“What is that?” I stopped brushing my freshly-washed hair to stare at the big brown speck reflecting back at me from the mirror. How I could still have dirt on my body after a twenty minute shower? Sure, we’d been hiking in the Colorado Mountains all day, but dirt doesn’t permanently stain!
I examined the spot on my arm more closely and screamed in horror. It wasn’t dirt.
There was a tick on my arm. Yes, I said T-I-C-K.
My stomach turned with nausea. There I was, thinking I was little Miss Perfectly Clean while a nasty blood-sucker was hanging on my arm! Yuck!
Immediately (well, after jumping around and screaming for a minute) my mom began the tick removal process while I kept repeating, “I can’t believe I didn’t feel it! I wonder how long it was there.”
As gross as that experience was, it’s a perfect illustration of how sin can sneak into our lives. We think we’re doing great, but then we look into the mirror of God’s word and see this big spot of sin that we never noticed before. Have you ever experienced that?
But the big question is: How should we respond to that iniquity? I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually jump right in and remove it. Actually, I often excuse it by saying, “Everyone struggles with this sin.” And while it may very well be a universal struggle, that doesn’t give me permission to allow it in my life. As Christians, we shouldn’t tolerate any sin staining our lives.
God cannot condone or excuse even the smallest sin. Therefore we cannot excuse ourselves for sinning only a little bit. As we grow spiritually, our sensitivity to sin increases… As God make us more aware of sin, we must be intolerant toward it and be willing to change. All believers should strive to be more tolerant of people but less tolerant of the sin in others and in themselves.”i
Imagine if I had just said, “Oh, every outdoorsy person runs into ticks” and ignored it. It might have wedged itself in there while it sucked my blood, created a nasty infection, or even given me Lyme disease. All kinds of nasty stuff!
We would NEVER be that apathetic towards a tick, right? That would be stupid. Yet we seldom treat sin like an infectious tick. Instead of removing the sin immediately, we’re apathetic, saying, “This is just who I am. Deal with it,” even though it’s as dangerous to our spiritual health as a tick is to our physical health.
Think about it:
- How many marriages has the sin of lust ruined?
- How many relationships has pride destroyed?
- How many relationships has deceit devastated?
- How many relationships has anger terminated?
Those sins of lust, pride, deceit, and anger don’t just appear in overwhelming strength one day and ruin relationships. They start as small spots. Take a look at the story of David and Bathsheba. What happened when David allowed a seed of lust to grow in his heart? A big mess.
David should have cried out to God for help when the sin first sprouted. Instead, he allowed it to take root in him. He went from lusting after Bathsheba to committing adultery with her. Then he murdered her husband to cover up his affair. David’s example teaches us that it’s vital to cut sin out at the start—as soon as we spot it in the mirror of God’s word—so it doesn’t grow into a mass of sinful consequences.
Personally, I struggle with selfishness. It’s easy for me to say, “Oh, everyone’s selfish.” But will that help me grow more like Christ? Will it help me be a better Christian? And one day, if I marry, will that selfishness help or hinder my marriage?
The answer is obvious. When sin enters, the correct response is not apathy, but action. It needs to be removed immediately.
But How Can We Remove Sin?
Addressing sin is a constant project for Christians. Sin is always present, so we must be on guard. As one pastor once put it, “Each day we are either growing more like Christ or less like Christ, there is no neutral position for the Christian.”
In their book, “To Die is Gain,” John and Betty Stam describe how to conquer sin. They call it the Seven Glorious Steps Upward. Here is my paraphrase of their steps:
- Decide to be resistant to sin. Decide that sin will not win.
- Trust that your faith in Christ will help you overcome the sin.
- Remember each victory over sin. Each one will give you the strength to resist future temptation.
- Realize more and more that a life of victory can only be found in a relationship in Christ.
- Grow into a more intimate relationship with Christ. Recognize that the fruit of trusting God is that He trusts you.
- Your faithfulness encourages others and spurs them on in their walks with Christ.
- Live heaven on earth. “And you do not have to die in order to get there. Heaven is character as well as location. The person who devotedly loves everything that God loves is in heaven now, and heaven is in him or her.”ii
So next time you spot sin in your life, don’t just ignore it. Instead, pray to the Lord for strength and apply these steps to conquer it. Just as any tick could carry Lyme disease, any sin could grow into a monster that destroys something very important in your life—like a relationship, marriage, or friendship.
Will you join me in choosing action rather than apathy?
i. Life Application Study Bible. Commentary of Psalm 5. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Tyndale Publishers and Zondervan Publishing House, 1991.
ii. Leslie Ludy. Authentic Beauty: the shaping of a set-apart young woman. Sisters: Multnomah, 2003.