Have you ever found yourself becoming numb to the same recurring sin? Today, W. Robert Godfrey helps us employ biblical principles in the battle against besetting sins.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Well, we’re recording live from Ligonier’s 2023 National Conference this week for the Ask Ligonier podcast. And our guest is Dr. W. Robert Godfrey. He’s the chairman of Ligonier Ministries and also one of our teaching fellows. Dr. Godfrey, what should we do if we sense that we’re becoming calloused to a particular sin in our life?
DR. W. ROBERT GODFREY: That question occurs to you just as you look at me—is that?
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Yes, it’s the first thing that came to mind.
DR. W. ROBERT GODFREY: Alright, alright, well that’s fair enough. Well, I think one of the things that the Scriptures repeatedly say is that sin is deceitful and that sin is promoted by the great deceiver. And so, we are prone, as sinners, to deceive ourselves about our spiritual state and about the nature of our sinfulness and the seriousness of our sinfulness. So, this is a condition that can easily come upon a Christian, that we have a besetting sin or a particularly attractive sin to us individually and that we deceive ourselves by various rationalizations: “It’s not really so bad. The Lord doesn’t really care.” The most deceitful lie, of course, is, “It’s really the Lord’s fault because He hasn’t delivered me from this.”
And so, how do we deal with that? How do we try to create a spiritual sensitivity that will help deliver us from this callousness? And of course, the crucial thing is the Scriptures—that we allow the law to speak to us, and the law speaks to us always in the first place about the holiness of God. And once we understand the holiness of God, then we begin to see how our self-deception is clouding our vision of God’s holiness, and leading us away from that holiness, and leading us away from the reality that that holiness should overwhelm us.
I’m always so struck that Paul over and over again says the primary purpose of the law is to teach us that we’re sinners. And so, we have to let the law do that work—open our eyes, refresh us in a sense of our alienation from God, our self-centeredness, our self-service, and then to contemplate how great God’s provision for us is in the sacrifice of Christ. We see the seriousness of our sin not only in the law but also in the cross. And when we see the love of the Savior, when we see His great sacrifice on our behalf, then we’re helped also to see how much we should flee from that sin, mortify that sin, seek the help of the Holy Spirit, seek the Christian community.
We need the church. We need the fellowship. We need the help of other believers, and to find trusted Christian friends who can help us as we confront sin is a really important matter.
NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Given the way that this question is worded, it seems that they’re aware that they have become callous to it. So, maybe they have an intellectual knowledge that this is sinful according to the Word of God, they just don’t feel like it’s worth giving up or is bad. Is it appropriate to pray, and say: “God, help me to hate this sin. Help me to be sensitive to this sin?”
DR. W. ROBERT GODFREY: It’s always appropriate to pray. It’s hard to think of a situation where it wouldn’t be improved by prayer. But absolutely we need to pray that the Lord will, by His Spirit, open us up because this struggle is not just a sort of checklist kind of struggle. It’s very much a personal matter. We’ve offended a personal God. He’s personally provided redemption, and in the person of the Holy Spirit, He is in us and with us to help us. So prayer becomes absolutely crucial. Calvin said, “Prayer is the chief exercise of faith.” I’ve always loved that. The way we build up the muscle of faith is chiefly through prayer.
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