Charles Finney takes aim in his Revival Lectures on the imperfect and incomplete way in which we often deal with sin. We tend to generalize and gloss over the immensity of our sinful hearts and the actions that flow from those hearts. Here’s the instruction he gives, and I think he’s on the right track:
If you mean to break up the fallow ground of your hearts, you must begin by looking at your hearts: examine and note the state of your minds, and see where you are. . . . Do not be in a hurry. Examine thoroughly the state of your hearts . . . whether you are under the dominion of the prince of darkness, or of the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .
Self-examination consists in looking at your lives, in considering your actions, in calling up the past, and learning its true character. Look back over your past history. Take up your individual sins one by one, and look at them. I do not mean that you should just cast a glance at your past life, and see that it has been full of sins, and then go to God and make a sort of general confession, and ask for pardon. That is not the way. You must take them up one by one. . . .
General confessions of sin will never do. Your sins were committed one by one; and as far as you can come at them, they ought to be reviewed and repented of one by one.
How different from the standard practice today. I think this is one reason why lives are not really changed. We treat our sins too cavalierly. Our sins cost Jesus His life on this earth. We should never take them lightly, and we should never take lightly what He did for us.