What is your favorite sin? We all have one. While there are many sins we commit every day in thought, word, and deed, we don’t do them all for the same reason or with the same enthusiasm. Some lie because they feel it is a last resort to avoid the consequences of their actions. Some steal out of desperation. Some respond in rash anger when provoked. This is not to argue that we are sometimes justified in our decision to sin. You may not like to lie, but suppose your boss calls you out on a project you were supposed to have done, so you engage in deception to get out of trouble. It is no less wicked to sin as a shortcut or for practicality’s sake.
Favored sins are different. We commit those sins because we like them. For example, a person might lie unprompted simply for the pleasure of causing someone else to be deceived. Favored sins are thrilling. They are also deadly and must be dealt with. Jesus commonly interacted with people who were willing to receive his teaching, but had some beloved sin that needed to be identified and rejected. For the woman at the well (John 4), it was related to her sexual sin. For the moral and religious young ruler (Mark 10:17-27), it was his great wealth. Jesus called these people to repent specifically. A blanket acknowledgment (‘I’m a sinner just like everyone else’) wouldn’t do, and it won’t do for us as well.
In his work The Godly Man’s Picture, Thomas Watson reminds us a godly person doesn’t indulge himself in any sin. He doesn’t hide and cherish any one sin that would sever his sweet fellowship with God. Often there is at least one sin that has a serious hold on a believer’s life and needs immediate attention. How do we identify the ‘beloved sin’? I’ve adapted and added to some of Watson’s points below.
It is the sin you are most angered when rebuked for it. Maybe you are willing to be called out for sins you commit but don’t love. You can be humble with a reproof for most sins, but when confronted over a beloved sin, it’s like someone insulted your child. It’s a sore spot that does not like to be touched, so you keep it hidden and protected. You cherish it. The sin for which you cannot endure rebuke is sure to be the favorite sin.
It is the sin you are most ready to defend or excuse. You may acknowledge that what you are engaged in is wrong, at least for most people. However, you have come to believe that it isn’t wrong for you, not in the same way. It is excusable due to circumstances. You may have conceived arguments to defend it. ‘We are almost married anyway, so it’s not the same as fornication.’ ‘This company is rich and doesn’t pay me enough, and anyway they have insurance, so it’s not really theft.’ Some even create an entirely new category for their sin and attempt to shield it from clear biblical prohibition. ‘The Bible actually only condemns abusive same-sex activity, not a loving, monogamous same sex relationship, like I have.’ What sin do you most stubbornly defend? That one is your favorite.
It is the sin you turn to in times of distress. When difficulty comes you may turn to this sin for comfort or distraction. Things are going bad for me, you say, maybe this will bring me a thrill. The beloved sin loves to tag along with other sins. You have done something foolish, and so reason I’ve already messed up, so why not just go all the way. You may even add, I’m going to have to repent of all this later, so one more sin won’t matter much. When the pressures of life are great, what sin do you turn to for release?
It is the sin that has the most power over you. When tempted to indulge, you find it especially difficult to decline this sin. You may know that it is wrong, but maybe you wish it wasn’t. It is satisfying. It is often in your thoughts. You may plan times to indulge in it and take careful pains to keep it hidden. Jesus tells us that who practices sin is a slave to sin (Jn. 8:34), and that enslaving power is felt most deeply in the sin which you love most.
It is the sin you have most trouble giving up. Some iniquities lose their luster quickly for you. You can put them down as easily as pick them up. The beloved sin you cannot be rid of so easily. Maybe you have already tried, but it feels as though it pursues you. For now, it is easier to say ‘no’ to Christ than to say ‘no’ to this sin.
It is the sin you most regret. At the moment, iniquity tastes sweet, but its aftertaste is bitter. The greater or deeper the transgression, the worse its after effects. When you are afforded time to reflect on your life or are led to seriously consider your spiritual condition, this sin comes easily to mind. It is never far from your thoughts. It is a source of shame and embarrassment. It could ruin your life, destroy relationships, devastate your reputation. Maybe it already has. The sin which you have loved so deeply has not loved you.
What do you do with this sin? You do the same thing that you do with every sin: repent of it and look to Christ for salvation and healing. If you need some additional encouragement, consider the following:
- There is no sin so great that the blood of Christ cannot cover it. Your sin is great; his grace is greater. Your sin has mastered you, but Christ can master it.
- You have no right to go to God apart from Christ. But in Christ you can go boldly to the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). And you must go boldly. Do not go with promises that you will do better. Do not go to plead your case – let Christ the Mediator do that. Plead the blood of the Lamb shed for you. God cannot say no to the precious blood of his Son.
- Lest you despair there is no hope for you, remember your election. God the Father gave your name to the Son to take the cross. The Father, in effect, said, Save this one, My Son, bring this one safely into My kingdom. The Son says, ‘All the Father gives to me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out,” (Jn. 6:37). You were chosen by the Father, purchased by the Son, and sealed by the Spirit. He knew of this sin well before you ever committed it and his intent is to save you from it, not reject you for it. Pray that God would restore you to the joy of your salvation.
- Read the Psalms of Confession for direction and encouragement: 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143.