In comparison to our omnipotent God, Satan appears powerless, like a toddler getting into the ring with the heavyweight champion of the world. He has no chance. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a few tricks up his sleeve, some of which have proven incredibly effective over the years, even against the people of God. Like some sadistic killer, he has honed the art of inflicting pain and destroying lives, and draws from a breadth of tools he has mastered over the millennia to accomplish his reprehensible exploits.
In his book, The Solomon Seduction, author Mark Atteberry suggests that “of all the nasty little stunts (Satan) pulls, making sin look like a good idea is easily the most dastardly.” Certainly the ability to give sin so thorough a makeover that it appears appealing is one of the devil’s most successful deceptions.
But an even more effective and dangerous trick, I believe, is Satan’s prodigious talent for persuading us that our conduct isn’t sin at all. Once we buy into the idea that God does not prohibit our behavior, the speed with which it becomes an entrenched part of our identity is supersonic. After all, why struggle against or resist an action if God doesn’t find it offensive?
American society has proven a receptive audience to this sham, happily devouring a philosophy that replaces God’s view of sin with a permissive perspective that condones all behavior. In fact, our culture so thoroughly embraces Satan’s enticing creed that it now categorically dismisses the concept of sin as silly and superstitious – a concept conceived in ignorance by a bunch of narrow-minded religious zealots. This represents an almost universal view on campuses, in Hollywood, on Wall Street, and among elected officials in the nation’s capital.
And though Satan has enjoyed unparalleled success targeting secular society with this fraud, he has succeeded in hoodwinking the church with it as well. While Christians may not subscribe to its tenets to the same degree as the culture, an honest assessment of our lives reveals its existence.
Indeed, Satan’s scheme has proven so effective we often fail to recognize our acquiescence to his lie. We have incurred spiritual blind spots that prevent us from perceiving the truth regarding our secret sins. Moreover, because we cherish these sinful behaviors we have little motivation to discover the truth. We revel in the maxim that ignorance is bliss. Consequently, we face the frightening prospect that we will continue in our hidden sins indefinitely. Our unwillingness to consider an alternate view of our behavior desensitizes us to the Holy Spirit’s conviction.
It is likely every one of us has some sin in his or her life that he or she incorrectly views as acceptable to God. (Those who believe themselves excluded from this assertion are likely the most deluded of all). Recognizing the obstacles we face in uncovering the truth, how do we remove our spiritual blind spots and identify the sins that so easily (and stealthily) ensnare us?
First, we must immerse ourselves in the Word of God to develop a thorough understanding of the mind and heart of Christ. In the absence of such knowledge Satan’s job of fooling us is made considerably easier since shallow infrequent study of Scripture generally produces shallow infrequent followers of Christ.
Second, we must petition God to expose the deceits of our hearts and reveal our hidden sins. God delights in those who want to live holy lives and will gladly answer such prayers – if genuine and unconditional. In others words, we cannot offer such prayers with hidden desires that some behaviors be excluded.
Third, we must seek counsel from mature believers. Those who have faithfully navigated the Christian journey for many years can often shed light on sin we have inadvertently embraced as harmless. Sometimes these seasoned believers are friends, family members, or congregants at our local church, and other times they are national leaders who speak to us through their writings, sermons, and ministries.
Finally, we must understand that when our inner voice justifies a behavior, that’s one indication something is amiss. We ought to exercise great caution before we pursue any conduct that falls into a gray area. The heart’s ability to deceive is legendary and we must resist the temptation to allow it to have its way with us.
A multitude of actions fall into the gray area and at first blush many will seem innocuous from inside the church – even if we might agree that secular society often practices them in a sinful manner. In truth, the church often practices them in a sinful manner, too. Here are three such sinful behaviors that thrive in many evangelical and orthodox churches because leadership and laity alike refuse to confront them.
1) We love the world and the things in the world. (See 1 John 2:15-17)
2) We steal God’s glory by inserting ‘I’ and ‘me’ into the narrative of His work in our lives, communities, and churches – and often do so with alarming frequency. (See Isaiah 42:8).
3) We worship God with our lips but our hearts are far from Him. (See Matthew 15:7-9).
Take time to reflect on your lifestyle and habits. Are there areas in your life that house a hidden sin? If so, ask God for forgiveness and the power to overcome them. If you are unable to identify any secret sins, spend time in prayer and seek God’s guidance in exposing them. As you do you will undergo a spiritual transformation as God reignites your faith in amazing ways.