Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Studying Sin

Welcome friends, I'm grateful you joined me here again. The study of holiness has been a long one, at times a hard one, but for sure a good one. If you've missed the previous lessons, you can find them HERE - A Picture of Holiness, A Study on Holiness and Is It Even Possible? I'll open this with a short video that I pray offers encouragement as you dive into a study that may not be easy. 

Holiness has been a topic on my blog in the recent weeks and it's been a subject I've studied over the last couple of months. In this process, 1 Peter 1:13-16 is a passage I keep coming back to. It says, Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” 

I've read these verses countless times, but as I study them and meditate on them my understanding is increasing. Lately verse 15 is the one that has my attention. As the rule-following, typically responsible, people-pleasing first born I was often an obedient child, so the opening three words made sense. Over the last couple of weeks though my eyes have been opened...now as a 40 year old I'm not nearly as obedient to my heavenly Father as I was to my earthly parents as a 14 year old. 

Stop for a moment and examine your life and heart - are you an obedient child of our heavenly Father? Like me, I'm sure your heart longs to answer with a confident "Yes!", but reality whispers a soft, "Sometimes" or "Not always." Friend, initially this realization hit me hard, which is OK because conviction is good and necessary, but then Satan started to use it to condemn me. If you are, and when you do, experience condemnation remember what Romans 8:1 says - "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." 

Let's move past the condemnation, but take a closer look at the conviction. Remember we can't repent of our sin until we are aware of it. When I was first studying this passage, the last part of verse 15 left me thinking. I found myself wondering about the evil desires of earlier years. In a way I think our world today has led us to wrongly define evil desires. What comes to mind when you hear that term? Do you see yourself as one with evil desires? 

Our culture tends to categorize sin and classify desires, but to put it simply evil desires are wanting or wishing for something that is contrary to God and/or His Word. So let's stop again, "Are evil desires something you struggle with? Or did in the past?" If we're honest, we all must answer with a "Yes"; Romans 3:23 supports this statement as we're told "ALL are sinners and fall short of the glory of God."

There are all kinds of evil desires and we each have our own unique struggles with them, so I'd encourage you to do what I did and pray and ask God to show what yours are. We must be intentional and proactive when it comes to being holy. Satan knows our past and I believe that's why Peter addresses this. We must be on guard or we will easily be tempted to commit sins of the past and will struggle with lies we once overcame with Truth.

If you pray this prayer, chances are God will show you the answer with complete clarity. Awhile back a situation took place that left me anxious and fearful. I wasn't directly involved, but I feared potential conflict. It didn't take long and the whole thing left me feeling sick. That night I went to bed praying and seeking direction, and peace, from the Lord. As I said, "Amen" verse 15 came to mind, you know the one about not conforming to evil desires from my days of ignorance. 

Initially, this didn't make much sense, but as I sat, pondered and returned to prayer, I started connecting the dots. I was doing the very thing I'd studied about and was instructed not to do. I was turning back and conforming. Satan was tempting me to be who I had been - the quiet, people-pleasing girl who wanted everyone to be happy. Internally I was hoping for a loved one to just be quiet, so the conflict I feared would be avoided. This loved one was seeking God for direction and making a stand for holiness and I was conforming instead of praying and encouraging. 

A week later, I found myself struggling with a personal situation; a calling that seemed crazy that resulted in doubt that could be overwhelming. I wrestled with thoughts I've battled before - the I'm not good enough, smart enough stuff that's consumed me at times. Again God showed me this is exactly what Peter is addressing in this passage. Sure it's not an evil desire like sexual lusting or murder meditation, but it's a focus on self instead of God. It's a form of pride and it is sin, which is contrary to holiness. 

Friend, realizing and addressing this sin that is a bigger part of my life than I want to admit has been hard. It's left me in tears. Like Casting Crowns sings my heart is breaking for what breaks God's. As those words entered my mind another line from the song quickly followed which brought encouragement - Jesus is a friend to sinners. We fall short, yet He loves us. We sin again and He forgives again. God hates sin, but He is bigger than it and with His help we can overcome it. 

This time spent learning about holiness has led to a study of sin. Friend, we must realize the seriousness of sin. It separates us from our heavenly Father. It can be done in secret (the extra money a cashier gives and we stay silent, the time we waste or food we eat), we can commit silent sins (thought life), and some sin is simple (think of the habits we have, the TV shows we watch, conversations we allow). Though Satan will tempt us to believe otherwise and our culture can do the same, no sin is small. (See Ananias and Sapphire in Acts 5) It would be beneficial to think of sin as a seed...tolerating one sin often grows into committing more. It's also important to remember that sin can snowball quickly. Finally, one last thing - I read in Nancy Leigh Demoss' book Holiness about "sleeping with sin", which is something we should never allow, but often commit. This happens when we are aware of our sin, even broken over it, but never turn from it.  

Understanding sin is important and it's also critical to remember sin is a cause that always leads to an effect. It creates pollution, brings punishment and carries a penalty. Sin has power, it often comes in patterns and it is present...not just in our world, but in our hearts. 

Friend, I realize this is not a fun topic, but through my experience I know studying it is productive. God will not only open our eyes, but He can change our heart. It takes time and work, but Psalm 125:5-6 offers great encouragement. "Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them."

This is definitely a process that will continue for the rest of our days; holiness is a journey not a destination. This look in the mirror and study of sin is something we must do repeatedly. The teacher in me has come out and I've put together a little activity for you to do to take a closer look at sin in general which will hopefully lead to a better reflection of personal sin. If this is something that interests you can find it HERE. I encourage you to write down your responses quickly in the first column and then work through the next two at a much slower, prayerful pace. Look into God's Word and follow that up by looking at your heart. Friend, the Word is living and active and it's useful for training in righteousness, which leads to holiness. I pray God blesses you as you commit to studying sin for yourself!!

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