Lately I am involved in a study about sin. As we are in Holy Week there is really not a better time. I wish I could say this has been learning from the Bible, but I need to admit that too often it has been from the inside of sin looking out. That is just not a good place to be.
But God has not given up on me yet. Through firsthand experience with my sin and his word, the Bible, I have been learning more about sin. What I learned was not necessarily anything new, but definitely a deeper awareness. And certainly these are things that Satan would rather not have me understand.
Sin is real. The longer I live, the more I understand it is so easy to avoid the “S” word. In the 12-Step program I addressed such things as defects of character, wrongs, and shortcomings. I took inventories of my day and when I was wrong promptly admitted it. In reality, those were sins.
Moving outside of program language I find myself resorting to words like poor choices, mistakes, selfish actions, or dysfunctional behavior. Or maybe I see them as unintentional. While these may describe, in my mind anyway, why I commit sins, they give me the opportunity to avoid the “S” word. The longer I can rationalize my behaviors as being “less” than sins, the more I can delay dealing with them.
I am guessing the Devil is very pleased with that. If I don’t see myself as sinning, I have no need for a Savior. I can choose to ignore going to to Jesus to confess my sin and receive forgiveness. Rather, I can simply shake my head and say, “Ah, this is not good. I guess I have to work harder on that” but never really turn away from those behaviors. Satan smiles and knows he doesn’t have to work very hard to draw me away.
Even more, I am no longer a witness for my Savior. Those who know I say I believe in Jesus’ saving work and yet see me continue to excuse or minimize when my living is obviously against what the Bible teaches, those persons have no reason to recognize they need a Savior. And at that time, Satan can sit back and say to himself, “Ah, that John! What a good witness!”
The Bible is very clear about sin when it says in 1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Looking at my own sins is difficult at the best and terrifying at the worst. This is especially true for me as I read in James 2:10 whoever keeps the whole law but stumbles in one point has become guilty of breaking all of it. All sin, my sins, are real. I cannot continue to rename, rationalize or downplay their existence. To do so is to rebuild that wall between God and me that Jesus gave everything to tear down through his death on the cross.
All sins count. It is so easy for me to compare myself with others. While I read that is a common practice, it becomes dangerous when I examine the lives of others and decide that my sins are just not as bad that their sins. As knowledgeable as Satan is about my character, I am an open target when he comes to me with the following familiar plea: C’mon John, yes, you have your shortcomings. Sure, you fall down every day. But just look around you. Are you really any worse than anyone else? In fact, think about those who go into stores or churches or government offices. You don’t physically hurt or even kill anyone else. You aren’t taking over buildings. Compared to those, how can what you do even count against you?
When my ego feeds off that warped line of reasoning I choose to ignore the James’ message above–I fall short in one part of the Law, I am guilty of breaking all the commandments. When it comes to the perfection that God demands, he does not grade sins; I do. It’s easier for me that way, as the focus is then off of myself and on how others live. But my sin is still there evident to others and set directly in front of God.
My sins are mine. “I’m just keeping up with the flow of traffic.” I don’t know how many times this phrase has justified my going 62 when the posted speed limit is 55. “Not my fault” I think. Or it could be a certain way I act but “I come from a dysfunctional family.” Or I know there are many parts of a television show or movie that are far outside of what the Bible teaches but “If I let what the Bible teaches stop me from watching this, there would be nothing to watch.” (Okay, that I may think but would never say it out loud.) Or, the oldest excuse ever recorded, “God, it was Eve who you gave me who made me sin.” And Eve responded, “It was that serpent God, I was deceived.”
All of those are efforts to disown any responsibility for my sins. I don’t own those sins and they shouldn’t be counted against me. And Satan cheers my line of reasoning.
Again the Bible is very clear that my sin is mine and mine alone. But each person is tempted when he is dragged away and enticed by his own desire. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin. And sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death. James 1:14-15. My sin has its birth in my own desires. It’s doesn’t start with those around me, or a dysfunction in my family, or even from the Devil. They are birthed in my own sinful heart.
I will always be sinful, but Jesus changed everything. Strange as it may seem, Satan knows the Bible, maybe even better than I do–he just does not believe it. But that doesn’t prevent him from using what he knows to deceive me and attempt to lead me farther away from God. And so he attacks: Ok, John, you know you will always be a sinner. Why does that upset you so much? Everyone is a sinner. You are not perfect and never will be. Since you believe Jesus died and paid for all of your sins, they are all forgiven. Why do you struggle so against sins that have already been forgiven? Don’t spend time worrying about sin. Just take life as it comes.
The basic message the devil wants me to believe is I have a license to sin because all my sins are already forgiven. The fact that Jesus left his throne in heaven, became a human and bore all the punishment for my sins doesn’t matter. Satan tries to convince me that grace is cheap.
What Satan doesn’t want me to know is that because of Jesus’ sacrifice everything is changed. I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I am now living in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20. Yes, I still sin. But because of what Jesus did by dying on the cross for my sins, now he rules my heart. Sin is still there but stronger still is the love for my Savior. Now I can go to him when I am tempted knowing he will give me a way to fight off the temptation. Jesus gave all for me and now I live for him.
That’s my up close and personal study of sin–well my sin anyway. It’s not pretty and not easy to into words. Now I better understand that sins are real no matter what I would rather relabel them. All sins count no matter how I want to grade them. My sins are mine no matter how I want to blame someone else for them. Most importantly, however, Jesus changed everything about sin when he died on the cross. My sin is what made Holy Week necessary. I pray that is something I never forget.
Thanks for stopping by to read this. Has been a while for me but am hoping that is over. Please come back again. I will wait you.
This song is a new one. The melody is not necessarily memorable. But oh the suffering that I deserved.