Is there ever a time in a believer’s life when he has no choice but to sin? Thoughtful Christians would say no and quote I Corinthians 10:13. God will not allow us to be tempted beyond that which we are able and He will provide a way out. This is certainly a wonderful and precious promise. But I have to confess that there are times, in spite of this verse and more often than I’d like to admit, I think to myself, “Well, maybe in this case I just have no choice but to sin.”
This morning I was struck by Jerry Bridges’ insight into I Samuel 13 in his book The Pursuit of Holiness. King Saul was about to go into an important battle with the Philistines. He had been commanded to wait at Gilgal until Samuel came to offer the sacrifices. In the meantime, seven days had passed. The Philistines were an imminent threat and no doubt the men of Israel were getting restless. So Saul took it upon himself to offer the burnt offerings.
The Bible says that as soon as he was finished Samuel arrived and asked, “What have you done?” Saul was full of excuses: the people were scattering, you weren’t coming, and the Philistines were assembling. Therefore, Saul says, “I forced myself to offer the burnt offering.” Translation: I had to sin.
Samuel is unimpressed with Saul’s reasons. “You have acted foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you…now your kingdom will not endure.” In God’s eyes there was no excuse to disobey. Saul’s problem was the same as ours: he failed to grasp how much God hates sin. Saul needed to remember that sin is worse than Samuel’s tardiness, the Philistines attacking and the Israelites scattering.
According to the scriptures I never have to sin. I don’t have to get angry at the person who pulls out in front of me and drives slow. I don’t have to dwell on an image on a screen. I don’t have to revile when I’ve been reviled. I am in Christ and sin is no longer my master. Rather than looking at my circumstances I can look at the cross where I see God’s holy hatred of sin poured out on His beloved Son. In the cross, I see the terrible consequences of sin on full display and I see God’s self-sacrificing love as He suffers in my place. When I am focused on the cross I can clearly see how terrible sin is so that I can choose to live in obedience. In light of the cross the question could be: should I let the driver escape my wrath for having been momentarily inconvenienced or should I willfully offend a holy God?
The scriptures are clear: God will never put you in a position where you have no choice but to sin. In fact, He has promised that He will never tempt anyone to evil (James 1:13). It is good for me to remember that God has promised that in every temptation He will provide a way of escape. An important way of escape would be to set my mind upon the cross so that I can be reminded how holy God is, how terrible sin is and how far He is willing to go to deliver me from it.