I’ve always had a pretty good handle on the “big” sins. I could probably list a fairly admirable list of things that you’re “supposed” to do that I’ve done and things that you’re not “supposed” to do that I’ve never done. I don’t take much pride in that fact. If anything I’m grateful that God has wired me up in such a way that I’ve never really been all that tempted by the sorts of sins that drive pastors out of ministry. It is what it is. And it doesn’t mean a whole lot. As I have been passing through a period of relative spiritual dryness for the last month or so, I have reflected on this absence of supposedly “big” sins and have come to the obvious conclusion that there are, in fact, big sins that do not appear to be big sins. Just now I was reminded of Francis Chan’s statement where he was talking about a period of time when he was feeling dry and he knew he needed
to step away from pastoral ministry for a couple of months. He said something like, “I wasn’t committing any major sins, I just didn’t love God and didn’t love people.” I think he made a number of important points in that statement. Yesterday I was listening to Matt Chandler’s message from the most recent Acts29 Church Planting Conference (he gave the same message at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s chapel last week, and it can be seen here). I cannot remember the last time a sermon impacted me as deeply as this one did. I’ve already listened to it twice. At Acts29 he was talking to prospective church planters, and he spoke briefly about what might drive them out of ministry. He basically said that of those who would end up disqualifying themselves from ministry, very few of them would be disqualified because of “big” sins. In other words, he doubted that any of them would one day start smoking crack. He said that, instead, what will drive them out of ministry will be an over-commitment to the morally neutral (not his exact words, but pretty close). In other words, their affection will not be given to God, but will instead be given to something else that is not necessarily sinful but that is not God. He provided the example of the male tendency to react emotionally to a sporting event, but rarely react emotionally to the things of God. I, obviously, cannot relate to that example (joke). I believe it is fair to say that in our societal emphasis on the sensationalistic it is easy to ignore sin that is easy to hide but that rots our heart worse than any more noticeable sin. This has certainly been true for me. It is strange to think about how easy it is for us to be emotionally affected by the temporal, but how difficult it is to be emotionally affected by the things of God. I tend to maintain a fairly even keel emotionally, but I think that on some level my own recent spiritual dryness is somewhat attributable to the fact that I have allowed things that are not God to garner my highest affection. On my worst days, that which may cultivate my spiritual life becomes a chore. I believe this is at least partially the result of the reality that there is much in this world that seeks out attention without us seeking them, but the things of God must be sought. That being said, I am striving with some intentionality to confront this big sin in my life as I seek to revive my heart that seems to have fallen asleep. I am trying to discern what morally neutral things are dulling my affection for the Lord, and in a spirit of repentance I am seeking to shake myself free from the self-exalting complacency that comes from avoiding the supposed big sins. I am seeking to be more consciously aware of what activities stir my affection for Jesus Christ and spend more time in those activities. I have by no means arrived, but I am approaching this task with a degree of intentionality that has perhaps been lacking in recent weeks. I don’t want to fall prey to the destructive power of the morally neutral. So I invite you to join me in this task of discernment and self-examination, and I would ask you (for your own reflection, not to leave as a comment), what morally neutral things are dulling your passion for the things of God?