By Seth Huenink
*If you haven’t read Existing for More’s Stop Running on Fumes—Hear the Rest of the Gospel as well as Identity Crisis-Defining Who You Are, I would strongly encourage you to do so (in that order) to add foundational context to this subsequent piece.
Hitherto, we’ve established a few points:
- We aren’t a little righteous—or waiting until heaven to receive our righteousness. Rather, upon salvation, we are 100% righteous.
- We aren’t a little bit dead to sin. We are dead, dead, dead (my scriptural paraphrase).
- Upon salvation, we are unrecognizably new. A prototype, if you will. Never before seen.
Naturally, these points compel one to incessantly beseech the answer–Why do we still sin?! Again, if you haven’t yet read my earlier post Stop Running on Fumes—Hear the Rest of the Gospel, I would strongly encourage you to do so for more context. In that post, I alluded to the fact of why we still sin in spite of these truths I mentioned above. Here’s an excerpt from that post:
“In short, sin works today in the exact way that it did in the garden. We’re lied to, and we buy it. Unfortunately, we still live in Satan’s realm. Moreover, he’s extremely good at what he does and he often knows us better than we know ourselves…..For now I’ll just say that Satan doesn’t lie in the way we often think he does so much as he specifically attacks our new identity.”
“If I truly believe that I’m now righteous, I will always perceive sin as selling myself short. Something less than the real thing. Why, if I’m a holy temple—a magnificent, righteous mansion of Christ would I permit garbage to enter my life? This only happens if I believe, or if I’m tricked into believing, I’m a dumpster.”
But What Does that Mean?
As for right now, I’d like to spend a little bit of time unpacking the why of why we still find ourselves sinning. Specifically, the lies that the enemy perpetuates in his coercion to get us to believe that we are ultimately still his children.
I would like to categorize and condense the various types of deception used by the father of lies into pretty compartments and use eloquent, fancy theological terms in the process that you’d inevitably have to google to understand. Additionally, I’d like to specifically identify some of the nuance vis-à-vis satanic trickery laced deceit.
But as I did, it dawned on me, if you were looking for a theology book, you’d be reading something else right now! So, I’d like to generally cover just a few lies that many or all of us have experienced from time to time that cover a wide range of consciousness.
- “I’m not worthy enough to speak up right now”
- “What did he mean by that statement? He must not be taking me seriously.”
- “Wow, what’s the harm in a little friendly conversation? My spouse will never know and it’s not like I’m cheating on them or anything.”
- “I’m going to fail. That’s what I always do. So why even try?”
- “I’m going to sin again, so why even try?”
You get the gist. But there’s one point that I’d like to make clear. The most striking reality is that we can never experience a lie that doesn’t put our identity into question. For most believers and non-believers alike, lies of identity largely go undetected and under our radar. After all, the most effective lies do just that. All lies attack our identity in one way or another. This is more obvious with some lies vs. others. Let’s dig a little deeper.
What IS the test?
-…The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread…If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down..” Matthew 4:3;6.
If you’re like me, the focus is on what comes next in verse 7: “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” As if Jesus was revealing to us that this was the sin of the story. But that’s not really so.
The first temptation was “if”. So subtle. “If” you really are who you say you are. Can you imagine the temptation for God coming into this world as fully man and coming to the realization that you are in fact God in the flesh, then telling people this? You can’t say that even if you were God that it might be a tad bit tempting to think, am I crazy? One might conclude that he was never tempted in this way because He was God. Then again, Hebrews 4:15 does tell us that Christ was tempted in every way that we are so that can’t really be true.
Think about it––if this happened today and some guy started walking around telling everyone he was God in the flesh what would we think? We would probably tell him to sober up and find God. Imagine if you were the person saying this stuff. Not even the slightest second guess? I think we remember that Jesus was God. But sometimes we forget he was human. Which meant He had the devil in His ear every bit as much as we do.
The Big “IF”
“IF you are the Son of God.” I would argue that Satan does the exact same thing to us. IF you really are righteous, why did you just talk a whole bunch of trash behind that co-workers back? IF you really are righteous, why did you just lose your cool on your kids? IF you were really given the nature of Christ, why would you act that way? Well, I guess I must still be a sinner. Saved by grace. Hallelujah. I must be good sometimes and other times bad. One of the most ironic thought processes I see with Christians is this insanity of false humility. We take credit for being bad when we screw up. But when we do something good we automatically think well, that’s God. So, one is us and the other isn’t?
I’ve made several controversial assertions thus far. What’s one more? First, let me pose a question. If your parents didn’t conceive you, thereby eliminating you from existence, would sin still exist? Absolutely, sin doesn’t exist because we’re here. It exists because Adam and Eve first sinned. Another question. If Satan never came to the garden, to earth, etc. would there be sin? I would lean towards no. If the author of sin no longer existed, how could there be sin?
What does this have to do with taking credit for our positive and negative actions? I would suggest that neither of these actions are ultimately ours. We’re either the person of Satan or the person of Christ. I’m not asserting that we’re not at fault. Admittedly, I need to sort this proposal out myself. But how can we take credit for one but not the other?
Me + Sin
Let’s get back on track. Here’s how it works in my life. I forget that I’m a holy temple—a magnificent mansion of Christ purchased by Him ––> I commit sin ––> how can I be a magnificent mansion of Christ if I just sinned?? ––> I must be a sinner ––> I sin again. Or ––> I’m x, y, z (negative self-talk) ––> I sin ––> How can I be a holy temple—a magnificent mansion of Christ purchased by Him? Must be a sinner ––> I Sin. On and on it goes.
I’d like to add that there is an aspect of false humility that complicates and complexes things here. I’m just a poor sinner saved by grace and if I’m not sorry I must not have a repentant heart. If I don’t have a repentant heart I won’t be forgiven. But who called you a sinner?? Over and over we are told that we’ve received the righteousness of Christ. He calls us by His name! If He doesn’t view you that way isn’t it a bit arrogant to call Him a liar? It’s that old adage—God’s probably taking care of all those other people. But me? Well shucks, I’m just a sinner. It’s this false humility that’s detached from reality.
I unknowingly did this dance for nearly decades. After accepting Jesus at a young age I proceeded to act like I hadn’t a clue who Christ was and by default, I didn’t know who I was. It wasn’t until later in life when I engaged in church, took steps to grow spiritually, etc. that my life got back on track from the horrific derailment that lasted for many years.
One day when things were better in my life, I began seeing myself do what I always wanted to do—the right thing. I realized that I was a Christian. With this realization came the conclusion that I hadn’t previously been a Christian for 15+ years. Obviously, I thought to myself––look at how I have conducted myself over these years. I completely turned my back on God and tried to keep the thought of Him stuffed beyond reach.
It wasn’t until years after I initially got better that it was revealed to me that I’d been saved the whole time—beginning at the time when I asked Jesus into my heart when I was a kid. In spite of the fact that some of the worst things I had ever thought or done consequently happened post-salvation. But the devil had me in the cycle. Sin ––>You can’t be a Holy temple—righteous son of God, look what you just did. Must not be true ––> Sin. Only, I relived this cycle a million times. Just like the garden, the devil had tricked me for years into thinking that I was a poor sinner. I know some of you can relate.
Here is the great news for those who can relate. In my dark period I was abused, I was hurt, I was victimized. I also abused and hurt other people myself. But none of that matters. I’m not saying don’t deal with it. In fact, the person of Christ that we now have in us told us in Matthew 5:23-25 to make things right with those we have harmed. To even further clarify, the Bible is full of lamenting. So lament away.
Just remember that nothing ultimately can be done to you because of what’s been done on your behalf. Thereby, making you a never before seen prototype. The people that you think have hurt you can’t hurt you because they can’t take anything from you. If you have Christ in you, you’ve been given everything. Therefore, nobody can take something from you that they didn’t give to you.
No Longer Broken
I’m not saying don’t deal with your abuse, your fears, etc. What I am saying is that we spend so much time ministering to the broken heart that we forget that we’re no longer broken. Spiritual introspection can be a healthy exercise, I’ve done quite a lot of it myself. The only problem with this is that it’s introspective and we can’t be spiritually introspective without looking inward. When we look inward, we run into the danger of looking away from the Father. Our life source, our newness, our identity. This is the one downfall of the introspective thought process.
Moreover, I’d like to reiterate that I’m not suggesting to stop participating in things like personal inventories, therapy, etc. Instead, these activities can be helpful for us to get to our end goal, which is reality. Ultimately, the reality that we are righteous sons and daughters of the Father. It’s easy to think that we are what we did or what was done to us. In essence, to take on the identity of these past-tense thoughts or actions. Especially when we habitually rehash these events. Even when we’re trying to attain freedom. By doing this we end up consuming more of the lies that we’re trying to get away from.
Consequently, unknowingly trapping ourselves even further into their imprisoned abyss. If no one has said this to you let me just say it today—you’re not the shame, pitiful, weak, powerless creature that your abuser said you were. You’re not unworthy. The same thing applies to you if you have been the oppressor (which we all have been in some way at some point in our lives). I don’t care if anything that you’re hung up on happened before or after you were saved. None of that matters.
No matter what, none of these things are your identity. Stop consuming the lies. Your identity isn’t what you did or what’s been done to you. Your identity is what HE did. Full stop. We can’t pray fear away. But we can begin to understand who we are. Once we understand that we are indeed dead to fear—then it goes away.
Which identity do you choose today? The dead person who was the person of Satan or the person that is now alive in you? The person of Jesus and the way the Father sees you.