On Sin and Quiet Times

July 26th, 2012 | | No Comments
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I have always noticed that the surest remedy to creeping sin in my life is to come into God’s presence regularly in prayer and the study of his Word. A colleague and friend used to joke that when we miss our daily quiet times, God notices the first day, I notice the second day, and by the third day everyone notices. There is a lot of truth in that. Whatever the sin—dishonesty, fear, lust, discontentment—it diminishes in the splendor of his holiness, but grows in his absence. These are rare plants that thrive in the dark. In his light, however, new fruit quickly grows to take its place, the fruit of a sanctified life.


Of course, our time with God does not function like a magic charm warding off evil. It is not as though this is simply a superstitious ritual that gives us power against sin. Instead, we lose our taste for sin in his presence. It takes just a short while kneeling before him, hearing his voice, seeing his beauty, before we find our thirst slaked at his “river of delights” (Psalm 34:8). “The things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace,” as the old chorus has it.


The real problem comes when we attack our sin when we are not spending regular time in the presence of his majesty. When we are cut off from the Vine and out of step with the Spirit, sin produces guilt rather than conviction, repentance, and transformation. When we do not hear the Spirit’s voice, we listen to Satan’s instead—and he is the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). He whispers menacingly to us that we are not good enough, that God will not love us unless we change. And here is his great trick. If Satan can get us to pursue holiness in our own strength—to fight sin in the flesh until our knuckles are white, our spirits frail, and our hearts hardened with pride—then he will have separated us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Satan has no problem with our growing in “holiness,” so long as it comes about through unholy means: legalistic, temporary, human efforts. When we forget God’s grace, we doubt his love. Then we try to earn his love, rather than basking in it, growing resentful, bitter, discouraged, and fearful when our legalistic efforts fail. This produces a cycle of guilt, despair, striving (in the flesh), pride, and failure.


Grace overcomes the whole of the cycle and each component part. To remember grace and see real, lasting, Spirit-worked change, we must come and rest in his loving presence. Every day.

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