By Jim Denison (abridged)

It starts with a spark


The Carr Fire in California in July and August 2018, which destroyed nearly two thousand structures and claimed eight lives, started when a tire failed on a trailer, causing its rim to scrape the asphalt. With the heat and extreme drought in the area, that's all it took to start a tragic inferno.

There is a principle at work here: something tiny can have enormous consequences. And the principle applies spiritually as well.

According to Gallup, more people than ever before consider divorce, unmarried sex, homosexuality, having a baby outside of marriage, euthanasia, recreational drugs and pornography to be acceptable.

What do these issues have in common? They are all considered personal decisions with little relevance to the larger culture.

We seem to believe that private behaviour stays private, that we can make unbiblical moral decisions with little consequence. But an inferno starts with a spark.

"Small" sins never stay small.

Cancer starts as a single cell among the 37.2 trillion cells in your body.

Every sin (wrongdoing) works in the same way. The reward it promises is far eclipsed by the suffering it produces. As the saying goes: Sin will always take you further than you wanted and cost you more than you thought. This makes sense, actually. Satan hates us and would never tempt us with anything that produces any benefit for us unless that benefit leads to even greater loss.

tiny can have

That's why Jesus warned His hearers so severely about anger and lust (Matthew 5:21-30). He knows that murder starts with anger and adultery begins with lust.

And He knows that "small" sins injure our relationship with our holy God. Scripture warns us: "Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it" (James 2:10). It takes very little dirt to contaminate a bottle of purified water.

When we face our next temptation to commit a "small" sin, we should ask ourselves if we would choose to ingest a "small" cancer into our bodies.

The first step in refusing "small" sins is realizing that they are not small. The second is recognizing that we cannot refuse them in our strength.

Satan knows the temptations we can defeat easily. That's why we never face them. I've never been asked to participate in a bank robbery, for example.

However, there are other temptations I cannot defeat in my own ability. These are the strategies Satan employs against me.

But he wants me to think such sins are small enough that I can refuse them in my strength. That way, I won't ask God for help until it's too late.

Another version of this strategy: the enemy loves to bring temptations against us that we have already defeated, hoping we'll have the false confidence that we can defeat them again without needing God's help.

Jim Denison
Jim Denison

Here's the bottom line: every sin we are tempted to commit is large enough to please Satan. And alluring enough to require God's strength.

The bad news is that we will face such temptations as long as we live on this broken planet. The good news is that God's greatest power is found where we need it most.

Oswald Chambers: "God does not give us overcoming life--He gives us life as we overcome. The strain of life is what builds our strength. If there is no strain, there will be no strength."

Where do you need God's strength today? He is as close as a prayer – call out to Him and He will answer.

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