3 Sins We Haven’t Outgrown
In kindergarten I used to chew up crayon wrappers and spit them at girls.
Besides the obvious health risks associated with that, it also wasn’t winning me any favor with the ladies. Thankfully, my parents swiftly corrected me.
Reflecting on my five year old self, I wonder how many other areas in my life were in need of correction and how long it took for me to realize them.
And so it is with our spiritual lives.
As infants we learn the basics; be kind, stop getting drunk, quit cursing.
Then as we grow, so does our understanding of the life Christ has bought us for, and we move on to deeper issues.
But what happens if at some point we begin working for God professionally, and enter a never-ending cycle of confronting “baby” sins? Is it possible that we, as parents, might begin comparing ourselves to our children, rather than growing as adults?
As campus ministers we must be diligent to continue rooting out the sin in our own lives.
Consider this a self-evaluation to help you grow in holiness and love for God.
Here are three common sins that can remain hidden in the life of a campus minister:
God hates pride. Yet because our culture doesn’t, we often don’t either.
Pride is self-deception and self-destructive; a false view of ourselves or our circumstances. While pride is involved in all sin, here are some direct ways it works itself out:
Ministry is humbling; if you’re humble. Otherwise it can become a frustrating conflict between what you experience and what you believe you “deserve.”
When your Bible study doesn’t draw in the crowd you were hoping for; when that girl stops responding to your texts to hang out; when your supporter cancels their giving; the list goes on.
How do you deal with disappointment? Jesus, the King of kings, willingly denied titles, understanding, and comfort.
Would your boss, friends, spouse, and students consider you to be a humble or proud person?
Arrogance is often veiled to our own eyes, but can be obvious to others. Because of this, it may go unaddressed.
Find a friend willing to speak the truth and see whether you have been wearing pride, rather than humility.
Jesus is said to have been “amazed” at only two things during His ministry on earth: the great faith of a roman centurion and the unbelief of his own hometown.
Faith is required to please God. Along with love and hope, it is among the things we are commanded to abide in.
Yet the flame of faith that was once ignited in us and which grew steadily as we saw God work in and through us can easily be set aside, replaced by knowledge and experience.
Prayer often reveals our faith.
Does your prayer life reveal a God-dependency or self-sufficiency?
Who, or what, defines you and your value?
Is it your performance on any given day or week?
Is it the promises in God’s Word?
Ministry can be a dangerous endeavor because we can make an idol out of it, while convincing ourselves and others that it is being done for God and His glory.
Ask yourself these questions to determine if you are making ministry an idol:
What determines my mood each day – the fruit of my ministry, or the unchanging truth God has spoken about me?
Do I celebrate the fruit in my ministry and others, or do I constantly dwell on my failed efforts and missed opportunities?
What does idolatry have to do with pride? At its core we are believing a lie rather than God’s truth.
Just as the serpent caused Eve to doubt God’s Word as absolute fact, so do we when we make an idol of ministry and spirituality. Where He promises grace, we respond by trying to earn favor through performance.
It may mask itself as insecurity, but really it is pride that causes us to believe our truth instead of God’s.
Our response to pride is a simple one- repent and humble yourself.
Jesus tells us “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”
One way or another we are going to be humbled; whether we do it for ourselves or God does it for us. I recommend the former.
“The women sang as they played, and said, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands.’ And Saul was furious and resented this song…
And from that day on Saul kept a jealous eye on David.” –1 Samuel 18:7-9
We’ve all been there.
Everybody wants to be a David, but most of us probably relate more with Saul. He may have begun humbly, but success led to self-sufficiency. Then when someone else came onto the scene, seeds of bitterness and jealousy began to take root.
Do you have a David?
Is there someone on your team or in your ministry whose successes you just can’t celebrate?
Or is it your ministry vs. everyone else’s?
We are masters of comparison, often overlooking the communal good God is doing through us and others and instead focusing on others’ ministry, spiritual maturity, and skills.
Within a staff team, comparison is especially dangerous because it divides the work of God. A staff team plagued by bitterness and jealousy will destroy itself subtly over time.
Hidden feelings are left unsaid, allowing them to fester and grow until it is too late for proper reconciliation.
As the author of Hebrews says, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”
The cure for comparison is openness and gratitude.
Search your heart for feelings of bitterness and jealousy, and expose them for what they are–sin. Then come clean.
These aren’t just feelings within, they are sins against your brother or sister in Christ. Confess these to whomever you have wronged.
Finally, cultivate gratitude. Each day, thank God for your “thousands” and for the “ten thousands” of others. A grateful heart is bad soil for sin.
Which of these sounds more familiar?
“I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”–Martin Luther
“I have so much to do today that I shall take a nap.”
Never before in history has man been so well-equipped to waste time.
Gone is the time when a day of work missed meant a day of meals missed.
Instead, the pressure to work hard has been replaced by limitless options to avoid the stresses of the day. Our screens have become our safe places.
But why? Some have suggested that today’s young adults are simply lazy, but we didn’t choose this for ourselves. This is not a generational issue; this is an availability issue.
Yet while we did not choose this, it is our responsibility to handle it correctly.
First, it is important to realize that while on the clock, your time belongs to your employer.
Campus ministry is a fluid occupation where 9-5 is often far from reality, but that cannot become an excuse for frequent media usage throughout the day.
“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”
If our work is directly spiritual, how much more then should we respect the time we are on campus and with students?
Next, identify your escapes and why you escape.
Personally, I’m not a big social media guy. Instead, I’m a gamer. For me, it’s a place where I can be successful and measured against a clear standard; things which are rare in our line of work.
Escapism has less to do with fun and more to do with identity. We escape because of fear, whether that fear is rejection, failure, anxiety, or even success.
Much like pride, escaping comes from believing lies about who we are. If my value is dependent on my performance (things I can control) or even my fruit (something I often can’t control) then of course I will escape when this value is threatened.
Ever wonder why you check your phone before that tough meeting with a student? It isn’t boredom; it’s fear.
We must identify the lies behind our escaping and replace them with God’s truth about us.
Find a verse that speaks to the lie you believe and also resonates with you emotionally, then repeat it to yourself throughout a day on campus. Your desire to escape will diminish.
Lastly, we must remember that we remove sin from our lives in response to God’s grace, not to earn His favor.
God disciplines us out of love, and we would be wise to listen.
None of us are done growing, and we never will be until He returns or calls us home!