I was just looking at two pictures of Rite and I. The first was when we got married in Canada in 1979 and the second thirty years later here in Malaga. Rite obviously hasn’t changed a bit but you can quickly tell the difference in me. When it comes to asking how much more like Jesus we are today than we were 30 years ago, it’s kind of scary. We both hope there has been lots of change.
One of the challenges today is that sin is no longer politically correct. We can talk about mistakes and off days but not sin. Sinful has come to mean eating chocolate sundaes and taking time out to read a novel on the beach! However the bible is very clear that we have an enemy in this world who is out to kill, steal and destroy us. Like Professor Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes, we have a mortal enemy, the ruined version of ourselves that satan wants to influence totally. We are tempted and tested and all of us have fallen short of God’s grace as Romans 3 tells us.
Our lives have certain patterns, relationships, temperaments and gifts that are unique to us. Our fingerprints are unique and could be recognised by an expert. Our sin is similarly patterned. We don’t sin at random but our sin takes a consistent and predictable course. These specific habits form a personal sin profile that Michael Mangis calls our signature sins. You can find out more from his book entitled – yes you guessed it – Signature sin. Someone described this sin as:
..a chef’s speciality dish, the one that sort of defines you and makes you. The one you turn to again and again, the one you’ve developed to perfection.
This pattern of sin is formed from a number of elements including: our personal decisions to go our own way, our negative personality traits, our gifts pushed to extremes, trauma, and bad modelling from our culture and family background.
Hebrews 12:1 encourages us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles or the sin which clings so closely to us.” So rather than tolerate our sin or come up with excuses why we will never overcome in this area because of our personality, upbringing or experiences along the way, lets seek God’s face to untangle our personal web of sin and seek to become holy. God isn’t a hard taskmaster who challenges us to become holy when it is impossible for us to obey. No, he makes a way for us through Jesus, giving grace, love and forgiveness. He continually believes in us and woos us to become more like him every day. Change and transformation is possible but first we need to know our enemy. Once we have him in our sights, then we can wage war against him with all the strategies we can muster.
The big problem with knowing our enemy is the fact that many of us have a lack of self awareness. We all know the scripture in Matthew 7 about pointing out the splinter in someone else’s eye when we have a log in our own! It amazes me that many people have such a high estimation of their abilities on programmes like Britain’s got talent, American idol or X factor. On all these shows, people sing and come on stage with all kinds of talents and are often shocked when the judges bring negative feedback. It’s obvious to everyone else that they don’t have talent but them! How many spouses are surprised when their partners leave them and have been unaware of how they have hurt the other. All kinds of inappropriate attitudes, behaviour, and communication take place every day without the individuals being aware of what they are doing. In a class recently, I asked people who could drive to stand up. Then I asked them to sit down if they believed they were below average. No one sat down! We can’t all be above average drivers can we? Let’s be aware of our lack of self awareness.
One of the issues we need to look at, is the fact that most of us try to deal with the fruits of sin rather than the roots. So it’s a question of looking beyond the surface behaviour and asking the Lord, “Where does this kind of thinking, reaction, attitude, behaviour and communication come from?”
In strengthfinder, a gifts test put out by gallop, my number one strength is “Achiever.” I love to achieve something every day. When ‘achieving’ is pushed too far, it becomes a self-reliance to accomplish things, a drivenness that pumps the ego or a sense of vanity that makes me the all-important one. Of course I don’t think this through logically but I do often end up relying on my own abilities, skills and wisdom rather than looking to God as my source. I then rely on my own performance instead of God’s grace and intervention into what I am putting my hand to. I become a DIY spiritual leader rather than be like Jesus who “only did what he saw the father doing”.
So here is the challenge! Begin thinking through your life, your personality, your background, etc and ask yourself questions like: What kind of situations cause a reaction in me? When do I get irritable, angry, withdraw, feel unloved or fearful? What do I seem to be repenting of regularly? What kind of temptations do I seem to constantly face? What is behind my bad attitudes? What negative personality traits do I still struggle with? What fruit of the spirit am I lacking and what is the corresponding negative fruit? What negative qualities have I picked up from my family background and what generational sins have been passed on? What is the root of bad decisions that I have made?
If your gifts are pushed to an extreme, you can exhibit a negative trait that can be part of your signature sin web. Here is an example of the four gifts are key for a leadership team to function effectively. When any one of them becomes dominant and pushed to an extreme the negative trait can be exhibited.
There are all kinds of personality indicators and DiSC is one that I often use. Each of the four personality types has a negative side that can indicate a certain proneness to sin. Here are some generalisations that you may relate to.
I would encourage you to spend some time with the Lord and pray the prayer in Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” God knows me already so it’s more a question of God helping me know myself!
I spent a number of months thinking this issue through personally and finally identified the issue of self reliance. There are others of course but this is a main one. Pray a simple prayer like this: “In the name of Jesus, I nail self reliance to the cross. I break all agreements I have made with self reliance, known or unknown and I repent of joining with it. I ask you, Father to send self reliance away from me.” Go into a time of repentance and you will probably find like me that you need to pray this prayer of repentance regularly.
If you have sinned in a particular way for many years, it usually takes time to create new positive habits and this is where an antidote to the sin comes in or a virtue to replace the sin. Again ask the Lord what this antidote could be and how it is to be lived out in your life. My antidote is “Dependence on God” to overcome the self reliance – looking to go to God first before thinking up my own solutions, relying on God’s wisdom before referring back to my own experience, trusting in his intervention and anointing rather than relying on my own strength…
Here is a list of ancient virtues to combat the 7 deadly sins:
Patience – Anger/impatience
Humility – Pride
Kindness – Envy
Temperance – Gluttony
Purity – Lust
Generosity – Greed
Diligence – Sloth
As you take on this challenge, I would encourage you to work at it with some accountability. Without community transformation is extremely difficult and perhaps impossible, so work on a buddy system where you and a spouse or friend can see great change taking place together.
Take Peter’s words to heart in 2 Peter 1:3 “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.”
Until next month,