The Bible teaches us about sin mainly through stories, and its most complete story of sin involves a national leader. That biblical sin began as a moment of simple, everyday lust. It ended in adultery and murder, and cost the lives of hundreds of soldiers. And the villain was arguably the greatest leader in the history of Israel: King David.

The Bible records the sin in all its seamy details, and from it we can learn a lesson about the complete cycle of sin. I have identified five stages in this cycle that we must move through on the way toward spiritual health. We can easily bog down in any one of the stages; the point is to keep moving forward.

Sin. It is common to view individual sins as nuisances that, like parking tickets, will cause problems only if you accumulate too many. A few niggling little sins may not matter, but eventually you will reach a crisis point and have to face the consequences. The Bible, however, has a far different perspective on sin, as King David’s story demonstrates. The Bible views sins more as cancer cells. One or two here and there do make a difference—often the difference between life and death. Cancer cells grow, multiply, and take over, and they may ultimately require major surgery.

You can read David’s story (2 Sam. 11–20) as an account of the spread of a moral cancer. After the lust for Bathsheba came the adultery and the cover-up lies, and then Uriah’s murder. But the effect of sin did not stop there. As a result of the whole sordid process, David seemed to lose his grip on his family. One son raped his half-sister. Another committed a murder of revenge. Eventually that same son launched an armed revolt against David and nearly brought down the kingdom. ...

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