If there is one thing that people hate to talk about the most, it is Sin. It is the nature of there being a moral code of behavior and state of mind out there so pure and Holy, it is practically unavailable to us. It is knowing that the opposite of this perfection is evil and brokenness. We hate that those are the very things we are well accustomed to the most. While sin is most certainly not the topic on everyone’s tongues, it so very often is the thing that is on our minds. “The Bible says I can’t do this and I can’t do that.” From an outside perspective people see this thing we call religion as a voluntary prison of laws that we try to keep in order to make us feel more righteous than the rest of the world. They shout, “Hypocrites!”, when we fail to measure up to the way of living we claim to hold tightly to. From an inside perspective, we try to balance this thing we call the law and this thing we call grace. But we still find ourselves beaten down when Sin pulls us down and we don’t “measure up”. I think our version of grace is still highly overshadowed by our desire to “work” our way into God’s favor. The reason for this lays at the feet of sin and our impression towards it.
In our Christian culture, sin is dressed up and dramatized to be some huge aspect of our faith. We claim our sins and imperfections as our own and have created a religion of “trying not to do what is wrong”. This is the very thing that is wrong!
God’s perfect will can afford your imperfections. The only will you are fighting is your own. Your will says, “this is how it should be”, and it leaves you feeling incomplete when you mess that plan up. Sin is very seldom part of our plans, but it is undoubtedly part of our character. It is easy to make that connection, but the other end to that statement is often the one we forget: Sin is not part God’s character, but it certainly is part of his plan! God’s plans are not stopped because you messed it up! The reality of sin is that it holds no real weight when Christ’s grace abounds. The illusion that we so often fall into is that sin is alive and unbridled, and needs our fixed attention to bring it down. As I continued to think this way, I began to notice a pattern of behavior. I call it The Sin Cycle. See the chart below.
I’m going to take some time here to really break down this chart. What you will hopefully begin to see is how helpless a “try not to sin” faith truly is.
The first element of this chart that I want to bring to light is the pretty straight forward message. The basic cycle proceeds as this: I sin, I feel guilty of my sin, I ask God for forgiveness of my sin, I feel free from my sin, then I sin, and so on from there. Many of you probably relate to one of these feelings and can easily see what stage you may be in right now. What I began to realize was that sin is most often the focus of our faith. Sin has taken over our faith and has its hands on our steering wheels controlling what we do. It keeps us in a cycle that continually dips us back in for more. We get that Spiritual high only when we feel free from sin. When we mess up and feel the shame, we hit the spiritual low. This Sin Cycle is not about faith in a Christ’s amazing grace. It is about what you need to do in order to feel close to God. That is the next element of this chart that I am going to address. This cycle is not stationary, it rolls like a wheel. When we ask God for forgiveness, it is one of the most relieving feelings in the world. It is true humility at the feet of Christ who forgives. There is a closeness that has no comparison. But when our mind is deceived in the way of this Sin Cycle, the closeness we feel even through forgiveness and freedom over sin looses its flavor. As each cycle continues to roll on and on, it is not God who we are becoming closer to. We are driven towards pleasing ourselves. Pride is the engine to this cycle. The result of this Sin Cycle is nothing more than a roller coaster of self deceit. When our spiritual highs are based on how often we sin or do good works, we are living in the sin cycle. When our spiritual lows occur when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and we in return feel shame, we are living in the sin cycle. Our spiritual high alone should be from closeness with God, far away from self. Matthew 16:26 says,
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Jesus does not say, “deny your sins and follow me”. No, sin is defeated, it is our flesh that lives on until its final breath renders it defeated as well. “Deny yourself”, Jesus says. Deny your flesh. Stop aiming to please yourself. Stop giving it false power over you. Jesus says, “take up your cross and follow me.”
Sin should not be our focus as Christians. “Wait, what?! So sinning does not matter?!” No! Jesus calls us to be disciples of him, students of truth and to follow him. Be imitators of Christ. Imitating Christ should be our main, front and center focus. Everything else remains in our peripheral.
Think of it like driving a car. How do you stay driving on your side of the road and not in the ditch on the side of the road or the incoming traffic in the other lane? You keep your eyes in front where you are going. Sure, there are lots of things around us that we should be aware not to drive into, like that ditch or those trees. But to avoid them, you don’t stare them down as you pass by. You take notice through your peripheral vision and quick glances. The same goes with our walk with Christ. Yes, Sin is all around us, but if we keep our eyes on the true prize, Christ will guide us and protect us from swaying towards it. It is interesting to note that we tend to lean towards the things we have our eyes set on. Going back to the driving analogy; when we look off to the side for measurable amounts of time, our body tends to begin swaying towards the direction you are looking. When our faith is so wrapped up in NOT sinning to the point where it consumes our attention and focus, we are making it harder for ourselves to stay on track.
Are you living in the Sin Cycle? Are you letting sin control your faith? Does your Spiritual high come from doing good things or from close intimacy with God? Take this thought to heart as you start this week.