Theology

Sparing My “Tame” Sins – Destroying My Despised Ones

February 8, 2012

I came across an interesting journal entry I wrote last year about sin. I had read 1 Samuel 15 and just made a few observations from the story and what it reminded me of. Basically, God comes to Saul and tells him to totally destroy the Amalekites because they had caused Israel problems when they initially came up out of Egypt (1 Samuel 15:2; c.f. Exodus 17:8-16). So Saul goes and attacks the Amalekites, but he decides to keep “all that was good,” the best of all the spoils. And that is what struck me:

“[Saul kept] all that was good, and would not destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.” (1 Samuel 15:9)
I was struck by how often I treat sin in the exact same way. I’m totally fine with wanting to “devote to destruction” all of my “despised” sins – they would ruin my reputation if anyone found out about them anyway. So I will make war on my disreputable sins or what is shameful in my mind. 
But my “tame” sins I’m not so relentless with. I am willing to spare them and leave them around because they aren’t so bad. I mean, everyone wrestles with pride – so I don’t need to deal with that. It doesn’t matter that I often do ministry for my own reputation or praise – at least I’m doing something good for people and serving God. “Prayers have been uttered from a prayerless heart.” And on and on I could go with examples. 
The bottom line is this: I’m not willing to “utterly destroy” and mortify all my sin. I don’t think of confession and repentance holistically. I just want to be rid of what would tarnish my reputation or cause me shame if it was found out. So my heart in fighting sin isn’t even pure. I am not so much interested in obeying God as I am in cleaning up myself so that I look good. 
I am reminded of what John Owen says in his magnificent work on sin:
“These are no less sins and evils than those under which you groan. Jesus bled for them also… If you hate sin as sin, every evil way, you would be no less watchful against everything that grieves and disquiets the Spirit of God, than against that which grieves and disquiets your own soul. It is evident that you contend against sin merely because of your own trouble by it… take care to be equally diligent in all parts of obedience, and know that every lust, every omission of duty, is burdensome to God, thought but one [may be to you].”
– John Owens, Concerning Temptation & Sin (pg. 87 & 89)
Oh, may I pray with the Puritans: “Give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin… Represent sin to me in its odious colors that I may hate it” (Valley of Vision, pg. 134 & 66). May I groan and despise my sin rather than merely the trouble it brings me. And may I learn to obey God fully and “utterly destroy” all of my sin.

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