We had stopped for gas on the first day of our road trip. As my husband was filling up, he happened to glance down at the rear tire and something shiny in one of the treads caught his eye. He bent down to make sure that it was surely not what it appeared to be: a nail. To his shock, it was indeed a nail in the tire. Hmmm. What to do? The tire didn’t seem to be losing air. We could proceed on our way and hope for the best, running the risk of a flat tire on the freeway. Or we could go to a garage right away, delaying our road trip, and get it fixed.
Confronting sin in our lives is like our experience with the nail. When we see our sin, we sometimes tend to want to ignore it, foolishly thinking it will just go away by itself and not cause any problems. For example, maybe we know there is anger lurking in our hearts, but we don’t really want to admit that what was possibly righteous anger is now turning into bitterness. Or maybe we sense that we are enslaved to our phones, but we don’t acknowledge the idolatry going on in our heart. We must turn to the Scriptures to find wise counsel about how to deal with sin in our lives.
When my husband noticed the shiny object in the tire, he took the time to bend down and examine the situation and identify the problem. The Scriptures call us to humble, prayerful self-examination regarding our lives as well. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24). This requires us to be honest with ourselves regarding our desires, our thoughts, and our behavior. Our knee-jerk reaction to our own sin might be denial (“I’m not bitter!”) or excuses (“My phone is helping me stay connected!”). But we can’t get around our guilt: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth in not in us” (1 John 1:8). There is good news, however: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We need to be honest with ourselves, examining our lives and confessing our sin.
My husband decided to go to a garage to deal with the nail in our tire promptly, saving us from a bigger problem down the road. The Scriptures also advise us to deal promptly with our sin. Regarding anger, Paul exhorted the believers in Ephesus to resolve it quickly: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27). If we allow even righteous anger to grow into bitterness it will give the devil a foot in the door.
Dealing promptly with our sin might be what Solomon was referring to when he told his bride to “catch the little foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom” (Song of Solomon 2:15). It is the unresolved little problems that grow into big problems. If we are attentive, we can deal with them before they escalate. This requires humility before God in prayer, and humility with others when they confront us about our sin.
When the mechanic at the garage bent down to fix our tire, he got out a very impressive pair of pliers, and with a good bit of elbow grease he attacked the nail to yank it out of the tire. It took some radical tools and effort. The Scriptures also advise us to be radical in repenting of our sin. Jesus used the analogy of amputation: “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matthew 5:30). Amputation is a very radical response to sin! Does our love for Christ cause us to hate our sin so much that we are ready to deal radically with it?
Paul offered a radical but simple solution to sin: “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14). We must recognize the Lordship of Christ, giving Him full authority in our life. This is the pursuit of sanctification: allowing Christ to change our desires, thinking and behavior as we renew our minds in the truths of the Scriptures and follow Him in obedience. With His help, we can replace anger with humility and forgiveness. We can put the phone away until we take care of more important priorities. Are we willing to be radical?
On that first day of our road trip, we reluctantly decided to spend the afternoon at a garage to get the tire fixed. It took about an hour to wait for the appointment, and about 10 minutes for the mechanic to remove the nail and plug up the hole. We were on our way again, thankful that in God’s providence my husband had discovered the nail and fixed it before we had a disaster on the freeway! It was a reminder of the importance of dealing honestly, promptly, and radically with sin, catching it as soon as we see it. Through honest self-examination, prompt confession, and radical repentance we can have victory over sin and grow in Christlikeness.