The Sins of One’s Youth
Scripture teaches us that the effects of sin are always serious. They are threefold:
1. Death in various forms
The Bible teaches that sin leads to death, in all its forms, physical, spiritual, and eternal. As Dr. Ferguson says: As a result of sin, a “virulent disease” began “to spread through the whole of man’s life.” This disease is incurable from man’s side and leads inevitably to death. In fact, as David McKay writes, sin “is not merely a disease of soul, a sickness requiting spiritual medicine: it is spiritual deadness, pervading the whole person.”
2. Alienation in various forms
First, there is the alienation from God. God had made man in His image. Again, in the words of Dr. Ferguson, the image of God in man “has been grossly defaced.” The image of God, “in which his greatness and glory are reflected,” has become “a distortion of his character.” This is essentially the effect of sin, that fallen man “takes all that God has lavished upon him to live in free and joyful obedience, and he transforms it into a weapon by which he can oppose his Maker. The very breath which God gives him thousands of times each day he abuses by his sin.” After the fall Adam and Eve were so overwhelmed with a sense of shame that they hid themselves from God. So too, we are born alienated from God and every sin further alienates from God.
Second, there is the alienation from one’s own self. There is the loss of love and joy. In its place there is anxiety and hostility.
Thirdly, there is the alienation from others. Man was created to be in harmony with others. Sin, however, shattered that harmony for all of us, and so too, the sins we commit have a negative impact on our relationship with others.
Fourthly, sin alienates us from our environment. After the fall, the ground was cursed. Man and the created order were made to work together in harmony, man subduing it and tilling it and keeping it and exercising dominion over it. Then with his sin it all went wrong and all the tensions we have today between ourselves and our environment began to appear.
Besides being alienated from God and under his wrath, man is “under the dominion of sin and death,” is “guilty before God,” and is “in the grip of Satan.”
Now, what occurred in the fall—radically and decisively—happens repeatedly when we sin. This is also true of “sins of youth.” They lead to death, alienation, and bondage. When David speaks about his “sins of youth,” he specifically uses the word “transgressions,” which may well bring out what the sins of his youth were.
This is the strongest word in the Bible for sin. It literally means a breaking loose, a tearing away from God, a casting off authority, a “smashing” of law. It’s used sometimes in the domestic sphere: An angry child, who is tired and bad-tempered, and the mother lifts the little one on to her knees, and puts her arms around him, and the child is struggling and cross and doesn’t want to be held. Or the picture of a teenager, whose angry, rebellious, and bitter, and his father in love puts his arm on the shoulder of the boy and says: ‘Son, listen to me,’ but his son casts off his arm.
That is typical in your young life. When dad and mom draw a line here and say, ‘you have to stay within those boundaries,’ then you have the tendency to cross the boundary. You try to move towards that line and put your foot across it.
Our society tells us that when we are young we can afford to make mistakes – “that is how you learn.” We are encouraged to try things and see what works and doesn’t work. So they say. Sadly, this is a lie, and a devilish one.
The question reminds me of a letter written by a young woman to a Christian physician. She had grown up in a home, in which her mother encouraged her to live a promiscuous life style. She had lived a promiscuous life and had various sexual relationships before marriage. Later by the grace of God she repented of her sin and became a Christian. But then she wrote that she realized later that her living in sin during her young years had damaged her personality.
Then we carry with us through life the effects and encounter the damage again and again, in relationship to God, but also in relationships with others – our parents, our friends, in preparation for marriage and in marriage, or the lack thereof, in the upbringing of our children. at various points. In the course of life we are distinctly reminded of the sins of their youth and then experience struggle, partly because there is still damage in their life.
What now? We are to confess it before the Lord in all humility. David does that in Psalm 25:7: “Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions.” You may go to the LORD God in prayer, kneel before the face of the Lord and lay before Him the sins of your life of your recent past and of long ago, acknowledge your sins, and acknowledge that God has all the right to remember those sins and cast you away from His presence.
You may also stretch your hands out to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, where the mercy and the goodness of God was manifested in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the condemnation and acquittal of Golgotha… and there find redemption from sin and the effects of sin.