Well, if the title didn’t give it away, this isn’t exactly what you would call a “warm and fuzzy” post. Not that I’m into writing warm and fuzzy things. Indeed, I prefer to dig into the dark, hard places of life where our need for God is glaringly apparent. But even so, I’ve found in my writing and the writing of many others an unfortunate reality: a lack of focus on the inescapable consequences of sin.

Please hear me clearly: I am a huge proponent of grace, embracing God’s forgiveness, and living in the power of His transformative grace. But there is another side to the equation, and I don’t believe we’re doing ourselves any favors by ignoring it.

It’s perfectly understandable why we don’t talk much about sin, be it in articles, our regular conversations, or even at church. It’s uncomfortable. It’s awkward. If given the chance to talk about the realities of my sin or the sin of others, or undergo a root canal, I would probably choose the latter. Facing sin—in ourselves and in others—forces us to rip off the mask of perfection and pride and stand humbly in the reality of our fallen nature.

The problem is, God isn’t remiss to address our sin. Indeed, the very reason we need the grace we so often talk, write, and sing about is because of that sin.

I was struck this week by the words of James:

When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death (James 1:13-15 NIV).

Those words left the page and slapped me across the face … death? It’s a shocking proposition, because we so often coddle ourselves and soften the blow of our sin with the beauty of grace.

All of James was a bit stunning, because he tells it. His letter reminds us that faith without deeds is dead (James 2:26 NIV), that Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God (James 4:4 NIV), and that Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins (James 4:17 NIV).

It was an unsettling reminder of how often we don’t hear or listen to the cold, hard truth: our sin has consequences. In the midst of James’s hard-hitting, no-nonsense instructions, he recognized that The Lord is full of compassion and mercy (James 5:11 NIV). But as wonderful and comforting as these attributes are, they were never designed to remove the consequences of our actions.

God forgave Adam and Eve and extended grace to them—but they still had to leave Eden.

God forgave Abraham for taking matters into his own hands with Hagar—but he still had to live with the messy results of his actions.

And God forgave David, a person He called a man after my own heart (Acts 13:22 NIV)—but even that enviable title couldn’t spare David the disastrous consequences of his lust, adultery, and murder.

I don’t write this with the intent of being negative or harsh—rather, I write it as a kind of “wake up” call to you and to me. Our behavior matters. Our sin matters. Yes, God’s mercy and grace are amazing gifts—but His ultimate desire is that we would live by the Spirit and thus not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:16 NIV).

Because of God’s deep and abiding love for us, He longs for us to avoid the inevitable consequences of our sin. When we do fail, God’s lavish forgiveness and grace stand ready to embrace our repentant hearts … but I, for one, would prefer to experience the blessing that follows obedience—and I’m guessing you would, too!

What about you? Is there an area of your life where you’re tempted to downplay the consequences of your thoughts and actions? Is the enemy enticing you to redefine your behavior with a term a little softer and more palatable than “sin”?

Dear reader, don’t take the bait. Don’t believe the lie that your sin is harmless. Meditate on the words of Jesus when He said:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10 NIV).

I don’t know about you, but life to the full sounds pretty great to me. May we be willing to face the cold reality of our sin and fall humbly at our Savior’s feet, knowing that in Him we have all we need to live an obedient, abundant life.