Perceiving Sin

A Step to Holiness

I wrote earlier this year about how I want to grow in my fear of God and to live like I fear Him. To fear God, I need to recognize two truths: God is holy, and I am sinful.

What does it mean that God is holy? It means that He is all that He says He will be. He never contradicts Himself, His goodness, justice, or mercy. He is perfect. I cannot want Him to be more, because He already is all that He should be, although I often try to make Him out to be less.

For all his existence, man, too, tries to be all that man should be. We long for wholeness and perfection and miss it daily. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God[1].” We contradict our own standards and God’s. We are inconsistent, selfish, and sinful by nature. That’s the ugly truth we try not to reckon with, taking for ourselves a god of mercy and love and reducing the perfection, holiness, and justice of Almighty God. Worshiping our own idea of God is not worshiping God: it is idolatry.

“Sin is not a mistake. A mistake is taking the wrong exit on the highway. A sin is treason against a Holy God. A mistake is a logical misstep. Sin lurks in our heart and grabs us by the throat to do its bidding[2].”

Rosaria Butterfield

Raised in a Christian home, I have known that I am a sinner; yet more and more I am realizing that sin deceives me. I do not recognize sin for what it is. It creeps into my thought patterns and attitudes. The senior who spoke in chapel Friday morning said it well, “We’ve learned how to be like a Christian without necessarily being one[3].”

Does having unrecognized sin in my life mean I am not a Christian? No. Rather, I believe that as we grow in Christ, He leads us to higher standards of holiness and obedience. In this process, He opens our eyes to perceive more and more of our own sinfulness. When we recognize our desperate need of the grace of God, we should ask for forgiveness and call for His strength to live in this sin no longer. This process is critical to the life of the Christian. Madeleine L’Engle writes, “Our sins defeat us unless we are willing to recognize them, confess them, and so become healed and whole and holy—not qualified mind you, just holy[4].”

 Yet, as Butterfield writes, “We in the church tend to be more fearful of the (perceived) sin in the world than of the sin in our own heart[5].” Frankly, it’s a lot more comfortable to think that I am following all the right outward rules and doing all the right Christian things (reading my Bible, going to church, living a moral life) and not face the envy in my eyes, the judgement in my attitude, the lust in my heart, or the pride in my actions. Uncomfortable as it is, the fear of God calls me to recognize and repent of these sins.

James Byler said it this way, “God is a jealous God: He asks for all of you or He doesn’t want any of you[6].” He wants us wholly. He wants us holy. In the play “The Miracle Worker,” Annie Sullivan claims, “Obedience is the gateway through which knowledge enters the mind of the child[7].” Again, Paula Rinehart says, “Obedience goes before our hearts and carries them where they would not normally go[8].” As a child, I obeyed my parents without understanding (although I have no doubt that I asked my share of “why’s”). As we walk in loving obedience, we come to understand the heart of our Holy God.

Almighty God, help me to seek You, even when it means seeing my sin in contrast with Your holiness. I repent of it. Help me to walk in obedience even as You call me to more and more perfection. I need You. A-men.

[1] The Holy Bible, King James (King James Bible Online, 2018), v. Romans 3:23,

[2] Rosaria C. Butterfield, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Crown & Covenant Publications, 2012, 36.

[3] Josiah Roberts, “Judging Others,” January 25, 2018, Terre Hill Mennonite High School, PA.

[4] Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water, Bantam Books, n.d., 180.

[5] Butterfield, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, 115.

[6] James Byler, November 25, 2018, Grace Mennonite Fellowship, ON.

[7] William Gibson, “The Miracle Worker,” in Insights, Themes in Literature, ed. John A. Rothermich and Linda Richmond, 3rd ed. (U.S.A: McGraw Hill, Inc., 1979), 233.

[8] Paula Rinehart, Strong Women, Soft Hearts, W Publishing Group, 2001.

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