I have a question for you…
How can we look at our face in the mirror, go away from the mirror and forget what kind of person we have just seen?*
I don’t know the answer to that question but I am going out on a limb. We all do this. In the book of James, James is not really referring to our appearance. Maybe when we look in the mirror, our hair is a mess, we have bags under our eyes or our makeup is smudged…
No, James is referring to a clear look at our Christian life. He is referring to our habit of sinning and falling short of the glory of God. We may see it and then we go off and excuse it. “We go away and immediately forget what kind of person we are.”
In my previous post, I commented on understanding as a needed element for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We need to understand sin. Let’s get particular about that “understanding.”
First of all, we need to understand that most sin is rooted in pride. It is hard for us to stand before others and say “I am not the person you think I am. I am a sinner.” Just today my pastor preached about “people on the surface”. She asked us to look to the left and look to the right. She asked us to look in front of us and look behind us. She said you are surrounded by people who look “ok”, but not really. When you go below the surface, we are all not “ok.” We are all sinners.
Some know their sin and try to repent from it. They are actively trying to cleanse themselves through confession, repentance and forgiveness. As my pastor said, with God’s grace, we may actually get somewhere with ridding ourselves of some of our sins. However, many will get nowhere; they harbor their sins and tolerate their sins; they are too prideful to change. Let’s reference the rich young ruler in Mark 10; he approached Jesus because he wanted what Jesus had, but he wound up clinging to his sin even more; he could not give up his riches.
Graham says that there is a related problem along with pride. We can become spiritually blind to our sin. When we have a deep-rooted sin habit, we just do not see how much it has invaded every area of our lives; we don’t see how much it has infected everything we say, think and do. This is a specific example but it may serve the purpose. All my life I have been around smokers** Once a person has a need for nicotine, that need begins to take over and life is arranged around cigarettes. You awaken in the morning with a cough and the only way to feel better is to smoke. You have breakfast and eating triggers the post meal cigarette. You go to work and have a break time and the cigarette is a way to do something relaxing on your break. In your car it is easy to light up and enjoy another smoke. Reading a book is so much better with a cigarette. Lunch and dinner trigger the need to smoke after the meal. You may even treasure your time between Sunday school and regular worship on Sunday; there are ten minutes to step outside and smoke. You get the idea; cigarettes are part of a person’s lifestyle. Sins of all kinds can be like cigarettes. They can begin to permeate a person’s lifestyle.
Finally, Graham writes about man’s deepest sin. Here it is; “our failure to let Christ rule our lives.” The most basic question any Christian can ask is this “Who is ruling my life, self or Christ?” As long as we continue to put “self” at the center of our lives, we will never live the life He intends for us to live. Luke 9:23 says “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Graham says it is easy to set your own goals, operate with your own motives, and seek your own desires and never ask God for His will above all else. Luke 9: 23 is pretty clear; He wants us to renounce our plans and practices and follow His way. “He asks us to step off the throne of our lives, and to let Him rule in every area of everything we are and do.”
For us to understand sin, it is in our best interest to be honest about our sin; most of us have a pride in the image we present to others. We don’t want to admit that we have problems with sin but we do. Habitual sin can infect all parts of a person’s life, making it not only hard to recognize but also hard to root out. We are spiritually blind to habitual sin. Lastly, we hesitate to answer the tough question about the role of self in our life. Do we put “self” above God? Too many of us know that we would answer “self comes first.”
The Holy Spirit wants to fill us but He cannot if we don’t have understanding about our sin. It is when we have some understanding of our sin that we can move on to the next step in being filled with the Holy Spirit.
That step is not any easier than a crystal clear look in the mirror…
That step is submission…
*a loose paraphrase of James 1: 23-24 **I don’t advocate that smoking is necessarily a sin; it just works well to illustrate how sin infects all of life.