The Sin Behind the Sin

Life is war. At least it is for the Christian:

“I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is agains tthe Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.”

If there is a conflict raging inside of us and we want to take seriously the fighting of sin, maybe we need to have a better battle plan. Part of such a plan involves knowing the enemy. Perhaps we have fallen short in this respect.

We tend to think of sin in a very isolated, small view kind of way. We look at porn. We gossip. We cheat on our taxes. We use foul language. We eat too much. These are all actions, and usually we try and battle these sins in the realm of action. But what about the sin behind the sin?

What about the “why” behind the action? That’s taking the battle to another level. If we start to look deeper, we find that there is indeed sin lurking behind the physical manifestation of that sin. Many more times than not, the sin behind the sin isn’t about the will; it’s about our belief system.

What fuels the physical manifestation of looking at pornography? It’s the belief that our satisfaction cannot ultimately be found in Jesus. So we turn to pictures.

What fuels cheating on your taxes? It’s the belief that God is not, or will not, supply what we need. So we turn to financial gain.

What fuels overeating and gluttony? It’s the belief that only physical, sensory pleasure can make us happy. So we turn to cake.

What fuels bitterness and harsh words and strife? It’s the belief that we deserve better and if we don’t stick for ourselves then no one else will. So we turn to backbiting.

I’m broken. And so are you. We see the evidence of that brokenness in our actions, but it goes way deeper than that. So if we want to go on the offensive against sin, then let’s attack it at the root. That’s why the gospel, rather than the will, is the only means by which sin might be overcome.

The gospel fixes what is broken. It changes us at a deep level – it informs and refashions what we believe and that belief informs and refashions those actions.

Do we fight sin at a physical level? Without question, we do. But we do not stop there. We go for the sin behind the sin and cut off the head rather than the tail.

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7 Comments

  • Dave says:

    Michael,
    Thanks for the awesome post. I think you’re really on to something. Namely, this is the essence of the moral law:

    1. No other Gods – Do you actually love God more than the other pleasures?

    2. No graven images of God – Do you love God as He is, not as you’d like Him to be?

    6. Murder – You’ve already answered: “What fuels bitterness and harsh words and strife? It’s the belief that we deserve better and if we don’t stick for ourselves then no one else will. So we turn to backbiting.”

    7. Adultery – You’ve already answered: “What fuels the physical manifestation of looking at pornography? It’s the belief that our satisfaction cannot ultimately be found in Jesus. So we turn to pictures.”

    8. Stealing – You’ve already answered: ”
    What fuels cheating on your taxes? It’s the belief that God is not, or will not, supply what we need. So we turn to financial gain.”

    10. Coveting – Are we satisfied in Jesus and what he’s given us or do we want to satisfy ourselves with other things?

    I’m still thinking about the others but I think this is definitely what God wants us to see in the 10 commandments.

    In Christ,
    Dave

  • MK says:

    Thanks for the comment Dave. What’s cool about your comment is that it takes us beyond the prohibition, which is negative (Do NOT), to the positive. It shows us again that God isn’t interested in being a killjoy, but in giving us by His grace the best thing in the universe: Himself.

  • Matt says:

    Great post Michael. I know full well how easy it is to address the “surface” sin and not the deeper problem. It seems to me that all these sins boil down to the original sin: pride. The exalting of myself to the place reserved for God alone, wanting to be god…that’s the root. In each of your examinations of what fuels our “surface” sin above, I think it can all be boiled down to this.

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