• Steve Hatter
Caution Avalanche Danger Sign

Have you ever witnessed an actual avalanche? Since we live in Alaska, I’m sure a few of you have. I’ve only seen the terrible aftermath that results when thousands of tons of snow, ice, and debris crash downward under the inexorable power of gravity.

I have seen avalanche videos that come close to the live experience of noise, and power, and gaining momentum that totally obliterates all things standing in its downward path before the avalanche energy comes into a quiet state of completion. What remains—the proverbial “after” picture—is a veritable portrait of destruction and devastation. Mudslides are like that too, and heaven forbid when frail human beings are caught in the downward cascading of such things with no escape.

I’m seeing how a choice to sin can begin an avalanche of horrible consequences. In the end, only God can know the full extent of these consequences when all the costs are counted. James 1:14-15 speaks to this idea of a building negative momentum associated with sin:

14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

In the moment of temptation to disobey God, people do not think about the potential consequences. They also cannot imagine getting caught. But Scripture tells us that for both the unbeliever and for the regenerate Christan, two things are sure:

First, there will be “growing” negative temporal consequences. God sovereignly determines the scope and scale, but it is axiomatic, there will come pain to the sinner and to those who are caught in the fallout.

Second, sin will always both haunt the sinner and, whether in this life or the next, be uncovered in judgment by the eternal Judge—God Almighty. Numbers 32:23 expresses:

23 But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.

A really good explanation of this Old Testament warning from Moses to the tribes of Israel found in Numbers can be found at GotQuestions.org if you want to go deeper, but here are some quoted and paraphrased thoughts from that treatment:

“The nature of sin is such that, whether or not others discover your sin, your sin will ‘discover you.’ You cannot run from the consequences. Sin carries within itself the power to pay the sinner back (and absent the grace of God in salvation) and sin’s payback is hell. Don’t even think about toying with sin. It cannot be tamed, outrun, or shaken off. No matter how safe you think you are, if you are a sinner, your sin will find you out.”

Moreover, Moses’ warning to the tribes of Israel, “be sure your sin will find you out,” is echoed by Paul: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).

Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scriptures alone, to the glory of God alone is the only way to escape sin’s death consequences —spiritual death—and be forgiven. Romans 10:9; 1 John 2:2; and Revelation 1:5 speak of the death and resurrection of Christ in this way. All people have and will sin, but only believers have hope.

So practically, we must see these timeless truths playing out all around us, and in terms of believers and unbelievers. In my military time, I have witnessed great Air Force leaders—warrior generals—who have been felled by a bad decision to draw close to a subordinate in an inappropriate way. That first bad decision then initiates a chain reaction of compounding bad decisions, beginning an avalanche of negative temporal consequences that damage far and wide and for decades or more.

I’ve watched the slow train wreck in motion. When something illegal or illicit is found out….as it always is…great and powerful leaders have lost their jobs, their reputations, their marriages, and their future. But the damage is never isolated to the sinner alone. The negative impact spreads far and wide. You could say that the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth-order effects will be almost incalculable and will ripple for lifetimes. It is like a destructive detonation that sends shock waves out in ever-widening concentric circles.

However, even with total temporal devastation, the Christian has hope. Even a disqualified leader, if able to repent like King David in the aftermath of his horrendous adultery and murder, can find restoration. The job and probably the marriage could be lost forever, but eternal security covered in Christ’s righteousness is all that really matters. Unfortunately, the unbeliever has no access to such righteousness. He is not just temporally condemned but also eternally.

Our Bibles are filled with warnings that should both point us to Christ and keep us from sinning once we are His. He is good and His warnings are there for our good!