[The progression of Saul’s sins from 1 Samuel 13 are easily documented]: First comes the tyranny of the urgent, the encroaching pressure from surrounding circumstances. This is followed by the insecurity and self-doubt arising from a lack of total reliance on God. Finally, there follows the rebellion itself – the pitiful human attempt to take matters into our own hands, which is tantamount to usurping, or at least presuming upon, the authority of God.
Our minds are mental greenhouses where unlawful thoughts, once planted, are nurtured and watered before being transplanted into the real world of unlawful actions… These actions are savored in the mind long before they are enjoyed in reality. The thought life, then, is our first line of defense in the battle of self-control.
It’s a funny thing about us human beings: not many of us doubt God’s existence and then start sinning. Most of us sin and then start doubting His existence.
Imagination is a God-given gift; but if it is fed dirt by the eye, it will be dirty. All sin, not least sexual sin, begins with the imagination. Therefore what feeds the imagination is of maximum importance in the pursuit of kingdom righteousness (Phil. 4:8).
Though gradually, though no one remembers exactly how it happened, the unthinkable becomes tolerable. And then acceptable. And then legal. And then applaudable.
The first degree [of temptation] relates to the mind – it is dragged away from its duties by the deceit of sin. The second aims at the affections – they are enticed and entangled. The third overcomes the will – the consent of the will is the conception of actual sin. The fourth degree disrupts our way of life as sin is born into it. The fifth is the flesh’s goal, a hardened life of sin, which leads to eternal death (James 1:14-15).
No matter where it ends, sin always begins when an evil thought is sown in the mind and heart.
Sin in the mind goes to work in the emotions. That incites the will, which yields the act.
First we practice sin, then defend it, then boast of it.
Sin needs darkness to grow – it needs isolation disguised as “privacy,” and prideful self-sufficiency disguised as “strength.” Once these conditions prevail, sin is watered with the acid of shame, which then makes darkness appear more attractive to the sinner than light (Mark Dever and Paul Alexander).
Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head.
St. Augustine teaches us that there is in each man a Serpent, an Eve, and an Adam. Our senses and natural propensities are the Serpent; the excitable desire is the Eve; and reason is the Adam. Our nature tempts us perpetually; criminal desire is often excited; but sin is not completed till reason consents.
One sin leads to another. Failure in our love to God always results in failure in our love to our neighbor.
Imagination is the hotbed where this sin is too often hatched. Guard your thoughts, and there will be little fear about your actions.
Great illnesses seldom attack the body, without a previous train of premonitory symptoms. Great falls seldom happen to a saint, without a previous course of secret backsliding. The church and the world are sometimes shocked by the sudden misconduct of some great professor of religion. Believers are discouraged and stumbled by it. The enemies of God rejoice and blaspheme. But if the truth could be known, the explanation of such cases would generally be found to have been private departure from God. Men fall in private, long before they fall in public. The tree falls with a great crash, but the secret decay which accounts for it, is often not discovered until it is down on the ground.