Any discussion of sin has the potential to end up as little more than behaviorism. That is to say, that typically when we hear sermons, think about, and honestly think about sin in our lives, the end result is us saying something like, “That’s it. I’m not going to ________ any more.” We resolve to change our behavior, and that’s not a bad thing.
But it is an ineffective thing. At least it has been for me. I’ve got a list as long as my arm of all things I’ve decided not to do any more and yet persisted in doing. So what gives?
Perhaps we’re not looking deeply enough at the sin in question. Sin isn’t just something we are; it’s a reflection of what we believe. At the root of any sinful action in our lives, if we trace it back, is a misshapen belief about God or ourselves. So in the case of gluttony which is a behavior, there may well be a root belief spawning the action that God isn’t sufficient. So we try and meet our emotional needs in food. Or lying. Trace that behavior back and we find that we might well believe that we will be abandoned if people (or God, for that matter) knew the truth about us.
That means that if we only look at the action without the motivation or belief behind it, all we’re doing is looking at the symptom and not the disease. We’ve got to look deeper, and if we do, we’ll trace our sin to see what we really believe to be true about God. And we might really be shocked.
But if we look deeper at sin, we also move out of the realm of effort and into the territory of faith, because we’re not fixated on doing something differently at the expense of believing something differently. And that’s where the gospel enters in. Because the gospel is alot bigger than our behavior. Jesus isn’t content to change our behavior; He wants the heart as well.
When we trace it deeper, Jesus will meet us there. At the level of the heart. And change the way we believe.