Sin in Seemingly Safe Statements

Sometimes even in times of "heightened spirituality", we will say the right things for the wrong reasons.  My experience today has taught me that we need to take every thought captive, even the good ones, and examine our motives.

"Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life"

This is the first thought I had coming out of the phy sci department office this morning.  While there is nothing sinful about this particular statement - in fact, it's a perfectly good and Biblical statement taken in isolation - the circumstances around under which I said it showed the underlying sin in my heart.

Lately, my responsibilities have been piling up, and I have not been able to keep on top of them all.  Plagued by expectations and deadlines, I went to sleep praying that I'd be able to get through it all.  I woke up with the same prayer.  After realizing I had to go to the department office to get my schedule worked out, I was reminded of yet another area of my life that I had little control over.  Needless to say, I worriedly prayed during the walk to campus.

After things worked out, though, I breathed a sigh of relief.  Once I knew that things were OK, my first thoughts was "Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever."  Granted, my response was a tad melodramatic, but that's how I roll.

I thanked God that everything would be all right, but then I realized my sin.  Though I prayed and looked to God for help, my desires had nothing to do with God.  My desire had everything to do with my classes, my graduation, and my sense of control (or lack thereof) in my life.  I was serving myself and using God as a means to make my life more comfortable.  I wanted things to go my way.  And I didn't praise God until they did. 

"Give me more faith than you gave that man"

Sitting in the coffee shop after my meeting with the dept. chair and reflecting on this, I decided that one of the things my sin stemmed from was a lack of faith - a lack of faith in the goodness of God, the plan of God, the Sovereignty of God, etc - that allowed the idol of Self to take God's place.  I was reminded of the father who lacked faith.  When talking with Jesus, he realized his lack of faith and asked for more faith.  I've always found comfort in that story.  Maybe you don't have enough faith that God will take action in your life, but even if you have a tiny bit of faith, you can have faith that God will give you more faith.

My prayer was then, "Lord, give me more faith than you gave that man," which, in my opinion, is a perfectly good prayer.  We are told to hold onto the promises of God and petition in His name.  However, my next statement showed the state of my heart.  The next thing my heart said was, "If I just had enough faith, everything would turn out all right."  Right as I said that, my heart sank.  Foiled again!  And I was doing so well, too...My thoughts revealed yet another idol in my heart - the idol of religious performance.  Apparently somehow in my mind, I associated faith as "input" and the hand of God as "output."  I had given into the God-as-a-vending-machine view.

What to do?

If you're like me, maybe after examining your thought life, you will realize that you were much more of a sinner than you originally thought.   Maybe you will realize that you really have missed the mark after all.  It's important to make that first step. Sin must be identified before you can do anything about it.  However, identification of sin is not the only step.  We need to look at those areas of our lives that cause us to sin.  What are our attitudes?  What are our desires?  What is at the heart of the issue?  And then we pray.  A lot.  We can try to get rid of the sin on our own, but that just piles on the sin of self-sufficiency onto the list of sins we already have.  And it doesn't work very well (or at all.)  Instead, we pray for the grace to desire God more.  We pray for the grace that changes our hearts.  Our hearts used to be stone, but now they are flesh.  Our hearts our open to the prompting of the Spirit, and we pray that He will speak and we will listen.  We pray for the grace to turn from our sin and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  We pray that the God of grace will give us more grace.  And He will.