Numbers 32.23 


1.   Turn in your Bible to Numbers 32.23.  There are three phrases in this verse.  I want to use the second and third phrases as my text this morning.  Please stand for the reading of this morning’s text:  “Behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.”

2.   This warning was issued by Moses to the two tribes who wanted to settle on the other side of the Jordan River as they were about to enter the promised land.  He warned them what would happen if they failed to fight for the land with their brethren.  Though his intent was very specific when he uttered these words, he was speaking what I call timeless truths.  Timeless truths have application far beyond their original purpose.  “Behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.”

3.   These words are just as true of you who are here today as they were to those Moses was speaking to so long ago.  “Behold, ye have sinned against the LORD.”  “And be sure your sin will find you out.”  In these two strong statements we find Moses driving home his point to his audience by the use of three little words. 

4.   Notice that he did not say “We have sinned against the LORD,” but “Ye have sinned against the LORD.”  Neither did he refer to “our” sin, but to “your” sin.  Finally, he did not warn that “our sin will find us out,” but that “your sin will find you out.”

5.   You need to see your sins.  Not someone else’s sins, but your sins.  Your sins have been against the LORD.  Never you mind anyone else’s sins.  Concern yourself with your own sins.

6.   Why your sins?  “Why my sins?” you should ask yourself.  Because it will be your sins that will find you out, not someone else’s sins.  When you stand before God on Judgment Day, He will deal with you and only you about your sins, not anyone else about your sins, and not with you about anyone else’s sins.

7.   So, because they are your sins and not anyone else’s, and because they will find you out and not anyone else, there are three issues I suggest that you deal with today: 


1B.    The reason you need to name your sins is to expose the wickedness of your sins to your conscience.

1C.   This is where we get to the real nitty gritty of the cause why and the means how you can come to see your sins.  If you don’t see your sins you won’t get saved.  So, you’ve got to name the sins you commit, identify them to yourself, and see what they really are.

2C.   In Acts 2.23, Simon Peter said to the assembled multitudes on the steps of the Temple, “Ye have taken [Jesus], and by wicked hands have crucified and slain [Him].”  And in verse 36 he told them that “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

3C.   What do we learn from this?  We see how very important it is for you to see what specific sins you have committed, for them to be pointed out in your mind, and for you to be sorry for them.  If it’s not important for you to see your specific sins, to have them named, Peter would never have done it for those men on the day of Pentecost.

4C.   So, it’s very important that I name sins when I preach, and for me to confront you with your wrongdoing.  But there are always sins the preacher doesn’t mention in his sermons that you are guilty of.  No preacher can name them all.  So those sins you need to name yourself.

5C.   Some little boy says, “Pastor, I need to be saved.”  And I ask him, “Why do you need to be saved?”  And he says, “Because I’m bad.”  That’s not good enough.  You need to name your sins.  You need to admit to yourself, “I am a liar, and a cry baby, and I’m selfish, and I pout, and I trick my mom and fool my dad.  And I pretend to do what they tell me, but I don’t.  And I take things that aren’t mine without calling it stealing, and I get my brothers in trouble for no reason.”

6C.   Each of you needs to name your own sins if you want to get converted.  Now, do you need to name all of your sins?  No.  We’re not Roman Catholics who are only forgiven the sins we openly confess to some priest.  But you do need to name your sins, so you will begin to see your own sinfulness.

2B.    Every decent preacher has seen the need sinners have to know the names of their sins, to admit to themselves and to God the sins they have committed.

1C.   John the Baptist didn’t beat around the bush, did he?  What did he say to some men who came to hear him preach?  “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”  He wanted them to know what kind of men they really were.

2C.   When the tax collectors came to be baptized, “he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you.”  When the soldiers came, he said, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.” 

3C.   What John the Baptist was doing, you see, was making sure those men accurately identified their own sins.  For any sinner’s heart to be humiliated and prepared for Christ this kind of thing needs to happen, and it needs to happen to your heart.

4C.   Read First Kings 21 sometime, where God told the prophet Elijah to rebuke wicked king Ahab for killing an innocent man named Naboth.  The Bible tells us that after Elijah named Ahab’s sin and told him of God’s judgment for his sin, Ahab “rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.”  So, even with a very wicked man, the effect of him having his sins pointed out and named can be seen.

5C.   This principle even applies to preachers whose sins have come to light.  First Timothy 5.20 reads, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.”  And in Titus 1.13, Paul directs Titus:  “Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.”

6C.   The apostle Paul even dealt this way with the apostle Peter.  “I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed,” he wrote to the Galatians.  And this naming of Peter’s sin to him corrected his sinful behavior.

7C.   So, you see that you benefit from an awareness of the sins you commit, whether you are a lost person or a Christian.  And the way sins are usually best exposed is by direct confrontation.  This is why I pointedly preach against the specific sins you commit.  And this is why you need to clearly identify and name your own sins, especially the sins you commit that I don’t name.  And be brutally honest with yourself . . . for your own well-being.

3B.    Of course, some nitwit will think, “You discourage people and lower their self image when you point out their faults and failings and sins to them.”

1C.   Perhaps.  But you assume it’s a bad thing for a person’s self-esteem to be lowered.  And you think it’s never beneficial in the long term for a person to be discouraged by the truth in the short term.  Since you don’t much believe the Bible, I have a Time magazine essay for you to read titled Lacking in Self-Esteem?  Good for you![1]  Pick up a copy after the service.

2C.   But those of us who believe the Bible know that this is how you make strong Christians.  This is God’s way of confronting sinfulness.  This is what Jesus did, what John the Baptist did, what the apostle Paul did, and what the prophets of old did.  This is what God wants.  Sinners must face the specific sins they commit.  And you must face the specific sins you commit.

3C.   In Ezekiel 16.2, I read God’s words to the prophet Ezekiel:  “Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations.”  He wasn’t told to talk to Jerusalem about the sins of others, the failings of others, or even to discuss the shortcomings of Jerusalem in general terms.  No.  “Cause Jerusalem to know her abominations.”

4C.   So, there can be no doubt about it.  You need to name and to know your own sins.  Don’t write them down for other people to read them.  That would be foolish.  But think about the things that you actually do that are wrong.  Are you a liar?  Are you a thief?  Are you an extortioner?  I know some of you are fearful.  Now, don’t relive the sinful experiences, but do think about the specific sins you’ve committed.

5C.   You are terrified at the thought of becoming a Christian, because you think you can be a better sinner than you can a Christian, or you are afraid of what someone will say.  That fearfulness is a wicked sin that denies the grace and power of God to work in the life of His child.  Put a label on it.  And put a label on each and every other sin God brings to your mind.  After all, those sins will find out you.  Amen? 


There are two reasons why you need to see the sinfulness of your own sins:

1B.    Reason #1:   You need to see the sinfulness of your own sins because in that way the Bible is more quickly used to deal with your sins than would otherwise be the case.

1C.   A boss tells a worker to do something.  But if he doesn’t address the worker by name the worker doesn’t know he’s the one the boss is talking to.  Some other guy thinks the boss is talking to him when he’s not, while the first guy thinks the boss is not talking to him when he is.

2C.   So if I say, “For in many things we offend all,” I’m not affecting anyone.  But when I get specific and sins are named, then I’m not only setting the dish on the table, but I’m cutting the meat, too.  What good is a cook who doesn’t buy the food, cook the food, cut up the food, and then serve the food?  Amen?

3C.   So, you see the need of shooting the arrow, not in the general direction of the target, not just at the height of the target, but after taking careful aim at the target to hit the bull’s eye.  And the only way the Word of God will be on target to hit the bull’s eye is if the specific sins you commit are named.

4C.   Thinking about sin in general terms is somewhat like Jonah sleeping soundly in the ship.  There’s a terrible wind, a mighty tempest, the ship is about to be broken to pieces, the sailors are scared to death, and they’re crying out to their false gods.  But Jonah is still asleep.  It wasn’t until the captain called out to him specifically that Jonah actually woke up.  So it is with naming your sins.

5C.   The Word of God is likened to a sword.  And explaining a verse, like Bible teachers usually do, is like taking the sword out and waving it around, but never striking anything with it.  You can do that for a long time without actually cutting anything.  But when a man strikes a blow with the sword, when he takes a cut with it, it will either wound a man or kill him.  So it is when your sins are identified by name.

6C.   Look, I can’t spiritually arouse you.  Neither can you stir up your own heart.  A great many decisionists[2] try to stir up people’s hearts with rousing music and with tearful stories in their sermons.  But it’s only when the Word of God is used on specifically named sins that deep cuts are made and supernatural work is accomplished in the heart.

2B.    Reason #2:  Not only is the Word of God more quickly applied when you name specific sins you are guilty of, but the Word of God is more pointedly applied when you name specific sins.  In other words, the blade of truth penetrates more deeply when it is applied in a specific way.

1C.   This is the reason why there is such opposition to preachers who name sins, and why so many speakers speak against sin instead of preaching against sins by naming them.  As well, this is why so many of you will admit to being sinful, but you are reluctant to identify in your own mind the specific sins you commit.  But God can use this identifying of sins to humble your heart and to make you see your miserable condition.  Let’s think about this a bit more.

2C.   Why is it that you commit so many sins but you typically have a difficult time thinking of more than one or two of them?  You may think it’s because you just forget, but that’s not really true.  You ordinarily have a great memory.  So, the real reason you can’t think of more than a couple to a half dozen sins you commit is because your wicked heart doesn’t want the eye to your soul opened, and all your abominations discovered, and your conscience awakened. 

3C.   You don’t want to admit certain things to yourself.  You want to keep yourself in the dark.  There are things about yourself you don’t want to admit.  And this in itself should show you something.  Jesus told us that he that does evil hates the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.  It’s like a burglar wanting the lights off so no one will see him doing his crimes.  In the same way you who are guilty of so many sins do not want to actually name your sins. 

4C.   You see, every named sin that you’ve committed is like an accuser pointing the finger at you.  Like a witness in a court room who points the finger of accusation against you.  How can you deny that you are guilty when so many fingers of accusation are pointed at you?  Better to beg for mercy than to foolishly deny your wrongdoing.  Amen?

5C.   My friend, it’s easy for a man to observe truths in a verse and then comment on them, as so many Bible teachers do these days.  This is quite easy for anyone who has some measure of illumination.  But for a preacher to paint you into a corner, so you can’t escape, is the hardest thing in the world.  And we don’t succeed very often.  That’s why you have to name your sins.  A sinner who names his own sins, who doesn’t run from his own sinfulness, is a sinner who I think will get converted.

3B.    Let me show you what to do, using a couple of sins as examples:

1C.   Suppose you think to yourself, “I do tend to exaggerate from time to time.”

1D.   The first thing you need to do is give that sin a Bible name.  Identify it as it’s identified in the Bible.  In the Bible it’s called a lie and you are, therefore, a liar.

2D.   Lying is a sin.  It’s a sin that God hates.  And “all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death,” Revelation 21.8.

3D.   But you don’t stop there.  Because you’ve named the sin, and  because you want to afflict your conscience with your sins, you look up places in the Bible that speak of lies.  And guess what you find?

4D.   You find that Satan is a liar and is the father of lies, John 8.44.  Further, you find that the serpent lied to Eve in the garden of Eden, which led to Adam’s fall.

5D.   But that’s not all.  You might, in your thinking about your sin of lying, think also about the fact that God is true, that God cannot lie, that Jesus Christ is the truth, and so on.

6D.   So you see, lying is most offensive to God because it is so opposite to His nature,  because it is so like His enemy Satan, because it was a lie that led to mankind’s ruin in the garden of Eden.  No wonder God will punish all liars in the lake of fire.

2C.   Here’s another sin.  Maybe you recognize that you are selfish and self-centered.

1D.   But that’s just the sin of pride, yet another of Satan’s sins.  Pride results in a haughty spirit.  Pride causes a person to think much of himself.  Pride distracts a man’s thoughts from God.  Pride is what causes a high self-esteem.

2D.   Pride takes credit for what God has done, such as when king Nebuchadnezzar bragged about his great kingdom and God struck him down with insanity for proudly taking credit for something he had not done. 

3D.   Intelligence and attractiveness foster pride, as well.  But listen to Paul, in First Corinthians 4.7:  “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?”

4D.   Pride is also the opposite of the way the Lord Jesus Christ always behaved.  Philippians 2.8 tells us that “he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”  If Jesus was humble, why are you proud?

5D.   Proverbs 16.5 tells us that “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.”  Though you may join together with other sinners to oppose God, it won’t do any good.

3C.   These are just two examples of how you can see the nastiness of your sins and why it’s beneficial to name those sins.  Once you name a sin you can then see what God thinks of that sin, how damaging and dangerous that sin is, and how damning to your soul that sin you’ve named is.

4C.   And I’ve not even touched on the sin of not loving God.  What a crime! What an offense!  To not love this One Who is most lovely, Whose attributes are worthy of praise and adoration, Who created all things so that He might receive the glory that is due Him.  But you do not love Him.  So, surely, you deserve the harshest of punishments for such wickedness. 

3A.   Finally, OBJECTIONS

“I don’t want to consider my sins.  I don’t want to think about such things.  I just want to hurry up and get saved and get it over with.”  This is how many sinners think.  Perhaps you, too, think this way.

1B.    What you really want, you see, is to dispense with the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  O, yes.

1C.   Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said in John 16.8, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”

2C.   But if you would come to Jesus without conviction of sin, without being slain by the Law, then you would get rid of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of making you sad, of pointing out the sinfulness of your sinfulness, and of enabling you to feel your sinful condition.

3C.   And since it’s the Holy Spirit Who regenerates, to eliminate His ministry is to guarantee that you will not get saved.  This is why so few sinners in Churches these days get converted, though they make so many professions of faith. 

4C.   Unbeknownst to you, the Holy Spirit has been effectively excluded by not allowing Him to make you feel bad, so as to prepare your heart to genuinely come to Christ.  In wanting to rush to a prayer and rush to a decision so that you don’t feel bad you thereby exclude the Holy Spirit’s heart preparing work that must come before conversion.

2B.    But that’s not all.  You also want to dispense with the ministry of  God’s Law.

1C.   But “by the law is the knowledge of sin,” Romans 3.20.  “I had not known sin, but by the law,” Paul wrote in Romans 7.7.  As well, “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good,” Romans 7.12.

2C.   How would you know your sinfulness without the Law?  How would you see your condition before God without the Law?  How could you be guided to Christ without the Law, your school master, Galatians 3.24?  “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.” 


1.   Folks, please realize that you do not have to consider your sins.  You do not have to name them or examine them or hold them up to scrutiny.  You are free to continue on your way to Hell.

2.   But if you would truly know Christ, if you would be reconciled to God, you will need first to see your sins so that your heart might be broken for your sins.

3.   Would you like a short cut to Christ that avoids the conviction of sin, that avoids being slain by the Law, that avoids a heart broken for sins?  It won’t happen, because such a route seeks to bypass the vital ministry of the Holy Spirit of God.

4.   Rather, you should seek to find your way to Christ in the class room of the school master, God’s Law.  That’s God’s plan for seeing you come to Christ.  The question, of course, is whether you will submit to God’s plan that leads to Christ, or will you continue on the more comfortable route that you’ve chosen thus far that leads to destruction?

[1]Time, October 14, 2002, essay by Andrew Sullivan, Lacking Self-Esteem? Good for You!, page102

[2]Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a Lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion; it is the belief that a person is saved through the agency of a merely external decision; the belief that performing one of these human actions shows that a person is saved.   Conversion is the result of that work of the Holy Spirit which draws a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for justification and regeneration, and changes the sinner’s standing before God from lost to saved, imparting divine life to the depraved soul, thus producing a new direction in the life of the convert.  The objective side of salvation is justification.  The subjective side of salvation is regeneration.  The result is conversion.


Lacking in Self-Esteem? Good for You!
Teachers used to laud self-worth. Turns out it can make you into a Bob Torricelli

Tuesday, Oct. 08, 2002

In his lachrymose self-eulogy last week, Senator Robert Torricelli did something quite remarkable. In the space of a relatively brief statement bowing out of the New Jersey Senate race, he managed to use the word I some 99 times. "I want to live life again," he explained. "I want to notice the passing of the seasons ... I even want to notice the aging of my friends and family." It must be a tough life being such a selfless public servant, so busy helping others that you don't even notice that it's fall or that your kids have birthdays. But the Torch was about to put all that behind him. "It is time for me to reclaim my life," he went on. "I have done my duty to my country."

Notice, on top of all those I's, all those my's. There were indeed times in Torricelli's farewell soliloquy when the entire world seemed merely an extension of his own benevolence: "Somewhere today in one of several hospitals in New Jersey, some woman's life is going to be changed because of the mammography centers I've created for thousands of women," Torricelli croaked. "Somewhere all over New Jersey some senior citizen who doesn't even know my name lives in a senior center that I helped build ... That's my life. Don't feel badly for me. I changed people's lives." Swept away in the majestic self-regard of the speech, you might be forgiven for forgetting the reason for Torricelli's withdrawal: he had been severely admonished by his Senate and House colleagues for unethical acceptance of all sorts of perquisites from a wealthy ally and his poll numbers were plummeting. Such details were obscured by the blinding brightness of the man's self-love.

It was therefore a delicious coincidence that the next day the New York Times ran a story on the fate of the concept of self-esteem. You know what self-esteem is: according to decades of psychological and educational theory, it's the essential building block for a successful life. A few generations of children, especially minority kids, have been educated according to the theory that they lack self-esteem, that this deficiency is central to any problems they may have in making their way in the world and that the worst thing you can ever do to a child is to tell her that she isn't all that.

Well, guess what? Self-esteem isn't all that it's cracked up to be. In fact, as a brief recounting of Bob Torricelli's career would usefully illustrate, it can be a huge part of the problem. New research has found that self-esteem can be just as high among D students, drunk drivers and former Presidents from Arkansas as it is among Nobel laureates, nuns and New York City fire fighters. In fact, according to research performed by Brad Bushman of Iowa State University and Roy Baumeister of Case Western Reserve University, people with high self-esteem can engage in far more antisocial behavior than those with low self-worth. "I think we had a great deal of optimism that high self-esteem would cause all sorts of positive consequences and that if we raised self-esteem, people would do better in life," Baumeister told the Times. "Mostly, the data have not borne that out." Racists, street thugs and school bullies all polled high on the self-esteem charts. And you can see why. If you think you're God's gift, you're particularly offended if other people don't treat you that way. So you lash out or commit crimes or cut ethical corners to reassert your pre-eminence. After all, who are your moral inferiors to suggest that you could be doing something, er, wrong? What do they know?

Self-esteem can also be an educational boomerang. Friends of mine who teach today's college students are constantly complaining about the high self-esteem of their students. When the kids have been told from Day One that they can do no wrong, when every grade in high school is assessed so as to make the kid feel good rather than to give an accurate measure of his work, the student can develop self-worth dangerously unrelated to the objective truth. He can then get deeply offended when he's told he is getting a C grade in college and become demoralized or extremely angry. Weak professors give in to the pressure — hence, grade inflation. Tough professors merely get exhausted trying to bring their students into vague touch with reality.

Of course, in these therapized days, reality can be a touchy subject. It's hard to accept that we may not be the best at something or that we genuinely screwed up or that low self-esteem can sometimes be fully justified. But maintaining a robust self-image while being able to absorb difficult criticism is surely worth the effort. It could lead to all sorts of strange occurrences: kids working harder, adults exercising self-control, thieves experiencing — yes — guilt, even grownup politicians taking full and painful responsibility for their actions and words. It's a pity that Torricelli still doesn't get it. But it's a deeply hopeful sign that the voters of New Jersey did.

From the Oct. 14, 2002 issue of TIME magazine

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