Work On Small ThingsBy Nathan Mates
Everyone who becomes a Christian has a lot of problems, bad habits, and sins in their life that need to be cleaned up. As a sinful group, humanity is flawed in many ways, and only God can give us the strength to produce lasting change in our lives. Over time, as a Christian, we are being transformed to be more and more like Jesus [2 Corinthians 3:18], but as long as we're still in this world, sin will still be present and tempting. Even the Apostle Paul called himself "the worst of sinners" [1 Timothy 1:16], as he humbly saw his journey towards perfection as unachievable in this life.
There is good news for all: the only sin that'll hit you for eternity is dying without having accepted Jesus as your savior. While we can be forgiven all of our sins, that is by no means a license to continue in them: "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?" [Romans 6:1-2] We war against our own flesh that still wants to sin, temptations from the enemy, and problems from others.
James says this about the law: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker." [James 2:10-11] Thus, there is no difference in God's eyes between murder and stealing a paperclip-- any violation of his rules, and you've broken every rule. This is why good works alone can't get us into heaven; we've all broken the entirety of God's laws at least once in our lives; that breaking has probably occurred closer to several times every hour of our life.
As believers, we should be striving to rid ourselves of all sins, yet the inclination sometimes is to focus solely on the biggest sins in our lives we can spot: making sure we don't go out and murder anyone, and the like. However, we also need to focus on what some mistakenly call the "smaller" sins as well. Why? Because smaller problems have the annoying tendency of turning into big problems if left untreated. Anger, if repeated and unsurpressed, may grow into physical violence. Lust in the purely visual sense may grow into adultery. Bitterness towards others may turn into bitterness against God.
There is first off a Biblical basis for this, as Paul writes: ""In your anger do not sin" : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." [Ephesians 4:26-27] The unrepentant angry man gives the devil a latch to control him in the future. The Israelites' interest in the false gods of their neighbors led to their murder of their kids on the altars of these false gods. [Jeremiah 32:35, also other places.] Judas Iscariot's lust for money led to his stealing [John 12:6], and then to his betraying Jesus.
Like so many Biblical truths, the world eventually catches on, seeing the rightness of the methods, even if they're blind to the true reasons behind it. A political scientist James Q. Wilson and criminologist George L. Kelling noted observations in their "Broken Window Theory." [Originally published in The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 249, No. 3, March 1982, pgs. 29-38] In a short summary of it, an long-term unrepaired broken window in a neighborhood is seen by others nearby that other activities-- from dumping trash, vandalism, graffiti, and gangs are acceptable. This is not to imply that any single problem causes more, but the tolerance of smaller problems tends to make other, more serious, problems more likely to happen.
The solution proposed to this "broken window" problem was simple: the police were not just to focus on the worst problems-- murders, gunfire, and the like, but also to stop other problems earlier, such as graffiti, and urging residents to take care of all problems before apathy towards problems sets in. According to several studies, this approach has worked better than merely going after the worst problems. Despite this, many complain if they're ticketed for speeding, saying that "the cops should be catching murderers instead." Yet, disrespect for the speed limit is the same mental attitude that has disrespect for the murder limit.
In all of us, we have a conscience that helps guide our actions. Actions that we do even after our conscience has bugged us about can be considered further sin. We should in all times seek to have a clean conscience before God. How do we do this? Quite simply, we humble ourselves, confess things to God: "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." [Hebrews 4:16], "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord," [Acts 3:19], and "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." [1 John 1:8-9]
So, if there are any problems lingering on in your life that haven't been addressed, even if they seem minor, do not wait to get right with God. As a psalmist notes, "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer." [Psalms 66:18-19] Harsh words, there, that sin may keep God from listening to our prayers, but that is another incentive to always to come to God quickly for forgiveness of every issue, large and small.