Why We Sin When We Know So Much

There’s something ugly about moralism and self-righteousness, the exhausting effort of trying to be good and to do the right thing all the time. Doing good is a good thing. This isn’t to say we give up and give in to our lustful desires and “animal” instincts.
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What I’m realizing as I revisit this topic is: the point isn’t to try harder to be moral and to feel more badly when we fail. The point is to be more honest in acknowledging this aspect of our humanity, to humbly confess them to a few trusted others [ed.note: the hardest thing to do!], and to freely choose to depend on God’s spiritual habits to do the slow work of changing the very depths of my heart.

Dr. John Coe has given these spiritual formation talks on numerous occasions, about why we still sin when we know so much. Hearing these talks is so freeing and liberating. During his seminary-level course, he’d take 5 lectures to unpack this thorough understanding of our heart (the core of our being: intellect, will, and desire) and its innate remnant capacity to sin. Here’s several recordings for you. Those who have ears, let them hear.

BiblicalTraining.org has online courses with Dr. John Coe, these two below posted with outlines —

Spiritual Formation Class: Why We Sin When We Know So Much, part 1 of 2 (TH250-3)
What is in our heart determines how we act. There is more going on in our heart than what shows on the surface. In our hidden heart, we often have negative beliefs and desires that affect our actions.


A. Introduction
1. Ephesians 4:22ff
B. The Christian faith is foremost about the heart
1. “Heart” is used for the real or core person.
2. The heart directs our life. What is in the heart determines our whole of life.
3. Principles
C. Why is the heart so impregnable and slow to change?
D. Things to know about a biblical understanding of the hidden heart
1. There is always more going on in the hidden heart than what is on the surface.
2. The degree to which we have a hidden heart of negative beliefs and desires that have not been dealt with is the degree to which we are not in control of that material and it can control us.

Spiritual Formation Class: Why We Sin When We Know So Much, part 2 of 2 (TH250-4)
When we sin, it’s often the result of sin in our heart that has deep relational and historical roots. God wants us to pursue Him so he can transform us from the inside.

D. Things to know about a biblical understanding of the hidden heart (cont)
3. Thus, most Christians do not intend to sin; rather, they just leak.
4. This “leaking” is all about warring beliefs and desires in the heart.
5. Thus, most sins are not intentions of the moment but are merely the tip of the habitual iceberg.
6. Thus, beware of “prayers of magic” or avoidance to have God take away sins.
7. Becoming a Christian can even exacerbate this problem of not knowing your heart.
8. No amount of surface correcting or behavioral change will transform the heart.
9. Self-awareness is a necessary ingredient but by itself will not transform the heart.
10. The process of transformation requires a power strong enough to penetrate into your heart to resolve whatever need at the core is driving you.
E. How does God open the heart and begin the process of change-transformation?
1. Opening the heart in honesty to the Word of God in prayer.
2. Trials and “thorns in the flesh” (2 Cor 2:7-10)
3. Opening to God’s sovereign work of transformation in all circumstances.
4. Fellow believers
5. Prayer and soul work
F. God delights not in sacrifice, but a broken and contrite heart.

Also online as part of the Spiritual Formation Lecture Series [iTunes link] with Dr. John Coe, Biola University — This five-part lecture series featuring Dr. John Coe provides listeners with an in-depth integrative theology of Christian spiritual formation and soul care. Hosted by the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton and co-sponsored by the Institute for Spiritual Formation and Talbot School of Theology.

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