Diffuse Reflections, Thorny Topics
Comments 13

Sin Doesn’t Come in Sizes

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" ~Romans 3:23

Bookmark and Share

Recently someone asked (paraphrase): “I’ve been praying to God for help to overcome my addiction. Why hasn’t He helped me to do it?”

This question is not uncommon and reveals some problems with the way that we think about sin and how God works in our lives to enable us to overcome the power of sin. To understand this it is useful to first define what an addiction is.  An addiction is any action/practice or sequence of actions/practices that is repeated enough that a permanent (but not necessarily irreversible) change in  the brain architecture of the addicted occurs in order to perpetuate the action/practice.  Addictions can range from thumb-sucking to drug-abuse, from workaholic-ism  to pornography.

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" ~Romans 3:23

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” ~Romans 3:23

Generally, addictions are only overcome when a new agent hierarchically replaces the importance of the addiction in the mind of the addict: when a competing structure develops.  Even when this happens, the neuron-network associated with the addiction does not disappear immediately:  it takes time for the brain to gradually re-organizes its structure.   Hence, the likelihood of relapse is an ever-present danger for many.  The key to overcoming addictions and potential relapses is the strength and constancy of the new agent neural-network.

As long as the neuronal  pathways of the new agent fire more strongly and consistently than that of the addiction, then the addict is in good position to overcome his/her addiction.     For example, kids usually stop sucking their thumbs when social pressures related to the habit and to the resulting orthodontic damage supersede  any comfort they got from it.   Likewise, some drug abusers are “scared straight” by the fear of dying from the drug use.  Fear of death overrides the neural-network of the addiction, thereby allowing them to quit.

It is true that more people are addicted to various actions than they might realize.  This unawareness arises because people mostly only consider socially unacceptable habits as addictions.  More important, however, is to realize that ALL addictions are sins, because they are, by definition, the antithesis of self-control and the Christian is commanded to bring his/her entire body under the control of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

The essential difference between addictions and “regular” sins, is that addictions are sins that have become “hardwired” in the brain with an associated reward (usually dopamine) to reinforce the behavior. But, as will be argued below, the cure for addictions and non-addiction sins is the same:  Love for God must grow in us (in our minds) until it is preeminent.  That love for God will then overwhelm  the addiction network as well as all other desires to sin.

“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” ~James 1:14-15

That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days… ~Deuteronomy 30:20a

Finally, we must avoid conflating salvation with the absence of addiction.  Only God determines who is saved (addiction or not). Moreover, the Scripture makes it clear that sinlessness is neither a prerequisite for salvation nor sanctification.  That means some Believers might be in bondage to unsavory addictions.  However, while we should always clearly and unequivocally declare addictions (unsavory or not) as sin.  We cannot refute the work of God in the addicted. Some of us have further to go than others.  And, the person addicted to food should never look down on the person addicted to drugs.  Indeed, both are listed together as heading for the same end:

For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags. ~Proverbs 23:21

Let us, therefore, examine the Proper Perspective for sin, the Prescribed Procedure to overcome sin and God’s Precious Promise to never give up on us.

THE PROPER PERSPECTIVE
First, the question (above) suggests that the addiction is a bigger sin than the other sins that we (including the questioner also) all struggle with. Certainly, if God took addictions from all of our lives it is unlikely that any of us (including the questioner) would be perfect. More pointedly, eliminating addictions of any sort, does not guarantee that we will draw closer to God’s and walk in obedience.

The problem here is the perception that some sins, such as addictions, are worse than others. This notion implies that if I get rid of some “bad”, really “ugly” sins then I will be a better person; even though the “not-so-bad”, “not-so-ugly” sins remain. But, that is not God’s calculus. Romans 14:23b tells us that sin is anything that is not done in a faith response to God.

…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. ~Romans 14:23b

And, Romans 6:23a tells us that all sin has the same punishment.

For the wages of sin is death… ~Romans 6:23a

So, we must deduce that ALL sins are equally offensive to God.

Therefore, God’s ultimate purpose is not to excise the “uglier” sins (such as addictions) while the “not-so-ugly” sins remain. His purpose is to enable us to overcome ALL sin. And to accomplish this, Romans 12:1-2 tells us that we should offer ourselves to God and allow Him to transform us, by the renewing of our minds. Only then will we know His will and have the power to walk in it: the power to overcome ALL sin!

“All unrighteousness is sin…” 1 John 5:17a

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. ~Romans 12:1-2

Accordingly, God focuses on the state of our ‘minds’, i.e., our mindset, rather than any specific sin. God intends to change our entire attitude to sin, so that we will choose His way instead of going our own way.

God sent The Holy Spirit to indwell our lives in order to change the way we think about life: to replace our values with God’s values. Therefore, we must constantly ask ourselves: “Am I beginning to look at life through God’s eyes?”; “Do I delight in the things that please God?”

If I overcome an addiction but my mindset is unchanged then I have not benefitted, because sins (even if they don’t look as “ugly” as an addiction) are still rampant in my life.  On the other hand, as God transforms our minds, all the sin-strongholds in our lives are likewise weakened.

To be clear, God is NOT ‘comfortable’ with an addiction or any other sin: God hates sin! And that’s why His purpose is to overcome ALL sin, in your life and in my life.

THE PRESCRIBED PROCEDURE
Overcoming sin, even addictions, does not occur magically. Moreover, God never forces us to obey Him; He gave us free will. However, God will always lead us to a point where we choose to change.

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. ~Psalm 51:1-4

However, we Christians often want God to override our wills. We want God to take away enough of our freedom of choice so that decisions are “easier” to make. We want, somehow, not to have to make the decision not to sin: we want God to make that decision for us, to have Him force His will on us.

“…my prayer is unto thee, O LORD, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation.” ~Psalm 69:13

In other words, we want God to treat the symptoms instead of the disease. The disease is a heart (mind) that is not completely yielded to God. And sins, all types of sins, are the symptoms. As a good doctor would, God intends to treat the disease so that the symptoms will end. God will not remove our sins and leave behind un-yielded hearts. Indeed, it’s our heart that He is after.

Thus, we should stop our preoccupation with ‘ugly’ sins (like certain addictions) and instead seek to draw ever closer to God to enable our ‘mental’ transformation to accelerate. To that end God has given us these keys for success:

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. ~Psalm 119:11

By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil. ~Proverbs 16:6

First, it is the word of God (the truth of God) in our hearts that washes sin out of our lives. As we study, memorize and meditate on His word, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, it renews our mind. As we orient our lives according to the Scripture, as we base our lives on His commands, we are able to overcome sin, because we are walking in daily fellowship with our God.

Second, we must accept His mercy. Accepting God’s mercy is not being presumptuous. Presumptuousness arises when we demand/expect God to sanction our plans; when we tell God what to do. To accept God’s mercy is to acknowledge our inadequacy. It is to realize that our transformation, from a self-focused mindset to a God-focused mindset, is slow and sometimes painful BECAUSE of our weakness.

It is the combination of God’s mercy, as He patiently works with us, and His Word, as it transforms our mindset, which ultimately breaks the power of sin over our lives.
Therefore, we do not draw back or hide from God when we fall into any sin; neither the ‘ugly’ ones, nor the not so ‘ugly’ ones. God instructs us to confess our sins, not hide from Him (like Adam and Eve, Genesis 3:8). He then MERCIFULLY promises to forgive us (1 John 1:9) and continue the transformation process in us (Philippians 1:6).

“…This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 3:13-14

We must never allow the devil to separate us from God. The closer we draw to our Father, the faster our transformation and the sooner our victory over all forms of sin, even the uglier-looking ones!!! We should take courage, continue to walk with God and continue to allow Him to change us. We must journey deep into God’s word and fellowship with Him, even when we are discouraged.

THE PRECIOUS PROMISE
Finally, let us always remember

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. ~Philippians 1:6

If God has started the transformation process in us, He won’t stop working (even if He has to use trials to get it done).

God won’t quit on you… so don’t quit on yourself!!!

.

Bookmark and Share

————————————————————————————————
Reflections-in-the-WORD would like to thank INSPIKS for inspiration and for insightful comments on this topic.

13 Comments

  1. Pingback: Sin doesn’t Come in Sizes — Snippet | Reflections in the WORD

  2. There is so much here that’s well put to my ears, and so much to think about! I especially appreciate the idea of digging underneath the sinful action for our mindset, into our hearts, as well as the reminder that God leads us to change, not provides change by overriding our will. Thank you. Here is something I find fascinating, too: by your definition, as I turn it in my mind, an earnest prayer life can be seen as an “addiction,” don’t you think? It is, after all, a sequence of practices that, when repeated enough, effects permanent change in the brain architecture to perpetuate the practice. In this language, one can become addicted to God. Some of us have developed the habit of talking to Him so regularly that we can’t live without it. It’s a compulsion. I suppose, I can find other examples of habits that become permanent but I’d have a hard time calling sinful. I wonder if habit-forming is simply natural for human beings: it is how we bring order into our lives. It is when the object of the habit is destructive that it becomes what we call an “addiction” and desire to fight as sin, for sin is “missing the mark,” going astray from the one direction in which we aim: God. What do you think?

    • Dear Maria Catherine,

      Your considerations often are delightfully surprising. 🙂

      I do believe you are correct in surmising that prayer could be appropriately accurately defined as an addiction in a clinical sense (though not in its normal social usage, where the term has pejorative connotations).

      Accordingly, as you articulated, given that expanded definition (to accommodate prayer), one can then conceive of other non-destructive habits.

      Thirdly, i agree with you, again, that habit formation is the minds involuntary attempt to find order. Habits allow the brain to reduce the energy it expends in day-to-day living: when things become “second nature” (automatic, doable without thinking) it is more efficient.

      Consider animals with small brains, e.g., sharks: many small brained animals are hardwired from birth to function in certain ways. They don’t have to be taught anything, they are born with the neuronal network needed for their survival. And, accordingly, their brains have little capacity for learning. These animal are typically not nurtured at birth for there is no need. Conversely, large-brained animals are nurtured by their parent(s) for an extended period of time, they have to learn how to survive and how to function on a community. These animals are more readily adaptable to rapid changes because of their capacity to learn, their lack of hard-wired-ness. Large brained animals trade efficiency for adaptability/learn-ability.

      Consider this: Perhaps God gave humans large brains because we have so much to learn about Him! 🙂

      Finally, i agree with you yet again: Bad habits are those that lead us away from God and His purpose for our lives.

      May God continue to draw you near to Him.

  3. yemi says

    Dear sir/ma, I thank you for the word God has sent to me through you. I love God so much but my weakness inability to give sharp rebuke to sin when its around. I’m made an executive in a christian organisation and by settings I live together with my asistance who is a Lady, and who pretend to love God. In summary, the duration of our tenure will lapse in Two month’s time. I have fornicated with her several times. Prior to the last time I committed this sin, I just finished prayer telling God I will not sin again with weeping and agony yet ten hours later I did it. As I’m now, I’m discourage, I love God but He allow dis to happen to me. I took over the executive and chose to live in the Executive’s accommodation just to avoid the sin in the World, but now I’m committing the Sin in the executive’ s accommodation. Pls, help me to escape this Sin. Please Email me often and often, pls encourage my soul, I’m dying. Help me. I have served Him, I don’t want to go back into the world. I need a quick response

    • Dear Brother,

      In such a situation it is important that you take swift and drastic (very serious) action to change your situation.

      FIRST, leave the executive accommodation IMMEDIATELY (see Genesis 39:10-12). Since you are tempted by your own desire for this woman, you must stay far away from her so that you cannot consummate your lust.

      SECOND, you must confess your sin to your Christian brother(s) in the organisation.

      “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” ~ Proverbs 28:13

      “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” ~ James 5:16

      “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” ~ 1 John 1:7

      You might lose your job, but you will save your life.

      THIRD, change your perspective: God did not “allow dis to happen” to you. Rather, God gives us a free will with which we choose to obey Him or not. You chose to sin. Likewise when I sin it is also my choice. When anyone sins it is their choice, or a result of their choices.

      “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
      Do not err, my beloved brethren.” ~ James 1:13-16

      These three steps will help you and BEGIN to solve your problem. You will, however, have more work to do afterwards. Please let me know how it goes. I pray you will have the courage to do what is right and that you will love God more than you love fornication.

  4. jimmy says

    thank you very much sir ..this is helping me and pushing aswell for restoration

  5. First time I’ve ever heard that thumb sucking may be a sin, in terms of its addictive elements. Can that be true? I can’t believe so.

    • Hi Harvey,

      THANKS for stopping by 🙂 .

      Not calling thumb-sucking a sin per se… just pointing out that what one might reasonably consider an innocuous addiction has much in common with the scarier ones. To wit, the principles/reasons behind addictive behaviour are the real problems. We tend to focus on the unpalatableness of the outcome rather than the sinfulness of the cause. For example, we often give overeating a pass, but we come down hard on smoking. Even though the Bible speaks expressly against gluttony. Food addiction and tobacco addiction both arise from a lack of temperance (self-control), but we consider one more egregious than the other.

      Hope this makes it a bit clearer. Nevertheless thanks again for sharing.

      God bless!!! 🙂

  6. OK, that makes sense though I’m not sure how, from verse, one can determine a scale as to degree of sinful offense, I know that there are venial and mortal sins and that depicts a scale of sorts but, with thumb sucking, that isn’t clear at all, even if one would suppose along venial lines. And, if it isn’t even a venial sin, it’s not a sin at all, at least “officially”.
    But, in using your logic, I would guess that a child under the age of 6 (?), is less a thumb sucking sinner than one over that age (at least in terms of potential occlusal damage) but one at age 10, without dental affects, is less a sinner than a 10 year old with damage? Isn’t that, if true, based more on the determinations of a dental professional? Or is it that, if the habit is based on psychological deficits, that’s more a sin at any age?
    For instance (and this is why I’m concerned), I suck my thumb, usually in order to go to sleep and sometimes unconsciously while awake (similar to folding one’s legs in terms of its postural comfort). I also have teeth that are affected by this and no dentist will work on them due to the habit. Is that a sin in any way?

    • Harvey, let me be clear: the article does not claim thumb-sucking is a sin. And I do not believe thumb-sucking is a sin.

      The issue is, “Am I dependent on anything else but God?” “Does intemperance of any kind dominate my life?” “Does anything in my life contend with God’s authority?”

      Thanks again for sharing, Harvey. 🙂

    • That’s clear. Just wondering, though (and I realize this is not a big deal), if thumb sucking is used to calm down where prayer may be used instead. Is that, therefore, being in some way dependent on something else instead of God? Or does it have to fulfill all the qualifications (and maybe more) that you listed here?

    • Hi Harvey,
      That’s an interesting question. Sadly, I don’t know the answer.
      For example, a warm bath can also be calming. Would that make warm baths wrong too?? :/

      I believe our loving Father, God, has the mercy and grace to accommodate our flawed, imperfect selves while changing our hearts and minds, through His Word, to bring us into an ever closer fellowship with Him. Amen! 🙂

      God Bless!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s