I’ve been thinking about ‘sin’ and its effects. Sin is ironic in its draw of us. We have absolutely no historical or anthropological proof that it offers anymore than lasting pain. No proof exists. We are living in a time that proves that even the most fare, capitalistic, democratic governments, when tainted with the sin of humanity will take a beautiful idea and turn it into greed. Historically we have seen men and women rise up for the fight of the poor and needy and the commoner, justice; and create a government that Robin Hood’s for the poor…yet when you put sin in the mix, you end up with a government that becomes the very injustice it was trying to exterminate. Why is sin’s call like that of the Siren’s of the sea? Why do we continually bow before it, when there is absolutely no proof of a good outcome?
Sin is not a popular conversation today. In fact it is shunned even in most churches. However, when we neglect to know the gravity of this thing called sin, we grow naive enough to believe we can control it. The belief that we can control sin, is the proof that we do not understand what sin is. To, believe we can control sin, is to assume it is ONLY the breaking of some moral law. The truth is, when we reduce God’s law to a means of creating an obedient people we also prove, we have no understanding of law. Rather God’s law was more like the support system of universal shalom, and sin is the support system of universal, destructive chaos. We must realize that God desires shalom for us, yet it seems we clamor for sin.
So, let’s define sin: Sin is a religious concept, not just a moral one. For example, when we are thinking religiously, we view a shopkeeper’s defrauding of a customer not merely as an instance of lawlessness, but also of faithlessness, and we think of the fraud as faithless not only to the customer but also to God. Criminal and moral misadventures qualify as sin because they offend and betray God. Sin is NOT only the breaking of law, but also the breaking of covenant with one’s savior. Sin is the smearing of relationship, the grieving of one’s divine parent and benefactor, a betrayal of the partner to whom one is joined by a holy bond. Hence, in the most famous of the penitential psalms, traditionally ascribed to David after his adultery with Bathsheba, the author views his sin primarily, perhaps exclusively, as sin against God. ALL sin, is first and foremost against God. So, a sin is any act – any thought, desire, emotion, word, or deed – or its particular absence, that displeases God and deserves blame. Sin is not just an act, but also a disposition. Sin is a culpable and personal affront to a personal God – Cornelius Plantinga, Jr – Not the Way It’s supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin
Now let’s ask Cornelius to define shalom for us as well: The ancient prophets used to dream and speak of a time when God would put things right again; an age in which human crookedness would be straightened out, rough places made plain. The foolish would be made wise, and the wise, humble. They dreamed of a time when the deserts would flower, the mountains would run with wine, weeping would cease, and people could go to sleep without weapons on their laps. People would work in peace and work to fruitful effects. Lambs cold lie down lions. All nature would be fruitful, benign, and filled with wonder upon wonder; all humans would be knit together in brother and sisterhood; and all nature and all humans wold look to God, walk with God, lean toward God, and delight in God…The webbing together of God, humans and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. In the Bible shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight…in other words, shalom is the way things ought to be!
The understanding of shalom helps us realize that God hates sin, not only because it violates his law, but because it violates shalom, because it breaks the peace, because it fractures with the way things are supposed to be.
So how do we conquer sin in a context that only shows every moral attempt to do so, only caves in on itself? When capitalism turns to greed. Socialism turns to injustice. Marriages at best end with a tomb stone that reads, “we made it!” When we seek out relationships for what we can gain rather than what we can add and give.
In my reading yesterday of Future Grace, Piper reminded me, that the main reason I end up living in sin over and over, is because I forget the power and reason of the cross. When I forget what was accomplished at the cross, I see my need to justify, I see my need to make atonement, I see my need for vengeance, I see my need to prove myself right, I see my need to win an argument with my wife, I see the need to point out her sin that was obliterated at the cross…I return to sin for one reason, and one reason alone – I neglect the cross!
So, a new question arises: How do I trust a cross that happened 2,000 years ago, and yet still injustice, arguments, pride, greed, lust exist on an ever growing plane? The answer to this is what the Bible calls faith. I must have faith in what the Bible promises the cross has accomplished and is bringing to fulfillment. There will come a day when all is made right, when sin submits to the rule of shalom, but for now, I must allow myself to be ruled, not by what I see, but by what I know in faith, and live my life as if it were a full, obvious reality NOW!
So, another question arises yet again: How do I live in faith power? The key to faith’s power is that it embraces the grace promised by God through the cross of Christ, and is more satisfied with it than with the immediate and temporary pleasures promised in sin!
We must understand that the human heart produces desires as fire produces heat; the state of the heart is shown by the things that satisfy its desires. When we claim we live by faith, yet long for what money can buy, my will can accomplish, and my arguments can win, I am deceived, because my desires prove, my longing is not for Christ, but for immediate exaltation, comfort, and self-glory. This is not faith, this is the sin that stops shalom.
So, we are in a battle of submission. We all long for shalom – ALL of us. Yet when our heart is motivated by our ability to accomplish it (works) we produce the exact opposite. When our heart is motivated by the faith that Christ and his cross has accomplished it, and is bringing it to fruition, our heart will be moved by faith.
So, let’s look at a heart moved by self-works, and a heart moved by faith.
The Heart of Works: A heart of works, gets satisfaction from the ego-boost of accomplishing something in its own power. The point is that the heart feels it has achieved something to boast in. A heart of works accepts the challenge of morality, conquers its obstacles through great exertion and offers the victory to God as payment for his approval and recompense. – Piper in Future Grace
Heart of Faith: It desires the fullest satisfaction of experiencing all that God is for us in Jesus. It savors the satisfaction of feeling God overcome an obstacle for us. Faith accepts the challenge of morality, but only as an occasion to become the instrument of God’s power; thus when the victory comes faith rejoices that all the glory and thanks belongs to God! – Piper in Future Grace
“If the heart is satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus, the power of sin to lure us away from the will of Christ is broken, and the beauty of God’s path of love is compelling” – Piper
Faith in God’s grace expels from the heart the sinful powers that hinder a life of love. For instance: guilt and fear and greed stand in the way of love. If we feel guilty, we tend to wallow in self-centered depression and self-pity, unable to see, let alone care, about anyone else’s need. We play hypocrite to cover our guilt, and so destroy all sincerity in relationships. We talk about other people’s faults to minimize the guilt of our own…
However, faith in God’s grace produces love by pushing guilt and fear and greed out of the heart. It pushes out guilt because it holds fast to the hope that the death of Christ is sufficient to secure righteousness now and forever. It pushes out fear because it banks on the promise that God is with us. It pushes out greed because it is confident that Christ is greater wealth than all the world can offer. In every case the glory of Christ is magnified when we are more satisfied with his grace than we are with the promises of sin!
So, if you are like me, you may be able to morally defeat the appearance of sin in your life, the problem with that, is that it then hides itself by moralistic-deism. When it comes to conquering sin, you can’t ‘fake it till you make it!’ You MUST rely in the faith that the Cross of Christ has won all, and that one day, you will live in shalom!