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Always be killing sin or it will be killing you.
– Tim Keller, pastor
Now that Christmas is over, many of us have turned our attention to saying goodbye to the old year and welcoming the new one. Between football games and Buffalo chicken wings and dip, we’ll click every Buzzfeed list out there counting down the “Best of Anything and Everything” that happened in 2014. We’ll pay homage to the best couple, best movie, best app and so on. Do you find it the least bit curious that we spend the last six days of each year trying to sum up the biggest, boldest and best of the other 359?
Think back to December 31, 2013. Do you remember what you were doing that day? How did you feel about your life? What were your goals, hopes or dreams for 2014? Did any of them happen?
By the age of ten, most of us know that the success rate for most New Year’s resolutions is pretty pitiful. Only a narrow sliver of the population loses the weight and keeps it off or quits smoking for good, while the rest of us stopped trying after the first few days.
Let’s face it, real change is hard. Unfortunately, more often than not, we feel that since change is hard, maintaining the status quo is the best that we can accomplish and, therefore, we give up.
We humans are prone to self-delusion, especially when it comes to our own shortcomings. We rationalize to ourselves that the consequences of not changing aren’t really a big deal. It doesn’t really matter if I forgive my dad… Sure, I’m probably drinking too much, but whatever… Look, nobody gets hurt by what I see on the computer screen—and, besides, it’s nobody else’s business.
We all have a blind spot — a behavior or attitude that is just wrong. The question is whether we take ownership of it or not. Denial is powerful. Ask any addict. Every person that has ever struggled with a significant hang-up or addiction—whether drugs, gambling, overeating, shopping—knows that nothing changes until we acknowledge we have a problem. Just to be clear, though: all of us have some sin problem. All of us have at least one blind spot that God wants to reveal to us. How many of us refuse to open our eyes and address it?
In this weekend’s message, pastor and prolific writer Tim Keller warns us about the dangers of self-delusion when it comes to sin. In his talk, “What It Takes to Change Ourselves Permanently, Deeply and Enduringly”, Keller reframes our understanding of sin. It’s not just something that puts a barrier between God and us, it is a powerful, debilitating destroyer. To be free of the bonds of sin, we MUST acknowledge our sin. But how do we get to that point?
Hebrews 4:12 states that the power of God’s words in the Bible will break through our denial and illuminate the truth of who we are and what God wants to change in us. Next, we must embrace the reality that lasting change only occurs when we let go of self determination. Then, ALL of us need the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives to transform us, equip us and sustain us if we are ever to experience real, lasting and enduring change — change that impacts us and everyone in our path for the glory of God.
THIS WEEK’S STUDY IS ABOUT WHAT IT TAKES FOR US TO CHANGE PERMANENTLY, DEEPLY AND ENDURINGLY.
MONDAY – Sin is Much Bigger Than We Think
Big Point: When we underestimate the power of sin, it will overcome us every time.
Sin is more than an act or a series of acts;
it is a man’s make-up.
– A.W. Pink
The scene opens on a beautiful gazelle grazing lazily amongst tall swaying grass. If you’re a Discovery Channel buff you know what comes next. The camera pans to a lion crouching low in the grass, only the tip of it’s tail twitches. He’s waiting for the perfect moment to pounce on his unsuspecting prey. Within seconds, it becomes a struggle of life and death. Imagine how different the outcome could have been if the gazelle had been more alert and reacted faster. It is no coincidence that God created the circle of life as a metaphor of our struggle with sin.
Genesis 4 introduces us to Cain, the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, and his brother, Abel. Cain, a farmer, presents his crops to God as a gift. His gift, however, was not accepted (for reasons the Bible does not specify), but his younger brother Abel’s was accepted. Cain becomes very angry but God offers Cain a second chance to do what is right. He warns Cain that sin is crouching at his door and he must learn to subdue it in order to master it. Cain ignores God’s warning and goes on to kill Abel out of jealousy. Because of his decision to ignore God’s counsel, he is driven from God’s sight and fellowship with Him. Cain had an opportunity to change paths, but he allowed his jealousy to keep him on the path of sin and separation from God.
We all fall prey to the sin. 1 Peter 5:8 warns us, “Be alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 7 about being a slave to sin. He says he wants to do what is right, but does not. How true is this in your life? Relying on your own strength to overcome sin is like the gazelle who relies on the tall grass to protect itself. The tall grass is indeed where sin hides! Your tall grass may be pride, anger like Cain, lust or addiction. Whatever it may be, the only way to rise above it is to run straight to Jesus.
READ and THINK… What does the Bible say?
1. Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome. He is telling them that when they died with Christ, they also died to the power of the law. They had been released from the law but the law still gave them guidelines that revealed their sin.
Question: What is the power within us that Paul is referring to? This verse uses the word “I” a lot. Why is that important to focus on?
Romans 7:21-24a (New Living Translation)
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am!
2. Cain had just presented an unworthy offering to God. The Bible does not name why it was rejected but we can guess his heart condition was wrong or even that he did not offer the first crops of his harvest. God graciously offers Cain a second chance.
Question: Why is the imagery of sin crouching so powerful? How do we subdue and master sin?
Genesis 4:7 (New Living Translation)
You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.
LIVE… What will you do now?
Have you ever been presented with two paths and chose the one you knew was wrong? How does knowing what is right, but not doing it, give sin a foothold? How did that choice affect your life?
Sin disconnects us from God, but God restores the connection through Christ. What kind of connection have you experienced with God this year? If your connection is lagging, in what way? What can you do to restore it?
How has your thinking changed about God over the last year?
PRAY… God, what do you want me to know and do?
Thank God for second chances and warning signs where sin may be hiding. Pray for an alert mind so you can run from sin before it strikes. Ask God to help you make good choices and to guide your daily decisions.
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Click here to go deeper using the Life Group DVD or view the message, including bonus discussion questions.