Are you struggling against a life-dominating sin pattern that seems to have such a grip on you that you wonder if you will ever overcome it? You are in the Word, praying constantly, and begging the Lord to give you victory, and you are making good progress. Most of the time now, you do pretty well, and you’re grateful for that. But there are still too many times when you fail to win the battle between your heart and your mind, and you fall again to the temptations of sinful anger, depression, self-pity, or fear. As you dust yourself off from your most recent fall, shaking your head and feeling ashamed, you may be asking yourself, what am I missing here? Why can’t I completely shake this thing that I hate so much?
The answer to that question may be in the question itself: Maybe you don’t really hate it that much. Maybe (and you may not even be aware of it, but just maybe), you still love your sin. We know that the Lord sends affliction for our good and His glory (Rom 8:28), to make us more like Him and to grow our faith. But too often, when pain or other trials press on us, we become self-focused, which leads to resentment, lack of trust in God, and many sinful responses. In fact, this self-focus is at the root of most sinful responses to trials. When we think about ourselves instead of about others or God, we are well on our way to giving in to sinful anger, depression, fear, or whatever our “signature sin”—that one life-dominating sin that we can’t seem to shake—may be.
What is at the root of self-focus? You can probably guess. It’s pride. Pride says, “I don’t like this ______. It’s uncomfortable, and I desire my own comfort more than anything. God should fix this for me, and if He doesn’t, I will be angry/sad/fearful/despairing or whatever else my feelings tell me I should be. Basically, pride puts our purpose at odds with God’s purpose. It refuses to allow our hearts to submit to God’s plan for our lives, and instead insists that our plan is better.
Jerry Bridges, in his excellent book, Trusting God, says that submitting to God means making His purpose our purpose. In our sinful hearts, these two are often at odds. We know that His purpose is to make us more like Him and to bring glory to His name, but in our hearts, we’re not quite sold on the idea that that’s better than our purpose—our comfort and happiness. We live in this world, in these bodies, and the pain we suffer gets our attention. The truth is, we hold on to our sin because we love it more than we love God.
Ouch! Is that really true? Just because I keep on sinning in this same way, does that mean I love my sin more than I love God? Yes, in that moment, when I choose sin over obedience, it does mean that, because we obey the one that we love and trust. When I choose sin, I am loving myself, obeying my own plan, my own purpose, instead of God’s. There can be many motivations for choosing sin over obedience to Christ. Maybe your anger gets people to do what you want. Maybe your self-pity gets you sympathy and attention that you think you need. Maybe your depression gets you off the hook in your responsibilities, as sympathetic friends and family members pitch in to help.
Whatever the reason, you are hanging on to you sin because there is a part of your heart that still loves it. Your love for that sin overrides your love for God and your desire to obey Him, even if it’s just long enough to indulge your flesh. What will it take to convince you that God’s plan is better? Only God knows the answer to that question. And that answer is in His Word. Prayerfully search the Scriptures and your own heart, and ask the Lord to reveal it to you. He is faithful, and He will do it.
Here are a few Scripture verses to get you started:
He who did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us… Ephesians 2:20
But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— I Corinthians 2:9
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18