Test the spirits, we are told in 1 John 4:1. John is urging us to use discernment when false teachers are introduced into our path, and giving us the surefire method to do so. If they do not claim that the Son of God came in the flesh, they are deceivers. However, we can also utilize this text to test our own spirit; that is, the methods our minds use to justify our actions. Rationalization is rampant in our thought processes, especially when our logic is attempting to persuade us that an act of sin is acceptable.
Our minds are powerful in that what they behold as truth, generally our bodies, in action, will follow. This is the foremost reason for Christians to indulge, perhaps even overindulge, in the study of Scripture. To participate, at any length, in sinful endeavors that we know are wrong, but continue to do differs greatly from those who perpetually sin and rationalize it in their own mind to the point that they believe themselves to be justified. The former is blatant disobedience, whereas the latter may be considered more risky as it not only disobeys God, but distorts His desires, commands, and laws. Paul’s infamous passage in Romans 7:15-25, where he openly admits to doing the sin that he knows he shouldn’t do, is a glaring example. Implied is that God will forgive us of our sins, specifically here when we’re aware that they are sin. Paul is fully accountable to God’s law, knowing in his being that what his flesh desires is evil, but nonetheless, struggling with it as every Spirit-filled Christian does. Whatever specific sin he’s thinking of while penning this cry out, or even if it’s his overall sin condition, he is not making any excuses as a defense.
The danger with rationalizing your sin, whether it be living an adulterous or homosexual lifestyle, an apathetic existence towards injustices witnessed, or the myriad of other individual or perpetual sins that we find ourselves justifying with faulty logic, is that the core sin is exponentially increased by the flat out defying and perverting the Word of God. I’ve heard the many circuitous reasons for carrying on in sin; worst of all is the feeble attempts to rationalize and justify them to appear to be in accordance with Scripture.
Satan will use any and all tools at his disposal to thwart our allegiance to Christ, making our fruit rotten to God and to those around us. Of course, it is Jesus who’s paid our penalty; justification is provided by the cross. But it is also Jesus who calls us out through all the gospels, by clearly laying out His expectations for us as His followers. If our justification wasn’t meant to be followed by sanctification, He wouldn’t have wasted His time teaching us the ways to abide by Him. So when we find ourselves rationalizing the evil that we want to do that feels so tempting to dip our toes in, it’s time to be checked. Checked by, convicted by, called out by Scripture.
Still reeling from a conflict with another, but rationalizing your distance and unwillingness to approach them to seek reconciliation? They hurt you, wronged you, so you feel justified in holding onto the resentment and bitterness against them? What about that ongoing emotional affair online or at the workplace that has developed into a sexual affair, but you feel like you deserve to partake because your spouse doesn’t revere you in the ways that you deserve to be? How about that habit you’ve owned that has gone to extremes: overconsumption of alcohol, food, screen time? It’s okay though because you need the escape from the busyness and hectic life you lead. Rationalize your little heart away, but it will never make it right. Seek Scriptural advisement and pray for the virtues of humility and wisdom, then follow the trusted path He has so graciously laid out.
The Word is never wrong or misdirected in dealing with sin. Satan, however, delights in leading us astray whenever he gets the open opportunity to deceive us and, to offer up the ol’ “Did God really say?” (Genesis 3:1) tactic has been an unrelenting initiative. When He says even looking at another lustfully is sin (Matthew 5:28), it is. When He says to forgive (Colossians 3:13), do it. When He says to expel the immoral brother (1 Corinthians 5:11-13), exact church discipline. When He says homosexuality is unnatural (Romans 1:25-27), believe it. When He issues out the woes to the hypocritical Pharisees (Matthew 23:1-33), calibrate your heart. Rational logic is this: to believe not only in all the blessings and promises of God, but even in all the decrees your flesh deems undesirable.