Someone once asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment among all the laws. Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). The moral Old Testament laws tell us how to observe this commandment with God and our fellow neighbor. Sin always breaks this commandment. If we love something else with all our heart, we sin. If our thoughts are obsessed with something other than loving God, we sin.
Sin is at the root of all broken relationships. Where there is rancor between God and man, you will find a man’s sin at its root. Where discord exists among people, you’ll find sin up close. When you find inner personal tensions, you’ll find sin at its core.
As the germs of a contagious child can turn a glass of water into poison, so sin ruins anything good. Join sin with riches and you get a miser. Marry sin to intellect and you get inventions of evil. Link sin to sexual desire and STDs explode. Shackle sin to authority, and you get abuse of power. Add a couple helpings of sin to high achievement, and you’ll get a prideful snob.
To help us detect sin in ourselves, God gave the Ten Commandments (Romans 3:20). You’ll find the full listing in Exodus chapter twenty, but I’ll touch on a few here. The first is, “You shall have no other Gods before Me.” If we consider someone of greater worth than the God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt and out of bondage, then we have sinned. Sin never gives God his rightful place; in sin, we or someone we admire usurps God’s throne.
Another commandment deals with idolizing the things we make. If we make something to honor it above God, then we sin. Another commandment warns us against taking the name of God in vain. God is not a swear word or exclamation point.
Commandment seven tells us, “You shall not commit adultery.” Jesus reveals what it is to break the spirit of this law: if we just think adulterous thoughts, then we have broken this commandment. Sex is so powerful, it’s one of the hooks advertisers use to draw our attention. The last commandment tells us not to covet anything of our neighbors’. Is this covetousness also not the basis for our entire advertising industry – that we never have enough?
With most of these commandments we must frankly admit, “I can’t help it if I’m like that!” That’s the problem of sin – we can’t help it. Sin drives us to do what we do; it is lord and master. Self-help books can sometimes do wonders in helping us with bad habits and thought control, but none of their techniques can make us right with God. Sin breaks God’s laws, so we must go to him for forgiveness.
Sin is so corrupting and deadly that God’s only remedy was to send his Son to die in our place. Anything else would be like applying a bandage to a shark bite, or taking a sugar pill for the advanced stages of emphysema.
To deny sin is to deny Jesus’ mission. Jesus came to save us from sin. When we as Christians do not deal with sin, we are rejecting the very reason we accepted Christ in the first place. We are saying that God became flesh and suffered a gruesome death for nothing. Jesus’ death on the cross shows us how horrible sin is.
That’s why God’s solution is so radical. When we believed on Jesus, our sin’s master went into the grave with Jesus; when Jesus rose again, he became our new master. We came out of the grave with Jesus, leaving the old master behind. Now every time sin beckons, we may say, “I have a new master now. Lord Jesus, what do you want me to do?” (Romans 6:1-14).
The greatest commandment is to love God above all. Sin, therefore, is against God personally. Sin is not a “mistake” or a “weakness.” Sin is an attack on God himself. If you’ve hurt your brother, you don’t ask your mom to forgive you; you go to your brother. To deal with sin, we go to the one we’ve insulted: God himself. We confess it, naming it by name. We see the horror that is Christ on the cross – that our sins put him there – and ask God for strength to watch against and withstand the sin.
What Do You Think?
a. The military lets us know that it wants only fit people for the work. If you are physically or mentally disabled, you know you won’t qualify, even if you’ve made other outstanding achievements. Do the Ten Commandments help you see that unrepentant sinners don’t qualify to be righteous in God’s sight in spite of all their good works?
b. If sin is what keeps us from getting right with God, does it make sense to ignore the issue of sin and rely on your good works?
c. If God had to send his Son to die for our sins, then how seriously does God take sin? How seriously should you?