If You Want to Change, Admit that You Need To
For years, I was “Mr. Minimizer”; the guy who thinks his sexual lifestyle isn’t really that big of a deal. Although fully immersed in sexual sin and addicted to drugs—consumed with pleasing only myself—I was steeped in denial and adept at shifting blame. So, despite its obvious and far-reaching consequences, the art of minimizing became my mantra.
My hardened heart was quick to excuse my sin: “It’s no big deal” or “I can deal with that later.” When relatives or others confronted me about how selfish I was being, it was not unusual for me to lash out in anger or shut down in stubborn silence, preferring instead to shine a spotlight on areas where I thought I was doing well.
But as Scripture plainly teaches, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us." (1 John 1:8-10)
Here in this passage from God’s Word was the path to true freedom over my life-dominating, sinful habits, but as long as I steadfastly resisted this path, nothing could happen for me. So long as I continued to essentially deny my sinful behavior by trivializing it, real change was virtually impossible. God was willing to purify me, but I was unwilling to confess and acknowledge that my sin was indeed sin.
Thankfully, one day after many years of despair due to my bondage and failure, the Lord finally rescued me, broke through to my hard heart, and granted me the gift of repentance. When the light and truth of His Word pierced my darkened heart, the verdict was clear… guilty as charged and with no one else to blame. Finally humbled, my approach to God’s throne of grace was littered with a very extensive list of sins, bad attitudes and past failures.
At last, my sin was finally a BIG deal! I knew I couldn’t ignore the guilt and shame of it any longer. Looking back over my life, the proverb had been fulfilled: “He who covers his sins will not prosper…” But I was determined to latch onto the promise contained in the second part of that verse: “But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
On a Stubborn Path to Downfall
Sadly, until having some eye-opening experience, men like me typically remain blind to the seriousness of our sin, and are stubbornly unwilling to admit our wrongdoing. Throughout my many years as a biblical counselor, there have been countless instances where I’ve counseled “Mr. Minimizer.”
Because he makes light of his sins and offenses against God and others, the Minimizer is easily offended and full of self-protective pride. Unwilling to face the truth about himself, a Minimizer rushes to excuse areas of personal wrongdoing, while highlighting his good deeds and the misdeeds and shortcomings of others. He is oblivious to the fact that he is stuck spiritually because he persists in sidestepping true, heart-core repentance when confronted by God and others. Until he is willing to “tell the truth and nothing but the truth” about himself and his sin, he will remain in bondage and grow more delusional about his spiritual condition.
A good biblical example of someone who minimized his sin was Israel’s first king. Throughout his 40-year reign, King Saul was engaged in intense warfare with one of Israel’s most merciless enemies, the Philistines (1 Samuel 14:52). Unfortunately, his impulsivity and the consequences of his rebellion against the Lord’s commands drove him to madness and eventually precipitated his tragic downfall. Sure, Saul may have had a few victories here and there, but as the Scriptures say, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34) Without a doubt, King Saul brought much reproach and calamity upon God’s people.
Ultimately, the Lord regretted having set Saul up as king over His people and rejected him after he disobeyed concerning the Amalekites. Saul was charged by God with the responsibility to utterly destroy this wicked nation which had remained under a curse since the days when they savagely ambushed the children of Israel coming up from Egypt (Exodus 14:17). Like anyone who does not honor or fear God, Saul failed to faithfully execute God’s plan. He thought it a brilliant idea to hold back Agag, the king of the Amalekites, and to “pounce on the plunder,” collecting the best livestock he could muster up. What a tragic error! He had done what was “evil in the eyes of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 15:19)
Upon hearing the bleating of sheep and the sound of oxen, the godly prophet, Samuel, confronted Saul about failing to utterly destroy the Amalekites. Rather than take ownership and acknowledge his disobedience, King Saul seemed to boast:
“But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” (1 Samuel 15:19-20)
The king started off with a lie mixed with some truth. The very fact that Agag was still breathing revealed that Saul had obviously NOT obeyed the Lord. He capped off his confession by shifting blame onto the people who allegedly needed the livestock to offer sacrifices to God. Sadly, this poor king didn’t have a clue! By simply highlighting his achievements and then shamelessly downplaying his disobedience, God’s anointed king blatantly “minimized” the seriousness of his stubbornness and rebellion. At this point he’d crossed a line in his heart, thus costing him the Lord’s favor and protection for the remainder of his reign.
In 1 Samuel 15:23, the prophet Samuel spoke these words to him: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.”
King Saul’s life mirrors what Mr. Minimizer should expect if he persists in the way he is headed: madness—or insanity—eventually culminating in a tragic downfall. Worse still is the man who persists to the very end until, like Saul, he is rejected by God. Mr. Minimizer can choose to accent the few victories he’s had here or there, but the truth is that he is most certainly bringing reproach and calamity upon both himself and his loved ones.
Stop Resisting and Start Responding
Personally, after recounting this biblical story, I shudder when reflecting on how many times I’ve disobeyed the Lord and then minimized the seriousness of my sin. But thank God for His Word, the conviction of His Holy Spirit, the gift of repentance, and for the blood of Jesus which cleanses all my sins away! Without these mercies from God, along with His gift of “a willing spirit to sustain me” as King David cried out for in Psalm 51:12, I would still be trapped in an awful spiritual rut and doomed to an eternal separation from Jesus, my Lord and Savior.
Perhaps you’re convicted upon reading this. You realize now that you’ve been guilty of minimizing your sin. You may be seeing for the first time that this could be the reason you’ve been unable to get a real spiritual breakthrough. Please know that there is hope for you if you will stop resisting the Holy Spirit and will take godly confrontation more seriously.
If this is you, please get before the Lord and pray Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” When the Lord reveals something in your heart—He is faithful to do this when you ask and mean business—be quick to agree with Him on every point and repent immediately. For it’s only through the narrow door of repentance that you’ll ever experience any real, lasting change and get the breakthrough you desperately need!
Brad Furges is the former Director of Men’s Counseling at Pure Life Ministries. Brad holds a B.A. from the University of Virginia (UVa) and an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Master’s Divinity School.
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