Utter Insanity - Sinning Before the Face of God - by Dr. C. Matthew McMahonArticles on the Christian Walk, Systematic Theology and Practical Theology
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The Insane Asylum does not conjure up blissful meditations. It is a place where madmen live, the insane. We often associate horror movies to such a varied compendium of ideas. We think of large brawny orderlies helping twisted doctors to inject drugs into raving patients. These patients are dressed in tattered hospital gowns beating their heads against the walls of a padded room while drooling. Suddenly they are overtaken and injected with a dose of a drug that renders them unconscious. The orderlies then clothe them in the garb of the facility – a straight jacket. Howlings, screams and the unintelligible banter of the insane can be heard through the late hours of the night echoing in the halls of the Asylum.
Talking to these madmen is impossible. Strange looks, disquieted faces, frantically roaming eyes, and squeals of incomprehensible speech are all that attend these incoherent sorts. Some, possibly, are possessed by demons; those with greater strength than an average man, and these often foaming at the mouth. Others are just the victims of deranged mental psychosis. When insanity is seen in others, it should prompt the response of pity and humanitarianism. But what about when we are insane? It is my opinion that more than just those in the insane asylum are in fact insane. I believe most men are insane – utterly insane – including you, the reader, and including me, the writer. No, this is not a relative principal, or subjective opinion. I believe that I can prove to you, the reader, that all men who have ever lived are insane, though not in the same manner as you might think.
Some have defined insanity “tongue in cheek” as doing the same action over again and then desiring to see a different result from that action. I suppose that could be a humorous way of looking at it. But what I am intending is not humorous. I believe that men like you and me are truly insane. Why do I believe this?
Since the Fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden, men have continually attempted to appease God by their own merit. The proverbial apple does not fall far from the tree. Cain attempted to please God with a bad heart and wrong motive to worship in Genesis 4. Yes this was Adam’s son. Adam – you remember him don’t you? He is the one who plunged the human race into sin and wickedness because he thought he could please God in a manner other than what God required. He was not to eat of the tree – but Adam thought eating of the tree would be beneficial. It would make him more powerful. He thought in his own best interests that the apple would “make him as God” knowing good and evil – all this for the vanity of his own mind. The world entered into a downward spiral of morality and murder, and wickedness became the preeminent means of mortal expression. Lamech is a perfect example of this in Genesis 4:23ff. The devil had weaved his web of deceit quite well. Men were fallen, and in a fallen world they attempted time and time again to dismiss the word of God and implement the desires of their wicked heart over and above God. Will men ever learn? Will they continually try to appease the wrath of God by handing over blemished sacrifices of their own deceptive heart? The answer to this is a resounding “yes.” Men will always act in the greatest measure of insanity. Men will always sin. This is insane. Stop a moment and think about it. It is utterly insane. When you and I sin against Christ who redeemed us, we are acting insanely.
In the Hebrew text of Jeremiah 50:38 and Hosea 9:7, we have two different words which give examples of God’s statements concerning those who are “mad.” No, this is not a reference to being angry, but rather, to being filled with “madness” or insanity.” The word halal in its Hithpoel form means to “act madly,” or “act like a madman.” Hosea 9:7 uses the this form and reads, “The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.” The reason God is looking at the Israelites, the “spiritual men,” as “mad” or “insane” is a result of their continual disobedience – their sin. Spiritual men who sin before God are insane. They are mad. And God calls them what they are in this passage.
Jeremiah 50:38 uses the same word for being “mad” but the form is in the Hithpalpel. The text reads, “A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up: for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols.” They are clamoring around idols. God calls them insane, mad, for doing so. Have people in the past done this? Have others trodden upon the same road of destruction. Is this not the wide road that leads to destruction? To continue in the same manner as those who have gone fore them is madness; it is insanity. To sin is to act insanely.
Insanity is that Abraham sins and then Isaac sins in the same way attempting to pass off his wife as his sister. Did Isaac not learn form his father’s mistake, or did he simply expect another result? This is insane, yes, but insanity here is not based on the simple fact of a repeated sin. What makes continual sin insane is thinking one can escape the consequences of sin, and that God looks the other way. This is equally insane. Think of such insanity among the lives of the unregenerate. It is insanity for them to continue to stay in their fallen state, being content with it, and taking each day as if no consequences for any action shall come to pass. This is also utterly insane. It is utterly insane for wicked men to stay in their sin and continue to sin. They must be madmen – they are madmen. They must be idiotic and senseless, in the definitive form of those words. Yes, as a matter of fact, they are. Now, how much more it is insane for the people of God to continually sin? That is why in both passages (Jeremiah and Hosea) God is the one describing their stupidity. God’s covenant people are insane to continue in their sin, repeatedly committing the same acts over and over, even after God admonishes them time and time again to cease to do evil. Instead, it is often the case that they increase in evil, though chastisement ultimately comes upon them.
Look at the witness of history. The Bible is very clear about chastisement and judgment. Judgment, or justice practiced, will ultimately be given to those who do what is wicked in His sight. Judgment begins at the house of God. Do you think, as a Christian, you will escape judgment? If you do, then you are insane. Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” Chastisement is for now – what God does to us because we sin as a loving father, though we are acting insanely. Judgment comes later. We will be weighed in the balance of His righteous judgment, not for justification, but for sanctification, and we will be rewarded accordingly, or made destitute of rewards by the lack of godly actions.
Men who live in the world sin time and time again, and they desire to sin in a greater and greater manner. As with the Israelites of old, so men today even go so far as to “create” new ways to do evil. Jeremiah 4:22, “For My people are foolish, they have not known Me. They are silly children, and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, But to do good they have no knowledge.” Even the Israelites were “wise” in doing evil. The adjective here is akin to being “skillful” in the act, as if they practiced it – and they did. To continue in such sin is insanity. Unregenerate men sin even though they know there will be a day of judgment, and Christians sin knowing they will enter judgment and be judged for their works. To sin, then, in either case, is insane. It is insanity to sin before God who knows all things and sees all things, and records all things. Matthew 12:36, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” Do you shudder at such words because of your utter insanity? God has told you what to do and you do otherwise. You give into your flesh and you sin. You are drawn away and enticed to do evil instead of good. You know better. But you do it anyway. You would rather please yourself at that moment instead of God. You would rather gratify your shameful lusts for sin than humble yourself before the living Christ. That is insane.
A great proactive deterrence from our utter insanity is meditating on the Word of God, especially two major points in the Word: the death of Christ and the wrath of Christ. When we ponder on the death of Christ, and His word for dying for our sin, we are shamed. Peter wept bitterly after being “caught on the spot” by Christ when he denied Him three times. Matthew 26:75, “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.” And when Christ reinstated Peter, Peter was shamed again by Christ’s words, John 21:17, “He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” The Living Word has a way of shaming the wicked at heart. His very presence is a means of sanctification. Luke 5:8, “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” He is the One who died, was raised from the dead, and is alive for evermore. The resurrected Christ causes us to be shamed of our sin against Him, for we are instantly brought back to our senses once our folly is finished. And when the Holy Spirit reminds us of what we have done and whom we have sinned against, then our conviction takes over and shame occurs. 1 Corinthians 15:3, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Thinking about the blood of Christ and the death of Christ is a good deterrence from sinning again. But such deterrence does not work if we are not continually reminded of His death through study and meditation. If we are more prone to watch TV than to study, even that is insanity.
A second object of our meditation is a theological division of meditating on Christ’s death – that is thinking about the wrath of Christ. The wrath of Christ is coming, and it will clear the threshing floor – make no mistake. The unregenerate are scared silly of this day. When Christ returns the Scriptures say that wicked men will hide from the wrath of the Lamb, Revelation 6:15-17, “And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! “For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” But lest we forget, the Lamb – the crucified One, will also judge Christians. 1 Corinthians 11:31-32, “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.” Revelation 20:12, “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”
So, then, what possess a man, a Christian, to sin so rampantly before Christ who will one day judge them according tot heir works? The answer is self-love. We could “theologize” things a bit, but really, when you come right down to it, sin is elevated, molded, shaped, formed, cultivated and committed by an ardent self-love. At the time of your sin, you become a raving madman, forget your God, and sin against Him because you love your sin more than you love God at that precise moment. Unless some earthly mental disease plagues you, you will never become more biblically insane than at that moment. It is utterly insane to sin against the holy God of the Universe, and His Christ. There He is, watching you sin. He is right there. His eyes are on you. He knows your mind, your thoughts, your actions. He knows everything. He watches you commit sin. To forget that God is there is to act like the practical atheist who “forget God.” Calvin says that we as men are blind and intoxicated with self-love. Aquinas says that self-love is the origin of sin. Augustine says there is an “extravagant perversity in self-love.” They are right. It is even more extravagantly perverse when Christians give up their freedom in Christ to lay upon themselves the straight jacket of sin. Are we not aware that Christ will one day judge our works and our lives? Are we so prone to forgetfulness? Yes, as a matter of fact we are. We are reminded that we are forgetful people every time we “remember” the Lord’s death in the Supper. We are forgetful people and that alone makes us insane. We are forgetful people who forget the death of our Lord, and His soon return, which could happen at any time, and usher in the judgment.
Spiritual insanity is curable. It is solely curable by the Word of God, prayer and mediation, empowered by the actions of the Holy Spirit in our mind and heart. The more influence we have by the Spirit in our lives, the more sin is mortified and we are vivified by His power. So if we know that the power of the Holy Spirit in these things is our cure to insanity, it is even more insane for us not to ask for them. Luke 11:13, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Ask. Ask again. Ask over and over. Never stop asking. More of the Holy Spirit is the only cure.
We are seen as insane by one of two beings – unregenerate men can see us as insane, or, God can see us as insane. God judges us accordingly to our insanity in sinning Him, or the lack of rewards we have for not “redeeming the time” since “the days are evil”. This we have briefly spoken about. But, we should rather strive to be seen as insane by unregenerate men. Yes, if we act as Christians and live as Christians, unregenerate men will see as insane. Festus, in Acts 26:24, thought Paul was insane, “Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” Would it be that people would say of us that our learning about Christ has made us “mad”? At that point, though, we would have justification to correct them. Acts 26:25, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason.” In other words, as unregenerate men see us as mad, and we testify to the truth, we demonstrate their utter insanity for remaining in their sin. Unregenerate men, in such cases, demonstrate the epitome of insanity in rejecting the only truth that will save them.
Really, you cannot escape insanity. Either God will see you as insane for sinning against Him, Christian or not (that simply determines the degree of His anger against you, or His love in chastising you), or men will see you as insane for being a follower of Christ. Oh! that there would be more Christians insanely fervent to follow the Lord Christ in casting off self-love and living before Him as those vessels who would be filled up with His power and His Spirit for the good of the Kingdom of Christ. May it be that we are stark raving mad in the eyes of the world for Christ, than insane before the Lord in our sins driven by our self-love against Him.