Subtle Sins, Hidden Addictions

So we haven’t committed murder, we don’t sleep around, and we abstain from drug use. We go to church on Sundays and maybe we’re even involved in a Bible study or other church activities. In general, we think we’re pretty good.

But as soon as we begin to content ourselves with our behavior or lifestyle, we fall away from our dependence on grace. In the process, we often become blind to our shortcomings and our failure to live up to God’s standard of holiness.

It is a human tendency to compare ourselves to other people in order to gauge our own status or progress. “At least I’m not as bad as so-and-so,” we think. “Sure, I have my weaknesses, but compared to those people, I’m pretty squeaky clean. Yeah, I may drink a little, or I’m not as kind to my spouse as I should be, but certainly I’m not an alcoholic. Certainly I couldn’t be classified as abusive.”

And so instead of looking to how we could be better, we content ourselves with the notion that at least we aren’t a lot worse. This is not the sort of self-evaluation that God desires.

The problem is that a lot of seemingly smaller issues get swept under the rug. Since our sins aren’t glaring and we are staying within the bounds of civil law, we think we’re doing OK. This is the breeding ground for addiction and a recipe for spiritual deterioration.

Many of us have learned to set up our lives on a system of punishment and reward. If we are good, we get rewarded; if we are bad, we get punished. We are always looking for that boundary to stay within so that we skirt the punishment and maybe even catch a few rewards. We get away with what we can.

But God isn’t a parent or a boss. He isn’t waiting for us to step over the line so that He can rain down a little fire. He is inviting us into a relationship of freedom and joy. He is inviting us to set aside our false idols and inferior dependencies in order to receive the full measure of His blessing.

When we live as though our relationship with God is about following a set of rules, we begin to make concessions and excuses for our less-than-holy behaviors and practices. The Bible allows for quite a lot of gray space around personal behavior. But Jesus shows us that what is most important is not your actual behavior, but the inclination of your heart.

As Christians we must accept the fact that we are forever and always sinning. Even on our best days, we have sin in us seeking to control, dominate and shift us away from God. Those who have been Christians for decades become so grooved into the Christian routine that complacence becomes the condition of the heart. We see our sterile lives and think that we are living in holiness.

We need to start asking a different set of questions. Rather than seeking to justify ourselves by what we have done or not done, and rather than looking to compare ourselves to others, we need to do a different kind of self-evaluation.

Questions for self-reflection and discovery:

What is the thing you don’t want to talk about?

What is the thing you do not share at Bible study?

What are you secretly ashamed of?

What do you wish you could change but haven’t been able to?

How does your heart feel before God when you practice this behavior?

God wants you to be free and you can’t be free if you continue to worship false idols and to practice your addiction. He doesn’t want you to just get by; He wants you to thrive.

The Word of God is our guide. In it we learn all we need to know about how to live. We see that holiness is more than a set of rules; it is the primary characteristic of a heart that is joyful in God and delights to follow His direction.

Jesus Christ is our gold standard. Rather than compare ourselves to other sinners, we compare ourselves to Christ. He is the standard of morality and the one we desire to emulate.

The Spirit is the power to be transformed. Christ was the only human being to live a perfect, sinless life. We cannot achieve that on this earth, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be conformed into Christ’s image throughout the course of our lives.

Seek God’s will, the forgiving power of Christ and the transformation of the Spirit as you strive to live above spiritual mediocrity. Hidden addictions and subtle sins drive us away from the fullness and wholeness God has intended for us. Ask the hard questions, confess, repent and be free.