Our first child was an incredibly active toddler. He spent the early days of his infant development constantly grabbing, clinging and climbing on people and objects as if life were the ultimate jungle gym. Between 8 and 9 months, he took his first steps, and it didn't take long before he was moving throughout the house with dangerous and amazing speed.
If you're a parent, you'll know that when your child begins to walk, he or she needs protection from a whole new set of household perils, so Luella and I began to childproof the house as best we could. I also made a point to warn Justin about the things that were potentially dangerous to him. I took my son on a "safety tour" of the house, showing him what to avoid and what not to touch. I thought I was wasting my time, because with each warning I gave out, I received a blank stare and an unconvincing head nod in return.
The Forbidden Outlets
A few days later, I was reading in the living room, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw my son looking mysteriously and mischievously at me. He would glance at the wall, look towards me, then back to wall, repeating this cycle several times. When he concluded that I was sufficiently distracted, he made a beeline for an electrical outlet that I had warned him about. Just before he gave it that first exhilarating touch, he did something that left me amazed: he stopped, looked back to see if I was watching, and then reached for the outlet as I leapt off my seat to his rescue.
That final glance demonstrated that Justin had understood my lectures, that he knew he was acting against my will, that he was trying to hide his rebellion, and that he was inexplicably drawn to what had been clearly forbidden. Why am I sharing this family vignette with you? Because you and I are just like toddlers in many ways. How often do we do the same as Justin, but with God, and with something different than an electrical outlet?
In today's Article, I want to look at three types of behaviors that sin produces which and how they reduce us to toddler immaturity:
1. Sin Produces Rebellion
Luella and I had never taught Justin how to be a rebel. We never gave him any incentive to desire what was prohibited, to look for an opportunity to skirt our authority or to reach for the "forbidden fruit" that was the electrical outlet. This was something he was born with, and it didn't take very long to express itself.
Unfortunately, you and I don't ever grow out of this stage. Whether it's running away from Mommy in the toy store a few years later, cheating on an exam in high school or college, fudging our resume or income tax form, refusing to submit to the counsel of an elder, indulging in secret lust or even parking in the no parking zone "for just a few seconds while I run into the store," rebellion is natural for each one of us. Our rebel spirit leads us to think of ourselves first and to climb over the fences between ourselves and our desires.
We were designed to live in daily submission, but because of sin, we now hate being controlled. We want to make up the rules and change them whenever it suits us. Essentially, we want to be God, ruling our worlds according to our own will. No matter what horizontal authority we're rebelling against, our rebellion is ultimately directed vertically against God. We refuse to recognize his authority, robbing him of his glory and usurping his right to rule.
How did you rebel against God's authority last week?
2. Sin Produces Foolishness
Luella and I had years of life experience on Justin. We were capable of doing things that him toddler body would find impossible. We were good to him, laying down our lives to be his protector and his provider. Justin would have been wise to listen to our counsel and follow our lead and avoid the electrical outlets.
You're probably thinking, "But Paul, he was only a toddler!" Absolutely, and so are you are and I! Even though God has eternal years of life experience on us, even though he is capable of doing things we find impossible, and even though he has laid down his life to be our protector and provider, we often find no perspective, insight, theory or truth more reliable than what we come up with. Just like toddlers, have been warned of danger but in our foolishness buy into the lie that we know better than God.
When David says in Psalm 14:1, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God'" he's not only talking about atheists; he's getting to the foundation of all human foolishness. Sin produces an inborn rejection of the wisdom of God for every person. It closes us to the counsel of the body of Christ, convinces us that we don't need to study God's Word, and deceives us into seeing our rebellious, irrational choices as wise and right.
How did you ignore God's wisdom last week?
3. Sin Produces Paralysis
This third and final element doesn't show up clearly in our family vignette, but the Bible tells us that it exists: even when we want to obey the commands of God and follow the wisdom found in Scripture, sin renders us incapable of doing so consistently. The apostle Paul powerfully captures this experience in Romans 7 when he writes, "For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing." (vv. 18-19)
Sin makes us moral paralytics, fundamentally unable to do what is right. Which of us could say that our anger has always been righteous? What husband could say he has always loved his wife as Christ loves the church? What person consistently loves his neighbor as himself? We fail at these things, even when we desire to do right, because our moral muscles have been atrophied by sin. We simply cannot do the good we were created to do.
How did you fall short of God's standard last week, despite your best intentions?
The Good News
Whether you allow yourself to see it or not, the evidence is abundant: you and I are just like toddlers. We desire what is forbidden, taking one final peek at God before we rebelliously touch it. We've been told of the safety found within the boundaries of God's wisdom, but we foolishly listen to our twisted and corrupted logic. And even on our best day, when we desire to pursue the Lord, we are fundamentally unable to consistently pull it off.
Are you discouraged? You should be humbled, but you shouldn't be discouraged. The Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus forgives rebels; He transforms talkers into listeners; He makes the cripple walk again. His indwelling Spirit replaces autonomy with dependency, foolishness with wisdom, and failure with fruit.
But you need to admit your need for help. You need to humble yourself and see yourself as a spiritual infant. Today, ask your Heavenly Father to hold your hand and show you the way.
Just like a toddler.