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Pastoral 2013

The Christian’s Dangerous Toleration of Sin


There is no greater danger than the sin that hides within us, which we cherish either secretly or openly. Sin is the Christian’s biggest problem.

Robert McCheyne once said of the presence of sin within: “The seeds of all my sins are in my heart, and perhaps the more dangerous that I do not see them.”

The consequences of conjecturing sinlessness

The apostle John, in his first epistle, has cautioned us of the dangers of hiding or neglecting the presence of sin in our lives.

  • We deceive ourselves – John says: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1:8a). One may say that “I have no sin” with reference to his standing in Christ Jesus as a forgiven sinner. But practically speaking, who is without sin or without a propensity towards sin? We may resent anyone calling us a sinner. Nonetheless, are we not stained with sins of our heart and body?
  • We become untruthful persons - John warns us that “the truth is not in us” (v. 8b) if we say that there is no sin in us. Denying our sins is to deny indisputable facts. Can an enlightened, sane mind say that he has no sin?
  • We make God a liar – In 1 John 1:10, the apostle said: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar.” Before the all-searching God, are we without sin?

Moreover, to deny our sinful disposition is to refute the propriety of God’s scheme of redemption. It is for sinners that Christ came. If there is no sinner, no Saviour is needed. Let us not make our God a liar by our self-justification.

  • We become unbiblical men – John again warns those who refuse to acknowledge their sins that “his word is not in us” (v. 10b). Those who deny the existence of sin within them are rejecting the infallible testimony of God’s Word, which says that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23; cf. Jeremiah 17:9).

How do Christians tolerate sins?

The following are some practical observations concerning how Christians deceive themselves by tolerating sin in their lives:

  1. We often try to balance off our sins with certain pseudo virtues. We do some sort of bookkeeping - a debtor and creditor account - over against our sins and guilt, we write what appear to be some good deeds that we have done. After doing so, we seem to be content with our sins and leave them as they are, without confessing or repenting of them.
  2. We assume virtues that are not our own, and think of ourselves as virtuous because of them. Men pride themselves on their family and their spiritual heritage. Yes, it is a good thing to belong to a good family. But what escape can it provide from your sins? Some others speak about the soundness of preaching in their church, while secretly entertaining sins within their hearts. Will God be pleased with such an attitude?
  3. We act as virtuous men at the sight of others’ vices, and rejoice in such a situation, without repenting of the vices that are in us. They see the sins of others — not their own. For example, a spendthrift pastor can read a homily on the vices of the miser, but it never occurs to him that the same vice is in him.
  4. We disguise our vices to make them look virtuous. We give them false names; we dress them up as virtues and call them such, and really think they are virtuous. For instance, a young man who has stolen money from his dad’s wallet takes his friends for a time of leisure, arcade games, food and drinks. When his friends thank him for his ‘generosity’, he replies to them with a smile, “O, you’re welcome. I am happy to do what I did for you all.” He goes home feeling happy about the comments of his friends, but without any real remorse over his act of stealing.
  5. We change the form of our sin, and then think we are done with it. Those who had lived in adultery may now be content with filthy movies and pornography, thinking that they have overcome their sin of lust. And those who had practised these carnal activities frequently may now be content that they only engage in them rarely. Those who were once thieves and fraudsters may have stopped their illegal activities, but now resort to less obvious covetous behaviour like miserliness. Being content with such changes in the form and frequency of sin is not real repentance. We must weep and pray with confession of those sins that beset us till we have victory over them all.
  6. When we can no longer disguise our wrongdoings, we hide behind all manner of excuses. We say, “Yes, I admit this is not quite right, but everybody does it.” Or, “I admit this is not quite according to the Word of God, but such biblical expectations are not practicable in this twenty-first century.”

We must examine ourselves constantly to see whether there are sins in our lives. An old commentator, C. Stanford, has made an insightful comment on the hidden sins with us – “Motives that seem to you as white as the light may prove, when seen through His prism, to be many coloured. Aims that seem straight as a line may, when tested by the right standard, prove indirect and tortuous. We shall find at last that, in many cases, what we have thought devotion was indevout; what we have thought love was struck through with the taint of selfishness; what we have thought faith was utterly vitiated with the poison of unbelief.”

When we look at our thoughts, desires, motives, words and actions in the light of God’s Word, we will see many a hidden sins in our lives. As soon as we find them, we must act to rid ourselves of those sins.

Do not tolerate sin in your lives

Sin will gravely damage not only our Christian joy but also our effectiveness and the sweetness of Christian fellowship. So our sins must be dealt with decisively. They should not be tolerated within the secret chambers of our souls. They must be mortified. Let me remind all of us of the biblical cautions against the toleration of sins. In Colossians 3:5, we are warned: “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” We are commanded to slay all the sinful passions within. There must be constant deliberate efforts to rid ourselves of sinful thoughts and aspirations. Hebrews 12:1 exhorts us: “. . . let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.”