In our inner-city ministry, we often talk about how it’s important to “de-fang” sin. that is to say, it’s important to reduce the emotions that surround sin, in order to better defeat it. If people are overwhelmed with their sin, then they can’t overcome it, so step one is often putting sin in perspective.
Take, for example, this conversation I had with an inmate, as part of our prison ministry:
Inmate: I’m in here for something really terrible
Me: Mmm, what’s that?
Me: That’s not terrible, it’s wrong, but it’s not terrible.
Inmate: I burned my step-father’s house down.
Me: Uh huh, and what made that seem like the thing to do?
Inmate: He used to beat me when I was a kid.
Me: Oh, well that makes sense. It’s wrong, but I see the logic in it.
Inmate: Can I ever be forgiven?!
Me: Sure.You put two kids on a playground, one kicks the other, the other is gonna want to kick him back, it’s the most natural thing in the world. It’s a sin, seeking vengeance like that, but nothing could be more ordinary, natural, and understandable.
In this situation, we have very big themes playing out. Childhood trauma, potential long-term jail time, and a long road to good mental health. But we’re not able to deal with any of those important issues because we’re obsessing over the sin, to the point of being convinced that it’s somehow become unforgivable.
There is a desire in us to play up the drama of our own sin, to see it as part of some epic struggle against powerful forces beyond our control. These are the head games we play with ourselves that allow us to keep on sinning while giving the impression that we’re deeply engaged with the fight against this particular sin.
Here’s the truth about sin:
— God has given us power over all of it. Scripture says that we won’t be given more temptation than we can handle (1 Cor. 10:13), so therefore, we can handle it all. We have power over ever dark forces that would tempt us, and we have our shield of faith and breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6).
— It all starts with something small. The truth is, every massive ugly backslide started with one tiny step in the wrong direction. If you focus on the big dramatic backslide and ignore that tiny mis-step that caused it all to eventually unfold, then you’ll be doomed to repeat the big ugly backslide.
— Guilt, like all emotions, clouds the truth. If you feel like what you’ve done is unforgivable, then it doesn’t matter how many verses you read to the contrary, your emotions are giving you a perfect sense of certainty about something that is perfectly untrue. And all that guilt does is drive you AWAY from God, because you feel like He’s looking to punish you.
— The key is consistency. You can sit alone in a room for an hour and not commit this sin that you’re struggling with, but it’s another thing to be consistent for a day, and then a day at a time, and then adding up the weeks and months.
— The key to that consistency is wisdom. There has to be a wise strategy that will allow you to fight this thing successfully. The enemy wants to tell you this is all about will power. That’s because he wants you trying harder and harder, getting more and more intense and failing again and again, without ever seeking the least bit of wisdom and direction.
— Sin thrives in the dark. Once you get emotionally overwhelmed by your sin, then you can‘t stand to look at it, and if you’re looking away that hard, then it will be impossible to get wisdom on it, and again, you’re doomed to repeat it.
— Sin is natural. Over and over the Bible refers to our “sin nature”. Sin is your default setting. You may have convinced yourself that since you became a Christian and got power over that sin, and the enemy, that somehow your sin nature was no longer in the picture. Think again.
— It’s all paid for. We can conquer the sin in our lives because Jesus conquered sin on the cross. He paid for all sin, for all time. He has taken away it’s sting. We can play games in our heads and pretend that God isn’t inclined to forgive us, but if He didn’t want to forgive your sins, why did he pay for your sins with His own blood?
In the end, it’s all just plain ol’ boring every day ordinary natural forgivable and conquerable sin. To beat it, you need less emotions and more wisdom. If you’re wallowing in the wrongness of it, and not seeking wisdom on it, then recognize, this is why you aren’t overcoming it.
The more you obsess and beat yourself up over your sins, ironically, the more likely you are to repeat them, but by contrast, the more you de-fang your sin, and the more you can add wisdom to your sense of determination, the more likely you are to overcome. There’s a time to grieve our sins, a time to repent of our sins, but the most important moment comes next, the one in which you decide to either wallow, or seek a wise battle plan.
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