When I first became a Christian, I had a lot to learn about the faith. I was not rooted in the Word and cared more about my outward appearance than my relationship with God. I didn’t understand the power of humility or repentance in my Christian walk. When people spoke into my life and told me when I was in sin, I pretended what they were saying wasn’t true, or I told them they were wrong. Little did I know that the more I pretended sin didn’t exist, the longer I allowed the sin to take root in in my heart.
That may have been my posture 20 years ago, but I believe I’ve matured enough to acknowledge sin for what it is and ask for forgiveness, so I don’t allow my sin to hinder my relationship with God. However, I still see this problem among Christians today. Here are 10 ways Christians minimize sin:
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One of the ways Satan deceives us into thinking we’re not in sin is to fill our hearts with pride. Pride is the antithesis of humility. Humility allows us to examine our hearts and see if there’s anything wicked among us. Humility helps us ask God for forgiveness and repent of our old ways.
Pride, on the other hand, makes us believe we don’t have any sin. It makes us see ourselves as superior to others. When this happens, sin takes root in our hearts, making it increasingly difficult to overcome.
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Rebellion is different from pride in that we know we have sinned, but we refuse to acknowledge it. Instead of surrendering to authority, we question it. God asked us to submit to the authorities above us. When we rebel against God’s design for us, it shuts out the Holy Spirit’s capacity to convict us, snuffing out the Holy Spirit’s flame so it no longer is at the center of our lives.
“As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.’” (Hebrews 3:15)
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3. Blaming Others
This sin is as old as Adam and Eve. Instead of taking responsibility for their sin, they blamed each other. How often do we do this in our own lives? Instead of assuming responsibility and changing our ways, we say, “Well, she made me act that way,” or “if only I hadn’t listened to him.” These statements are dangerous to our relationship with God. Blaming others shifts the responsibility from us to someone else. This means no longer do we have to change, but rather the other person must change for us.
Like rebellion, this also denies the Holy Spirit access to our hearts. God does not force his way but gives us free will to decide if we want His spirit to dwell within us. Once we do, we allow the Spirit permission to convince us when we have areas in our lives prohibiting the freedom afforded to us through Christ’s death on the cross. But when we blame others. Our hearts become calloused to our role in sin, denying the Spirit access to convict us.
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Denial by definition is, “the action of declaring something to be untrue.” Satan is the father of lies. If he can get us to believe we have not actually sinned, then we can’t repent of it. Repentance is the key to an intimate relationship with God. We can confess our sin to God many times, but if we deny what we are doing is sin, what is there to confess?
In the relativistic world in which we live, we don’t allow our brothers and sisters in Christ to speak into our lives. God sometimes uses other people to reveal our sin to us. But if we believe what they’re saying is not true, we not only deny we are in sin but deny the Holy Spirit permission to reveal our sin to us. Revelation leads to conviction, which leads to repentance. Denial stops the revelation from taking place.
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5. Condemnation of Others (or Ourselves)
In today’s world, we are asked not to judge others. But judgment is different than condemnation. Judgment says, “What you’re doing is wrong. How can I help?” Condemnation on the other hand says, “What you’re doing is wrong and you are terrible person for doing it.”
Scripture is clear: “there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Through Christ’s death on the cross we are no longer enslaved to our sin. However, Satan points an accusatory finger at us, hoping we feel shame even after we’ve been forgiven for our sin.
Judgment is actually a good thing as it allows God to us as agents of revelation in people’s lives. But judgment needs to be done in love. When we spend adequate time with someone, we have earned the right to speak into the lives. However, when we speak to someone about their sin without earning that right, we are condemning them, taking the emphasis off of the sin and onto the person.
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6. Religious Spirit
The religious spirit can manifest in many ways, including judging others by their outward appearance, tearing others down without building them up, and going through religious motions without having a vibrant relationship with God. When this happens, we focus on behaviors instead of the heart.
This is apparent in Scripture, and the best example is in the parable of the lost son in Luke 15:11-32. The father gives his inheritance to both sons early. The younger, prodigal son’s heart was not right. He cared more about lustful pleasures thinking about the love of his father. After the prodigal son received his inheritance, he left to squander it in sinful living. During this time, the heartbroken father does not chase after the son, but rather waits for him to return to repent. When the son returns in repentance, putting his old ways aside, the father throws his younger son a party.
Sin is not a behavior problem but rather a heart problem. If our hearts are not focused on the savior, we’ll focus more on behaviors rather than hearts. And when we focus solely on behaviors. we try to clean up our act and look the part of a Christian. We may be able to eliminate outward sin, but the inward sin of a heart focused on earthly pleasures still remains.
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7. Yearning for "The Good Old Days"
In the past year, I have found myself listening to 80s and 90s music, watching 90s movies, and perusing childhood toys on eBay. While there’s nothing wrong with these activities, I realize it is causing me to live in fantasy rather than reality.
Yearning for what was prevents us from moving forward in our Christian walk. In a sense, yearning for the good old days is a denial of a different kind. It forces us to go back to a “simpler time” and denying culture has changed. This renders us useless to using our gifts to help people whom God puts in our paths today.
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My husband is a pastor, and many couples have walked into his office unaware that living together or having sex before marriage is wrong. When my husband enlightens them that God wants them to keep the marriage bed pure, they’re shocked. TV shows and movies contribute significantly to this problem of being ignorant of God’s ways because they assume a couple will sleep together while dating. It’s also assumed the next step in a dating relationship is living together, not marriage. But God’s children cannot live by the world standards. We’re called to be grounded in the Word, allowing it to penetrate our hearts and embed in our minds so when Satan tempts us, we can easily recall the truth of God’s Word.
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For years I spent Sunday mornings picking out the perfect outfit, applying and reapplying my makeup, and doing my hair all in an effort to look as though I have it all together. It wasn’t until the Lord convicted me of this that I began to spend that extra time on Sunday mornings praying and reading the Word rather than picking out my perfect outfit.
While I still try to look my best for church (and there is no shame in giving your best to God), taking the focus off my outward appearance was like taking off a mask. It allowed me to become real with people and for them to see me for who I am, warts and all.
Wearing a mask breeds inauthenticity. This prevents us from having a real relationship with Him. When I allow myself to speak openly and honestly about my sin, it allows my brothers and sisters in Christ to challenge me to change.
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What ruins a Christian’s testimony to the world (and what non-Christians find so unbelievable) is when we say we believe in Jesus, yet don’t emulate His qualities. While no one is perfect, the world should know someone is a Christian by how freely they express the fruits of the Holy Spirit—love, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.
When we act more like the world than the God we claim to love and serve, we don’t realize we are making room for pride, arrogance, and rebellion to reign supreme in our hearts.
It’s never easy to admit we have sin in our lives. But when we choose to blatantly ignore it, or say we want closeness to God yet deny His power, we are missing out on the intimacy God designed for us. By implementing some of the suggestions in this article, we can reclaim that intimacy and enjoy the fullness of joy and fellowship God desires.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.
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Originally published Friday, 14 December 2018.