The Trap of Habitual Sin

We are living in times when scandal among Christian leaders is making headlines almost alongside politicians and celebrities. It’s like we are just waiting for the next man of God to fall which is sad and ungodly. But perhaps we need to ask ourselves when our own scandal might befall us. You see as much as we receive such news with wonder and disbelief we know it doesn’t happen overnight. No one sets out to be an abusive leader, a greedy televangelist or to be a pastor known all over for sexual scandal. Actually I would assume they do the very best to fight it or hide it. Just as none of us wants to succumb to our temptations or be known for it.

But as we pray for our leaders and earnestly seek God to shield them from sin and scandal we might also need to apply this prayer to our own lives. You see as much as our scandal won’t make headlines still it’ll dishonour God, bring disrepute to the Christian family and cause us much grief if we are genuine believers. We need to pray for ourselves but our prayer shouldn’t just be, dear Lord shield me from sin and scandal, Amen.

First, we need to ask God to bring to light those things of which we are prone to fall into. We need to ask, which idols most beckon our hearts for worship? When we are alone and in private which sites seem to call us to click? When we are left with unsupervised money what lies come to our ear? And when we are in positions of leadership how do we treat others? Might we be blamed for what we see in our superiors? To kick off this reflection I want to suggest 3 things we need to know about sin especially habitual sin to inform our prayers and fuel our war with sin.

Habitual Sin begins by Luring us in

I bet many who fell for abusive leadership didn’t even realise how firm their hand was. They just thought they make a strong case and people followed them unanimously. They never realised no one seemed to oppose them or they didn’t let anyone in who could oppose them. Or do you think the man caught up in sexual scandal went out seeking such a reputation? They started with a bit of flirting, a private meeting here, just a lift there, an innocent compliment and before they knew it they were deep in scandal.

What about the money trap? You start by an innocent need with unsupervised money which you vow to return. You tell yourself you are harming no one and you need it. Then it’s for a project that will take a few months and you think I’ll use it and then return it. Sin has a way to lure us in and before we know it we’ve done the unthinkable.

Think about Cain and his brother. It started off with a bit of jealousy, grew into anger and finally it led to murder. God warned Cain, Sin is crouching at your door with it’s desire toward you but you must rule over it, see Gen 4:7. He warns all of us with that sin that so easily seems to captive us if we would only listen. If you want to kill sin start by indentifying it, look out for its triggers and what it promises. Bring it to the Lord before it’s too late. Come and ask for the strength to kill its desire. The allure of sin is where the battle begins and where it needs to be won.

Habitual Sin Thrives in Privacy
Like a thief in the night sin has a courage that seems to thrive in private places. It’s like all over sudden this harmless man transforms when he’s alone. As evil lurks in the dark sin lurks in the secret places. It breeds in privacy and hatches in the dark corners. Or who steals from the money bag when everyone is looking? Who clicks that site when his family is having dinner? It’s the secret unsupervised places and times that sin enjoys.

For this reason the first line of defence with sin ought to be confession and accountability. Bring the temptation to the light and the roaring lion becomes a little cat. Still it can’t be ignored but the environment is different to fight it. When I have confessed a temptation to a brother I often find that though I’m exposed my sin is also exposed. Being vulnerable is said to make you weak but actually in the right company it makes you strong to fight sin. It’s when we hide sin that it’ll have its day with us. We’ll look strong but deep inside we know just how weak we are.

Think about Judas. All those years of taking from Jesus money bag in secret before he sold out his Saviour. What if he told Peter or John his temptation? He may have lost the treasurer’s job but I bet we would be reading of his powerful ministry in the book of Acts. Confessing our sin and seeking accountability gives us the weapons we need to slay the sin monster.

Habitual Sin is Stubborn
One of the things I long for in the new creation is saying the battle with sin is finished. You know why ? Because on this other side it’s never finished. Haven’t you found yourself stuck in a sin you thought you overcome years ago? You prayed many times for God to help you overcome your anger and for sometime it seemed like you won the battle only for the war to sneak in on you. Or maybe it’s that site you used to frequent. You overcome it, got a more healthy, practical and spiritual rythm then one weekend while you are tired and alone there you go. Sin can feel like it has more lives than a cat. Worse it seems to have the ability to resurrect.

Think about Saul with his rage and jealousy. How many times does he seem to forgive David and turn away from his plotting? You think now that David has spared his life he’ll let him be. Unfortunately sin doesn’t say goodbye that easily. Just because you overcome it last time doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. Don’t get me wrong sin can be overcome and will be overcome but I’m saying we need to watch out lest we deceive ourselves with early victory. The battle with sin will be won when we see Jesus in glory. We might win several fronts on this side but we should never let our guard down.

Conclusion
We started this line of thought with stories of Christian leaders making headlines. But I hope by now you’ve realised we are all together in a bigger fight with sin especially with habitual sin. As that African proverb goes, don’t laugh at a boat being tossed forth by winds in the sea for your brother might be in it. Worse with the waves of sin we are all in this boat. We need to pray for our leaders and the church as whole. We need to watch out for the sin that so easily entangles. As John Owen said, we need to be killing sin before it kills us.

The Era of the Popular

I was doing my devotion recently looking at Psalms and I came across Psalms 14 again. It’s probably the least liked of the Psalms in our contemporary world except for those who quote it to win arguments in apologetics. But what strikes me every time I read it is I have a bit of hesitation hearing the word of God call people foolish. It sounds like one of those things your mum says you shouldn’t say in public. I know it doesn’t refer to intellectual inadequacy as it goes for the heart, not the mind. It speaks of how our hearts inform our actions and way of life. I think it explains Genesis 3 and the world we live in perfectly and yet it still feels a bit weird. Why? I think it’s because that’s not a popular thing to say today.

You see we live in the era of popularity. What goes and who we follow is not necessarily based on what is right but what is popular. Our virtue is not right and decent but popular and acceptable depending on where we stand. Sometimes I see people fight and argue thinking they are defending what is right but in reality, they are defending what is popular or unpopular according to their school of thought. Yes, I should say unpopular ideas are also popular these days. Some people just like those guys who stand for what is unpopular.

The martyrs of the age are not those who say I cannot denounce the truth so help me God, but those ready to spill blood on the altar of popular ideas. The politicians we love and celebrate are not always the ones on the side of the truth but those who have chosen the popular side. The preacher who draws crowds to his channel says the things that itch the ears of popular culture. The one who rises to attack him can also earn themselves popularity because some people just don’t like going with the flow. In the end, truth is not what counts but choosing your crowd.

But the question we must ask is a personal one. We need to evaluate what we stand for and ask if we are victims or perpetrators in this war. If there are things that don’t sound right in my head is it because they are wrong or because the culture and the people I follow have made them seem wrong? If I hold to a certain truth and subscribe to a certain school of thought is it because it’s biblical or just what sells in my clan these days? If I hate a certain way of life and don’t want to listen to a particular way of thinking is it because they are just not popular to me? If I hold so strongly to a particular doctrine and expression of faith is it because it’s what’s popular within my denomination? Remember popular or unpopular shouldn’t be where I stop. We need to bring back the truth and the whole truth as the yardstick of our faith and way of life. I propose 2 things to start us off in this discussion:

Start by Evaluating your own School of Thought

We cannot just sit comfortably with a way of thinking because all our heroes stand there. If we are Christians we need to be even more careful with those men and women we hold in the highest regard. I’m not saying we don’t celebrate how God is working through them. But when it comes to questions of faith and how to live the word of God and the whole word should have the last say. I think if we did more reflection beyond what just goes we might hold our convictions with a bit of nuance, we might move camps in theological debates but most importantly we’ll have the right foundation for faith and life. We might also learn something from those we most disagree with. Here I don’t mean we always go for compromise but we should ask ourselves why we believe and live the way we do.

From the word, we learn that our faith is both a shared and personal faith. Certain schools of thought will be big on the personal and not the communal. This is where Jesus and his word are my personal business and I don’t care what others do. Such people might need to be reminded he’s also our Saviour. But on the other hand are those whose faith and religion are merely borrowed from others in their popular domain. They affirm everything their heroes stand for and would disagree with the word if their clan chose to. I want to suggest regardless of where we begin we should get to that point where the word, not just what seems popular and okay in our circle, should inform our faith and lifestyle more. The word will fix our blind spots and give us the right worldview which means sometimes we’ll disagree with our heroes if the word convinces us otherwise. I want to especially suggest that if the Bible holds things in tension we shouldn’t try to edit and fix that out because our heroes stand somewhere else. We might need to survey that tension a bit more. We may have to change our battle fronts for what the word says is non negotiable.

Don’t Be Quick to Dismiss Others

On the other hand, it’s possible to build our faith by always standing for the unpopular side. We might find ourselves always siding with the unpopular and seeking to correct others with our favourite portions of the Word. But that’s not how the Word works. Read well and applied, the word of God will teach us, train us, encourage us, build us, correct and rebuke us, see 2 Tim 3:16-17. All those things should be happening in the life of a believer without always leaning on one side to make us complete. And those things should be present in our ongoing interaction with fellow believers.

But if every time I come to the word I’m only thinking about how to influence others and only seeing one side of this then I’m probably just using the word to cement my school of thought. I won’t learn and grow if the Bible only tells me what I already stand for and what I think others are wrong about. I won’t build fellow believers if I only magnify what we disagree on. When I always come to the word and leave thinking how right I am then there’s something I’m missing. If I only think others should hear a particular passage perhaps pride has overcome me. And if the word only seems to leave me on my own island then I’m probably in too deep with my preferred clan. When I think that only I and my denomination has got things right then I might need the reminder that church universal and scattered is bigger than that.

Conclusion

I know I’m trying to unsettle waters here and leaving you with more questions than answers. It would be easier if I was more specific and I told you exactly what to do. But I think sometimes that’s the problem. Where we are used to being told what to believe and what to do without taking the time to own those beliefs and actions. Don’t get me wrong there’s a good place to firmly teach what to believe and how to act.

But I want to suggest that we need to evaluate our own beliefs and lifestyle not just on the basis of what goes in our popular culture but on what the word says. Wouldn’t it be great if we opened the Bible more than we do Ted talks and Tiktok on issues of faith and life? Wouldn’t we paint a better picture of Christianity to the world if we were more gracious when hearing from other believers and wanting to measure everything by the yardstick of the word? Wouldn’t we be better witnesses of the Gospel if the Bible and the whole Bible, not the popular or unpopular culture was our source of authority?

Heroes in the Ordinary


All of us admire people who’ve achieved great things in life. We are drawn by heroism in every sphere of life. We want to be like them or be associated with them. You might actually say all our history and moral stories are written with the hero in mind. It’s the man who beat the odds and achieved what looked impossible that has a story to tell. It’s the man who’s brought up a family and educated his children amidst all kinds of challenges that we admire. It’s the leader who’s lead well and made fortunes for his people that wins a legacy. The man who inspires is the one who stood and fought for what he believed to be right even when the whole world was against him. Hero mentality shapes a lot of what we do and desire.

I actually think the recent push in churches on getting people to know their God given purpose is informed by this. We want to believe there’s something great only we can achieve and when we find it then we’ll have made it in life. If we can find something to live for then our lives will count for something. We’ll make it in life leaving an impact and we believe God will be happy with us. Anyone who is a dreamer lives in that world and we cheer them on to keep dreaming. All dreams are valid and the sky is the limit we say.

Some of us aim for higher goals, to become a household name or at least a man of influence in our circles. But then we grow up and realize somethings are not as easy as we had dreamt. Still we hope we’ll make a significant contribution where God has placed us. And at the very least we hope people will remember us for something. Something to be said on our funeral that we did right and lived for. Of course life is not always as linear and we can get bitter, selfish and disillusioned to care for anything. But still for the most part we admire heroism even if only to be associated with it.

Here I’m not just thinking of the public space but even within family. We want to go past where our parents reached or be like them if we deemed them successful. Men want to emulate other men who have done great things for their families however they define that. Dad wants their children to grow up admiring them or at least go beyond them. Women want to be associated with great men whether at home or in the society. We are all drunk with heroism until something else replaces that good addiction. I think the problem with us is we are always looking at the end of the story not the process. For the most part we think it’s an event that will scale us high to raise our heroic flag. It’ll be an impossible situation that only we could help out. It’ll be an instant that calls us to rise to the occasion and showcase our greatness.

But while we know a lot of heroes by key moments in history they are actually defined long before in the ordinary life. They are heroes before they climb the Everest or stand for what’s right. It’s because they stood the ground in the ordinary that they can withstand pressure when it comes to the key moments. But for the most part they are just ordinary people like you and me. Now we don’t have a lot of documented ordinary stories of heroes because for the most part that doesn’t sell. But where we do we realize our heroes are more ordinary than we realize.

I was just thinking about the heroes of faith, pardon me if that’s not something you subscribe to. But if you look at the so called heroes of faith like in Hebrews 11, yes you see great extraordinary things they did that defined them. But if you looked closely you’d also realise a lot of ordinariness that we miss. That they were actually normal people with weaknesses and some made serious blunders in life. But they’re recorded as heroes because of what they believed and were willing to stand and where need be, die for. That faith made them scale high in history but for the most part they applied it in the ordinary life. They were just normal people living for what they believed and sometimes even had their doubts.

Think about Abraham the father of faith. Most people know him for his willingness to leave his home to follow God, for trusting God for a son in old age and even being ready to sacrifice him in obedience and faith to God. But the whole story of Abraham that is undocumented is mostly a man living ordinary life and trusting God to fulfill his promise. Theres a lot of waiting time and Abraham isn’t always a saint through and through. Remember his story in Egypt? Take any other character in the list and you’ll see that one, they were human, weak and sinful. Second, for many we know them by key moments of faith and not much else. But third, we realize that faith must have been practised not only in the key moments but in the ordinary life.

I think it’s the ordinary that shapes heroes long before it comes to a key moment. Think about the greatest of those heroes, our Lord Jesus. The world knows him for his death and resurrection, the sermon on the mountain and maybe his controversy with the religious class. But looking at his life however exceptional we read in a lot of ordinary life. He’s walking with his disciples, he’s eating in a tax collectors house and sometimes he’s hungry and disappointed. But what makes it all different is that his faith permeates through the ordinary. His faith and trust in God doesn’t just appear at the tail end of his life but is evident all through and through.

Perhaps we should focus more on the ordinary life even as we dream of the tail end that defines our heroism. Don’t just dream of one day standing and willing to die for what you believe. Practise what you believe in the ordinary away from the limelight. Because if one day we might call you a hero you’ll have been one long before in the ordinary. When it comes to it the process is what makes heroes in the end. It’s how we live in the ordinary life that will shape us into what we aspire to be. If we do this we might realise it’s easier to be a hero than we imagine. Take one day at a time, live for God and apply what you believe.

True Christian heroism is defined not only by where we stand at the end but by the process. It’s in the ordinary that our sanctification is achieved. It’s in the ordinary that we live for God and our faith shines in this life. When we are at home raising our kids. At school when we are preparing for that exam. In that marriage not on special days. When we are in that office on a Tuesday and it’s just a normal day at work. The difference is our faith should permeate all through it. Our heroism is shaped not by key moments but in the ordinary. And at the end it’s how we lived in the ordinary that will count.

13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Ecclesiastes 12.