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“Public Enemy Number One”

“Public Enemy Number One” poster

“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is transgression of the law.” —1 John 3:4

That is the Authorized Version, and of course that is true, but it is not all the truth. The Revised Version and several other translations make it clearer: “Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”

You see, sin is not necessarily simply the transgression of the law of God, for where there is no law, still, men sin. Sin is lawlessness. That is, sin is self-will; the will acting in independence of God.

Every little while our newspapers draw our attention to some outstanding enemy to our peace, our happiness, and the peace and happiness of the country and the human race, and they designate that one, “Public Enemy Number One.” I suppose if we were to think of any one individual under that title, we would think of that infamous mad-man, Hitler, as the greatest menace the world has ever known for many centuries. I want to speak of that which is behind every evil personality and which is responsible for all the wretchedness and all the misery and all the suffering that is in the world.

What Is The Greatest Enemy?

I know there are different theories as to this. Some have insisted that the greatest enemy to the race is ignorance or perhaps poverty. They have thought if all men could become cultured, if we could eliminate all our slums, if we could do away with all evil environment, if we could free men from poverty so that everybody would have a good living wage and be able to meet their needs without difficulty, that would make an end of the unrest and unhappiness and the wretchedness that is in the world. But the greatest enemy of the human race is not ignorance, not evil environment, it is not even poverty. The greatest enemy is sin, because sin is the root cause, the source of all these other evils. If sin had never come into the world, mankind would never have suffered from the manifold ills that afflict the race at the present time.

Sin Is Lawlessness

Sin is lawlessness. Just what is meant by that? Well, lawlessness is living in independence of law. Now God in His Word has given us certain laws, and there are other divine laws revealed in nature. The sinner flaunts the law of God. The sinner says, “I am going to live my own life, go my own way, and I am not going to be dictated to by anyone else. I am going to live as I please.” That is sin. That is how the race went wrong in the very beginning. In the Garden of Eden our first parents had everything heart could desire, but they were not willing to be subject to the law of God.

There was only one prohibition put upon them, but they were led by the tempter to believe that prohibition to be against their welfare. They thought they would be happier, they would get along better, if that prohibition did not rest upon them. Finally they were persuaded to take things in their own hands, to have their own way, in other words to become lawless. That is how sin came into the world.

And, oh, what a curse it has been all down through the centuries!

Sin An Enemy Of Nations Too

Not only is sin an enemy of the individual man, but sin is the enemy of every nation. We read in the fourteenth chapter of the book of Proverbs, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” The nations that have prospered most in this world have been the nations that have shown the greatest respect for the Word of God, in which is revealed the law of God. What we call civilization owes its blessings chiefly to the enlightenment that comes to men through the open Bible. We should thank God for the land in which we live, and for the lands from which many of our forebears came: Great Britain, the Scandinavian lands, and Germany as it once was, and the other lands where God’s Word has had free course. It was read freely; it was preached and proclaimed openly; and people sought to pattern their lives after what they learned in the Bible. They were taught the Bible in the day schools as well as in the church and Sunday schools. And those nations that have thus honored the Word of God have prospered and been blessed.

But we have been drifting, all of us as nations, drifting away from the Word of God. We have been turning our backs on the God of our fathers and on the truths once delivered to us; and the result is the terrible condition in which the world is found tonight. It is not Hitler, bad as he is, that brought all of this on, nor Hirohito, vain and foolish as he may be. But behind all these and other men is the awful fact of sin. That is our public enemy number one.

Secret Sins Will Be Brought Out Publicly

What a terrible enemy it is! All the worse because it works so furtively in the dark; secretly to begin with. And then afterward it comes out openly. Moses said in the ninetieth Psalm, “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.”

Many of us shudder when we look back and remember how at first we were led into secret sins, that perhaps others knew nothing of, at least we hoped they did not. But then the day came when we were no longer ashamed of those sins and we did openly what once we did only when we were hidden away, when we thought no eye was on us but the eye perhaps of someone who shared our secret sins with us. But all those hidden sins were open to God. There is not one sin that has ever been committed that His holy eye has not taken note of. Our…friends sing:

“Oh He hears all you say and He sees all you do,
And my Lord is a writin’ all the time.”

We are told in the Book that “God will bring every work into judgment with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.” Young man, young woman, if you have fallen under the power of any type of secret sin and you are hoping the world will never know about it, and that these things you realize to be wrong will never become public, let me remind you of this, there is an eye that is ever looking upon you, and some day you will have to face God about every one of these things. We read: “Some men’s sins are open beforehand to judgment; and some men they follow after.” You can understand that. Some men’s sins are manifest. You see that poor drunkard going down the street, and everybody knows what his sins are. You laugh at him! You might rather cry. You might rather weep as you see what a fool sin has made of a man who was some mother’s darling child and some father’s pride and joy, but who fell under the power of sin, perhaps secretly at first, and now it is openly manifested and he is despised by everybody. The libertine’s sins are open and manifest. At least he bears in his very face the marks of his depravity. And even if at times some of his sins are covered up, they are all manifest to God. Other men manage to go through this world without letting people know the sins that dominate their lives, but when at last they leave this scene behind them, they cannot evade their sins. Their sins follow after them, and like the very bloodhounds of Hell that they are, they will track them down to the very judgment bar of God and drag them into the pit of eternal woe. What a terrible thing sin is!

Old John Bunyan wrote this little line about sin:

“Sin is the living worm, the lasting fire;
Hell soon would lose its heat could sin expire.
Better sinless in hell than to be where
Heaven is and to be found a sinner there.

“One sinless, with infernals might do well,
But sin would make of heaven a very hell.
Fools make a mock of sin, will not believe
It carries such a dagger in its sleeve.

“How can it be, say they, that such a thing
So full of sweetness ere should wear a sting?
They know not that it is the very spell
Of sin to make men laugh themselves to hell.”

Sin Deceives, Binds, Hardens

That reminds us that sin is a deceiver, it is constantly fooling men with promises that it never keeps.

I do not suppose anyone taking up for the first time with any sin does so with the thought that some day he is going to come absolutely under the power of that thing. Rather with the frivolity of the youth of the present day he exclaims, “I will try anything once,” with the hope that he will get a new thrill, a little pleasure he had never known before, only to find eventually that what seemed so pleasant and agreeable at the start becomes like a series of links in a chain binding his soul, making him its captive, and so he finds it absolutely impossible to deliver himself from its power.

You remember that case of the tyrant of Syracuse who had a man in his kingdom who was said to be the best worker in iron in the entire country. The tyrant sent for him and said, “I wish you to bring your forge here and bring some metal. I want to see you make a chain.” The man was quite flattered and brought his forge and his metal and his implements and went to work in the presence of the tyrant and made one link after another until he made quite a long chain, and he said, “There, Sire, is a specimen of my work. It is so strong that if you put a team of horses on each end of it they would not be able to snap it. Hastily the tyrant called his guards and said to them, “Bind him with it and cast him into the prison.” He found he had been forging a chain that was to bind himself. That is the way with sin.

Young man, you remember the first time you dared take a glass of liquor. You thought it was rather smart, the “right” thing to do. You said, “Everybody is doing it. Oh, I know my father and mother would not approve. And those old fogies who used to teach me in Sunday School were always talking about the evils of alcoholic liquors, but a lot of people drink and you see how prosperous they are, and what agreeable companions they are.” You took that first drink, you thought you had entered a new experience of pleasureful sensation. But now you find you cannot do without it. The thing has got such a hold on you that you cannot break the habit that binds you.

You never saw a drunkard yet who started out with the thought of becoming a drunkard. You never knew a man yet who took the first glass and said to himself, “I am doing this in order that I may eventually fill a drunkard’s grave.” Not at all. But the Scripture says, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” And so it is with any other sin. Sin promises you lasting pleasure, but sin is a liar. Sin is a deceiver and sin is only seeking to ruin and to wreck your life both for time and for eternity. The Bible speaks of the deceitfulness of sin. It warns “lest any of you should be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” That is the effect that sin frequently committed has upon the heart and life, one becomes hardened. You know the old saying,

“Sow a thought and reap an act,
Sow an act and reap a habit,
Sow a habit and reap a character,
Sow a character and reap a destiny.”

So you start on the way and go on and on and on getting more and more under the power of sin until if you do not yield to the Lord Jesus Christ, if you do not turn to God in repentance, you will find eventually that the sin that seemed so pleasant to begin with has become a master from whose power you can never break for all eternity. Men and women lost forever in the pit of woe still have in their hearts a longing, a desire for the sins they committed while in this life, but it is impossible now to gratify those desires for they are in a place where God Himself has put them in order that they might not continue to curse the universe by living on in the things that blighted their lives here on Earth.

Death Follows Sin

Sin is the cause of death. There never would have been death in this world if it had not been for sin. We read, “Sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” And again, “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” First of all physical death, but more than that, eternal death, the second death which is the lake of fire. Think of the awful harvest of death that is the result of sin in these last seven or eight years, those millions of the finest specimens of our youth, both men and women and darling little children as well as those who were actually in the armed forces who have gone down to premature death because of this dreadful war. There would not have been a war if it had not been for sin. Sin is the actual murderer of every one of these people. How can anyone imagine they can find peace and happiness and joy serving such a master? Sin deceives and makes people believe it will do for them what it cannot do.

Another old poet said:

“Sin is composed of naught but subtle wiles,
It fawns and flatters and betrays by smiles.
‘Tis like the panther, or the crocodile
It seems to love, and promises no wile
It hides its sting, seems harmless as a dove
It hugs the soul, and hates when ‘t vows most love.
It secretly ensnares the soul it kills,
It plays the tyrant most by gilded pills.
No thief so vile nor treacherous as sin
Whom fools do hug and take much pleasure in.” —Benjamin Keach

What can you say of a man or a woman who deliberately goes on in sin when they know its character and they know what the results of a sinful life must be? The Bible declares that they are fools. We would not dare use that expression of mankind, but God’s Word uses it. God’s Word says, “Fools make a mock of sin.” They go on deliberately in that which God condemns and they sneer when one seeks to turn them away from it.

Sin Put Jesus On The Cross

More than that. Think of this: sin caused Calvary’s cross. If it had not been for sin, the Son of God would never have been nailed to that cross of shame. It was our sins that put Him there. The place where we get the best conception of what sin really is is the cross. When we stand gazing at that cross and see the holy, spotless Son of God nailed to that tree and hear His awful cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” we can get such an understanding of sin as we never find anywhere else. It was because sin had shut man up to a hopeless doom, so far as he himself was concerned, that God sent His only Son into the world that He might become the propitiation for our sin. And we read, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Think of that expression—He, the holy One; He, the sinless One, made sin! Does that mean that He really became sinful? Oh, no, not that; but it means that upon the cross He was enduring the judgment due to sin. He was treated as though Himself were the sinner as He stood in the place of guilty men and women who by their sins had forfeited all rights to Heaven and to be with God. He became the great sin-offering in some way that our poor, finite minds can never comprehend. God “laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” He bore our judgment. He was made a curse for us.

The Worst Sin

Oh, can you think of any worse ingratitude than to turn coldly away from Calvary saying, “Yes, I know; I know He was the Son of God. I know He was the sinless One. I know He died for sinners and therefore died for me because I am a sinner. But I am not ready to receive Him, I am not ready to trust Him. I am not ready to accept Him as my Saviour.” Oh, my dear friend, in that you become guilty of the worst sin you can possibly commit, for when Jesus said the Spirit of God, the Comforter, was coming to convict men of sin, He designated one particular sin: “Of sin because they believe not on me.” That is the worst sin of all! Christ on the cross dying to deliver you from your sin, every sin of unchastity, of licentiousness, of any form of immortality, of dishonesty, of profanity, of pride, or vanity, of malice, of hatred, yes, even murder—all these sins were atoned for when Jesus Christ died on the cross; so that now no matter what sin you might be guilty of, if you trust Him you can find complete atonement and a new life. But if you reject Him, then, you see, you become guilty of an eternal sin, because you reject the only remedy that God Himself could provide and has provided for salvation from sin. That is why we read in the third chapter of John’s Gospel, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already.” Why? “Because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

What To Do About Sin

Oh, friend, if you are here a Christ-rejector, I plead with you, do not allow another night to go by before you come to God in repentance confessing the awful sin of spurning the Son of His love. Tell Him you will trust Him, tell Him you will take Him as your Saviour. He waits to give you deliverance. He wants to save you. And there is no reason why you should go on under the power of this awful enemy of the human race and this enemy of God.

If you are not delivered from sin in your lifetime, you will have to be under the power of sin for all eternity. For in the last chapter of the book of Revelation we get these awful words: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still.” On the other hand we have the precious declaration, “He that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” What does it tell us? It tells us this, that character tends to permanency. If you go on in sin all through your life, you will be in sin through all eternity. You will never become better. If on the other hand you turn from sin and trust Christ and follow holiness and righteousness in life, holiness and righteousness will be your delight for all eternity. What are you going to do about it? It is up to you.

I never give an invitation to sinners to come to Christ but I wish I could come for them. I wish I could take their place and come to Christ as I did over fifty years ago and trust Him all anew for them. But I cannot do it. Every person must come to Christ for himself. You rejected Him yourself, now you must accept Him for yourself.

He said to some of old as He says to you tonight, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” On the other hand, He says, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” The water of life is the message of the Gospel. When you believe that message, when you believe Jesus Christ died for you, when you look on His blessed face and tell Him you trust Him for yourself, then not only are your sins forgiven, but He gives you a new nature that loves righteousness, loves holiness, hates sin, and hates iniquity, as a result of which you are enabled to live for God and to glorify Him. Are you going to do something about it tonight?

Will you come to Christ? Will you take Him as your Saviour? “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Do you want deliverance from sin? Will you come to Jesus? There is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved but the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Just as you are there’s a welcome for you,
Just as you are, come home;
Turning away from the old to the new,
Just as you are, come home.