For all of us, something or someone runs our lives. When this happens we find ourselves not living the life God has called us to. When we stop long enough to catch our breath, we realize how tired we are, how much debt we have, how we said yes to things we should have said no to.
If we aren’t careful we simply jump from “I need to lose weight”, to “I need to get out of debt”, to “I need to slow down”, and we try to make changes in those areas. We get on the latest diet, sign up for a financial class or clear our calendar for a week.
If you are like most people who try this approach, a month from now you’ll look up and see the same problem.
The question becomes, “What then?”
In most church counseling sessions we would look at the sins in your life. We would talk about your addiction to porn, your willingness to give your heart and body away in relationships, the pace that you keep, how you go into debt buying stuff you can’t afford, how you always gossip, or why you push yourself and your kids to be the best and attain a certain kind of lifestyle. We often want to move to fixing those things and think, “I’ll just stop doing them.”
If you’ve ever tried this approach, you know it doesn’t work. We can’t simply change our behavior and see lasting change. Until we understand why we do something, change and freedom will continue to elude us.
Have you ever been to a buffet – one where the plates are stacked, and whenever you pull a plate off, they all move up? Think of your life and sins as being like that stack of plates. Most of the time when we sin or hear about sin in a sermon, it is about the plate on top. To see true change, to see the things that crowd out our lives get conquered by the power of Jesus, we have to keep pulling up plates until we get to the last one, what we’ll call the sin under the sin.
If we aren’t careful this sin under the sin starts to drive our lives. What makes this easy to miss is that it is often something good that we give prominence to in our lives. Things like our kids, a job, money, keeping a clean house, retirement, a dream house or another goal.
These things are what drive us to go into debt, to run at an unsustainable pace on our calendar, which leads to an unhealthy lifestyle. This is the why.
Let me put it another way: often when we sin, without realizing it we are looking for meaning. We sin from a place of emptiness.
We sin from a place of wanting to be filled up, a hope to feel better, more alive, a part of something, or to take away the fear of missing out on something.
As well, for many Christians we pursue changing the wrongs things. We change what we see, what is obvious to ourselves and those around us. The image of an iceberg comes to mind.
Many Christians underestimate the presence and power of indwelling sin. They don’t see how easily entrapped they are in this world full of snares (Galatians 6:1). They don’t grasp the comprehensive nature of the war that is always raging within the heart of every believer (Romans 7). They’re not aware of how prone they are to run after God replacements. They fail to see that their greatest problems exist within them, not outside them.