John Owen said, “Always be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” I’ve used the word “compulsions,” because I want us to see that sin is much more than a list of the things we do that are wrong. Sin is a power that resides in the human heart against which we must do battle. Here are three forms of it you’ll find in the human heart, and how to respond to it.
Suppose someone you know comes into money. You’ve been friends with another person (or couple) for some time and your life has been much the same as theirs. Then one day they come into money. Maybe they married into money, or else their business thrived, or they were given some unusual success, and very quickly their life is quite different from yours.
The godly response to this is to rejoice with those who rejoice, which is always harder than to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). The godly response is to find as much pleasure in what has come to them as you would if it had come to you! But that isn’t easy.
Coveting and Envying
When good comes to another person, one of two temptations will come to you: One is to covet, and the other is to envy.
Coveting is when you want what they have. Envying is when you don’t want that person to have what they have been given. Coveting wants to gain something for yourself. Envying wants to deny something to someone else.
There is a desire to hurt in envy. Coveting is saying, “I want the same as you.” Envy says, “I don’t want you to have more than me.” There is a meanness of spirit about it. “Envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30). It eats you up from the inside.
If God blesses you, don’t be surprised that others may envy you. Rejoicing with those who rejoice is a rare grace in a selfish world. It is a beautiful grace, but it is not a common grace. Very few people have the grace to do this well.
The Root of Resentment
This sin of envy is the root of the resentment towards God that lurks in the human heart. God has said that His loved and favored son, Jesus Christ, will be exalted. Before Him every knee will bow. But there is a compulsion in the human heart that says, “We do not want Him to have that. We will not have this man to reign over us.”
It is a great mistake to make decisions about God when you are still far from Him. If you would let Him come near, if you would open your Bible with a humble heart, you would end up taking a better path. But if you insist on making your decision about God while you are still far from Him, there can only be one outcome.
Joseph’s brothers made their decision about Joseph while he is still a long way off, and so when he arrived their minds were already made up. They took him and threw him into the pit, and then they sat down to eat (Genesis 37:25).
How is that possible? We know from Genesis 42:21 that they saw the distress of his soul. Joseph begged them, but they did not listen. How could their hearts have been so hard? The Bible speaks very clearly about the effects of sin in the life of a sinner. Here’s what it says:
If you look at a number of different translations of Ephesians 4:19, speaking about the condition of sinners, each one adds to our insight about men and women “having lost all sensitivity” (NIV), who “have become callous” (ESV), “being past feeling” (KJV).
Sin has an erosive effect on the conscience and in the heart, so that sinning gets easier for the sinner over time. Sensitivity towards the pain of others is diminished. Awareness of guilt before God no longer feels like an issue. The more you sin, the easier it gets to sin more.
Some people live in open defiance of God, but most people are much more subtle. Most people present themselves as the Father’s loyal sons. They place the mask of religion over their own resistance to the claims of Jesus Christ. They come to worship, and they lie to God.
Sin is a power, a compulsion in the human heart. Apart from the grace of God, the human heart is going to manifest itself in envying, resisting, and lying.
Comfort for the Believing Heart
Envying God as you deny the crown rights of Jesus Christ over your life. Resisting God as you decide against Him, even when you are far from Him, and then harden your heart against His pleadings and shut your ears to His voice. Lying to God as you come into His presence as if you were one of His loyal and faithful servants, when the truth is that you are actively resisting and rejecting His son.
The only hope for the human heart is the compassion of the Savior, the Deliverer of the sent Son of God. The Son who is our hope is alive. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to seek and save the lost.
His own people conspired against him. He was sold for silver. He was beaten, crucified, dead, and buried. But God raised Him up out of the pit and exalted Him to the highest place. The One who was despised is the One on whom our hopes depend, and the day is coming when we will see His face!
We know what it is to grieve. But our grief is different because we have hope! There is comfort for the believing heart. Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
Three Prayers of Response
1.) Ask God to fill you with the compassion that sends, seeks, and suffers.
God, deliver me from being easily discouraged in seeking. Give me the relentlessness of the good shepherd who goes after the sheep and simply will not give up. Give me strength to endure suffering, and help me to remember when doing your will is costly that the good shepherd gave His life for the sheep.
2.) Ask God to deliver you from the compulsion that envies, resists, and lies.
Deliver me from a sour spirit that sees the blessings of others and asks, “What about me?” Teach me to rejoice with those who rejoice. Bring me to your feet so that I may hear you when you say, “Come, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). Save me from a life of pretense. Deliver me from using religion as a mask to cover my resistance to the claims of Jesus Christ on my life.
3.) Ask God to strengthen you through the comfort of His son who lives.
Father, help me in the grief and sorrow of loss to know that your son lives, and that in Him sorrow can never have the final word.