveness alone. We pray these things in your Son's name. Amen.
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