Friday, November 14, 2014

Sins that Sneak Up on Us

"But maybe I need to view my trials in a new light because trials show us what is in our hearts..."

Sins can have a funny way of sneaking up on us.  Just when we think we are overcoming one sin, we notice a different sin in our lives.  It can be discouraging because it feels like a battle that we always lose.  When we focus all of our attention on overcoming sins, two things can happen:

  1. We realize we cannot win, and we are overcome with guilt and shame.
  2. We rely on our own power and start to gain victory over a certain sin.  We become filled with pride and look down on others for not having the power to overcome as we have.

Both of these things happen because we begin to take our eyes off of Jesus.  We try to overcome the sin with our own power and we either fail or allow another sin (pride) to take its place.  Instead of focusing on Jesus and using His strength to replace the sin, we try to overcome the sin ourselves.

When a trial comes my way, I often see new sins pop up in my life that I have never had to deal with before.  For example, I never really struggled that much with anger until I had children. I may have looked at people who struggled with that sin and thought they just didn't know how to manage their emotions and pride had settled in my heart.  But now, years later, I see that, in the right situation, we are all capable of ANY sin.

I didn't know that I would struggle so much with the sin of fear and unbelief until my health was threatened and I became terrified of leaving my family behind.
I didn't realize how much I loved material things until we sold our house and moved into an apartment.
I didn't realize how much I loved my children above God until one of our children was very sick and we were afraid he had a life-altering disease.
Sins creep in our lives so quickly.  Many times we notice this happening when we are under extra stress or going through a trial. Sometimes we are in denial that they have crept in, and we try to push them aside, without ever acknowledging or confessing them.

Trials. are. no. fun.  I want out of them as soon as I enter them, and I am always looking for a way around them.  But maybe I need to view my trials in a new light because trials show us what is in our hearts. If a new sin surfaces when I am going through a trial, it is an opportunity for me to cut off a part of my life that is not looking like Christ, a part of me that I may not have seen if I had not gone through a trial.  I was probably struggling with that sin all along, but it didn't come to light until I opened up my eyes to see the stronghold it was having in my life.

As new sins sneak up on us, may we use them as an opportunity to cut off whatever it is in our lives that doesn't look like Christ.  Is my mouth causing me to sin by constantly complaining and arguing?  Then, maybe I need to talk less until I can train my mind to say things that are encouraging and uplifting.  Is fear keeping me from joining a home team and being around new people?  Then maybe I need to make myself join a home team and push past the fear.  Is pride keeping me from making things right with my husband when we got in an argument?  Then, I should humble myself and apologize so that the relationship can be restored.

May our sins be used:

  • To remind ourselves that we are weak
The moment that we think we are standing strong is the moment that we struggle with the sin of pride.  It is also usually the moment that we fall flat on our faces.  As new sins emerge, may we be reminded that we are all sinful, and that only through the blood of Christ can we turn from the sin in our lives.  
"If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall." 1 Corinthians 10:12 
"I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart.  But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.  Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin." Romans 7:21-25
  • To help us truly confess our sins and repent
At first, it is tempting to disregard the sin in our lives.  If we don't deal with it, we can pretend it's not really there.  But, when we do this, our sin is separating us from God and our relationship with Him is broken.  As we confess our sins to Him, He forgives us and can show us how we can become more like Him.  Psalm 32 is such a good description of how sin can cause us such despair.  Forgiveness is right there, if we will take time to examine our hearts and turn from our sin so that we can become more like Christ.  
 Oh, what joy for those
    whose disobedience is forgiven,
    whose sin is put out of sight!
Yes, what joy for those
    whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt,
    whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
 When I refused to confess my sin,
    my body wasted away,
    and I groaned all day long.
 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me.
    My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you
    and stopped trying to hide my guilt.
I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.”
    And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. 
 Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time,
    that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.
 For you are my hiding place;
    you protect me from trouble.
    You surround me with songs of victory. 
 The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you.
 Do not be like a senseless horse or mule
    that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”
 Many sorrows come to the wicked,
    but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the Lord.
 So rejoice in the Lord and be glad, all you who obey him!
    Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!
  • To help us become more like Christ
By turning to Christ and fixing our eyes on Him, He shows us how to replace that sin in our lives. Instead of focusing on overcoming a particular sin, we need to fix our eyes on Him.  I love the quote by A.W. Tozer: "Be thou exalted, and a thousand minor problems will be solved at once." As Christ is exalted, the sin will be replaced.  Be ready to look for how He wants it to be replaced.  Sometimes that might mean we must be ready to apologize to someone or it might mean giving something up. He will make it clear as we truly focus on Him and become more like Him.  
"...let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith." Hebrews 12:1-2
  • As an opportunity to relate to others
Whenever we are seeking to let Christ replace sin in our lives, it can be an opportunity for us to encourage someone else going through that same problem.  Recently, I talked with our youth girls about the subject of dating.  I believe God clearly gave me the words to say to them because I have struggled with a lot of the same things they are struggling with today.  I know how hard it is to remain pure in your dating relationships.  If I could not relate with them, then it would be hard to help them in that area.  So, let God use you to encourage others as He helps you overcome sin in your life.
"So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing." 1 Thessalonians 5:11
The next time we see sin trying to take root in our lives, it is my prayer that we will not be overcome with guilt and shame.  Instead, repent and thank God that we do have forgiveness offered to us.  At the same time, instead of relying on our own will power to overcome sin, may we truly fix our eyes on Jesus and look for ways that He can use that sin in our life to point us back to Him.  What can we do to replace that sin in our lives?  How can we love on someone else who is dealing with that same sin?  Satan is seeking to keep us off track however he can, but God can use even our mistakes as a way to bring us back to Him.  Be on the alert because Satan usually works in these two ways: he works by making us feel powerless OR by making us feel like we can handle everything on our own.  Both are wrong and both will end up taking us away from Christ. 

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