Sin is a reality every Christian must live with. Although we have been made new in Christ, our old selves exert constant pressure to pull us back into the darkness of disobedience. The Bible commands believers to put on armor, to constantly fight sin, and to persevere in the midst of the battle. But are you fighting hard enough? How can you be sure?
About six months ago I had to publicly confess sin before a group of a dozen men I respected. Public confession isn’t highly valued in our church culture today, but the experience is both humbling and liberating. Despite its benefits, though, I don’t want to do it often.
The only way to avoid confessing sin is to avoid sin itself. I realized throughout the ordeal of admitting my disobedience that I could look back and see all the ways in which I had grown content with sin. I didn’t do it on purpose, but as I reflected on my life and habits, I could see lot of ways that I had given sin an opportunity to grow.
Here are five warning signs that you may be too content with sin.
1. You Think Small Doses of Sin Are Okay
The first sign you may be too content with sin is you think small doses of it are okay. Sometimes I think to myself, “I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but just a little is all right.” Or I may say,”This is bad, but since I only do it every once-in-a-while, it’s fine.” If we rationalize sin based on quantity or frequency we’re on a path into deeper disobedience.
Compromise is never an acceptable standard when it comes to sin. When the Corinthians were permitting one immoral man, just one, to practice evil in their midst Paul wrote to them, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump” (1 Cor. 5:6b-7a). We cannot be content with even “a little” sin or occasional disobedience. We strive for complete purity.
2. You Compare Yourself to Others
One guaranteed way to get comfortable with sin in your life is to compare yourself to others. You know you’re not perfect. You know there are areas of your life that don’t line up with Christ’s example. But when you look at how other people are acting you don’t seem so bad. You think, “Well, I’m not perfect, but I’m not as bad as that person.”
We tell ourselves that as long as we aren’t killing, stealing large sums of money, doing drugs, or cursing out old ladies we’re relatively well-off. But God doesn’t call His children to be “relatively” better than other sinners. He commands us to be perfect as He is perfect (Mt. 5:48). God is the standard of holiness and purity, not other people.
3. You See How Close You Can Come to Sinning without Sinning
More than 15 years ago, my youth pastor used an illustration for fighting sin that I’ll never forget. A rich man was interviewing chauffeurs to drive him up the steep, curvy road to his house that was at the top of a mountain. The rich man interviewed several candidates who all boasted of their driving skills by describing how close they could get car to the edge of the road without falling off the mountain. He finally hired the one driver who said, “I stay as far away from the edge as possible.”
In the same way, we boast about how close we can come to sinning without actually sinning. We tell ourselves we can handle temptation without succumbing, but this kind of thinking invites disaster. Proverbs 6:27 says, “Can a man carry fire next to chest and not be burned?” Stay as far away from temptation as possible and you will keep sin far from you as well.
4. You Ignore the Devil
Even though Christians must be constantly on guard against the wickedness in their own hearts, we do have an external enemy. Jesus Himself frequently refers to the devil as he preaches and teaches (Mt. 4:1, 13:39; Lk. 8:12; Jn. 8:44). Peter says, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
Despite all the Bible’s warnings against the devil, people who have become too content with sin seldom consider him a threat. Believers who fight sin will humbly acknowledge that the devil is smarter and stronger than they are. They will not underestimate their enemy. They will not pretend as if he doesn’t exist. Instead, fighting sin requires admitting that the devil is real, and yet fleeing to the promise given in Scripture, “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4b).
5. You Seldom Use Scripture to Fight Sin
Not many in our day know the Bible well enough to apply it in daily our struggle to resist sin. Yet Jesus sets the example for us when He defends Himself against Satan’s temptations by quoting Scripture (Mt. 4). One verse I often remind myself of when fighting against the flesh is, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). Does Scripture so saturate your heart that you can draw on it at a moment’s notice to resist the temptation of sin?
The Good News
The bad new is even if you constantly fight contentment with sin, you will still fail. All of us forget, at times, to remember God’s promises and live the new life that is ours in Him. But the Good News is sin no longer rules the one who trusts in Christ. We may occasionally lose a battle, but the war against the evil in our hearts and the world was won 2,000 years ago on a cross and in an empty grave. It is the present reality of liberation from slavery to sin and the future hope of deliverance from sin’s presence that gives us the perseverance to continually root out darkness in our hearts.
Discussion Question: What other ways do we grow content with sin? How do you fight it?