I’ve seen incredible advances made in technology and I acknowledge they’ve made many things better. But I doubt I’ll ever put trust in a self-driving automobile. I can imagine sitting in the backseat and hearing the computer voice announce, “Outside temperature 85. Estimated time of arrival is five min… five min… five min…” I’d probably have just enough time to look up and see the rear of the semi my car was about to encounter. No matter how far we progress as human beings nothing we manufacture will ever operate flawlessly without a hitch. Something’s bound to go haywire. If we could create utopia on earth we would’ve already done so. But we can’t. Check the front page of any news outlet and you’ll spot an article on promising advances in cancer treatments abutting a report about some maniac on a rampage in an office, killing innocents before turning the weapon on himself. Seems like civilization takes one step forward and two steps back every day. That’s because all men and women are born with contradicting natures. On one hand we can be hateful, bigoted and cruel. On the other we can be generous, compassionate and loving. It brings to mind the cartoon image of an imp whispering in our left ear while an angel speaks into our right. Psychologists come up with theories why we’re so despicable at times but there’s only one reason – sin. It’s our collective disease and, although many don’t want to admit they’re infected, no one’s immune.
Sin is defined as anything contrary to the will of God. So where did it originate and why did God let it spread like wildfire? The Bible isn’t specific but it does offer hints. It says sin didn’t originate with man but with Satan. No average run-of-the-mill angel he, but one of God’s most magnificent of creatures. Ezekiel 28:12-15 describes him thusly: “You were the sealer of perfection, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty… You were on the holy mountain of God… You were blameless in your behavior from the day you were created, until sin was discovered in you.” That last part dubs the devil as the instigator of iniquity. Therefore while we don’t know when we do know who. Other hints are found in Isaiah 14:12-15. “Look how you have fallen from the sky, O shining one, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the ground, O conqueror of the nations! You said to yourself, ‘I will climb up to the sky. Above the stars I will set up my throne. I will rule on the mountain of assembly… I will climb up to the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High!’ But you were brought down…” Notice the five “I wills.” Sin got its start due to Satan’s ambition to usurp the will of God. His pride devoured everything humble in him and nourished an insatiable drive to assume God’s throne. His bloated ego knew no bounds. And lest we think we can’t commit the same sin, 1 Timothy 3:7 speaks of those who might “…become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.”
So sin began with Lucifer’s insurrection and flourished courtesy of mankind’s animalistic self-centeredness. Billy Graham wrote, “In place of ‘living for God,’ sin substitutes ‘living for self.’” The Scriptures are clear about how sin infiltrated the human species. A tree in the luxuriant Garden of Eden, symbolizing the knowledge of good and evil, was labeled off-limits by God. When the first couple, encouraged by Satan, deliberately ate its fruit they violated what they doubtlessly knew was God’s expressed will and the ocean liner hit the iceberg that day. Could God have prevented it? You bet your boots. But He didn’t create robots, he created us. He formed us in His image and that included letting us oversee an independent, inviolate will. God intended us to willingly worship Him out of gratefulness for His unconditional love. If we were compelled to glorify Him our adoration would be hollow, meaningless. The Heavenly Father desired sons and daughters, not machines. Some deem our God-given free will our “terrible freedom.” Adam and Eve had the freedom to love and obey their Creator or to reject His plan and do things their way. God tested their fidelity in Eden. They flunked.
Why, when they had everything they needed, did they opt to spit in God’s face? 1 John 2:16 says it was because of the “…lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life.” Lust ain’t limited to sex. Eve lusted for what was taboo and became determined to have it at any cost. Genesis 3:6 states, “When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, was attractive to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her…” In stark contrast, Jesus faced the same temptations in the wilderness but remained faithful to His Father by resisting their lure. He proved to us all Satan can be thwarted. God explicitly forbids us to lust or covet. There are some who resent the Ten Commandments because, like insolent children, they can’t stand being told what to do. What they fail to realize is that The Father knows what’s good for them. It’s inconceivable that He who birthed the galaxies has given us laws just so He can spitefully keep us under His thumb. The God I answer to is immensely more mature than that. He gave us laws because He loves us and doesn’t want us to succumb to the devil’s temptations that’ll eventually destroy us. His laws deliver us from evil and enable us to live spiritually productive lives. They weren’t put in place to restrict our freedom one bit. While teens will always think their folks are being too strict, by setting curfews and insisting on knowing where they are conscientious parents are displaying deep love and concern for their offspring’s well-being. They’re not trying to punish them or be joy-squashing tyrants. That’s not the Heavenly Father’s aim for us, either. When Adam and Eve went against God they died spiritually and, for the first time, faced the prospect of eternal death. The consequence of their sinful act was immediate and tragic. Sin became a fact of life for everyone who came after them to contend with.
Look up into the sky on a moonless night. The cosmos surrounding us moves in an orderly, harmonious and obedient manner according to God’s plan. Was He any less exacting when it came to setting up the higher spiritual and moral order? Dr. Graham wrote, “God loves us with an infinite love, but He cannot and will not approve of disorder.” In one way it can be said Adam and Eve didn’t break God’s law. They broke themselves upon it and placed the freedoms they held so dear in jeopardy. Their easy-going lifestyle, their ability to embrace and cherish the beauty around them along with their effortless cooperation with each other disappeared. From then on their days became a countdown to death. Nature turned on them as the sin disease infected not only the family of man but the entire planet. Disharmony became the norm and the world turned hostile.
We all fall dreadfully short of holiness. We rarely meet any of God’s standards. But we must never give up trying. When Jesus told us in Matthew 5:48, “So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” He was giving us an ideal to strive for, not attempting to make us feel inadequate. Nobody in history (except Christ) ever turned in a perfect performance. Psalm 14:3 states, “Everyone rejects God; they are all morally corrupt. None of them does what is right, not even one!” Isaiah 53:6 reads, “All of us have wandered off like sheep; each of us has strayed off on his own path…” We can’t help ourselves. We all carry the hereditary “sin gene.” David wrote in Psalm 51:5, “Look, I was guilty of sin from birth, a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.” Don’t misunderstand. Being born is no sin. Yet we all possess a sinful nature and a tendency to do the wrong thing. Anyone who thinks it unfair to suffer for Adam’s sin is mistakenly assuming they wouldn’t have gobbled the apple like he did! Given a certain set of circumstances our mammalian instincts are liable to take over and it’s Katy bar the door. We’re capable of almost anything in the name of survival and Satan knows it. Early on, in Genesis 4:7, we’re warned that “…sin is crouching at the door.” King David had a heart for God but he became an adulterer, a schemer and a murderer when sexual lust pounced. Therefore we can never overlook the shadowy specter of sin that constantly seeks to creep into our lives. The excuse of “but everybody does it” won’t fly. God can’t and won’t tolerate sin. Romans 1:18 reads, “…the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people…” and His wrath should never be downplayed.
Our good intentions aren’t worth a plug nickel. Proverbs 14:12 proclaims, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” That’s why unbelievers are in serious trouble. Without Christ they’re doomed no matter how nicely they behave. Only by taking off the rose-colored glasses Satan places over their eyes can folks start seeing the world as it really is – wicked. In order for a person to understand spiritual death awaits their unrepentant soul, God gave us The Law. A set of standards that, when followed, hone our moral judgment and enable us to recognize sin for what it really is – unacceptable. The Father in heaven could’ve given us a thick binder of rules and regulations that’d make the IRS tax code look like a leaflet. But He didn’t. He gave us ten ordinances. Only ten. That way we wouldn’t get caught up in the endless “ifs ands or buts” we love to drown most every piece of wisdom presented to us in. They tell us how to relate to God and how to treat one another. They’re right there in black and white in Exodus 20:
“You shall have no other Gods before Me.” God doesn’t mince words. There’s only one God and He’s it. This first commandment excludes all the gods mankind can invent. People too often make deities out of wealth, pleasure, prestige, etc. Jeremiah 10:3-5 says, “…the religion of these people is worthless. …Such idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field. They cannot talk. They must be carried because they cannot walk. …And they do not have any power to help you.” Just so there’d be no confusion God reiterated #1in #2.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol.” #1 specified who we’re to worship. #2 tells us how not to go about it. Nothing material can represent Him. And, since God’s the only God there is, He expects us to be steadfast and sincere in our worship of Him. Deuteronomy 6:5 instructs, “You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.” Being God and all, He’ll know if we aren’t doing that. 1 Samuel 16:7 reads, “God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Christ said if we’ve seen Him we’ve seen the Father. Alistair Begg wrote, “If we’re to escape the corruption that accompanies all attempts at worshiping God by means of likenesses, pictures, and imaginings, then we must focus on the Lord Jesus Himself, who is “…the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Of all the commandments this is the one I’m most guilty of frequently but quietly breaking. (It’s ironic that usually only God hears me when I besmirch His name!) My parents didn’t swear so I acquired the foul habit totally on my own. Even the most trivial of inconveniences can cause me to mutter “Jesus” or worse under my breath and they’re not expressions of adoration. Psalm 74:18 states, “Remember how the enemy has mocked you, O Lord, how foolish people have reviled your name.” I’m a fool too often and I must rededicate myself daily to respect God and treat the name of Him, His Son and the Holy Spirit with the hallowedness they rightly demand.
“Remember the Sabbath, keep it holy.” We’re not much use to God if we’re gassed. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). In other words it’s to our benefit we take that day off to rest and to honor God. That means going to church to worship with believers every Sunday. In Romans 12:2 Paul encouraged us to “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind” and that’s not going to happen if you backslide so you won’t miss your NFL team’s noon kickoff.
“Honor your father and mother.” Back when most kids grew up with their mom and dad intact for better or worse this command was easier to obey. But nowadays that situation is the exception, not the rule. So I think what God expects us to do in today’s world is to give our parents some slack and honor them by forgiving them their trespasses. They’re sinners, too. With stepfathers, stepmothers and “partners” involved in the modern version of family the demarcation lines of authority can be blurry. But respecting one’s parents remains important because it’s the best way for Christians to show them the love of Christ. Frederick Buechner wrote, “Honor them because, however unthinkingly or irresponsibly, they gave you your life.”
“You shall not murder.” Those who think this doesn’t apply to them because they haven’t strangled someone to death yet need to hear what Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders will be subjected to judgment.’ But I say to you anyone who is angry with a brother will be subjected to judgment.” It’s not something we care to hear but sometimes the truth hurts. If we hold murder in our hearts for another it’s the spiritual equivalent of doing them in.
“You shall not commit adultery.” Jesus clarified this one for us, too. In Matthew 5:28 He said, “… I say to you whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Accordingly, there’s not an adult alive who isn’t an adulterer. With the proliferation and widespread acceptance of pornography today adultery is running amok. Freedom of speech is one thing, license to defile God’s temple quite another. Porn’s the mold behind the sheetrock. Take note Christ didn’t say one must be married to be judged guilty of this offense.
“You shall not steal.” Any time you take something you didn’t earn without permission you break this commandment. Begg wrote, “God does not accept any human rationale for dishonest dealings. Every line of reasoning that aims to nullify God’s law is a string of lies based on the greater lie: That human beings can with impunity ignore God’s law and shift reality around whenever it suits their needs.” If it ain’t yours it ain’t yours to have.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Simply put, never lie and don’t be a gossip. I’m aghast at how shamelessly our elected officials can, with a straight face, prevaricate without batting an eye. Since our leaders do it more and more folks feel entitled to use the same ploy to hide their misdeeds. But God treasures honesty in His children and, as Mark Twain quipped, “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”
“You shall not covet.” While stealing’s a vile act, coveting runs deeper. It’s an attitude. The grass may look greener on the other side of the fence but it never is. Be happy with what God gives you. It’ll always be enough. In Philippians 4:11 Paul gave us the key to happiness when he wrote, “I have learned to be content in any circumstance.”
God’s laws reveal the state of our hearts and it ain’t a rosy diagnosis. James 2:10 states, “For the one who obeys the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” This begs the question, “Is there any hope to survive sin disease?” Yes. God has an instant cure. Stay tuned.