The Christian Story – III. Sin

(continued from part II. – The Fall)

But sin didn’t stay as a simple breaking of a rule. It spread throughout the whole of man, and became a part of who he was. He didn’t just commit a sin; he was now a sinner, by nature and not just action. After this event in the garden happened, “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually,” (Genesis 6:5). Sin was so thoroughly now a part of man that it infected not just the way he acted, but the way he thought, all the way down to the deepest motivations of his heart.

Another way the Bible describes sin is as “lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). This is who man naturally is now. He is a lawless rebel, caring nothing for what God says, and who now lives his life in total defiance of God. He now tries to decide for himself what is right and wrong, what he should worship, and everything else about his life.

The one who was created by God, gets his life and breath from God, and should live his life to God, is now a “child of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). The problem is not primarily wrongs committed against fellow human beings, but against God. The problem is not because man needs self-actualization, or because he lacks self-confidence, or that he is simply not living up to his full potential, or that he is isolated from other human beings and suffers broken relationships, or that he doesn’t have enough knowledge. The problem is that he is now an enemy of God. And we must remember that this problem is not just in what people do, but who they are. So because God is completely morally perfect, and because who he is and the way he acts as a person actually defines what “good” even means, and since sin is a breaking of his intent for our lives as expressed through his law, sin is also relational. It is the denial of the creator/creation relationship that makes us enemies of the God we’re created to love. Every way that people naturally relate to God is sinful.

In the religions that really recognize that something is drastically wrong, and even try to please some sort of god or supernatural force, the way it is said to accomplish this is by things that they do. Some people try to do this by denying themselves pleasure, fasting, inflicting pain on themselves, and other means of asceticism. Others do so in seeking to do good to their fellow man. They hope that God will look on these things and be pleased, or at the very least that these ‘good’ things that they do will outweigh all the bad that they’ve done. But like we’ve already seen, the main problem isn’t in what we do, but in who we are. Man’s thoughts and deeds are only evil, all the time, Genesis 6:5 says.

So even when men try to do good, they actually do evil, because their intent is to bribe God by the things they do, in order to avoid punishment, whatever that may be. Or, instead of bribing him, they try to obligate him to be merciful by showing what good people they really are. They actually show they have no idea just how bad the problem is, to think that by good deeds or harshness to their own bodies that they can make up for the evil they’ve done. They think the solution can be found in themselves, but really, that’s where the problem is. All human religion sees the problem as outside of them, and the solution inside of them. But the opposite is true: the problem is inside them, and the solution outside.

(next to come: What Does Sin Deserve?)

The Title

Psalm 119 is one of the most glorious passages in the Bible about the Bible, and it contains so much that I wish I could say were actual states of my heart about the Bible. One of the most eye-catching verses in the whole Psalm, though, is verse 99.

I have more understanding than all my teachers,

for your testimonies are my meditation

This sounds arrogant. And not only does this verse sound arrogant, but right after it follows the declaration that the psalmist is wiser than the aged, because he keeps the commands. So, even as one might try to ease the shock that might be found in v. 99, in saying that it is a merely theological wisdom which would obviously be had over against possibly irreligious teachers, v. 100 says that even long life experience is foolishness when compared with a young life that walks in obedience.So, that said, it might be presumptuous to elect this as my blog title. But it would nonetheless be true. Most of my teachers not only don’t meditate on the Scriptures, but in reality have no fear of God before their eyes, and the most basic beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Therefore, ‘wiser than my teachers’ is simultaneously a declaration and an aspiration. Because it can only be true if I am actually found both meditating and keeping.