I noticed and found this very interesting this morning: sin is called deceitful and is subtle, but the “works of the flesh” are evident and obvious.
Sin is characterized by deceitfulness. It’s often undetected, even by those who are looking for it. It’s subtle and crafty. Satan’s primary activity appears to be that of deception. Deception is simply perceiving things differently than God without acknowledging so. I believe that sin, wickedness, and evil, as God sees them, don’t really look like what we would call “evil” or “sinful.” Sin and evil are subtle, that’s important to keep in mind.
Starting in Matthew 16:21, Peter tells Jesus that he shouldn’t go to the cross. Rather than acknowledging his concern, Jesus rebuked Peter and actually referred to him as Satan! Peter, in his great distress and concern, was just trying to protect Jesus’ flesh, but Jesus immediately rebukes him, stating Peter was using a natural, human perception of things rather than a spiritual view of things, and that one has to deny himSELF and take up his cross to follow Jesus. Peter was trying to protect Jesus’ self, and Jesus saw this as evil, as a hindrance to God’s will. Jesus had to die, this was his mandate from God. We too have to follow in his example.
I believe the primary meaning of sin is to “miss the mark” of God’s will and guidance, which, if yielded to, will lead to inward purity and the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth. In that sense, something we might call “good,” if not done in obedience to God, is actually “sin,” because God had no part in it – it originated in our own mind or heart, not His. In a similar way, the word “wicked” in scripture comes from the idea of twisting, as in the “wick” of a candle being made from twisted-together strands. Thus any sort of perverted or misapplied understanding or mindset is wicked, as are the actions that may result. Scripture declares: “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” ONLY as we understand in our heart and apply what Jesus and the apostles really meant, can we be righteous, meaning “in a right standing and relationship,” before God. Wickedness is empowered by deception.
(Hebrews 3) 12 “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
(2 Timothy 3) 13 “But evil men and impostors will proceed to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
(Revelation 19) 20 “And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image…”
(Revelation 20) 7 “When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, 8 and will come out to deceive the nations…”
Many things we call “sin” are really what scripture calls “the works of the flesh.” In contrast to subtle, deceptive sin, the works of the flesh are “evident,” meaning they are obvious, easily seen and recognized.
(Galatians 5) 19 “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality…those who practice such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
The reason practicing the works of the flesh will keep one out of the kingdom of God is simple – the flesh, or your SELF, is opposed to God, and to follow it is to establish the kingdom of SELF and to make SELF your God. Everything labeled as a “work of the flesh” is aimed to gratify oneself. There is no consideration of God, no self-denial in sexual immorality, anger, strife, divisions, envy, drunkenness, divisions, etc. Sin has to do with independence from God – acting from or for self rather than God. When we establish the kingdom of self rather than God’s kingdom, we commit treason, mutiny. This is sin, this offends Him. More than watching a bad movie or kicking the dog, establishing self is the real offense. Salvation, which we are told to “work out,” has to do with being delivered from the influence of self.
Conclusion: If you want to be righteous, free from wickedness or evil, then completely let go of all that YOU have acquired in terms of your beliefs and understandings, and let God’s spirit teach you. If you want to be pure and without sin, then do nothing from yourSELF, but learn to discern the Father’s will and follow Him. Seek God, get quiet and still, ask Him to reveal Himself to you, TRUST Him to do it, look for His guidance, rely upon Him. 1 John 2:27 is a confirmation of this. Remember this – if you humbly, before God, acknowledge that you lack sight and clarity, you cannot be deceived. I believe God gives grace to the humble. Grace is the influence of the spirit of God which will teach you.
Galatians 5:19-21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, (21) envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.