Just before I left for vacation last Saturday, I attended the Alliance for Renewal Churches National Conference in Toledo. The focus of the conference was Transformation, based on a book called How People Change by Timothy Lane. This is an excellent book, and I’ve put off reading Love Wins so that I can work my way through How People Change carefully and thoughtfully.
The primary speaker at the conference, Scott Pursley, frequently referred to the work of David Powlison, of whom I had not heard before. Scott quoted Powlison several times on the gravity of sin. Here is an excerpt:
Sin, in the popular misunderstanding, refers to matters of conscious volitional awareness of wrongdoing and the ability to do otherwise. This instinctive view of sin infects many Christians and almost all non-Christians. It has a long legacy in the church under the label Pelagianism, one of the oldest and most instinctive heresies. The Bible’s view of sin certainly includes the high-handed sins where evil approaches full volitional awareness. But sin also includes what we simply are, and the perverse ways we think, want, remember, and react.
Most sin is invisible to the sinner because it is simply how the sinner works, how the sinner perceives, wants, and interprets things. Once we see sin for what it really is–madness and evil intentions in our hearts, absences of any fear of God, slavery to various passions–then it becomes easier to see how sin is the immediate and specific problem all counseling deals with at every moment, not a general and remote problem. The core insanity of the human heart is that we violate the first great commandment. We will love anything, except God, unless our madness is checked by grace.
I so quickly forget about the pervasiveness of sin in the world, and especially in my own heart. I don’t think about sin being simply how I function–how I perceive, want, and interpret everything around me. I think about sin in terms of what I do, not who I am. But that is insufficient, and doesn’t take into account the deep desires that motivate my behavior. These desires are steeped in sin, driving me to participate in the spread of evil and the worship of idols. It is at the level of deep, internal, personal desire that Jesus seeks to wage war against evil, and the gospel of grace and agape love is his weapon of choice.
Are you spiritually frustrated, stuck in the same place fighting the same sins for far too long? Have you tried to change but can’t? The only hope that you and I have to see real, lasting change in our lives is if our desires are transformed. Behavioral change follows transformation at the level of desire, and Jesus is the only one strong enough to change us at that deep a level.
I’ll post more on this topic throughout the week. In the mean time, open yourself up to what is churning in the depths of your heart. Think about your desires and how they motivate your actions. Invite Jesus into the process to guide you into the depths of your soul.