A Conversation on Sin, the Apostle Paul, and C.S. Lewis
My friend and I met up this week to catch up. I really do not know how it came up, but suddenly I am sharing, “This week I have been really feeling the burden of my sin.”
All last week, I really struggled with this weight on my shoulders. It was a different kind of weight than just stress. Frankly, it was hard to describe, which is why I probably blurted it out to her. My friend usually has good insight, so I like sharing these things with her.
At this point in my life, I am not actively choosing a life of sin, like my days entrenched in the eating disorder. But I am a sinner. I do sin every day. And last week, I was so aware of my sin – whether it was a thought, word, or action – and it really hurt. It felt burdensome.
My friend quickly resonated with my struggle as it is something she has wrestled with herself. She gracefully responded that as I grow closer to God my heart becomes like His. God hates sin. In fact, He sent His Only Son to die for our sins to reconcile us to Him. Our sin hurts Him because He recklessly loves us.
So, God slowly reveals our sin to us. He exposes a behavior, a habit, or a personality trait that is not pleasing to Him. As He reveals little by little, our responsibility is to align back with God’s direction and His vision. We confess this behavior, habit, or trait and use the Holy Spirit’s strength to overcome it. However, if God revealed to us every sin in our life all at once, we would just curl up into a ball and never get up. If exposed to the reality of all our sin all at once, we would become paralyzed with fear, shame, and guilt. My friend used the analogy of our physical skin. If we were to peel back each of the layers, one by one, eventually we will hit nerves causing pain.
In all my maturity my response was, “Why is everyone else not struggling with this?”
She kindly reminded me that even a couple years ago I was not at this place.
Then a few days later, my friend texted me sharing a devotional that succinctly answered what we were just talking about.
You can find this on the Youversion Bible App (Bible in One Year 2018) Day 214 under “Devotional.”
“The light of God’s presence reveals the dark places in our hearts – the sins we would like to conceal even from ourselves. The psalmist says, ‘Lord, you have been our dwelling-place… You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence’ (vv.1a, 8).
The longer we spend in God’s presence the more the light shines and highlights our sin. The apostle Paul started out by describing himself as ‘the least of the apostles’ (1 Corinthians 15:9). Later on he called himself ‘less than the least of all God’s people’ (Ephesians 3:8). Finally, he described himself as ‘the worst of sinners’! (1 Timothy 1:16).
It is not that he got worse; it is simply that, through the awesome power of God’s presence, he became more and more aware of the light shining in his heart. That could seem very negative, but actually for Paul it was quite the opposite. His overwhelming feeling was gratitude and praise because no matter what he had done wrong, he knew that he was forgiven and could know relationship with God.
As Christians, we can look forward to that relationship lasting forever. God is eternal, ‘From everlasting to everlasting you are God’ (Psalm 90:2b). Yet we know only too well the fragility of human life. The psalmist reminds us that we return to dust as mortals (v.3), we are like new grass that by the evening is dry and withered (vv.5–6), and our usual life span is seventy or eighty years (v.10).
God’s everlasting nature is part of who he is. For us, eternal life is not automatic or natural. ‘The wages of sin is death’, but the gift from the everlasting God is ‘eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 6:23).
The part that struck me was about Apostle Paul. I never noticed how his writing digressed from the “least of the apostles” to the “worst of all sinners.” Like the devotional stated, it is not that Paul became any worse, actively choosing a life of sin. No, as he grew closer to God more light was shed on his own sin. He realized no amount of works could qualify him into righteousness. Fortunately for us, and like Paul, we live on this side of history, this side of the covenant. Jesus’ work on the cross covered all our sins. All that burdensome ugliness exposed in the light of God’s goodness is covered with the sacrificial blood of Jesus. I am not required to sacrifice an animal to atone for my sins like the Old Covenant commanded. I, on this side of history, not only am considered blameless in God’s eyes, but I have a right relationship with Him. He is not a far-off distant idea. He is close, He is with me and I will be with Him eternally. His love and grace envelop me. His Holy Spirit guides me.
So, we see in Paul’s writings that as he grew closer and closer to God, Paul thought of himself less.
Originally, when I wrote that last sentence I said, “he thought less of himself.” But, I changed it to what you see above because of this C.S. Lewis quote, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
Our selfishness and pride give us a false sense of rights, as if we deserve anything God gives us. With that mindset, our responsibilities are neglected. Instead, our responsibility is to acknowledge our sin and feel the weight of it, because quite frankly it is incredibly humbling. But thankfully our responsibility does not end there. We must release this burden to God because He’s already ransomed us. He bought us for a price, the price of sacrificing His One and Only Son. Our responsibility is to live in humility, but not in a spirit of self-deprecation. Instead, we are to think of ourselves less so that we may make God greater in our life. Fortunately for us, we serve an Almighty, Sovereign God who quite frankly has everything under His control. To honor Him, I will be thinking of myself less.
*As a side note, if you are interested in listening to the Bible in a year, I was introduced to the Daily Audio Bible by my mom (thanks mom!) this year and have been listening to that daily. It’s a great option!