Over the last two decades news commentators like Bill O’Reilly have reminded us of the danger of media spin. Shows like The O’Reilly Factor boast that they provide fair and balanced coverage that do not engage in the spin. Whatever you think of O’Reilly the tendency for spin is not simply a media problem–it pervades every area of our lives.
One such area where it is crucial to spot and deal with spin is how we talk and think about sin. Sometimes we think and speak of sin in relativized terms. For example, we may speak of our bad attitudes, selfishness or anger as personal defects that are expected and even accepted. We spin sin by saying or thinking things like, “I am a sinner” or “I’m not perfect” or “I know I really should do (fill in the blank)…” These are all true but they are often relativized and therefore declawed. And, to make matters worse, when we do say things like this often our Christian brothers and sisters affirm us with nods.
The danger of this is it produces a culture where sin is not really a big deal. It’s just a necessary part of life that we need to deal with. Like a man with a limp we just keep moving along with our spiritual handicap.
This causes (at least) two immediate problems:
We become indifferent to the stench of sin
Most times our sinful actions stem from sinful thoughts and sinful evaluations. Notice the flow:
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. (James 3:14, 15)
Jesus also called out bad thinking and fastened the demonic brand to it:
And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:22, 23)
Thoughts are never stagnant nor innocent. They grow and mature, developing into sinful actions. We have to remember that wrong thinking leads to wrong living. Jesus and James may seem harsh or even a bit overboard here but they’re biblical. In fact, when we slide out of the biblical balance of thinking about sin then we find ourselves sliding into a comfortable ambivalence towards it. I remember my first trip to a farm. The smell was ripe with country air. It nearly singed my nose hairs. I’m not ashamed to admit I gagged. But you know what happened after I spent a couple of days on the farm? I was out walking with my wife and playing with my kids. I was oblivious to the canopy of organic air that enveloped us. I got used to it. Over time we become indifferent to sin. The stench of it no longer burns our nostrils. We may be tempted to think that it’s not a big deal, it’s just part of life. Jesus attributes this type of thinking to the Devil. I’m doubtful we’d be comfortable with Satan riding shotgun in our cars or sitting down at our dinner table. How much more calling the plays in the huddle of our minds?
We disregard the valuable work of the Spirit
When we have reclined into ambivalence then we have essentially waved the white flag of defeat. A country would not allow foreign soldiers to occupy their land without a fight–unless they were overmatched or already defeated. As Christians we are neither! The battle has been won and the Lord Christ rules our hearts and lives (Col. 3:15). The Holy Spirit is progressively conforming Christians into the image of Christ. He has never failed yet nor will he ever. The Holy Spirit does his job very well.
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (Romans 6:17-19)
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24)
As Christians we live with the knowledge of the victory and the priority of defending it. We must wage war on the battlefield of our minds. We trust and treasure Christ as supreme. We endeavor to make his fame redound to the ends of the earth. We cannot do this while being unconvinced of his infinite value or the infinite ugliness of sin. We seek the King and the kingdom!
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
Speaking the biblical language requires thinking in biblical terms. We mustn’t spin sin. In order to do this we must be immersed in the Bible. When we do this we serve Christ by serving ourselves and others.