This is a word we all dread; the diagnosis of cancer in a loved one or in ourselves is a devastating and fearful thing. Cancer in most cases, if found early, can be eradicated from our bodies and we can live a normal life. However, if not found early, it can permeate our physical being and cause much pain and even death. Not only does it affect those that are diagnosed with cancer but it affects our family and friends. We have all had family or friends that have had to face this terrible disease and saw the hurt that was caused from the loss of a loved one to this terrible disease.
Sin is very much like cancer in the Christian’s life—if diagnosed early and eradicated from one’s life, he can continue to have the hope of eternal life with God and Christ in heaven. However, if it is not removed and allowed to grow, one will face eternal death. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The word canker is used once in the New Testament, and the way it is used indicates something that unless removed will continue to eat away (2 Timothy 2:17). Sin operates in much the same way—if we do not remove it, it will continue to eat away at our lives and we will end up succumbing to it. We may think we are happy faithful Christians, but if we let this sin remain we have allowed the cancer of sin to permeate our live and it will lead to eternal death. We have to remove this disease of sin from our lives if we expect to receive life eternal in heaven. “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). The apostle John gave those who have already become Christians instructions on how to remove this cancer of sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). The apostle went on to say, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:1-4). I think we can plainly see the harm done in the life of one that does not remove this sin by repentance and prayer.
We also need to consider the damage and hurt to one’s family. The influence our sin can have on our loved ones can cause them to fall away and be lost as well as ourselves. “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea” (Mark 9:42). To “offend” here is to cause them to sin. This was so important that the words of Jesus are recorded three times regarding this subject (Matthew 18:2; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2).
What is the effect of sin on the church? We have seen how a church can gradually slip away from the old paths and sink into false teachings, the question; how does this happen? We allow just one little scrap of false teaching to get a very small hold and it will grow into other false teachings and soon you are off the path to heaven. I cannot recall a church going off all at once; it usually is a little false teaching at a time. Again just a small false teaching is like a cancer if allowed to go unchecked is will eventually kill the whole body. Jude told us to “contend earnestly for the faith” (verse 3). To “contend earnestly” is to stand pat in the teachings of Christ and his apostles, not to vary to the right or the left, and to defend the gospel. The sanctity of the church depends on its members clinging to the word of God and not letting the cancer of false teaching go unchecked.
Sadly today we have seen many congregations fall into this category of sin. Why does this happen? Because we as members have allowed the cancer of sin to permeate our lives and have not “Stud[ied] to shew [ourselves] approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). You might contend for the faith and the congregation will still not heed the warnings—in that case save yourself and move to a faithful congregation.
It is a sad thing to see a family member or friend suffer and die from cancer; however, it is a much sadder thing to see a fellow Christian or even a congregation succumb to the cancer of sin. Physical cancer can kill our body but it cannot condemn us to hell; however, sin, spiritual cancer, will condemn us to hell if allowed to go unchecked. “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
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[EDITOR’S NOTE: Brother Reed wrote this article in light of his own battle that he recently had with cancer. Thankfully, doctors were able to remove it through surgery. Brother Reed certainly understands the gravity of cancer; but we are thankful to him for pointing out a cancer of far more lasting effects.]
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