“Jesus continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not. That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins,” (John 8:23-24). The Religious Leaders and Pharisees were committing the sin of unbelief. They did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. They did not trust in Jesus. Belief in Jesus is not just believing Jesus is who He says He is. Belief in Jesus also means trusting in Him. It means hoping in Him. It is believing with all our hearts that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is believing that Jesus is the only means of salvation.
Unbelief is a sin just like lying or stealing or anything else that goes contrary to what God says. When there is unbelief, rebellion and hostility are present. When there is rebellion and hostility, darkness overtakes. When darkness overtakes, there is absence of light. When there is absence of light, only ego and self are left. When ego and self are left, man is his own god. When man is his own god, then idolatry consumes. When idolatry consumes, other lawless activities exist and thrive. When lawlessness exists and thrives, destruction is its wages.
What is sin? Sin is anything that goes completely contrary to the law of God. “Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God,” (1 John 3:4). Sin is lawlessness. Lawlessness is iniquity and disobedience. Lawlessness is sin. If God says something is evil, it’s evil. When God says something is evil, we are not to do it. “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever,” (Isaiah 5:20-21).
What does sin do? “Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him,” (Numbers 15:31). Sin cuts us off from God, separating us from Him. Sin will have us living in darkness. Sin will have us traveling down the broad road to destruction. It causes us to trample the Word of God and the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.
What happens when we sin? When we sin, we grieve the Holy Spirit. We need to understand that the Holy Spirit dwelling within us (the very presence of Almighty God) is so holy, that He (the Holy Spirit) cannot tolerate sin in any degree. The Holy Spirit will only reside in a clean temple. “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, glorify God with your body,” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It is imperative that we understand the spiritual fatality of sin. Those who practice sin are defiled. If we call evil good and good evil, sorrow awaits us. If we call light dark and dark light, sorrow awaits us. When we submit and surrender to the culture and world we live in rather than submitting and surrendering to God, sorrow awaits us. Sin only brings death and destruction.
“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God,’” (Matthew 15:7-9). GOD REQUIRES OUR HEART. We have the tendency to look at someone’s outer appearance, but God does not look at the outer appearance. The Scriptures states, “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart,’” (1 Samuel 16:7). The condition of our heart matters to God. The motives and intentions of one’s heart must be right in the eyes of God. The applause of men is all we will get if that is what we seek. All that matters is that we are seeking the Lord’s approval. If we don’t have God’s approval, nothing else will matter. We must have an undivided, unwavering heart in walking with the Lord. Walking with God and living for God is not for the faint of heart. Are we worshiping God in spirit and in truth? Are we loyal and faithful to God? Do we walk before God with an undivided heart? Are we in right relationship with God? When no one is looking, how are we living?
Previously I stated that we cannot be holy and worldly at the same time. Holiness and worldliness are in direct opposition to each other. If we are a friend of the world, then we make ourselves an enemy of God (James 4:4). The Word declares, “You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” (James 4:4-7). Do you we want to be an enemy of God or a friend of God? To be a friend of God, we cannot be a friend of the world. We cannot be practicing a life of sin. Each of us has one life to live. We either live for God or we do not. How we live is a matter of spiritual life or death. Are we living for the Lord? Do we know where we will spend eternity? There is only one life to live. So, how are we living this one life?
The Psalmist declared, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” To line up our thoughts with God’s thoughts, we need to study the Scriptures. To know how to live a pure and holy life, we need to study the Scriptures. It is within its pages we see the promises of God. Within its pages, we see the nature and character of God unfold before us. Within its pages, we receive encouragement, reproof, instruction, and hope. In the Scriptures, we find comfort.
When there has been no inward transformation that results in living a life of righteousness and holiness before God, outward displays of sacrificial praise mean absolutely nothing. In other words, we could stand in church shouting “Praise the Lord! Glory to God!” However, if we are not living pure and upright before the Lord, then our praise and worship is meaningless. God has made it very clear what He requires, “No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God,” (Micah 6:8). There is no break from walking in purity and holiness before God. If there is any sin in our life, we are to confess our sin before the Lord and repent with a contrite heart. We are to turn from our wicked ways and never go back to those wicked ways. The Lord has told us what He requires. He is not impressed with shows of pomposity, pretense, and hypocrisy. Remember this: “Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed,” (Proverbs 12:19).
Linda A. Knowles