I am about half way through the non-fiction book The Big Story by Justin Buzzard. So far I am blessed by it and its reminder that, despite the sometimes overwhelming immediacy of stuff in our life, we are part of a story far bigger than us, that begins with God, and gives us meaning and purpose and hope and context for our life and the world around us. I have found that it is so easy to get lost in the daily grind that we forget the majesty and calling and breathtaking scope of the big picture we are a part of, and the incredible direction and perspective it gives us when facing the situations in front of us.
As I often do when beginning a non-fiction Christian book I try and learn more about the author and what they believe, etc., and in so doing I found a couple of blog posts by Justin that have also blessed me. The one about pastors I posted a link to yesterday, and there was also one called Sin, Not Sins that I found helping me with a subtle, but very powerful perspective shift. I'll summarize it here, along with some other thoughts on sin that have been helping me a lot. Some are from Justin's blog or book, others are thoughts I've had and things I've seen in God's Word that his book has helped me see more clearly.
In his blog post Justin points out how we often can think of our sins in that way, as sins—plural. Doing so can diminish the issue and encourage us to be "self-sufficient" (my words) in battling them. For example, if I see my problem as ______ and _______ and _______ (fill in your sins, or issues) then the temptation is to look to self effort, self improvement, and more willpower to solve them. "If I try harder at this" or "If I do that" or ??? Rather, he says, think of our problem not as sins (plural) but as Sin (singular) and suddenly we see that while the manifestation of Sin may take many forms, the real problem is Sin itself. I can "beat" this issue or that by trying hard enough, but Sin will still rise its ugly head in some other area or temptation or struggle.
When I realize my problem is not sins (individual issues) but Sin, then I realize the true depth and scope of this problem I face, and am immediately brought to the realization that God alone can help me. Helping others realize this as well will help them understand every man's need for God. I found this shift in seeing things he wrote about in his blog post match well with something he mentioned in the book, and that basically Adam and Eve's bite was a small bite, but it was about big rebellion. I thought, "How many times we fall into that trap and self justify ourselves by saying this or that sin is small, or not as bad as others, etc. when the real issue is not that sin choice, but the rebellion that made us make it." Suddenly, when we face it that way, we can't hide behind weighing our sins on some scale, but we are struck square in the face with realizing that rebellion is the root of our problems and it is huge for us all. Again, a tiny shift in thought can explode a new revelation or way of seeing things. We might say, "What's the big deal about biting a piece of fruit (or, add your own choices in here instead)?" That's not the big deal. The big deal is rebelling against God and deciding we can find our own pleasure, provision, and wisdom apart from God and His ways and Word. I know I've written about that a lot over the last few years, but it struck home in a fresh way through Justin's ways of wording it.
Another point that Justin made in his book that really struck me as true to life is how Satan causes us to focus on the few prohibitions in a sea of permissions. In a midst of a garden filled with blessings and permission stood one prohibition, and yet that is what Satan drew their attention to. How often I find in my own life and in the lives of people I work with that our eyes go to what we can't do, can't have, etc., and are drawn from the joyous reality of all we have and are in Christ. Then, when we "taste" of Satan's fruit (whatever we choose to pursue in rebellion and in the arrogance of thinking we can do it better our way than God's), we find the lemon isn't so sweet and we wonder why our life, our relationships, etc. have blown up and left collateral damage all around us. Surprise! Satan hates us, and Jesus has warned us Satan comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.
Satan is the father of lies. I understand that. I spent many hours lying yesterday. I was a blatant, misrepresenting liar. I went fishing with a friend in our fellowship and spent hours trying to disguise this death bringing hook of entrapment in a way the fish would think it was the real deal and good food so they'd bite the disguise and find themselves embedded on the hook and soon on my plate. Fortunately for the fish I am not a good liar and I didn't catch any, but Satan is far better. As long as we continue to address individual sins and neglect the much larger umbrella issue of Sin and Rebellion that lie at the heart of them all, we will forever struggle in futility and a roller coaster life as we think we can be smarter than both Satan and God, by simply trying more and trying harder and being wiser. The fish in Lake San Antonio are safe for another day, but we won't be with that attitude.