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The Mendocino Complex fire in California is now the largest in the state’s history. As of this morning, it has burned more than 292,000 acres. For comparison: the fire is nearly double the size of Chicago and more than triple the size of Philadelphia, Detroit, Portland, and Atlanta.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire, which started on July 27.
There is no such uncertainty with the Carr Fire, which has destroyed nearly two thousand structures and claimed seven lives. The fire started when a tire failed on a trailer, causing its rim to scrape the asphalt. With the heat and extreme drought in the area, that’s all it took to start a tragic inferno.
Rick Gates and Prince Harry
God’s word notes: “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:5). We are seeing this principle at work across today’s news.
Rick Gates was an intern when he first met Paul Manafort. Now Mr. Gates is the prosecution’s star witness in its case against Mr. Manafort on tax and bank fraud charges.
Two drones rigged with explosives detonated near Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro last Saturday. Security experts warn that such attacks are difficult for conventional armies to defend against and are likely to increase.
In more trivial news, Prince Harry is making headlines for the wrong reason. He and Meghan Markle attended a wedding over the weekend, where he was spotted wearing a shoe with a hole in its sole. The story made Time magazine.
The myth of “small” sins
There is a principle at work here, one our culture typically devalues.
According to Gallup, more Americans than ever before consider divorce, sex between an unmarried man and woman, gay or lesbian relations, having a baby outside of marriage, doctor-assisted suicide, and pornography to be acceptable.
What do these issues have in common? They are all considered personal decisions with little relevance to the larger culture.
We seem to believe that private behavior stays private, that we can make unbiblical moral decisions with little consequence. But an inferno starts with a spark.
Yesterday we discussed the illusion of “private” sins. Today, let’s consider its corollary: the myth of “small” sins. The kind we think don’t really matter. The kind we believe we can commit while remaining “good” Christians.
This is one of Satan’s most effective strategies against committed believers. If we won’t commit heinous crimes, he tries to get us to commit sins that seem more innocuous. Why? Because he knows something we need to remember today.
“Small” sins never stay small
Cancer starts as a single cell among the 37.2 trillion cells in your body.
Scripture instructs us to “see to it” that “no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal” (Hebrews 12:16). This is a powerful metaphor. Esau was hungry in the moment, so he exchanged a temporary meal for his permanent birthright (Genesis 25:33-34).
Every sin works in the same way. The reward it promises is far eclipsed by the suffering it produces. This makes sense, actually. Satan hates us and would never tempt us with anything that produces any benefit for us unless that benefit leads to even greater loss.
That’s why Jesus warned us so severely about anger and lust (Matthew 5:21-30). He knows that murder starts with anger and adultery begins with lust.
And he knows that “small” sins injure our relationship with our holy God. Scripture warns us: “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). It takes very little dirt to contaminate a bottle of purified water.
The Holy Spirit cannot fully use an unholy vessel. Satan is pleased when we commit sins “small” enough that we do not repent of them because he knows they keep the Spirit from working through us just as if they were obvious, heinous failures.
When we face our next temptation to commit a “small” sin, we should ask ourselves if we would choose to ingest a “small” cancer into our bodies.
God “gives us life as we overcome”
The first step in refusing “small” sins is realizing that they are not “small.” The second is recognizing that we cannot refuse them in our strength.
Satan knows the temptations we can defeat easily. That’s why we never face them. I’ve never been asked to participate in a bank robbery, for example.
However, there are other temptations I cannot defeat in my own ability. These are the strategies Satan employs against me. But he wants me to think such sins are “small” enough that I can refuse them in my strength. That way, I won’t call to the Lord for help until it’s too late.
Another version of this strategy: the enemy loves to bring temptations against us that we have already defeated, hoping we’ll have the false confidence that we can defeat them again without needing God’s help.
Here’s the bottom line: every sin we are tempted to commit is large enough to please Satan. And alluring enough to require God’s strength.
The bad news is that we will face such temptations as long as we live on this broken planet. The good news is that our Father’s greatest power is found where we need it most.
Oswald Chambers: “God does not give us overcoming life–He gives us life as we overcome. The strain of life is what builds our strength. If there is no strain, there will be no strength.”
Where do you need God’s strength today?