Welcome: An Introduction

Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Falling Away of Sin

The work of the Holy Spirit in changing us is not to work directly on our bad habits but to make us admire Jesus Christ so much that sinful habits feel foreign and distasteful.
                                           ~ John Piper

I really appreciate this line from Piper. It makes a good point that reveals the natural progression of change that happens within the heart of a believer. As our souls feast on the spiritual manna of Scripture they are fed with food that is nourishing, that builds our characters up and helps train our minds towards what is right in the eyes of God. The Holy Spirit impresses upon our hearts to move towards actions that build up God's Kingdom and not towards those which can help break it down.

As we are filled with the sense of God's love all things that are a contrast to that light which filters through the corridors of our hearts begin to feel magnified, distasteful, foreign and cumbersome. I know through personal experience that sins that I might have rationalized or justified for awhile began to be too burdensome for me to cling to once I opened my heart ever wider to the Spirit's light and instruction. It wasn't even like I felt that repugnant towards them but it was more like they were once leaves, thriving on the vine encircling my heart, keeping it from growing with the love of God and as I started to receive more and more light and love from God the source of the vine's life, my desire for sin, began to be eventually cut off. And like a plant recieving nourishment no more, my desire and attachment towards that which contradicted my faith began to just wilt away and eventually turn deathly brittle, breaking away from the hold they once had on my heart and at last falling away, allowing my heart to grow ever more and no longer be tangled with such destructive attachments and illusions. New leaves, vibrant and lush, watered by God's eternal fountain of living water, sprung up in their place.

Now, I'm not claiming to have the battle of sin all figured out. But really...does it have to be a battle, so to speak? We are all on our own individual paths towards sanctification where we become less and less part of the world and more and more in union with the likeness of Jesus. We have our whole lives to journey down this road for no matter how much scripture we read, how many prayers we lift towards God's throne, none of us will ever be perfect. I have a lot of faults! (Just ask my husband or kids!) But instead of focusing on them, and focusing on the sins that rise up from the tranquility of the day and threaten to lay claim on my peace and distract me from devotion towards God I am choosing instead (and sometimes I'm not always successful) in focusing on Jesus. Not my sins...but Jesus. For if I let the light of the spirit blossom within me, then darkness will have no choice to flee and I will find desire and attachments naturally shrinking back from the light and diminishing into nothingness, dissolved in the presence of the Spirit's love. 

Thomas Merton descibes faith as a "personal and direct acceptance of God Himself, a "receiving" of the Light of Christ in the soul and a consequent beginning or renewel of the spiritual life. "

He makes certain though that Christ is to be not only our main focus, but our only focus. "But an essential element in this reception of the "light" of Christ is the rejection of every other "light" that can appeal to sense, passion, imagination or intellect".  Thomas Merton, The Inner Experience p. 15

Not only do sins lose their hold on us when we focus on Jesus, but other things that might not have been sins but might have taken our attention away from God and distracted us from devotion, start to fall away as well, their taste becoming bitter to our soul's palate as we become accustomed to savoring the rich sweetness of God's glory.

When I was thinking of what might be a fitting prayer to conclude this post with I couldn't help but think of Psalm 51. It's all about sin, confessing our sins and allowing God to purify our hearts to move past our sins and then finding ourselves delivered from them and full of praise towards our creator. So, may psalm 51 be a prayer that we all can utter this morning and thank God for the truths it contains. For His unending faithfulness and love and for the mercy and redemption that is found in Jesus.

Psalm 51

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
   according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
   blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
   and cleanse me from my sin.
 3 For I know my transgressions,
   and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
   and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
   and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
   sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
   you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
 7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
   wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
   let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
   and blot out all my iniquity.
 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
   and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
   or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
   and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
 13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
   so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
   you who are God my Savior,
   and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
   and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
   you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
   a broken and contrite heart
   you, God, will not despise.
 18 May it please you to prosper Zion,
   to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
   in burnt offerings offered whole;
   then bulls will be offered on your altar.


  1. This is a beautiful read... Thank you for sharing Jessica... May God be with you always....:)

  2. Thank youJorie...so glad you liked it. May the Lord shine His light on you and through you today and always :)

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I find that if I follow God's instruction manual (aka The Ten Commandments plus 1), I am richly rewarded with so many blessings.

  4. You're welcome Rita :) Thank you for sharing yours too! May our hearts find delight in God's commandments.

  5. Thanks Jess, I've never actually read any John Piper. What do you recommend I start with?

  6. He's written so many great books! You might want to start with "Desiring God"...that's one of his most well known books and it introduces his idea of "Christian hedonism" which he brings up in some of his other ones.

    Thanks for stopping by :)

  7. What is sin but the distraction from God?

  8. The quote by John Piper is worth remembering. Always. It contradicts all those religious rules that keep us focused on our sin rather than on Him. I grew up in a church that had me shaking in my boots with fear of losing my salvation. It was a nightmare, but my encounter with Love and the one true Light dispelled all the illusions. One of them being that I could somehow, by an act of my will alone, overcome darkness.

  9. Justin...I was always taught that sin is "that which is not pleasing to God"..to consider it that which is the "distraction" from God puts it in a slightly different perspective...one which I think makes a lot of sense! Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

  10. Thanks so much for sharing Debra...yeah honestly one of the first churches I attended after I was saved scared the heavens out of me! I remember going in one Sunday, full of love for Jesus and then during the sermon questioning whether or not I was going to hell! It is unfortunate that so many churches teach that message.

  11. Great challenging post! Piper, and many of the other Reformed theologians, are so good at helping us have a "God-centered" theology. It is not about us, it is about God! Too much of modern evangelicalism seems to have fallen into the "best life now" or "power of positive thinking" paradigm which puts the focus on us...instead of on God. I recently had a series of posts on my blog about a "God-centered vs man-centered" theology. Another blog I find challenging on this topic is Tullian Tchividjian of the Gospel Coalition.