There are times when I come to a time of confession and sincerely pray the words of Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart….see if there is any wicked way in me…”
And I wait for conviction, for the Holy Spirit to bring to my mind a transgression.
And I wait and wait…and ….. nothing.
What is this? Why? Have I achieved a state of sinless perfection? Certainly not.
So I move on in prayer and most of the time, later on, when contemplating something else, the Holy Spirit faithfully puts his finger on a sin I have failed to see.
And this is the point – I couldn’t see my own sin. Only God searches the depths of my heart. Only God can see to the bottom.
Sin is deceptive. It never takes a break. I, however, can lull myself into a false sense of piety. That I am doing okay. I can read the list in Galatians 5:19-21 (adultery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, wrath, murder, drunkenness, etc.) and give myself a pass.
This is why Owen’s words are so refreshing. He says,
“Sin aims always at the utmost; every time it rises up to tempt or entice, might it have its own course, it would go out to the utmost sin in that kind. Every unclean thought or glance would be adultery if it could; every covetous desire would be oppression, every thought of unbelief would be atheism, might it grow to its head.”
Sin is never presented to us first in its ugliest form. Sin aims at our destruction but first it deceives. It may aim at adultery but will first deceive us by having us excuse our wayward, lust-tinged glances. It may aim at drunkenness but will first deceive us by having us tell ourselves that we deserve one more drink to take the edge off.
Owen goes on,
“it is modest, as it were, in its first motions and proposals, but having once got footing in the heart by them, it constantly makes good its ground, and presses on to some farther degrees in the same kind.”
“There is not the best saint in the world but, if he should give over this duty, [of mortification], would fall into as many cursed sins as ever any did of his kind.”
No wonder then that the author of Hebrews exhorts his readers this way,
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:12-13
Some questions —
Do you believe you are immune to the gravest sins?
Do you feel the need to daily put sin to death?
Every day sin aims to deceive and destroy. And so every day we must, by the Spirit, put it to death.