We all sin. Since Adam and Eve, every person has been born with a sin nature. We sin because we are sinners, and we live in a fallen world. But God calls us to holiness. He calls us to resist temptation and walk righteously. God’s Word provides help for us to live in a way that honours God.
See what Scripture has to say about 5 common sins. I like to say … The Bible is God’s story, and it has the ability to transform our stories.
If you missed the first part of this series, you can read it here: How Scripture Speaks to 5 Common Struggles
1. Brought Low by PRIDE - Exalted through HUMILITY
Pride is often one of the core sin issues in the hearts of people. It is a heart-attitude that overflows into our motivations, decision-making, and behaviours. The heart of pride is a focus on “self.” Prideful people believe they deserve better than what life has brought them. They become resentful, and even jealous of other people and their successes. Pride breeds self pity, which is a major component in depression. Typically, people who struggle with pride will live life based on how they feel and expect everyone else to accommodate them.
Two key characteristics of pride are independence and rebellion. Human nature is to want our own way about things, and we usually will do almost anything to have it our way. Then we rebel at the thought of being under anyone’s control or authority.
The opposite of pride is humility. God calls us to walk humbly with Him. The story of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 clearly illustrates pride and humility.
King Nebuchadnezzar was walking on the roof of his royal palace in Babylon, and he looked out over the city and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” No sooner had he said those words, when a voice from heaven told him the kingdom was taken from him and he would be driven from normal society and he would live and eat with the beasts of the field. God said he would live like this for seven years until he acknowledge that the Most High rules the kingdom of men.
And that’s exactly what happened. God met his arrogant pride with an immediate humbling. At the end of seven years, we read this testimony: "At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honoured him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Dan. 4:34-35). When Neb humbled himself, God returned his kingdom to him.
Scripture says that God hates pride. It goes against the very nature of Christ, who humbled Himself, leaving the glories of heaven to walk the dusty streets of this earth. Jesus humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross. This is the kind of humility God calls us to walk in, and when we don’t, make no mistake, He is able to humble the proud.
Your goal, if you detect the sin of pride in your heart, is to move from pride to humility through repentance.
2. Absorbed in SELFISHNESS - Sacrificially LOVING OTHERS
Self is at the root of most, if not all, of our sin. Selfishness is that attitude of being concerned with one’s own interests above the interests of others. However the Bible commands the opposite: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).
Philippians 2 is the passage I recommend turning to if you discern you are struggling with self. In this passage we see the ultimate example of selflessness – Christ. Even though He was in the form of God, equal to Him in every way, He emptied Himself, and took on the form of man. He humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross. This was not only the ultimate act of humility, but also the ultimate act of sacrificial love.
And that’s the opposite of selfishness – sacrificial love. We are to put the needs and desires of others ahead of our own, denying ourselves. And this is hard, isn’t it? The flesh loves to coddle self. But selfishness ruins friendships, hinders prayer, and is the product of earthly wisdom.
Your goal, if you are struggling with selfishness, is to move from selfishness to sacrificial love. Recognize the idol of self, repent, and then walk in sacrificial love towards others.
3. Constant GRUMBLING - Consistent GRATITUDE
This one hits a nerve, doesn’t it?
When my kids were around kindergarten age, we were doing some renovations in our house. They thought it would be fun to draw all over the plywood floor before we covered it up with the new flooring. So I got them to copy out some Bible verses on the floor. I remember asking them to write Philippians 2:14: "Do all things without grumbling or complaining." Then we talked about why this was important as followers of Jesus.
Grumbling and complaining can seem like minor sins, but they go against the kind of life to which we are called. Sometimes it’s easy to complain about our circumstances, especially when we compare them to others. We feel God has not been as good to us as He’s been to others, we feel we deserve more and better. Grumbling is a very powerful sin that tries to undo what God has done and is doing in our lives.
Grumbling is the symptom of a deep-seated spiritual problem. It is a failure to trust God and to submit to His will. When we complain sinfully, we reject God’s authority and sovereignty over our lives. And grumbling has many faces. It can look like blaming God, unbelief, failing to trust God, rejecting God’s will, and rebelling against God.
The Israelites struggled again and again with grumbling as they were wandering in the wilderness. Exodus 16 is where I recommend turning in Scripture if you see a grumbling spirit in yourself. Exodus 16:1-2 says, "And the whole congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, and the people of Israel said to them, 'Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.'” The people were hungry and they viewed their past in Egypt through rose-coloured glasses. They grumbled against Moses and Aaron. Later in the passage God tells Moses that their grumbling is actually against Him first and foremost, because all grumbling is grumbling against God.
Yet God, in His grace, rained down bread from heaven to feed His people – manna that appeared like dew on the ground every morning. Of course, the people ignored God’s instructions about how to gather the manna and they suffered the consequences for it.
At the root of sinful grumbling is discontentment and ingratitude. Gratitude ought to be the consistent attitude of our hearts for all the good things God has given us:homes, families, food on the table, not to mention, life, breath and salvation.
Your goal is to move from grumbling to gratitude through repentance. Cultivate a spirit of gratitude for all God has done for you.
4. Tight-fisted CONTROL - Open-handed SURRENDER
Many people struggle with a desire for control. I feel this most in parenting teens. Naturally as my kids are gaining independence, I am losing control, which causes me to panic and try to control more. Control is as old as the garden. Satan tempted Eve with the possibility of being in control.
We think being in control will make life so much better. We want to decide for ourselves what’s best for us. We want to define what’s good and what’s evil, and we want life to revolve around us and our desires. Simply put, we think we know better than God.
But we are deceived - not only by the enemy of our souls, but also by our own hearts. We think that having control will give us the peace, safety, power, comfort, ease, or respect our hearts crave. But the reality is, we don’t know what’s best for us because we are not the Creator, and we cannot see the end from the beginning. Control is an illusion. We are not in control, nor will we ever be in control.
In His wisdom, sovereignty and love, God determines what is best for us in the relationships and circumstances He has permitted in our lives, even though some of these may be really difficult.
When struggling with control, I suggest going to Genesis 16 and the story of Sarah and Hagar. God had promised Abraham would be the father of many nations, but he and his wife were childless . In fact, Sarah was barren. After waiting what must have felt like an incredibly long time for God to fulfill His promises, Sarah took matters into her own hands. She took control. She told her husband to take her Egyptian maid, Hagar, as his wife and have a child through her. This was a normal practice in their day, and wasn’t quite as shocking as it seems to us.
Abraham listened to Sarah and Hagar became pregnant. But then, of course, there was relational discord between Sarah and Hagar: jealousy, anger, and bitterness. Sarah treated her very harshly and she ran away. God met Hagar in the desert and told her to go back. In the course of time, Hagar gave birth to Ishmael and it would seem like God was fulling His promise. Abraham had a son. But this is not what God had in mind. This was not His plan.
If we fast forward several years in the story, miraculously Sarah became pregnant in her old age and gave birth to Isaac, the child of promise. You see, when Sarah took matters into her own hands, the result was disastrous (there is still strife between Ishmael’s descendants and Isaac’s descendants today), but when they surrendered to God’s plan, a miracle and much joy and laughter resulted.
Surrendering control of our lives is difficult. It’s a moment by moment, day by day practice. Surrendering our lives to God and trusting Him in every circumstance may seem risky because we don’t know what He has planned for us, and often He doesn’t explain why He does things, but when you realize that trusting God is the safest place to be, surrender becomes easier.
Recognizing that control is just an illusion and then surrendering to God’s sovereign control is the goal.
5. Heart of IDOLATRY – Heart of True WORSHIP
Idolatry is a sin that people have struggled with since the garden. In Old Testament times, Israel’s idols were quite real. They were objects made of wood or stone that were worshiped. Today our idols are much more sophisticated, must more subtle, and much harder to identify.
An idol (by definition) replaces God. It tends to substitute for some aspect of God. Rarely do modern people call their idols “god”; we just rely on them for some particular thing only God can do. We turn to them for refuge and comfort. We worship them with passion because they bring us pleasure. We turn to them as an escape when life gets hard.
Anything that takes the place of God on the throne of our hearts has become an idol: power, position, pleasure, possessions – these are some of the common idols in our day. And all of these are worshipped at the altar of self.
The passage I suggest turning to when you are struggling with the sin of idolatry is Isaiah 44. This passage highlights the foolishness of idolatry. The idol maker fashions a god out of wood. He becomes tired in all his work. He makes part of the wood into an idol and burns the other part to keep warm.
And then listen to the outcome of this idolatry: "They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”
Idolatry is deceptive. Idols promise what we crave but they cannot deliver. The thing we are holding onto so tightly is a lie. People who struggle with idolatry (which is all of us) don’t see their materialism or addictions or people-pleasing as idols. They love these things and they things they can’t live without them. But they have been deceived.
The opposite of idolatry is true worship of the living God. The passage in Isiah 44 goes on to say: "Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel." This is true worship! God alone has redeemed. God alone will be glorified.
Repentance is needed to turn from idolatry to true worship of God. Your goal is to move from idolatry to true worship by repenting of them and worshipping God alone.
Are you struggling with one of these sins? If so, I pray these passages have pointed you to Jesus, who offers forgiveness and the power to walk in holiness.
Read the first part of this series here: How Scripture Speaks to 5 Common Struggles.
I have created a resource for you: Ten topical mini Bible studies based on these 5 struggles and 5 sins and the corresponding passages. If you or someone you love is struggling with one of these, I would encourage you to check them out.