The Root of Sin

How do we identify sin? What goes into the reasoning process that helps us determine if there is something in our thinking, attitudes, or behavior that crosses the line between what is acceptable to God and what violates His standards? Is there a clear, scriptural means for gaining that discernment, and what does it entail? Does God ever make it hard for us to discern His desires? These are all vital questions for a conscientious believer whose goal is to please and honor their Lord.

For many believers that process involves asking a simple question: “Am I comfortable with what I’m doing, or do I feel any hesitation or guilt?” They argue that if there was something going on in their lives that displeased God they would know it because God’s Spirit would convict them, and since they feel no conviction there is no need for concern. What happens, however, when a believer has no desire to know God’s standard of righteousness for his life? Is it possible for a believer to be either ignorant of, or perhaps indifferent to, the ministry of the Holy Spirit in his life?

Ignorance can be, and often is, a significant hindrance to discernment. It is impossible to know right from wrong without the foundation of scriptural guidelines. The Apostle James addressed this principle when he stated in chapter 4 of his epistle, “to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Earlier in that same letter, he identified the source of that knowledge when he said that we are to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). The Bible is our guide and we must be familiar with what it teaches if we are to avoid sin. The Holy Spirit will not remind us of that which we have not learned!

The other issue – indifference – is a much more serious concern because it strikes at the very heart of the matter: our love and submission to God.

Jereboam became King of Israel when God divided the kingdom at Solomon’s death (Reheboam was King of Judah). Because the temple was in Jerusalem, and Jewish law required the people to go there to worship every year, Jereboam became concerned about their loyalty to him (the account is given in I Kings chapter 12). He reasoned that the best way to guard against their defection was to provide a place for them to worship without going to Jerusalem. So Jereboam established  a new system of worship for the Jewish people, with convenient altars (one in Bethel and one in Dan), golden calves to worship, and unqualified priests to offer the sacrifices. But there was a problem. Verse 30 states “and this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.”

What made it a sin? Jereboam became indifferent to God’s desires. In essence, he said: “It really doesn’t matter where, or how we worship, as long as we worship.”

The worship experience became more important than their God, who was supposed to be the focus of that worship.

The principle is communicated clearly and consistently throughout scripture. The Law of Moses and the teachings of Christ both demand that God be the focus of our love and the center of our worship. He alone deserves our praise and adoration. Failure to do so constitutes sin. Indifference in this area is unacceptable.

Ignorance will not be a problem if there is no indifference. Our desire to honor the Lord will drive us to learn His desires. The practical conclusion – anything that diverts, disrupts, or distracts from, or in any way interferes with our love for and relationship to God, is sin!

It’s that simple.

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