Most Christians are willing to admit that they are sinners. Yet when it comes to confessing, repenting, and taking ownership of specific sins we all tend to be much slower at acknowledging our sin. Often when we are confronted with specific sin we are very adept at blaming others or blaming circumstances for our actions. Tedd Tripp in Instructing a Child’s Heart, lays out a biblical framework for understanding why we act the way we do especially when it comes to sin. He gives us three areas to consider when we sin—the when, the what, and the why. He bases this off of James 4:1-2.
Tedd gives the following good example:
“Imagine that I arrive home and find a bike in the driveway. I have to get out of the car and move the bike. Irritated, I go inside to find the child who belongs to the bike.
Imagine at this moment that you, the reader, come along and ask, ‘Tedd, why are you so angry?’ I will probably say, “I am angry because he left his bike in the driveway. This child never listens to me.’
But the bike in the driveway is not why I am angry, it is when. The when of my behavior is the circumstance. The what of my behavior is my angry outburst. Thewhy of my anger is the internal motivation—my attitude of heart. I hate inconvenience. The why of my behavior is that I want my will to be done on earth as God’s will is done in heaven!”
We are very quick to blame our actions on circumstances or the actions of others, but Scripture teaches us that our actions flow from our heart. We get angry because we feel we have been robbed of something we deserve. It is the desires of our heart which lead to our actions. What we fail to recognize is that even if a situation is difficult, we are responsible to make the right decision. Sin is a nasty enemy and it rears its ugliness when it deceives us into thinking that we have the right to act wrongly. The message of the Gospel though is that freedom from sin is found in repenting, dying to our sinful desires, and chasing after Jesus Christ through faith. In order for this to happen, we cannot blame the when in some attempt to justify our sinful behavior. We must remember that the why for our behavior flows from our hearts and it is our hearts which must be changed. We cannot change our hearts ourselves; we need the grace of Jesus Christ in order to do that. The good news is that he has made us again in his image and he has given us his Spirit so that we can live with new desires and new hearts.