The Biggest Obstacle to Your Sanctification

U.S. Army Sgt. Timothy Collins, 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, goes across the rope bridge at the obstacle course during United States Army Europe's Best Warrior Competition in Grafenwoehr, Germany, July 30, 2012. Image from  Wikimedia Commons  (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger/Released).

U.S. Army Sgt. Timothy Collins, 66th Military Intelligence Brigade, goes across the rope bridge at the obstacle course during United States Army Europe's Best Warrior Competition in Grafenwoehr, Germany, July 30, 2012. Image from Wikimedia Commons (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Markus Rauchenberger/Released).

As a pastor I regularly listened to people give all sorts of reasons and excuses for their sinful conduct. As a parent I have listened to my children blame everyone else for their sin. In one sense, this is nothing new.

Blame shifting goes back to the garden of Eden.

Blame shifting first appeared in the garden of Eden on the heels of Adam and Eve’s sin. Adam blamed God for giving him Eve:

“The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Gen. 3:12) 

And Eve blamed the serpent:

“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen. 3:13)

When it comes to owning our sins, we are quick to look everywhere else except at the person staring back at us in the mirror.

We have only ourselves to blame.

While others can certainly contribute to our sin, at the end of the day, we only have ourselves to blame. James explains the anatomy of sin in the following manner:

Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13)

James quickly dismisses the attempt to blame God for our sins. Where does he locate the origin of our sin? James writes:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15, emphasis added)

James locates the origins of sin within our own hearts, not outside of us. We cannot blame anyone but ourselves for our sin, period. So what’s a person to do?

We need to acknowledge our sinful desires in order to grow in grace.

I’m serious when I say that the biggest threat to my sanctification is the person who stares back at me in the mirror. I regularly pray, “Oh Lord, please protect me from myself. Please sanctify my desires so they conform to your will, not my own.” Recognize that you are your own worst enemy. If you can acknowledge this truth, you’ll make greater progress in your growth in grace.

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This article by J. V. Fesko is adapted from “A Pastor’s Reflections: The Face in the Mirror.” For more helpful content by Dr. Fesko, please visit jvfesko.com.

J. V. Fesko is Professor of Systematic Theology and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi. He has written numerous books on the Christian faith, including Word, Water, and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on BaptismJustification: Understanding the Classic Reformed DoctrineThe Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Context and Theological Insights and the newly released commentary, Romans (Lectio Continua).

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