Hello again readers, both new and old, and welcome back for another round. It's good to be back, too, posting out another soul-wrenching, bring-you-to-tears blog, always good for the heart. Okay, maybe they aren't that powerful, but perhaps you still glean some wholesome, fresh insight and wisdom worth meditating on from all of this. Now, you might be wondering how this blog can be positive and encouraging, as per my rule of thumb when blogging, when there is an image of a sinister tree in the foreground coupled with the ominous title. Rest assured, friends; we are indeed about to take a dark turn, but we should wind up on the lighter side when it is all over. Today I want to talk about sin, the darkness within us, and how it can take root in our lives, and then about God's design, the light that we were meant to be. There is a vast chasm between, one that I think we need to be completely aware of... After all, we can't appreciate the full joy of the light until we have spent a few nights in utter darkness, wouldn't you agree? Just so, we can't fully appreciate the gift of God's offer of freedom from sin until we realize just how dark and binding that sin can be... Join me as we turn eyes inward and face the beasts lying there in wait. Are you ready? Things can get rather ugly from this point forward...
Let's talk about sin. So, what is it, exactly? This has been a question debated by men and women alike for millennia. The simple answer is that sin is anything and everything that is contrary to God's design. Now, this is all considering that you and I believe in this God, correct? Obviously, in order to define something as sin (a morally and intrinsically wrong act), we need to have a guideline given to us by an authority higher than ourselves. Otherwise, there is no such thing as wrong or right, other than what serves a selfish purpose and prolongs self-preservation and contentment. This, by the way, is a common theme in our world today; moral relativism is rampant, and though I personally think this is a sinister shame, a large portion of the population is okay with the absence of such obligations on the conscience. For others, society can often be that higher authority, allowing the masses to dictate what is right or wrong. There are even those submitted to polytheistic religions, wherein they can consider the designs and demands of multiple gods as their code of right or wrong. But for this particular exercise, and more importantly for my life and worldview, we are going to assume by the evidence given to us that there is One God and He alone makes the rules, savvy?
So to continue, how are we supposed to know this One God's designs and commands? That seems a little difficult at first glance. And it would be, except that He gave it all to us in the format of The Holy Bible, our Scripture. Scripture is the one, time-and-space-transcending guidepost that we have been given in order to discern what God desires of us and what He has done for us. We believe that it is the inspired accounts of God's instructions given to certain men who recorded it and submitted it to ages of scrutiny and wisdom that developed it into a collection of books by the sovereign guidance of God. So when we ask 'what is sin,' we (Christians) use The Holy Bible as the firm foundation for those answers.
Now, we could spend a lifetime hashing out different actions, thoughts, and lifestyles that can be considered wrong, but I don't believe that we need to look any further than the Commandments recorded in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 20. Again, it would take the entirety of Scripture to relay God's intricate design, but He chose on that fateful day to etch these ten specific commandments into existence for us to sum up the whole of our state as humanity. That state being messed up. It doesn't take us very long to find out that we are hopelessly breaking God's law... Take a second to review Exodus 20 before we go on if you aren't familiar with that passage.
You see, God had a design in place from the very beginning, before all of creation. He intended to have us live out that design, primarily summed up in love. Love your God and love your neighbor. If we did this properly, we would bypass so many of the sins that plague the world today. If you truly loved the people around you as God has shown us love, then you would never steal from or cheat them or harm them. Love is a relatively fickle term nowadays, though, so let's be sure to define it well:
"4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1st Corinthian's 13: 4-7, NIV)
Jesus even goes on to state that all of the law can be summed up in those two commands:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[a] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 30-31, NIV)
It was the design, guys! To love. And love is a completely selfless act of caring for others more than you do for your own desires and benefit. God created everything that you can I know and see around those two principles above. Now, look at the world real quick and it shouldn't take you long to realize that we are WAY off target. An even more sobering point is that you and I are amongst the primary offenders here...
We simply don't love like God has commanded and designed us to. We would rather cling to the darkness inside us than step into the light of what was meant to be. We take from others, we lust after more, we cheat, lie, and disregard the emotions and wellbeing of those around us. We get rage out, we hurt people, and ultimately we find it within ourselves to somehow hate. What happened?! Where did it all go wrong? And I'm not referring to Adam and Eve blowing it way back in the beginning, friends, I'm asking you and me... Where, in our own lives, did we miss the mark?
Listen, today is not about thrashing ourselves for all of the mistakes in our lives... For most of us, there has never been any trouble with seeing the missing puzzle pieces and all of the sheer wrong that fills our past. Whether you believe in God or not, if you have a rational mind, you should be capable of seeing the less desirable traits within. What do you see when you look? Do you see a liar, a cheat, a thief? Do you see an addicted mess or a lustful animal? How about a jealous materialist? Or maybe any number of selfish beings lurking within... They're ugly aren't they? Wretched and twisted, yet somehow enticing still... The longer that we look, the easier it is to embrace it.
This is our dark side. The problem is, we are dark from every angle until God's light is shone to us. It's not just a dark "side" at first, rather we are completely and utterly devoid of light and good and righteousness without divine intervention. But even after the acceptance of Christ's sacrifice on our behalf, the fact that He bore the wrath due to us and suffered a death that He alone did not deserve, we still find that there is a darkness that lingers within, aching to have us. And all too often we let it... Why do we that? Why do we give in to our sinful, selfish, hateful desires so often? We can chalk it up to our nature, our circumstances, and even the influence of Satan and the powers of demonic activity in our lives, which would not be wrong to say, though I think that we would be missing the gravity of it by doing so. The sobering fact, friends, is that in our sin, we feel power, control, and satisfaction in portions that we were never meant to experience. And even though it's temporary, it's nonetheless intoxicating. We return over and again to taste that sweet poison for a fix. Before long, we find that we are addicted to the darkness in a way that we simply cannot escape. It entangles us to the core. And ultimately, we cannot blame anyone or anything else but ourselves... Man, that stings.
So what do we do? As Christians, those who have received God's gift of freedom, why do we still find ourselves bound to these sins? Aren't we supposed to be different, somehow superhuman and able to resist even the strongest of urges now? Sadly, that's not the way this works. We are still just as susceptible as the next guy, regardless of the commitment we have made by grace through faith. BUT we have an ace in the hole. ;) We do have a way out of the temptations and cravings that we face each day. It is never easy, but at least it's now possible. How, you ask? Enter the very Spirit of God Himself into your life...
Join me next time for Part 2 as we hash out the glory and wonder of exactly what God did for us when He sent His Spirit to assist. Trust me, you won't wanna miss it! I get chills just thinking of all the awesome gifts lavished on us by our wonderful, merciful Savior! Though we were and are mired in and vexed by our darkness, He was kind and gracious to bring us light. Though we missed the mark, skewing His design and tainting our world, He was good and loving to straighten our way and set us right. The darkness may be enticing, yes, but the way of the Lord is true satisfaction that lasts eternally. Take this week to dwell on the darkness within you and call it into the light. Never easy, but you can't beat your sin until you have acknowledged its presence and its hold... Until next time.
Out... - Steven