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Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

Are You Misdiagnosing Your Sin?

Wrong diagnosis — wrong treatment

Let’s say you went to the doctor with stomach pain caused by a tumor that was dangerous but treatable.

Now this is a stretch — but let’s say your doctor had never been taught about tumors.  Let’s say he had been taught that stomach pains are always caused by high blood pressure.

So he asks you some questions — hears you mention your stomach pain — and confidently announces that your problem is high blood pressure.

Now even though he might give the right treatment for high blood pressure — you’d be in serious trouble.  Because your problem is not high blood pressure — it’s a tumor.

What causes sin?

We face the same problem when it comes to sin.

Every one of us has a diagnosis — an explanation — for why we sin.

But what if our explanation is wrong?

And what if we end up treating something that isn’t the cause — and ignore what is the cause?

Here’s an example —

I’m just lazy

In years past when I struggled to read God’s Word, my diagnosis was — I’m just lazy.

So if laziness is the diagnosis — what’s the cure?  The cure must be — stop being lazy.  Try harder.  Be more disciplined.

So that’s what I would do.

I would stir up my will-power, make fresh resolutions, and have others hold me accountable.

And what happened?  It worked for a day or two — but soon I’d revert back to not reading God’s Word.

Why?  Because my cure wasn’t attacking the cause.  I had the wrong diagnosis.

Was my problem laziness?

It looked like laziness, because I knew I should read God’s Word, but I could not get myself to do it.

But then it dawned on me — I had areas in my life where I was not lazy.

I was not lazy about surfing, suspense novels, or playing water polo.

In fact, I was amazingly disciplined — in these areas.

So, if my problem wasn’t laziness, what was was my problem?

It’s spelled out in Scriptures like Jeremiah 2:13 —

For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

My problem was believing the lie that dry, broken cisterns would satisfy me more than the Fountain Himself.

As long as I believed that surfing and suspense novels and water polo would satisfy me — and that God would not satisfy me — I would not read God’s Word.

My problem was not laziness.  It was unbelief.

What’s the cure for unbelief?

How could I stop believing that other things would satisfy me, and start believing that God would satisfy me?

This is not something I could just choose to do.  It takes a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

But the Holy Spirit works in response to prayer and the Word (Luke 11:13; Eph 6:17).

So here’s what I did —

I confessed my unbelief to the Father, and asked for forgiveness.

Unbelief is sin, and needs to be confessed.

And the good news is that when we confess our sins, He will forgive and cleanse us through Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9).

So I started with heartfelt confession.  Then —

I prayed earnestly for more of the Spirit’s work in my heart.

It’s only by the Spirit that I can be set free from unbelief to taste God’s all-satisfying presence.

I see that in Rom 5:5; 2Cor 3:18; 2 Cor 4:6; Eph 1:17-19; Eph 3:16-19.

So I asked the Father in Jesus’ name to increase His Spirit’s work in me.  Then —

I prayed over Scriptures showing God as my Treasure and the Word as the way to experience Him.

God promises to provide the Spirit as we hear His Word with faith (Gal 3:5; John 7:38).

So I prayed over Scriptures like Psalm 4:6-7; Psalm 16:11; Psalm 19:10; Psalm 119:72; 2Cor 4:6; Phil 3:8-9.

And over time —

My heart changed

I had times when, as I prayed over God’s Word, I felt God’s love and tasted His glory.

And honestly — this was infinitely more satisfying than surfing, suspense novels, or water polo.

As a result my unbelief was destroyed so I trusted God as my all-satisfying Treasure and wanted to meet God in His Word.

Right diagnosis — right treatment

My problem was not laziness.  It was unbelief.

I did not believe God was my all-satisfying Treasure.

So until that unbelief was conquered, no will-power or effort or accountability could change me.

But once that unbelief was conquered, and I tasted God as my Treasure, I loved and pursued His Word.

Can you relate to this?

I’d love to hear your story — leave a reply below.  Thanks!

If you know someone who might be misdiagnosing sin — email this to them using the “share” button below, or use the other buttons to share it on your favorite social medium.

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And here’s some related posts you might find helpful —

 

(Picture is from everystockphoto by adamci.)

Category: Overcoming Sin and Temptation

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16 Responses

  1. Orion says:

    I can definitely relate. It’s amazing how we can believe certain things about God’s promises and not others. You’ve often talked about the fallacy of relying on our own will power for heart change, and I’m glad you do! For most of my life, this is exactly what I did myself, and most of the time, it didn’t work. – I’ve recently experienced just a hint of heart change from God and I want more!!! He changed my heart about my attitude toward home group. It happened so fast. It was truly miraculous! Thanks for this post!!!

  2. Paul Walton says:

    Steve,

    Unbelief, which when it comes down to it, is really another way of saying indwelling sin isn’t it? It is a war that every person is waging a battle against, that has been set free from their broken will that was in slavery to it. We are told by well meaning folks regularly to fight against sin, but we are rarely told how to fight the fight of faith.

    I thank God for men like you brother who are showing folks through God’s word, how to “live by faith.” Seeing Christ as our Treasure, and finding our soul satisfying happiness in Him alone, is the foundation of our Faith. Every person is seeking happiness, we all are pursuing something to bring us satisfaction, even the man who takes his own life, is seeking a happiness that he cannot find here.

    Before we are set free by grace, we cannot see the truth of the heart satisfying glory of Christ. And even after being set free, we battle to trust what we know to be true, this is the power we fight against. Our only weapon in this battle is faith, and not our own faith, but God’s faith. It is a remarkable gift free by grace, but as with any gift, we can only enjoy it, and possess it, if we take hold of it.

  3. Bill Schuler says:

    Hi Steve, this is another great one! However, it is a catch 22 situation for me. In order to enjoy God’s goodness, I find I have to press in. This takes time and discipline. Often I get only a gentle peace for my investment, and not the powerful heart change I have experienced in the past. Sin offers immediate state change, while Gods way takes time and discipline. For example I have lost alot of weight through hard work and sacrifice, and now I am putting it all back on because of stress. It is getting increasingly harder to maintain my high gpa at school, and as I get frustrated in my difficult studies, I eat to relieve the stress. I know that I should be seeking God for my stress relief, but I am not in my right mind at the time I dont think, and feel like I need relief NOW! Eating helps…in the moment. I’m getting A’s but I’m also gaining weight. Prayer if fat free but it comes at the cost of discipline. Any way I’m rambling…I just cant see, I think disicipline is my problem because in order to have a heart change I have to work first get relief later. I think its just a fact of life. Work first, reward later. Sin lets you borrow first, then demands payment with interest later. ~ Bill Schuler

    • Steve Fuller says:

      I love your honesty, brother. And thanks for raising such an important question which I’m sure many others can relate to.

      I agree that effort is always required. But maybe I could be more clear by saying the question is what is the focus of our effort?

      You are right that you DO need effort to fight against using food to relieve stress. But the focus of this effort should not just be on not-eating. It should be on using prayer and the Word to strengthen your faith so you believe that Jesus will relieve stress more than food.

      I still think it’s true that the problem is not laziness — it’s unbelief. Because none of us are too lazy to heat up the mac ‘n cheese. We are only lazy in those areas which we don’t think will satisfy us.

      But the truth is that Jesus Christ WILL satisfy stress more than food. But in our unbelief — we don’t see that. So we need to put forth effort and discipline – not to avoid eating — but to see Jesus more clearly.

      And when we do — we will be stronger to turn to Him instead of the mac ‘n cheese.

      Does that make any sense?

      • Bill Schuler says:

        Yes! It does take effort to make the “mac-n-Cheese!” However, because of my trust in its rewards I overlooked the cost of the effort! Many times I even have to make a run to the store (and sacrifice what little money I have) because there’s no food in the cubbords, and that is before I have to take the time to cook it, and then clean up afterwards! I am giving Paul a run for his money on the old “Oh what a wretched man that I am” award. Thanks Steve, for opening my eyes to the truth. I need to trust Jesus!

  4. Joy S. says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I’ve been struggling with being consistent in spending time with God and you have really helped me. You have opened my eyes to my sin and for that I’m eternally grateful.

    I’m doing, “30 Days of Gratitude” on my blog and what I’ve learned from your post and how it has caused me to repent of my sin is what I’m going to be grateful for on day 4.

    Forever in your debt.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      I’m thrilled that you found this so helpful, Joy. Thank you for your timely words of encouragement. And may the Father richly bless your blogging efforts.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  5. Thanks for this wise and uplifting post. The Lord bless you!

  6. Jeanie Schwagerman says:

    Appreciate your post on unbelief and belief takes time. How easy it is to get on the treadmill of performance. So many times we make it about what we do instead of who we are in Christ. Finding that sweet spot of being in the spirit instead of my own works. At times it does feel like I am lazy, because I am so tired of doing in on my own. I am reminded of Exodus when God wanted to proclaim to the people I AM.

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Jeannie,

      I love your phrase “that sweet spot of being in the Spirit instead of my own works” — so true.

      When I fight the fight of faith and feel the Spirit making Jesus’ glory real to me — changes everything.

      Onward in the battle!

      Steve

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hi Steve
    I had this very experience lately.
    In past years I have read my bible but in the last few I had stopped reading it at all. I would go to a bible study and be the only one not to take my bible or read it at home. My mind had become more worldly. I wanted to start reading but had no power to do so. I did feel lazy! Lately I started praying god let you be my treasure knowing in my heart I had lost my love for him sadly. If this ongoing prayer I did open his word. I stated to get more and more into his word, my fath has grown and my mind washed and attitudes changing day by day.
    Now I want to cling to his word of life.
    I cant let go of idols and do not want to without his grace and grace comes through faith and faith from hearing his word.
    Stephen Ireland

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