Timothy Keller, in his book The Reason For God, defines sin as, “the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from Him.” p. 168 The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard states, “Sin is: in despair not wanting to be oneself before God.” The Sickness Unto Death, p. 111 quoted in Keller
Keller quoting Kierkeggard states, “He asserts that human beings were made not only to believe in God in some general way, but to love Him supremely, center their lives on Him above anything else, and to build their very identities on Him. Anything other than this is sin.” The Reason For God p.168
So what are Keller and Kierkegaard saying? They are both stating that anything good or bad that comes before our relationship with God is sin. It is building our identity upon things, people, careers, or whatever else comes into play ahead of having God supreme in our lives.
The first commandment states this quite emphatically, “Thou shall have no other God’s before Me,” Exodus 20:3. Anything that we worship, whether it be family, career, sexual pursuits, wealth, entertainment, leisure, or sports that takes our focus off God as the number one reason for our existence is sin.
I grew up with the text, “Every one who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” 1 John 3:4 I believed that sin was simply breaking the Ten Commandments so if you wanted to be good you kept the Ten Commandments. In a very real way sin is breaking the commandments by putting other gods before the one and true God of the Bible.
How does that play out in our lives? In the Garden of Eden Eve sinned when she decided to put herself and her own desires and wants before God. Sin for Eve was listening to Satan then acting upon his suggestions and hints. When Satan said to Eve, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” (Genesis 3:4) she fell for it. Eve wondered if it could be true that simply by eating from the tree she could become like God so she went for it.
In fact she reached out to have an identity separated from her relationship with God that had been based upon love and trust. When we talk about sin, as breaking the law this is what we are really talking about. It is losing our personal relationship built upon love for God and replacing that relationship with an idol of our own making. Sin in its very primitive form is saying I want what I want regardless of how that interferes with my relationship with God. Sin could be reduced even further to the slogan, “Me First.”
Ernest Becker, the Pulitzer Prize winner, in his book The Denial of Death, says we are all seeking for “cosmic significance.” p. 3 Timothy Keller thinks that what Becker is getting at is that “Our need for self worth is so powerful that whatever we base our identity and value on we essentially ‘deify.’ We will look to it with all the passion and intensity of worship and devotion, even if we think of ourselves as highly irreligious.” The Reason for God p. 169
Everyone has to find some way to decide that they are of value and justify their very existence. We look around us at the prosperity of Movie stars and pro athletes and wonder about our own struggling existence. We see glamorous people on the covers of magazines and wonder why we weren’t born with that beauty. Car commercials make us look longingly for “the ride” that would change our lives. Countless hours are spent on hobbies, leisure pursuits, and work trying to find a fulfillment and meaning to how we really fit in to everything. The truth is everyone of us is building our identity on something, whether it be the teenager who runs off to Hollywood to be a star or the business man working 60 hours a week to impress his boss.
Theologian Thomas Oden writes, “Suppose my god is sex or my physical health or the Democratic Party. If I experience any of these under genuine threat, then I feel myself shaken to the depths. Guilt becomes neurotically intensified to the degree that I have idolized finite values. ……Bitterness becomes neurotically intensified when someone or something stands between me and something that is my ultimate value.” Two Worlds, quoted by Keller
Sin flows from the concept that life is all about us. If we receive our self worth from the political party we belong to, for instance, then we end up always demonizing the other party. We may think we are tolerant and open minded only to find that we disrespect and slander anyone who disagrees with our views by calling them bigots or rednecks. We can become so engrossed in pride in our church, denomination, or sect that we end up belittling and downplaying any other church in town. And we have all run into the morally upright person who feels superior to the rest of us and the rest of us who feel spiritually superior to them.
Brennan Manning has a sermon that has a title that goes something like this, “God loves you as you are, not as you should be, because you will never be as you should be.” We live in a world that has lost its shalom, its peace and as Paul says a world that “is in bondage to decay.” Romans 8:21 Remember, sin is not all about doing bad things, it also involves putting good things before God.
True happiness and peace come when we put God back as king of our lives. When we accept the reality that He loves us unconditionally and we love Him back we develop trust and trust in God to give us meaning for life always leads to peace of heart and mind.
You and I don’t have to prove ourselves to anyone because when we accept Christ we are adopted into the household of God. We are His sons and daughters by adoption, and as a result we don’t have to prove our worth; it is a gift from His Son Jesus.
When we wake up every morning we walk in the newness of life. We are born again and have the joy of communion and relationship with God who loves us beyond measure. Yes, I love my family, enjoy sports, leisure, work, and my friendships but they do not have to define who I am because I am a child of God. When family dies, sports teams lose, can’t find time for leisure pursuits, work falls apart, and friends abandon us we are still God’s children.
Our value is not in impressing an impressionable world, but walking hand in hand with the God who promises, that no one shall snatch us out of His hand. (John 10:28)
* Please take the time to read some of the stories of Christians who are experiencing persecution for their total commitment to Christ. They need our support and prayers.. http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…