One thing I began to learn early on in my walk with God is that one must call sin what God calls it if you are to have God’s help in overcoming it. Do you know what the problem is with most “besetting” sins? By “besetting” I mean those sins that are habitual and chronic, that routinely keep one enslaved. Already I may have lost some you. It never occurred to you to consider yourself a “slave” of something. Once a man remarked, “I’ve never been a slave to anything.” I asked him, “What have you successfully ever quit doing?” The problem with besetting sins is that we call them by another name. We don’t call it what God calls it.
Let me illustrate with a paradigm shattering experience I had during the first year of my return to the Lord. In an earlier post I shared how God used a wonderful Christian couple to help me really grow in the Lord. Steve and Vicky were a gift from God to me. Vicky was bold enough to lovingly confront me about my addiction to tobacco. She said that it was not a good testimony in front of her small child. The truth is, it wasn’t a good testimony anywhere I went. But I wasn’t strongly of that opinion…yet.
After Vicky lovingly confronted me I thought, “I need to kick this bad habit.” Actually, I had tried to quite a number of times over the years. But I would always cave-in and buy more tobacco. I was truly addicted. My grandmother, during her lengthy battle with emphysema (brought on by years of smoking), had offered me $500 to quit tobacco for one month. I didn’t even consider it. One time my “spit cup” (for you upper class folks, that’s a cup you use to spit your tobacco juice in when you’re inside a building or when you’re in a four-wheel-drive truck and going too fast to spit out the window and not man enough to swallow the stuff) tumped over into my girlfriend’s lap. Oh yeah, it did.
More and more I had been thinking about quitting my habit. It was not a wise use of my money, which I was learning was actually God’s money. It was a poor testimony for Christ. It was not good for my health. I had a real problem with tobacco. I can remember being under conviction about it and throwing the last bit in my possession out the window as I drove down the road. I would say, “Lord, I’m done with this nasty habit. I’m never going to touch that stuff again. God help me.” I think I was sincere at the time. But three hours later, in a fit of addiction, I would pull over at a convenience store and buy another can of Copenhagen. I suppose that sincerity is better than willful lies, but it does not have the power to deliver you from sin. I can still remember the guilt and shame I felt when I would use tobacco again, “What a pitiful excuse for a Christian you are…” Yet none of this sort of approach ever brought me deliverance from my struggle.
Do you see what the problem is at its most basic level? I called the issue a habit, a problem, a waste of money, a bad testimony, etc. But I never called it what God called it. Sin must be called what it is.
God will deliver you from your enemies but not your friends.
In the next post I’ll relay how freedom came in a moment after hearing God’s voice.