Words elicit images in the mind. Phrases do much the same. Ever been asked to use one word to describe something? Words convey information, true, but also at play is our familiarity with the language we hear and/or use. From our youth, we learned that the heart is where good things live- love and smiles. In reality the “heart” is the strongest muscle in the human body where our lifeblood pistons through our bodies. We understand what is meant by context, but this takes experience, doesn’t it?
What might be described with the following details? A cold, sparse space. A place that is occupied by order of a higher authority. A place filled with regret and misery. A space from which it is impossible to escape. A place that by its very existence defines separation. Those who reside here are the epitome of being alone. A place where many have resided. Where might I be describing? Jail, right?
In truth I am referring to sin, but spiritually speaking they are linked. The choice of sin by humanity equates to a prison sentence of sorts. See how awfully similar they are according to the Scriptures. Firstly, sin is a transgression of Law, but of God’s not necessarily man’s. It is the purview of State and Highway patrolmen to serve citations to those who go above the posted speed limit. The offending parties have transgressed, read: gone too far with respect to the speed limit. Likewise, with sin, the choice to do so, in reality is a choice to go too far. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” (KJV 1John3:4) NKJV renders this lawlessness. One has behaved as if there was no law. Naturally, this brings about punishment from the Judge. “Let the heavens declare His righteousness, For God Himself is Judge. Selah” (Psalm50:6)
How would you describe death? Fundamentally death is a separation, most associated with the soul leaving the body. We also see thru the word of God that sin carries with it the heavy price of death, but in this wise, the offender being separated from God. Secondly, we find the punishment for sin is death. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Rom.6:23) Death in this light is a type of prison, is it not? Serving a punishment from a righteous Judge, being separate from Him, all one’s pleading to no effect. Is not a prisoner separate from the freedoms he or she once enjoyed? Are they not locked in so that they are forbidden to enjoy society at large? For all intents and purposes, death brought about by sin is a cage.
Human society and the laws of the governed have different levels of punishment for those who break them. It stands to reason that someone who shoplifts, regardless of motive, ought not receive the same punishment as a one who commits mass murder. While both are offences, one is obviously more severe, and sentencing from any judge of sound mind indicates this. From the righteous Judge, God, all sin carries the same punishment. There are no degrees of transgression. But for man, deception carries little disciplining while adultery is weighed much more awful. The Book of James is filled with everyday application for Christian living, and in it, James implores the readers of his epistle to not deceive themselves about this aspect of sin. “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (Jas. 1:15-16) Lest we fall into the same trap, sin brought about by our own wants (coupled with the Adversary’s temptations) leads to death. Notice how James does not give a graduated scale for individual sins. So, a warning for the First Century disciples and a warning for us today, is one that should be frightening in its simplicity and severity.
Thirdly, the prison of sin is inescapable… on our own. There are no Hollywood-like dramatic prison escapes with sin. There are no loopholes, no technicalities, no oversights. Jesus taught the same, “Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.” (John 8:21) He was speaking to a mixed audience, many believed, some did not. Very similar to James’ warning, Jesus was attempting to show the gravity of the punishment of sin. This death is not something from which one can free him or herself. Prison escapes are possible in the physical world but are accomplished with planning, strength, and (usually key) lapses of the watchguard. Jesus says the soul that sins, immediately finds that escape is impossible via their own means and effort. There is only one way out of our “prison”, only one key so to speak. That being the offering of the Son of God. No amount of pleading your case, screaming of your plight, petitioning to the Judge is sufficient to open the doors of sin. And this righteous Judge has seen to it that the guilty have the opportunity to be free but there is only one way. No half-steps. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14) The guilty bare the mark of condemnation, orange jumpsuits and living behind steel bars. Those that are innocent have no need of those things as they are free. Spiritually speaking, only the Savior has the power to do this. The Savior’s plain words to the first called twelve when teaching about serving one another, cited Himself as the example of servitude, going the entire way to dying for the sins of the world. Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” To complete the thought from Romans 6:23 “… but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Prison is a bleak, cold space with little prospects for anything that might resemble hope. And yet… while we draw breath, we are afforded hope. Sin brings steep punishment, and yet the rewards found once free from sin are more untold!