When ‘My Bad’ Really Is Bad

“Keep in mind that when sin is viewed superficially, it is dealt with superficially.”
 -Erwin W. Lutzer

When something gets me really mad, or really scared, I do something about it. When something seems technically wrong but excusable, I shrug it off. So what I deal with seriously, combining decision and action, tells you a lot about what really matters to me and what doesn’t.

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I’ve seen that in myself over the years in the way I handle personal sins. I know they’re there, the little darlings, some of them obvious; some subtle. And how much they anger or frighten me (yes, I think it can be scary to consider what we’re capable of) depends on which filter I’m viewing them through. There’s God’s perspective on sin, my own comfort or discomfort with it, and the general attitude of
my environment.

How God Sees It
Of course God’s perspective should be the only one carrying weight. But hard experience has proven that I am, for better or worse, also affected by my surroundings, and by my own peculiar way of being OK with some sins; outraged
at others.

Surroundings, for example, had a lot to do with my attitude towards obscene language. As a Christian I’ve always been aware that my speech should honor rather than grieve the Holy Spirit, but when I waited tables back in the mid 1980’s, I was surrounded by folks who hardly shared my view of dirty words. The first time I heard co-workers spouting foul language I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach, being completely unaccustomed to R-rated dialogue. Then, as months passed, the shock value of cursing lessened, faded, and all but disappeared.

Not only did I get used to it but, in defiance of all the Bible says about not adopting the world’s ways, my own language got saltier until I finally was adopting, rather than abhorring, that particular sin. I had some serious repenting to do; praise God it took, though to this day I do have to watch my mouth.

How the World and I See It
Personal comfort has also had a lot to do with my response to one sin versus another. Some strike me mentally as wrong without emotionally effecting me, while others really get my dander up. By some strange coincidence, the ones I’m the most prone to always wind up in the “no big deal” category unless, of course, I see them on someone else.

My sins look OK on me. On you, they look horrendous!

Which is why neither our surroundings nor our personal comfort levels are worth much when assessing the seriousness of sin. Because the world is the world, a place where the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” reign without dispute. (I John 2:16) And whether or not we’re personally blasé about a sin says nothing about its gravity. I may be blasé, after all, about terrorist threats, but my ignorance of their severity doesn’t change that severity. It only blinds me to it.

All of this puts me in a bind today. My environment celebrates what God condemns, and I have a standing invitation to the party. My own nature picks and chooses what’s somewhat bad versus really bad. Unaided, I’m also unable to grasp sin’s seriousness, much less respond to it with holy zeal. I default all too easily to a “whatever” response to the sins that, as Hebrews warns, “so easily beset” me. (Hebrews 12:1)

But Jesus said if I abide in Him, then what I ask will be given (John 15:7) and John promised that what is asked within His will gets a guaranteed “yes” from Him. (I John 5:14-15) So because these promises are given and trustworthy, I ask these three things today as I seek to keep it clean:

First, give me Your perspective on the sins I would otherwise shrug off.
Second, give me Your abhorrence for anything falling short of Your will, be it lust, rage, self-righteousness, dishonesty, sloth, cowardliness or self-pity.
Finally, as You show me the sin in my own life, give me extra faith to remember and trust that, wretched as I may appear to myself under Your scrutiny, You who began a good work in me will indeed perform it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

So we say Amen today, Lord, to Your views on what is unacceptable, and to Your blessed pronouncement that we who trust in Your grace have, regardless of past and future errors, been forgiven. We struggle with sinful impulses; we stand in grace. So help us to never be casual about either. Amen.


  1. Wow, this really hits home for me. Especially about the struggling with the utter bile that too easily spews from my mouth daily. So bad that, the enemy gets me to wondering….how can such venum and outbursts come from a ‘new heart?’

    Most days are better than some..but it’s been a long hard battle for sure. Thanks as always Joe.

  2. God always knows how to bring conviction to my heart. I really, really needed this today, so I printed out all the scripture and will be praying them along with the three things as I seek to keep it clean today. Sometimes, it feels like I’m drowning in “acceptable” sin. Time to get real about it. Thanks, Joe.

  3. Good word. I have to constantly watch that I don’t entertain a thought that is sinful. If I do, down the slope I start, and the end is death. Thanks for the reminder once again.

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