Pet Sins and How to Deal with Them

 

“But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own lust. Then desire when it has conceived brings forth sin, and sin when it is fully conceived brings forth death.” – James 1:14-15

Most of us love our pets. And for 8 years, the Romero family loved their pet, Sally. She was only 1 foot long when they brought her home, but over time Sally grew until she reached a length of 11 feet and weighed over 80 pounds. The Romero’s gave her a loving home, and they thought she loved them back – until the day when Sally’s true nature came out.

That afternoon, Sally, a massive Burmese python, turned on 15-year-old Derek, tragically strangling the unsuspecting teenager until he died of asphyxiation. When the police arrived to investigate, they said that the snake was “quite aggressive…hissing, and reacting.” An autopsy later determined that by the time Derek knew what was happening, it was too late – he was trapped in a death grip that would ultimately take his life.

Up until then, Sally had seemed like a harmless and docile member of the family. In fact, the Romero’s had become so comfortable with her presence that they actually allowed her to roam freely around the house. But giving such freedom to a powerful snake is tragic mistake. Because they made the error of viewing a predator as a pet, they spent years nurturing the very animal that would one day tear their lives apart.

And I fear that many of us are making the same mistake spiritually.

Our Pet Sins Are Killing Us

You see, you and I have this dangerous tendency to think that some sins are essentially harmless, and as a result, we aren’t afraid to let them into our lives. At first, we think we can control these “pet sins” because they seem small enough for us “to handle on our own,” but sin has a way of growing beyond what we can handle. Over time it begins to strangle and suffocate us spiritually, until all of a sudden we realize that our sin now controls us – not the other way around. And if sin is not confessed and forsaken, it will continue to grow, taking root in our hearts and eventually bringing spiritual death because we’ve chosen to find our joy and satisfaction in something other than Christ. And that’s what James is warning us about when he writes that “sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15).

This passage is crucial to our understanding of sin because it teaches us that there is no such thing as a harmless sin. The sobering reality is that to tolerate or condone sin in our lives or the lives of others is to invite spiritual disaster.


“But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own lust. Then desire when it has conceived brings forth sin, and sin when it is fully conceived brings forth death.” – James 1:14-15


The phrase “carried away” that James uses here is a Greek hunting term that refers to the process of luring an animal into a trap. Picture a mouse trap, for example. When you want to catch a mouse, you don’t just set out a mouse trap and hope for the best – you intentionally lure the mouse into your trap using something it desires, like a piece of cheese.

In the same way, the Greek word for “enticed” is a fishing term that refers to baiting a hook. When you go fishing, you don’t just throw your hook in the water and expect a fish to bite – you take a worm and put it on the hook, wrapping it around a few times until the hook is hidden from view. Then you cast it into the water, hoping the worm will entice nearby fish to swim over and take a bite.


The sobering reality is that to tolerate or condone sin in our lives or the lives of others is to invite spiritual disaster. Click To Tweet


Don’t miss the gravity of the word pictures James is using here – like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), Satan is literally hunting us like prey, and his plan is to lure us in by making sin seem both harmless and appetizing. He wants to convince us that giving in to temptation will satisfy our souls – that nothing could possibly go wrong – but just like with the mouse and the fish, there’s more going on than meets the eye. Temptation is a trap that promises pleasure but ends in destruction – and the pet sins we accommodate are no exception. No wonder James adds in the next verse, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.”

How to Overcome Pet Sins

Our goal here at SPT is not just to study Scripture – we also want to apply the Bible in a practical way and teach it to others. Now that we’ve examined the sober reality that we’re being hunted by our spiritual enemy, how should we respond?

First, identify pet sins and kill them. This may sound extreme, but it’s biblical. Check out what Paul writes in Colossians:


“Therefore, consider the members of your earthly bodies as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” – Colossians 3:5


Our English translation of this verse really doesn’t do it justice. The wording Paul uses here carries the idea of us being locked in a death struggle with sin, having only two possible outcomes: kill or be killed. We can either strangle and suffocate the sin in our lives, or it will do the same to us spiritually. Paul’s message is clear: either violently destroy your sin, or it will violently destroy you – it’s that simple.

Jesus makes a similar statement in the Sermon on the Mount, where He says,


“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” – Matthew 5:29-30


Now, I don’t think Christ is literally telling us to rip our eyes out or chop our hands off, but He is advocating for taking extreme measures to kill off sin because nothing in your life is so important that it’s worth sinning over.

I witnessed a great example of this during my sophomore year of college. I served as a small group leader on my dorm that year, and during the spring semester, one of the guys in my small group confided in me that he was struggling with pornography addiction – something that I had also dealt with in the past. As we talked, I shared these verses with him and encouraged him to think about how to remove everything from his life that was causing him to sin in that way. One week later, he invited me to his home for the weekend, where we went out behind his house, set his laptop on a log, and blew it to pieces with a couple of shotguns.


We can either strangle and suffocate the sin in our lives, or it will do the same to us spiritually. Click To Tweet


Now I want to be clear – as a poor college student, this was a huge inconvenience for him. It meant that he had to take notes by hand in class. It meant that he had to walk to the computer lab every time he needed to do his homework or print off a paper. With only a flip phone, it meant that he had very limited access to the internet – but that was the whole point. He realized that the convenience of a laptop wasn’t worth sinning over, so he removed it from his life.

How different would our homes, churches, and communities be if we were willing to take extreme measures to kill off sin? How many of our lives would be characterized by victory instead of defeat, joy instead of shame, and freedom instead of bondage? But I fear that we’re choosing not to kill off sin because we’ve become comfortable with its existence in our lives. I’m concerned that perhaps, like the Romero family, we’re nurturing the very thing that will ultimately destroy us.

Second, identify opportunities to sin, and avoid them. You’ve heard the analogy before: if you’re an alcoholic don’t go to a bar. The idea comes from Proverbs 22:3, which says, “The prudent man foresees the evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.” In other words, if you see a situation in which you are likely to sin, it’s your responsibility to keep moving. To use Solomon’s language, only a simple-minded person would knowingly walk into a situation where they’d be likely to sin – to do so would be like a mouse knowingly walking into a mouse trap. So make a list of the times, places, and situations in which you’re most likely to give in to temptation, and make the necessary changes to avoid them.


Nothing in your life is so important that it's worth sinning over. Click To Tweet


Third, identify key temptations and prepare for them. While it’s crucial to avoid temptation as much as possible, we know from experience that we can’t avoid temptation all together. When temptation does strike, one of our biggest mistakes is that we’re reactive rather than proactive. Notice David’s proactive approach in Psalm 119:11 which says, “Your Word have I treasured in my heart that I might not sin against You.”

David prepared for temptation in advance by memorizing key Scriptures that would enable him to emerge from the battle victoriously. This verse, along with many other Bible passages, teaches us that there’s a direct link between Scripture and victory in temptation. It’s no coincidence that Christ, who overcame every temptation He faced, defeated Satan in the wilderness by quoting from Deuteronomy (Matthew 4:1-11), and it’s no coincidence that Paul refers to Scripture as the “sword of the Spirit,” our only offensive weapon with which to fight spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:17). Scripture is the only spiritual weapon God gives us because it’s the only weapon we need to overcome temptation.

The key here is identifying which temptations are most likely to entice you and draw you in. Perhaps you’re susceptible to over-spending, lust, jealousy, or losing your temper. Whatever your primary weaknesses might be, it’s crucial to identify them and prepare for them accordingly by memorizing Bible passages that specifically address those sins. When the Word is hidden and treasured in your heart, you’re more likely to see temptation and sin for what it truly is – a trap set to destroy you.

May we never forget that sin is the medium through which Satan seeks to devour us. He longs for you and I to focus on how enjoyable sin will be so that we’ll forget about the pain and regret we’ll experience later. So instead of tolerating pet sins, let’s get ruthless and violently put them to death. Let’s intentionally avoid situations in which we’re likely to give in to temptation, while hiding key Bible verses in our hearts to strengthen our resolve to live in obedience.

 

Recommended Resources:

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

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