There was a time many years ago when I smoked- cigarettes, pipes, cigars you name it. If it was remotely related to tobacco and could be inhaled, I smoked it. From unfiltered to imported cloves to twenty-five dollar apiece cigars, I availed myself of them all. And for the most part I enjoyed it.
Just about every one of my friends smoked as well, or at least the ones I spent most of my time with. We, my friends and I, would even go so far as to schedule evenings where we would get together to smoke the latest exotic cigar arrival.
My clove cigarettes were imported from Jakarta, packaged in their own metal tins. My premium cigars were custom ordered and special delivery. My regular tobacco cigarette brand (when I wanted to slum) was an iconic filter-less that brought with it decades of flair and mystique. I was sophisticated. Smoking was pleasurable, enjoyable and attractive.
Yes, there were days when it seemed I could not shake a raspy cough as quickly as I thought I should. And yes, I was not able to run as fast or as far as I could in younger days. I certainly saw the advertisements announcing the harmful effects of a lifestyle of smoking_ But hey! You know those are just someone’s opinions, they do not apply to me. And if I knew of a smoker who had developed a lung disease well, that was just their bad luck.
It did not matter that there was much written and documented proof pertaining to the truth of the harmful effects of tobacco usage. It also did not concern me that I knew people who were “eyewitnesses” to the poisonous nature of prolonged and repeated inhaling of smoke into ones lungs. (My very own Grandmother spend several bed-ridden years prior to her death, breathing through an oxygen tube due to decades of smoking which resulted in her lungs developing emphysema.) I was blind to reality and did not care for truth. All my friends did it, everyone was doing it. Not to mention that there was also a very real physical and psychological addiction that was fueling my habit. Would I quit even when encouraged that it was the right and needful thing to do? No way.
That is until the day I moved into a friends house to live and work together with them in an office in their home. I remember very distinctly the day. I arrived and unpacked my things in what would be my room on the main floor of the house. I deposited my computer and equipment in the shared office on the same floor and we all went out to dinner for a few hours to celebrate the move. Did I mention that my friends, the ones I had just moved in with were non-smokers? Oh, well they were.
When we arrived back at the house and entered through the front door on the main floor we were met with an incredibly offensive odor. It was an odor that was palpable. It seems my sophistication had stank up the house. My clothing and equipment absolutely reeked. In the pristine environment of their smoke-free home the result of the accumulation of all the smoke, tar and nicotine that comes with years of smoking was finally and agonizingly made apparent to me.
I cannot begin to describe the embarrassment and shame I felt at that moment. No, not from anything my friends said, in fact they were quite gracious with the whole thing. No, my shame and horror was a result of being forced to admit to something I had secretly known all along, yet denied, was true- smoking is a dirty thing. It is nasty, harmful, addictive and in no way is it glamorous or attractive. And for so long I was willing to deny the truth. Only until I entered that clean environment was I able to begin to see (or rather smell) the truth.
So, is this just a diatribe against smokers and or smoking in general? Absolutely not. In fact, the memories I shared are just to serve as an illustration from an even greater deception that we all allow ourselves to engage in. That being sin.
The Illustration Bible Dictionary by Matthew Easton defines sin as: “any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God”. Webster’s states that sin is: “The voluntary departure of a moral agent from a known rule of rectitude or duty, prescribed by God; any voluntary transgression of the divine law, or violation of a divine command; a wicked act; iniquity”.
There are plenty of documented proofs of the harmful effects of sin on humanity; murder, thievery, lies, to name three of the acts proscribed in the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20. I need not list any of the results from practicing just these three, let alone the other seven. The book of Exodus is of course part of the written proof of the existence and harmful effects of prolonged exposure to sin.
Just as the labels on my cigarette packages warned me of the dangers in their use. Scripture warns us that all mankind is born under the curse of sin and unless something is done to counter the effects of the curse all that are servants to sin will die. And not only a physical death, but a spiritual death, an eternal death.
James 1:14-15 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.
Now I know, even though I had heard of, felt, and even witnessed the negative effects of smoking I still did it. I WOULD NOT acknowledge nor except the truth. I could not except the truth until I encountered something cleaner than I was so that I could see just how dirty I really was. It is the same with sin. I could not begin to recognize just how dirty I was, how wretched I was until I encountered God. It is only when approached by the Holy and Pure God of heaven that we can “smell” the odor that is our sin.
Have you ever been around someone that was talking about Jesus, the Bible, or sin and you suddenly get very uncomfortable? That is that stench rising up and you just want to get away before you are exposed! Or have you ever been in church and you find yourself just wanting to weep because you recognize that your life is a lie and you are so messed up inside and you just know that it would feel so good to just listen to the preacher and pray for forgiveness… that is the clean Holiness of God exposing our filthiness.
I was able to quit smoking, ridding myself of that awful habit. I was also able to break free from the bondage of sin and the death penalty that comes with it- through the provision made by God in His Son, Jesus Christ. You see, the Bible, the Ten Commandments, the ordinances of the Law are God rules, He made the universe, He makes the rules. We broke them from the moment we decided to lie, cheat, steal, whatever. But God has mercy in that He made the rules and once we broke them there was no way we could ever make it right, the penalty was ours from that moment on. So God did the one thing He could to free us from that debt, He sent His Son to stand in our place and to receive the penalty for our debt. Jesus Christ died (sin brings forth death) as a result of our sins, so that we would not have to die. Because of this we must admit that we are indeed sinners and that since He gave His life for us so that we might live, we willingly submit to His authority and live for Him. Go read it for yourself, it is all right there in the Bible.
Be careful though, it is a clean house… but there is hope.
Romans 5:12-21 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned– for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.