Why Your Little Sins Are a Big Problem

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Drip. Drip. Drip.

I was preparing dinner one night and heard the kitchen faucet dripping. I fiddled with the handle, and it stopped. It did it again the next day, and I did the same thing.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Over the next few days, the faucet’s drip continued to increase. It took more and more “fiddling” with the handle before it finally stopped.

And then one morning my son heard the sound of dripping, not in the kitchen, but in the basement. He found the ceiling tiles saturated with water and a stream of water running down the walls onto the carpet below.

That little drip became a big shower that rained down and caused a huge problem.

Isn’t that a lot like sin?

We tend to brush off what we think are little sins.

We often see what we think are little sins in our life and brush them off. Overlook them. Manage them. Pretend they aren’t there. But soon what seems like a little thing becomes a big thing in our hearts:

  • A little problem with binge watching a show every night might reveal a big problem with the idol of comfort.

  • A little sarcastic remark might hide a deeper problem of bitterness or envy or pride.

  • A little overspending might hide a deeper problem with materialism.

  • A little overworking may reflect a deeply rooted idol of success or approval.

  • A little comparison grows into envy and discontentment.

  • A little gossip grows into discord and disunity.

  • A little frustration grows into anger.

You get the picture.

Our problem with sin is no little thing at all.

First, in the eyes of God, sin is sin. God is holy and righteous, and nothing that is not holy and righteous can stand before him. One sin is enough to keep us from him. And when you consider the fact that we sin more than just once, and actually countless times a day, our problem with sin is no little thing at all. As R.C. Sproul wrote in The Holiness of God,

Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself….The slightest sin is an act of defiance against cosmic authority… It is an insult to His holiness.” (pp. 115-116) 

Sin never stays “little.”

Secondly, sin never stays “little.” Like a weed, it grows. It spreads and multiplies. “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (1 Cor. 5:6). It produces offspring of other sins. Like an invasive vine, it twists itself around our heart, choking out our life. And like a vine- covered forest, it blocks us from the light of life. Sin left unattended or ignored destroys everything in its path.

Thankfully, we were home that day when it started raining in the basement. Had we not been, the damage would have been worse. Leaks in a house are serious, even small ones. Likewise, in our lives, small sins are to be taken with the utmost seriousness. As the Puritan preacher John Owen warned, “be killing sin or it will be killing you.” 

The apostle Paul referred to killing sin as “putting off” sin. He instructed the Colossian church, 

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col. 3:1-3).

We need to put off sin.

Through faith in Christ we are justified. We are united to him in his perfect life, death, and resurrection. This means we died with Christ to our old life and have risen to new life in him. We are new creations:

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

Therefore, we are to put off the old self; we are to put to death our sin. Paul then lists some of those sins we need to “put off” or put to death (Col. 3:5-9).

We put off sin through the Spirit. 

Elsewhere, Paul tells us how to put sin to death: through the Spirit (Rom. 8:13). It is the Spirit who brings our dead hearts to life, giving us a heart of flesh. He works in us to put sin to death and to produce in us the fruit of righteousness. He convicts us of our sin, draws us to repentance, trains us in obedience, and teaches us to depend upon God’s grace. His weapon of choice in slaying our sin is the word of God. It is alive and active as it discerns the thoughts and intentions of our hearts (Heb. 4:12). As we read and study the word, the Holy Spirit sanctifies us (John 17:17). As John Owen wrote,

The Holy Spirit is our only sufficiency for the work of mortification. He is the only great power behind it and he works in us as he pleases…Those who seek to keep down sin without the aid of the Spirit, labor in vain. 

Perhaps if I had realized the significance of the little drip at my sink, I wouldn’t have damage in my basement right now. How much truer is that of sin! We can’t overlook even the small sins in our lives or underestimate their destructive power. By God’s grace, we are not left to fight it on our own. May we seek the Spirit’s help to recognize sin in our life and put it to death.

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Recommended Book:

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul