I came across a verse the other day that caught my attention. “Those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.” Dang. That feels pretty clear and direct in a way that feels sort of harsh. But also simple. Here’s the whole passage:
“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God…That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.”
It’s that last line that really hit me. “Jess, if you are under the control of your sinful nature, you can never please God.”
Let’s break that down a bit. I don’t believe it’s talking about having sin in your life, or messing up. It’s speaking directly to being under the control of sin.
Is my sin controlling me?
It’s a real personal question, and one that can immediately make us feel defensive. Or, possibly worse, we can quickly answer a resounding no. Denial can be think, trust me, I was swimming around in a vat of it for a while. So thick and deep was my denial that I probably would have answered no to that question. Because, I’d sin and mess up, ask for forgiveness, and move on. I was truly sorry. I’d truly ask God for forgiveness. I mostly intend to stay away from it, but I didn’t really put things in place to really root it out. And then I’d keep doing it over and over, I’d go back to the same behavior. I had let sin into my heart and ultimately my mind, I was letting my sin control my mind. I couldn’t have articulated that at the time, but that was indeed the case. And because it was in my mind, it was deep in my heart, and by nature, that meant it was hostile to God.
I think what is confusing about all that is during that time I still chatted with God. I had quiet time with Him. But my actual heart and mind were at war with Him because of my sin, and I was like an ostrich with her head in the ground. I wanted to think that didn’t matter. I wanted to believe I could compartmentalize my sin, like ‘Hey don’t look over there at that trash God, it’s no big deal. I’m taking it out Tuesday. I know it smells, but I’ve got the lid on it. And if it gets worse, well, next Tuesday is coming around soon, and I can just take it out again.’ And God’s probably thinking your trash doesn’t bother me or scare me. Your trash is why I sent my son to die. But you’ve got to let me help you so your trash doesn’t take over your life. Or ruin it. So it doesn’t control you.
So based on that verse, I was not pleasing God. Period. No matter what I was doing, what verse I was reading, who I was helping, where I was serving, how much I was giving. I was not pleasing God.
That statement scares me, because I can see it so clearly now. Over a year later, I can see just how thick my denial was, and just how far from God I really was.
And I guess I wanted to chat about it here, because, well, it’s awkward. And I promised I wouldn’t shy away from the hard and awkward things. And really, a small part of me hopes that if we can talk about it honestly, maybe just maybe, as you read this you can be honest with yourself. Because I wasn’t. I know what it’s like to shrug off your sin, to think it’s not a big deal. For too long. And it wasn’t good.
So I ask you, from a humble position of having been there, is your sin controlling you? If the answer is yes, I encourage you to root it out. Don’t passively ask God to forgive you and stop there. Maybe find a close, close friend who you can share it with. Confess it. Say it out loud. That worked for me. Sin doesn’t like light, it sorts of shrinks back. And so when I put a shit ton of light on my sin, well, it didn’t like that. Of course it was hard, and uncomfortable, and awkward, and embarrassing to confess my sins. But it was, life giving. When we confess, there is no room for shame. There is no condemnation in Christ, and we can begin to taste freedom. We can begin, once again, to please God.