Way of the Transgressor

Scripture: Hebrews 11:24-25, Acts 7:20-22
One of the frequent complaints made by young people about religion is, "I can't have a good time. I have to give up too much to be a Christian." Is this really true? Is there a lasting joy found in the world? What does the Bible say about salvation and freedom.
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One of the most frequent and most mistaken complaints that young people make against religion is this: "Oh, I can't have a good time. I have to give up too much to be a Christian." I want us to take a long look at this concept today, friends. Is it true? If so, we may have to change our doctrines a bit and especially change our approach to teenagers. Let me tell you something. I have talked to young people in many lands who tried everything this world could offer them. Then they turned to Christ and tasted the joy of conversion. I have yet to hear one of those young people prefer sin over salvation. Do you know why? Because sin is as old as the hills there's nothing new about it. In fact, sin is the most boring thing in all the world. This is why sinners are always rushing around seeking something more exciting than the last thing.

You see, it plays out very quickly because it's based entirely on emotion. The pleasures of sin are short-lived. Passion and impulse are very shallow and expends itself quickly and then leaves an aftermath of despair. This is why Satan uses feeling as one of his most fantastic weapons against young people. It is so deceptive. It can be so wonderful as a beginning and yet so empty at the end. The devil is not concerned, of course, about the future. He wants you to forget it and just live for the present, live for today He wants you to keep finding present excitement instead of thinking about the day of accounting just before us.

In Hebrews 11:24,25 we find the experiences of Moses: "And by faith Moses when he was come to years refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.''

Now friends, notice that there are pleasures in sin. Moses admitted it, but they are only for a season. Just remember that. Few realize what Moses had to give up in order to follow God. What courage it must have required on his part! It says he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Evidently he was being urged to stay there in the palace. He was tempted, no doubt, to enjoy those luxuries and pleasures of an Oriental palace. He was a red-blooded youth, after all. Fleshly attractions surrounded him in that setting. He had access to every physical thrill, I suppose, that the evil world of his day could offer. Actually, he had every prospect before him to please a carnal heart. He was the crown prince. Nothing was held back from him. I suppose Satan painted the temptations in their most vivid colors, too, to allure him, to fascinate him, to excite him. It must have seemed to Moses that this was the way to eternal fame and glory, to stay right there and become the next Pharaoh of Egypt. This was the way to perpetuate his name as the king of Egypt. He had no way of knowing, of course, that the very opposite was true.

I have visited the mummy room of the great Cairo museum. I looked down the list of names of those who ruled over the ancient country of Egypt. Moses' name isn't there! You know why, friends? Because Moses is no mummy. He is in heaven now. He was raised from the dead, according to the book of Jude. He has been in heaven now for many, many years. In the face of incredible opposition he gave up a kingdom. He was a handsome young fellow, apparently. In Acts 7:20,22 we read these words: "in which time Moses was born and was exceeding fair and nourished up in his father's house three months. And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was mighty in words and in deed." Evidently he was talented, personable and very intelligent. He had what every person dreams of having, and yet he chose to suffer affliction with God's people, esteeming the reproaches for Christ as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.

Now consider this, friends. If reproach and humiliation in the cause of Christ can yield so much happiness, what will it be like to see Jesus face to face? What must be the joy of His unveiled glory if His humiliation and reproaches can bring this kind of experience as it did to Moses? No wonder the Bible says, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard the things that God hath prepared for his people."

Today the name of Moses is on the tongue of multitudes of people. The Pharaohs are dead and forgotten. They died miserably, most of them, often without achieving any happiness at all in this life. The way of the transgressor is hard, indeed. lt may not seem that way at the time temptation comes. The flesh may say, "Go ahead and enjoy yourself. Have a good time! Give way to your feelings." Impulse will urge us to enjoy the sensual pleasures that are always at hand. Moses felt that physical craving and desire, but he also heard the voice of conscience and the voice of principle speaking. He wisely subdued those passions and chose obedience to God rather than surrender to fleshly lusts. If we could see Moses in heaven today, we would not think for a moment that he made a mistake in his choices.

Joseph had a similar experience, also, down in Egypt. Probably no one faced any more severe physical test than he did. Powerful emotions sought to capture his will. Satan adorned the place and moment of that temptation with all the glamor and allure that could possibly be put into it. But again, principle won out. We are constantly faced by this question, friends. Shall we live by impulse or principle? Shall we do what comes naturally, give way to feeling, please self? Or shall we follow principle, deny self, and use our will to do the right thing?

Now, let us think of a young person who did not win out. Jesus talked about him in that parable of the prodigal son. This youth came to the crossroads experience, too. Satan painted his delusive pictures with the same glamorous prospects of the flesh and the world. Moses and Joseph had faced it earlier. But again this subtle appeal was made of freedom and of having one's own way. Listen, friends, the word "freedom" is one of the most misunderstood words in the English language. The devil has made capital out of it. The absolute freedom that the devil talks about is a pure figment of the imagination. Let us not pretend that there is such a thing, because there isn't. The stars don't have it, they are hemmed in by law. The ocean doesn't have it, it's also controlled by law. Man doesn't have it, he is hemmed in by other men. How free is a man in a modern city, anyway? He is only as free as the rights of his neighbor allow him to be. The attempt to find freedom without conscience always ends in the same tragic way. The unforgettable story of the prodigal son who took freedom and used it to enslave himself is a perfect example of what I am talking about. He walked down the road one sunny morning with his young blood singing, "Don't fence me in." No one was going to tell him what to do and when to come in at night and how to spend his money. There would be no rules, no stuffy religion to interfere with his rights. With a toss of his head, he left it all behind, parental discipline, moral restraint, religion, responsibility, everything. Just a toss of his head and he was free. Free to do what? Free to do as he pleased? Free to follow self? This false freedom, friends, led him into perfect slavery. The more he got what he wanted, the less he wanted what he got; and one day, he ran smack into the truth of it. He saw that freedom isn't merely a matter of rights; its a matter of right! To act on rights as though there were no right or wrong is not liberty at all, it's just another form of slavery.

How many modern prodigals are drawn into the picture right here! Sin always begins with the assertion of rights. Yes, you have a right to choose, you can even choose to live for self if you want to; but you must understand this: that this is the most effective way to become a slave. When Jesus preached his first sermon he said he had come to set the captives free. Yet the first step he made in the process was to bind them to himself, He said, "Follow me." Now this is a great paradox of freedom, friends. We are never really free until we are bound, until we are voluntarily mastered by something greater than ourselves.

The person is never really free in music until he has bound himself to that music. An artist is never free in painting, a person is never free in preaching, or living a life until in heart and soul he is bound to that life. This is how true freedom is achieved. The freedom and happiness offered by Satan leads to the deepest slavery and misery. The poor prodigal saw that at last, and he said, "I will arise and go to my father and say, ‘I have sinned.''' Yes, he would be glad to exchange his freedom for the place of a servant at home.

Listen, I have talked to plenty of prodigals who were ready to do the same thing. Young men and women who set out to rule their own lives, to do what they pleased. Finally they came to themselves. The distinguished educator, Dr. Robert Fitz said: "Young people today are losing control of their lives. They are having babies when they don't want them; getting married before they really want to; taking jobs before they are prepared for them, and this is the new freedom."

It reminds me of a young fellow in the academy who quit school. He said, "I want to run my own life. I am tired of being told what to do. I am gonna get a job and be my own boss." He got a job all right, digging ditches. And for the rest of his life, he will have somebody telling him where to dig and when. Is this freedom, young people? What a laugh! What a hollow, tragic laugh! This mislabeled "new morality" is based on the false appeal of this counterfeit freedom. Scores of books have already been printed about it assuring us that there are no absolute rules: there are only impediments in the way of full development. The idea is to get rid of taboos; be your own selves; be uninhibited. Religion is just a superstition whose puritanical laws create unnatural restraints. Ah, it's a lovely dream, and it won't work, friends. Why won't it work? For the simple reason that there is a law; a silent invisible decree of nature that stands up on the road shaking its head and saying, "No, this is not the way of life."

So long as we are merely dreaming the idea, of course, nature pays no attention. We could debate a hundred falsehoods here: the earth is flat; two and two are five; moral restraints are unnecessary. So long as we just stand discussing those things nothing happens, but the moment we get on the road and begin to act upon those ideas, nature pays attention. Something in the moral world akin to gravity in the physical stands right up in the road saying, "This is not the road to life, this is the road to death.'' We can heed the warning, push on past if we want to. Long ago, Eve ignored that divine imperative. She trusted her emotions and feelings, based upon sight. Genesis 3:6, "And when the woman saw that the fruit was good. . .'' Listen, there are times when we must not even trust ourselves to look or linger. The longer we consider sin, the more demanding and reasonable it seems. If we argue with our emotions, we are going to lose strength of will over the thing. Our only safety is to flee from the devil's territory. Get off the enchanted ground of temptation. This is the only thing that spared Joseph. Some people think that maybe Joseph was cowardly. Why didn't he stay and correct the thinking of that woman? Obviously, her thoughts were going in wrong channels. Listen, he knew better than to argue with an attractive, seductive woman. He was wise enough to know that emotions can overpower the will. If Eve had run away when she was tempted, the Bible would carry a different story today.

David's life would have been relieved of much sorrow, too, if he had just run away. In the leisure of awakening from an afternoon nap, David was taken captive. He beheld a scene which he should have turned from instantly: but because he lingered and looked, his emotions overran his reason. First he looked; then he sent men to inquire after the woman, and then next, he took her unlawfully: and finally, he murdered her husband. Oh, the deceptiveness of excited emotion! We could spend a long time on the results of David's sin. He was never the same after that. His influence was weakened. The record of incest, murder, and rebellion was written into David's family for generations. He lost four of his children over that tragic sin.

Yes, the way of the transgressor is hard. If you are not sure, ask David. Ask the prodigal. Ask one of the 300,000 unwed mothers of last year. Ask the multitudes of pleasure-mad seekers after excitement.

Walter Winchell wrote in his column, "The saddest people in this world are those sitting in joints making believe they are having a good time. This Broadway street is full of amusement places trying to make people happy; yet its people are drenched in unhappiness." Maybe I could just ask some of you, perhaps you have tried it all. Another one did long, long ago and the record is left in the Bible of his great conclusion. He said, "I tried it all, I made a business of happiness: I worked hard at the game, surrounding myself with all the pleasures the senses could provide. I withheld not my heart from any joy, and then one day I drew a line under it and added it up. All I got was zero, all is vanity, a striving after the wind." So Solomon had learned like millions of others that whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. And the only really important thing, after all, is to keep God's commandments, for this is the whole duty of man, that was the great summation of Solomon's long life of searching after happiness. Serve God and keep the commandments. That's it, young people. Have you found it? Have you tried it? God bless you as you do so now.

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