I read a book last year called Hit List:Taking Aim At the Seven Deadly Sins by pastor/ author Brian G. Hedges. I know some of you may recoil at those words ‘seven deadly sins’ but there is doubtless some wisdom to be gained from studying this historic list. The book is written from a protestant perspective as opposed to the traditional Catholic view, which draws distinctions between mortal and venial sins. That is to say that all sin is deadly and we do not want to get in the habit of creating a tier system for sin, calling some terminal and others tolerable. Brian gives a chapter treatment to each of the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, lust), which he calls the leading undercover operatives for the world, the flesh, and the devil.1
I understand that at the end of the day, the seven deadly sins are just a list put together by a monk in the 4th century but I deeply feel the spiritual strangulation that they have dealt to my own life and I have had a front row seat to see them rear their head in the lives of those I love and counsel. So this year I plan to write a 10 part series on the seven deadly sins and I hope you will come along and find help and hope in your pursuit of godliness.
We’ll start in my own life. Over the last 2 years, God has graciously revealed to me how prone I am to finding my greatest significance and worth in my self and my ways. Even in my specific calling as a worship leader, I often pridefully, like a dog returning to its vomit (Prov. 26:11), trust my planning and performance over God’s power. I am a prideful man. Here’s a link to an entry I made last year about that. More recently, God has been showing me how I can unhealthily relate to money and possessions . . . how I can tithe, support missionaries, live within my means and be frugal, all the while seething at the supposed financial ease and prosperity in the lives of those around me. The greed and jealousy in me cry out “when is my break? when do I cash in?” I’m realizing that I can live a life that, from man’s perspective, will never earn me the indictment of being “greedy” while inwardly covetousness abounds and ravages my soul. I’m learning that I have tendencies to circumvent God’s conviction and judgement on these sins and to instead manage them with self-therapy. I am a greedy man (this particular example is a fusion of greed & envy).
The truth is, we can all relate to a story like mine. You may have to pencil in something like anger, lust, laziness, _________ to adapt it to where you are at in life but the war for your soul rages on nonetheless. If you don’t believe me just listen to the words of Peter in 1 Peter 2:11.
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
This isn’t an obscure verse that dubious ministers pull out when they want to scare you out of your sin. It’s one among a multitude of others that convey this idea of spiritual warfare. If you have time, read 1 Peter 5, where Satan is likened to a voracious lion that has been trained to crave human destruction. Also see Hebrews 3:13, James 1:14, Ephesians 2:1-3, Ephesians 6, etc.
Hear me, this is no time for pacifism or passivity with your sin! Your heart is a battlefield and we do not gain the hard ground of sanctification through pretending to be an impartial civilian but through taking up arms and engaging in the fight WITH God. This is where the proverbial “rubber” of our gospel-centrality “meets the road” of our life and fight with sin. 19th century pastor Horatius Bonar explains this well.
It is forgiveness that sets a man working for God. He does not work in order to be forgiven, but because he has been forgiven, and the consciousness of his sin being pardoned makes him long more for its entire removal than ever he did before. . . Forgiveness, received freely . . . . acts as a spring, an impulse, a stimulus of divine potency. It is more irresistible than law, or terror, or threat. A half forgiveness, an uncertain justification, a changeable peace, may lead to careless living and more careless working, may slacken the energy and freeze up the springs of action, but a complete and assured pardon can have no such effect . . . Irrepressible we may truly call the momentum which owes its intensity to the entireness and sureness of the pardon.2
So if we truly want to carry the banner of being a “gospel-centered” people, we ought to be a confessing, repenting, sin-fighting, war-waging people. If we really believe we are forgiven people and that the penalty of sin on us has been banished in Christ, let the foretaste of glory serve to whet our appetites all the more for a life unstained by sin. We are forgiven sinners and forgiven sinners ought to be the most hopeful of warriors.
In the book Killjoys, Marshall Segal aptly reminds us of this hopeful warfare.
It is a war that’s already been won. The enemies have been named and defeated, but they are still dangerous. The outcome is decided, but the war wages on, and the fighting is as fierce as ever. Jesus’s victory at the cross wasn’t meant to make us relax and put down our weapons. No, he died and rose to arm us with the invincible hope and power of his Spirit and promises. He went to Calvary so that we could kill our sin (Rom. 8:13).3
1. Brian Hedges, Hit List, pg. 12
2. Horatius Bonar, God’s Way of Peace, pg. 38-39
3. Marshall Segal, Killjoys, pg. XII-XIII