Thursday, July 9, 2020


We can all relate to Paul's words when he says that what he wants to do, he does not do, but what he does not want to do, this he does. We know that struggle of wrestling with our sin only to find its pull is stronger than we ever imagined, that pain of working so hard to give up an addiction only to discover that our next high is all we can think about.

What is it that makes sin so hard to give up even when we make repentance our soul focus? Even when we put all of our energies into not going down that road again?

Part of it is the nature of human curiosity, of course. If we see a sign that says "no trespassing," we naturally want to journey a little further to see what's so worth protecting. If we see a present that has our name on it, we want to peek. If that present says, "Do not open until Christmas," then we are more tempted still.

But what is most at work is a psychological phenomenon that I'm certain has a name, but its name is not really important right now. It's the idea that we unconsciously focus the most on things that we cannot do.

Think about the last time your electricity went out. Ours recently went out in the middle of the day and was off for five hours. During that five hours, do you know how many light switches I tried to flip on? Do you know how many things I came up with to pass the time...that all required electricity?

During the course of a regular day, I do not often turn the light in my office on. There is enough light coming through the window that I don't need it. There's also a window in my bathroom that lets in more than enough light for such a tiny space, so when I go into my bathroom during the day, I do not even bother turning the light on. Again, I don't need it. But when the power went off at 2 p.m. on a perfectly sunny day? I flipped every light switch for every room I entered, even though the sun was still as bright through the window as it always is.

And then, as I sat in the living room loving on my dog while waiting on the electricity come back on, I thought it would be a good time to read a book. But then I realized that with the power off and work impossible, perhaps it was a better time to catch up on all of the things that I needed to do around the house. Like vacuuming.

We won't talk about how far out of the closet I got the vacuum before I remembered that it would have to be plugged in.

The same thing is true with our sin. Most of us don't spend our entire day sinning. Whatever our pet sin is, it's something that has kind of a natural place in our lives - like turning on the lights only when it's dark and we need them. But the minute that we decide we can't do that any more, the minute we choose to eliminate it from our lives, it's all we can think about. We start to do it almost naturally, even though it's not natural at all under these circumstances, and then we catch ourselves like...whoa. Why did I do that?

Because psychologically, our minds are focused on the thing that we can't do. Because we're thinking about what we can't that we don't accidentally do it. And this makes us more prone to accidentally doing it. Doing it when it serves no purpose for us to do it. Doing it when we don't even get the reward of having done it, whatever that was for us. Doing it when we know it won't give us anything.

I say that to say this: if you want to rid yourself of sin in your life, the easiest road is not to decide what you're not going to do any more. The easiest road is to just start choosing things you can do and will do and focus on those. Your brain is wired to obsess over obstacles you put in front of it, but if you're so busy engaging in opportunities, you'll find that you won't even miss that sin you're not committing any more. So the trick is to focus on doing more, not doing less. To open your life up, not try to shut it down. To choose righteousness.

Give it a go and see if it doesn't change the way you approach your sin...and your repentance.

I tell ya', it's just like flipping a switch. 

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