Reason 2: Sin Patterns Inhibit Spiritual Growth, Restrict God’s Blessings

Luke 12:34
For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be.  (NT Transline)

Matthew 6:24
No one can be serving two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and disregard the other. (NT Transline)

The word ‘serving’ also means ‘being a slave to.’  When we serve something or someone, it is a form of slavery, in a sense.  If we find ourselves enslaved to a particular sin, it is an indication of what is in our hearts.

Now, before anyone becomes discouraged, let’s remember that no one is perfect, and everyone is a work in progress.  If God is growing us, and we desire to let Him do so, then He will complete the good work He has begun in us.  I see this process as a gradual freedom.

Much of our spiritual growth process mirrors the true life experiences of the Israelites after they were set free from Egypt.  We’ll touch on this idea periodically.

For them, initial freedom arrived suddenly.  There was no waiting period.  One day they were slaves, and the next they were packing up to leave.  The whole nation.  But inside their hearts, many of them were not free.  Many times during their initial years, some of the people yearned to return to Egypt, the place of their former enslavement, rather than continue on in uncertainty with God’s seemingly aimless and endless wilderness trek.  They may have been physically set free from Egypt, but their hearts were still mired in the mud, making bricks with straw for a polytheistic oppressor.

External freedom for them is like salvation for us.  It’s instant in that we repent, pray, and turn to God. But after salvation’s inception, the rest of life is about the liberation of our souls, which don’t let go of all their former vices so quickly.  The more the Israelites resisted God’s gentle leading to learn to trust Him, the harder their lives became.  He continued to rescue them, time after time, but their lack of growth is what eventually led Him to tell Moses that though He would still keep His promises to them, His presence would not go with them into the Promised Land.

Likewise, our spiritual growth and our blessings from God fail to materialize as quickly as they would the longer we try to reserve a part of our hearts for ourselves.  We look at those “great” Christians who seem so strong (looks can be deceiving) as if only some people can achieve great things through faith in God.  Ask them what they have given up for God, and then ask yourself if you’d be willing to do the same.

Leaving pornography aside for a moment, let’s take a simpler example.  What if God made it clear that you had to give up cable television for ten years if you wanted to walk in the fullness of His plan for your life?  He wants you to write a book, run for office, go back to school, move to another country for a few years, go into ministry, or maybe just get a new job.  And you also get the sense in prayer that the only way all this will come to fruition is if you drop the cable for a decade.  Could you do it?  (If you don’t care about cable, then find a different example!).  Now, cable isn’t inherently sinful, of course, and porn is.  But that’s why it serves as a good example.

If we are unwilling (or feel unable) to give up the things we know are evil, which most certainly hinder our spiritual growth, how can we honestly know what other things in our lives have locks and chains around our hearts?  Would we have to change our perspective on these things as well, if we wholeheartedly devoted ourselves to God?

This is part of the fear I talked about in the opening.  Once you’ve finally found freedom from the sins that have so easily entangled you, what will you do if God asks you to do something that’s really difficult?  Like get married.  Or move away from the town of your family.  Or start going to a new church.  That’s fearful.  There’s a man named Jonah who comes to mind, who didn’t like so much what God asked him to do.  He’d rather sit under a tree and die than see those heathens receive mercy from God.

So what does sin do to us?  It prevents us from even attempting many of the things God wants us to do.  We get so mired in trying to beat this sin that all the stuff that truly matters only gets passing attention.  We don’t grow because sin saps our faith.  We don’t grow because we don’t believe we will ever be free.  Freedom becomes a theory.  An abstract idea that, like our Independence Day holiday sometimes feels, we just accept it as fact without really thinking about what it means, where it came from, or what we should do with it.

The next verse is one of dozens just like it that litter the Old Testament.  This is the testimony against a people who failed to seek God with their whole hearts, and had their blessings taken from them as a result:

I Chron 5:24b, 25
[They were] mighty men of valor, famous men, heads of their fathers’ households. But they acted treacherously against the God of their fathers and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them. (NAS)

Generations of people inherited waves and waves of blessing and prosperity, starting with the promises to Abraham, through the time of Moses, to the time of David, and from Solomon and beyond for decades, centuries.  They had the Law of God, the prophets, and history passed down through the generations.  In spite of all this, they chose to turn to the present day comforts offered by the gods of those times.  Their blessings, promised so clearly in Deuteronomy 28, were taken from them and replaced by the curses promised immediately afterward.

Now, we live in the new age, the age of the Holy Spirit and the new covenant.  Therefore, some of what the Israelites experienced operates differently for us, and that is not the subject of this writing.  But the principles are the same.  In general, God blesses righteousness, and punishes rebellion.  So if we let sin rule our lives, we can expect our faith to weaken, and our blessings–both physical and spiritual–to diminish over time.

This is a big reason to desire freedom. It’s a negative motivation, so it doesn’t feel as inspiring perhaps, but that’s why the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.