One Sunday, when Dennis Swanberg was a kid of six or seven, he went to a church service where the pastor asked, dramatically, “What shall we do with sin?” Too young to understand that this was a rhetorical question, Dennis looked around, thinking, “Why isn’t anyone answering him?” When no one spoke up, Dennis stood up, shrugged, and mouthed the words, “We don’t know.”
The preacher didn’t notice the little guy, and later in the sermon, he asked again, “What shall we do with sin?” Dennis felt so sorry for the preacher that he stood up and motioned silently, “We don’t know. I don’t know. You don’t know. Only God knows. Don’t ask us, ask him.”
Before long, the preacher asked the question one last time, seriously, slowly and dramatically, “What shall we do with sin?”
Little Dennis couldn’t take it anymore. He jumped to his feet and climbed up on the pew. Inspired by a phrase made famous by Barney Fife of the old Andy Griffith Show, he yelled, “Nip it in the bud! You gotta nip it in the bud!”
You know what? Little Dennis was right. I’ve lived long enough to learn the hard way that sin
- starts as a thought,
- grows into an imagination,
- and can then become a stronghold.
The “bud” stage is when it’s just a thought. We need to stop sin right there before it can move to the imagination stage, where we roll the idea over in our minds, thinking what it would be like. (Probably wondering if we would get caught, or asking ourselves if it’s really wrong, or convincing ourselves that lots of other people do it.) If we imagine a particular sin long enough, we’ll probably do it. If we continue in that sin, it will become a stronghold in our lives, a place in us that we guard. We’ll fortify it against God’s intrusion.
The Bible tells us what do with sin. Here are the Four R’s of nipping it in the bud.
- Recognize the sin. There’s no denying that we’re sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV).
- Repent of the sin. Turn away from it. The Bible tells us to fight sin. It also tells us we have the power to win. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:29 NIVa).
- Receive God’s forgiveness. “I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:5 NIVb).
- Reckon (or consider) ourselves dead to the sin. In the south we say, “I reckon I can do that.” Look at Romans 6:11-14 (NLT). “So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.” We are not slaves to sin!
An old Indian proverb says, “The best place to kill a cobra is in the egg.” The best place to kill a sin in our lives is in our thought life. So what shall we do with sin?
Nip it in the bud!
 Swanberg, Dennis. Swan’s Soup and Salad. West Monroe, Louisiana: Howard Publishing, 1995, p. 21-23. Used by permission.
photo by Katherine Volkovski via Unsplash.com