My cellphone has been due for an upgrade for months. The phone I have is not the best I could have, and it doesn’t serve me as well as I need. But getting a new phone would require a learning curve. The phone I already have is familiar. Its comfortable, non-threatening.
Sin is like that too.
You can become so accustomed to sin that you don’t question it. In fact, the idea of giving it up makes you feel a little insecure. You don’t want to trade it, even though you may know there is a better option.
Of course, holding on to sin does keep you from functioning as well as you could. It’s like trying to get by with that outdated phone. The longer you hang on to it, the worse the situation gets. Apps won’t operate, battery runs down more quickly, updates fail, and communications don’t always go through. Even the simplest task is slow and arduous to perform. You are handicapped, unable to deal with life.
Maybe it seems absurd to compare the problems of an old phone with the problems of sin. Undeniably, the problems caused by sin are much more significant and more devastating. But in observing the evidence showing that I really do need a new phone, I’ve noticed a parallel to the telltale signs of neglected sin in life.
Battery runs out quickly
The problem begins with recharging. When my phone fails to charge, my first inclination is to blame the power source or the cord conducting the power to my phone. I’ve discovered, however, that moving between different outlets makes no change. The problem with the phone is internal. Furthermore, even when a connection is finally established and a charge is transmitted, the benefit is short lived. The battery, the life source of the phone, is weak and drains quickly.
Sin inhibits the Christian’s connection to the power source. The complaint may be about the conductor: “I’m not getting anything out of that church,” “I don’t like his style of preaching,” or “the Bible is boring, outdated, hard to understand.” Or the grievance may be taken against the source, the Person of God.
The temptation is to try for better results with different churches, preachers, and theologies – or to start with a different source altogether: another religion, an alternate form of spirituality, or a new ideology. But the problem lies within. Sin impedes the reception of spiritual fuel and then drains it quickly, leaving the Christian weak, unsatisfied, and powerless.
Communications don’t go through
“Message failed to send.” Those are frustrating words, especially when seen hours after I thought the message had successfully sent. What’s worse is when a call is dropped mid conversation or fails to come through at all. When communication is inadequate, interaction with others becomes difficult or is lost.
Sin first comes in between our relationship with God, which is what makes it hard to get spiritually fueled. And because healthy relationships with others begin with a healthy relationship with God, the corrosion of sin leaks into other relationships and they suffer. Just as with the battery issue, it may be easy to point at a problem coming from someone else’s end, but that doesn’t mean there is no sin muddling your own connection.
The most pervasive problem with my phone is that it no longer updates successfully. Updates to the operating system, which the phone relies on to perform correctly, no longer go through smoothly. As a result, apps installed on the phone, which are made to correlate with the phone system, cannot update either. After a short time, they fade to an unresponsive, darkened icon that refuses to open.
Sin prevents a person from growing spiritually, from continually “updating” by laying aside the flesh and renewing the mind to become more like Christ. When communication with Christ suffers, how can one know Him more in order to become increasingly like Him? There is no capability for processing the input of common graces, no perception of direction given by the Lord, and no output for ministry. Stagnation sets in, and the spirit becomes dull, hardened, and unresponsive.
What causes the malfunctions in my phone? Nothing has ever happened to damage it. Undoubtedly, a technician could look at it and arrive at a means of correcting the issues. I would still be confined to the outdated abilities of that phone though. It is more straightforward and more effective to simply replace the phone with an upgraded model.
Sometimes sin can be hidden and overlooked, and self-examination or counsel from others is quite necessary. But just working on remedying sin is not effective. The limitations of self, the old man, will still be there. What is really needed is to turn over the familiar, comfortable human nature, and in its place take up something better that allows us to act more like Christ. That is an ongoing process, and there will be occasions when we forget or are reluctant to do it. The nettling handicaps sin imposes on spiritual growth, relationships, and connection to God spurs us into it.