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First Thoughts

Acceptable Sins?

Have you ever considered how much our God cares about details? His creation is a marvelous compilation of little details, from the intricacies of the eye to your individual fingerprints. In the Old Testament, He gave intricate descriptions of the construction of the tabernacle, and the Mosaic Law is equally detailed. The New Testament starts with a detailed genealogy of our Lord to demonstrate that He was the promised Messiah, Savior, and Davidic King. Later in the New Testament, there are details about the qualifications of a pastor and even more details about what relationships in the Church are to be like and how to live the Christian life. God is particularly detailed about His holiness. He is 100% pure (I John 1: 5).

It is obvious that God cares about details, but it’s easy for us to neglect them, especially in taking our holiness seriously, even down to the details of our thoughts, intentions, and habits. We can often view some sins as “acceptable.” We reason, “No one knows about it.” “It doesn’t seem to hurt my relationship with the Lord.” “I’ve struggled with this so long I don’t know how to get rid of it.” “It’s just my personality.” “I don’t do the big sins like committing adultery.” “God is so gracious. He must tolerate this.”

The Standard

God’s standard is perfection, not like some coins I own. My American “silver eagle” coins are .999 silver. I also have some Canadian “maple leaf” silver coins that are even purer at .9999 silver. Both types of coins are almost pure, but they are not quite 100% pure. While these coins are a picture of even a mature Christian, they would still fall short of the biblical standard.

What is the standard? “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). The standard is God’s holiness. This means He is totally separated from sin. Can you comprehend that? He is totally pure.

God is looking for this type of holiness in our lives, down to the details. This includes what we often think of as acceptable sins. Things like being a worrier, or impatient, or the occasional “little” lie to make yourself look good. You might say, “That’s an impossible standard,” so God must not be serious. You are right that it is impossible for us as humans. But God is serious about this, so how do we attain it?

He must make it possible, so He sent His Son, our Savior, to die for our sin. Once we become a follower of Him by asking for forgiveness, He starts to work in our lives to help us grow in holiness (Philippians 1:6). We call this sanctification. He desires this sanctification to be an ongoing work down into the details of our lives, including our thoughts, intentions, and habits. He wants us to view all sin as unacceptable because He wants us to be like Him. This is in our best interest because the Lord is beautiful, and sin is ugly. Even the “small” things lead to ugliness in our lives.

The Ambition

What should our ambition be? The writer of Hebrews is clear. “Let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race set before us… (Hebrews 12:1). Lay aside every weight, and sin. Everything holding us back must be put off so we can excel toward Christ-likeness.

What is holding you back in your race? It could be the small things, the seemingly acceptable. In the flow of thought of Hebrews, the great “Hall of Fame of Faith” has just been discussed in chapter 11. These inductees are our examples. They have finished their race, as Jesus has as well (verse 2), and now “we are surrounded by so great a crowd of witnesses.” They are seated in the arena, and we are down on the track, and it’s our turn to run. This is our historic moment. It’s time to throw off the weights. Shed anything that could keep you from running fast.

The Details of the Weights

Earlier in the book of Hebrews, “the thoughts and intentions” of the heart are discussed (4:12). The Christian life is not just about doing the big, obvious things like attending church and reading your Bible. It is also caring about our thought lives and the intentions of our inner person.

This could lead to questions like, what do you tolerate in your thought life? Maybe your struggle is with anxious thoughts. Your mind races with fear instead of fighting with your thinking to trust the Lord. You have accepted it and tell yourself that it’s just part of your personality. What could you do to not tolerate this any longer and fight against it by learning what it means to trust the Lord? It could be that your secret thought life is about sexual lust. What could you do to battle this and not tolerate it any longer?

What may be happening in the habits of your life? Habits indicate priorities. For example, I consistently brush my teeth because I believe it is important. I try to habitually exercise because health is valuable to me. There are some common habits, though, that can become acceptable sins. Things like excessive social media use or overeating are accepted in our culture, but remember that habits reveal priorities—what is valuable. Imagine where you would be spiritually if, instead of so much time on social media, you spent that time pursuing a relationship with the Lord. Ask yourself the question, “Why is this so important to me?”

True Happiness

You may be thinking some of these thoughts:

  • “If it is true that I should care about these types of details in my Christian life, is God just trying to take away all of my fun?”
  • “I find joy in food.”
  • “I find some peace and satisfaction in spending time on my phone.”

Do you realize, though, that God is not a cosmic killjoy? He desires for you to be truly satisfied. He really wants what is best for you because he knows that any amount of sin is like a disease. Scripture clearly indicates that God is the most satisfied being in the universe (Psalm 16:11), and he wants you to be as well. Purity and true joy are directly connected.

Let’s care about the details of our holiness because we love our Lord and do not want to tolerate even “acceptable sins.” Let’s care about even the “small” things because it’s our turn to run the race. Let’s deal with even the thoughts and intentions because we want true joy.

Listen to Pastor Ernie and Pastor Ryan’s class Acceptable Sins here, and learn more about Midweek on our website here

Dr. Ernie Baker serves First Baptist Church as Pastor of Counseling and Discipleship. He has been in ministry for 41 years as a pastor in Virginia and as a professor at The Master’s University (Santa Clarita, CA) where he continues to serve as the chair of the online biblical counseling program. He is the author of Marry Wisely, Marry Well: A Blueprint for Personal Preparation

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