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Every sin?

Last week I briefly skimmed through a book I had read (at least part of it I’d read) about a year ago just to see if I could grab a nugget of wisdom or two. Within a few moments of turning the pages I was brought face to face with a sentence that put an exclamation point on something I believe the Holy Spirit has been nudging me about for months.
For some time I’ve struggled with (or rebelled against to be more accurate) the sinfulness of owning music that really isn’t mine. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about having copied mp3’s. You probably know what legal issue I’m talking about. It’s that funny little emblem on all CD’s which informs you that unauthorized duplication is breaking the law.

Like most sins I struggle with, I’ve tried to rationalize having them a thousand different ways. In fact, I know some music groups have no problem with their fans having copied mp3’s. However, I didn’t really seem to care about any band’s convictions when it came to listening to a certain track – I just knew I wanted that mp3 now. Somehow the illegal and stealing aspects of my actions got minimized in the process. Go figure.

Yet for a long season my conscience has been pricked on this issue. For reasons I can’t finger, the burden has been heavier on me of late. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back arrived with the words of a man who lived roughly 400 years before the iPod was ever invented. His name was John Owen, a English Puritan pastor who wrote a little diddy entitled On the Mortification of Sin. I read it a year or two ago in The Works of John Owen, Vol. 6.

For some reason (again, go figure) I decided to reread some of my initial highlights just to catch up with what Owens was saying in dealing with sin and temptation. Almost immediately I read this sentence marked in green highlighter:

Without sincerity and diligence in a universality of obedience,
there is no mortification of any one perplexing lust to be obtained.
(Owen, 40)

In essence, if I’m to really see sin killed (mortified) in my life to any degree I need to have my heart set with “sincerity and diligence in a universality of obedience” – I must desire to obey Christ in every aspect of my life. That did it for me! It was inescapable for the next steps I needed to take. Jerry Bridges writes about “respectable sins” concerning those areas of disobedience that we tolerate. I haven’t read the book, but on my list is stealing music. It had to go.

So I’m trying to repent of it. I spent well over an hour trying to clean up my computer, iPhone and iTunes from all the illegal stuff I’ve kept. Yup, it was a lot…Gigs of music. And yet now I sense a clearer conscience and greater peace, one that I’d like to think the Holy Spirit is using in this all-too-grey area of my life. I’m not putting this on anyone else. I just know for me, most of the music I copied played a different tune in my heart than the one in my ears. It was anything but a melody for my soul.

Maybe this will be a harbinger of things to come. Maybe I’ll have the courage to repent of other “respectable sins” I tolerate. For now, my music (which now is really mine) has come under the desire for universality of obedience. May other areas in my life follow for there is no question there is more of them. I guess I’m not as universal as I thought.

Just a question: Do you read this and feel any conviction? Yeah, me too.

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

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