I recently watched a short video from Desiring God, with John Piper and Tim Keller, entitled, More on Sanctification from Piper and Keller. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think the video was all that great. There were too many incomplete thoughts and jumping around. Yet I did find it helpful when they were speaking about how to avoid sin. Keller refers to reading the great Puritan theologian, John Owen’s, book, The Mortification of Sin. Keller says he learned from Owen that there are two main motivations not to sin: Guilt and Danger.
Guilt: This is grief before God. As you are sinning or am about to sin, ask yourself: Is this how I respond to what Jesus has done? Is this a proper way to live after Jesus died to free me from such things? This is really what Joseph said to himself when he had an opportunity to sleep with Potiphar’s wife, “How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God” (Gen 39:9).
Danger: Danger is looking at the short-term and the long-term consequences of your sin. This is really focusing on what is going to happen to you. If Joseph were also thinking of the danger of sleeping with his master’s wife, he could have also said, “Potiphar could kill me or put me in prison” as an added motivation not to sin.
The guilt motivation is the prefered motivation for a Christian because it is based off of the love of God. Ideally, we should stay away from sin because God is so amazing and wonderful, and has loved us so much, that we don’t want to sin and disappoint Him. Yet, at times we don’t think like that so we need to remember the danger of our sin as well. Keller uses two examples here. He says if he’s lusting and wishing to look at porn, sometimes he has to remember to dangers of the shame he’ll feel if he gets caught and the damage he’ll cause to his marriage and to his congregation. Likewise, Keller says, if you lift a stone to knock someone over the head, If the Guilt doesn’t motivate you to not kill the person, go to the danger, the consequences, anything you can to change the course of your actions.
Thinking of Tim Chester, and his 4 G’s, a third motivation on avoiding sin would be similar to the Guilt motivation that Keller mentions. Yet the motivation is not simply that I don’t want to dissapoint God but that what God offers is better, greater, and more important than anything I can have here.
When you’re faced with sin, what motivates you to change course?
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