sin behind the sin

This is the second of two posts on repentance. If you missed the first one you can find it here.


In the last post we looked at the ways in which we repent and our tendency to rarely dig deeper than the surface—to see beyond the behaviors that are on the outside. Repentance is, at its core, a turning from sin. In order to turn, however, we need to understand what are sin really is. We need to know the sin behind the sin. So often, whatever sin we see on the surface is only part of the story. It’s only the beginning. Usually—maybe always—the sin behind it, the sin at the root of our behavior, finds its source in a false belief about God and his truth. It’s when we believe lies rather than the truth that we bow to sin. And in order to really repent we need to know what we’re believing that’s untrue.


I was recently shown this in a really helpful way and I want to pass it on to you. It revolves around something called the meta-narrative of Scripture. Meta-narrative essentially means the main story, the theme, the big story of the Bible. And the main story of Scripture is the story of God and his pursuit of us. It falls into four categories. There is Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. This is the story of the Bible. This is God’s story of pursuing us.


But it’s not just God’s story, it’s our story too. We all reflect this ultimate story. We all were created for a purpose, we all have fallen, we all need redemption and restoration. The story of the Bible is our story. It’s what brings meaning to life. This story—our story—of the Bible can be told by answering some key questions:


What’s our purpose? What were we created for?


This is the creation part of the story. We were created for God’s glory. To know him and be in relationship with him so that we might worship him and give him honor and glory.


What’s the problem? What keeps us from our purpose?


This is the fall. Sin keeps us from God. Sin keeps us from giving God glory. It takes on a multitude of different forms, but ultimately the problem is sin in us.


What’s the solution? What’s our hope in?


This is the redemption piece of the story. The solution is the cross of Christ. He redeems us. He makes everything right by paying the price for us.


What is our future? What do we hope for?


This is the restoration part of our story. Our future hope is Jesus returning. No more tears, no more pain, no more sin. Eternal communion with the Father.


These four parts, the answers to these four sets of critical questions, are what make up the gospel message. At our church we use gospel language a lot. We are often talking about living out the gospel and proclaiming the gospel. When we say these things we are referring to this story—the creation, fall, redemption, and restoration story. We want to live it out. To believe with our hearts and express with our lives the right answers to the questions above.


When we find ourselves in sin and in need of repentance it is because in some area of our lives, maybe in multiple areas, we are not rightly believing the meta-narrative of the gospel. It’s our wrong belief that manifests itself in our wrong behavior.


Let’s take an example and walk through it. In the last time it was gossip, this time let’s use greed. If I am recognizing some greed in my life the temptation is to simply pray for forgiveness and commit to “never doing that again.” But we should not stop there. We should seek to answer the why of our greed. Why are we acting greedily? Why is our heart unsatisfied with what we have? Why do we long for more than what god has given us? Why are we not generous and less self-centered?


Let’s walk through the four parts of the Bible’s story answering it through the lens of our greed.


What’s my purpose when I act in greed? What does my behavior say about what I think I was created for?


If I am acting greedily then I am saying that what I really believe is that I was created solely for pleasure, or solely for self-centered gain. I am saying that I believe I was created for material gain. Or maybe I am saying with my actions that I believe this world is all I was created for so I should live in the now and get as much as I can.


We don’t fully and completely believe these of course, but our behavior reveals that we are living in a way that shows we believe something like this in part at least. If any of these answers ring true, I will know it as I reflect on my behavior and should repent of my false beliefs that are behind the sinful act. Next question:


What’s the problem? What keeps us from our purpose?


This is a telling part of our believing of lies. Often we get glimpses into our false beliefs by listening to what we say to others. Or should I say, listening to how we complain to others?


“I just don’t make enough money to do everything I want to do.”

“There is never enough to pay all my bills.”

“Everyone else has a new phone or tv or [insert other item here]. If I made a little more money I could have one too.”


We say these things as complaints revealing that we believe this is the problem with our life. This is what makes things less than they could be. In the case of being greedy it’s focused on money and materialism. These are all lies we tell ourselves about what the problem really is. We stop seeing the problem (the fall) as sin in these cases. We’ve begun to believe that money will solve our problem and fix our woes. And we need to repent.


Are you beginning to see how this goes deeper than just apologizing for the general act of being greedy? We are using the questions that surround the gospel message of the Bible to reveal how we’ve gone astray in our thinking. Let’s look at the next question.


What’s the solution? What’s our hope in?


This is the part where we look at what kinds of solutions occupy our thinking and hoping and wishing. With greed it usually comes back to money and having more of it.


 “I would give a tithe to my church, but I just don’t make enough yet.”

“If I could just get that promotion I’d be making enough money that I wouldn’t get stressed about money any more.”


I am constantly amazed at how easily we fall back on functional saviors, believing they are the solution to our problem. Thinking they will bring meaning and hope to our lives, forgetting that Jesus is the only Savior.


What is our future? What do we hope for?


I think you see where we are headed here. When we are acting greedily it’s because the real thing we’ve put out hope in is having more money, getting a promotion. If we could just have enough in our 401k then we’d have solved the problems. Our hope isn’t in Jesus, it’s in some sort of monetary accomplishment.


We used greed as an example, but it could be anything. Whatever we find our selves doing or pursuing that we know is wrong. Getting at what’s behind it, at why we are doing it can reveal a much broader picture of our need for repentance than simply settling for an apology for the behavior and then an attempt to move on.


The story of the Bible is our story and it has four parts: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration; or what’s my purpose? what’s the problem, what’s the solution? what’s my future?


This is the story we should be living in.



4 thoughts on “sin behind the sin

  1. I liked this posting, and benefited from it. I’ve shared it today with a friend with whom I just had an in depth conversation regarding the nature of sin. I’ve also posted to Facebook. Thank you for the insight brought to this subject.

  2. Really insightful and deeply thought provoking. I am now looking at my method to repentance very differently because of these two articles. I will be sharing this with our cell groups and trust God to deliver the message as clearly as you have. The Lord shall open the hearts to this message. Thank you, Nigel Cameron-Davies

    • Nigel, so thankful you found it thought-provoking. And really am thrilled you want to hare it with others. I’m praying with you for that time that God will open hearts.

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