Now, the lying thing I could take care of. I made a decision to not lie anymore. I actually did pretty good at it too. Only once in a great while I told a lie. But being covetous was a little more difficult for me to overcome.
When I was around eleven years old, there was a girl who lived around the block who was mean to me. She stole money out of my piggy bank and she also lied to me. So, one day while I was thinking about the 10 Commandments, I compared myself with her. I, of course, came out so much better than she. I was the winner on keeping the Commandments, at least in that contest in my unsanctified imagination!
As I got older, and God began dealing with my heart, I justified my sinfulness by thinking that certain things were taboo from God, like taking drugs or having sex outside of marriage, so again, I deemed myself ok. But God was still at work and I would get it one day.
The Bible talks a lot about sin. We typically use the 10 Commandments as the standard of what sin is, but many passages expound upon sin and give better explanations than the 10 Commandments do.
For example, in the book of Proverbs, chapter 6, there is a list of things that God hates. Some things are abominations to Him. "There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies and one who sows discord among brothers."*1
In the New Testament, we also see some more details given on sin. In Matthew 15, we can read some more as Jesus explains about sin to the disciples. "But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. "*2
All these things are not just a new list of sins. They are the roots of the sins that are brought out in the 10 Commandments. The sins in many of the Commandments are shown in a person's behavior, but sin doesn't start in the behavior. It starts in the heart. It is what the heart desires. It is what a heart that is without God desires. And everyone's heart is like this because we all have a fallen nature that wants to be independent of God.
Here is another list of sins that begin in the heart: "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."*3
There are other passages with lists of sins as well. Why I am posting these passages? The reason is, because we tend to measure whether we are a sinner or not by external measures. For example, we know the commandment that tells us that we shouldn't lie. But instead of looking at our hearts to find any areas of deception, we look at external behavior and see how well we are doing. In the case of lying, people can make a decision to not lie. But deception can still be in the heart and it will be missed if we don't get to the heart first.
Back in the olden days, many people stayed married, simply because they knew divorce was wrong. They were careful to not 'commit adultery' by having an affair, and the amazing thing is, that many of these people were not Christians! They were able to make their behavior conform to the Scriptures, at least outwardly, and by doing so, they were able to give themselves a pat on the back for staying married. But if we want to probe deeper, we could have asked these people if they have ever lusted after another person in a sexual way, whom they were not married to.*4 We could also ask single people the same question. It's not the sexual drive that gets us into trouble, but the lusting and fantasizing of having sex with someone we are not married to.
The same is with murder. So many of us think we are ok because we have not murdered someone. Did you know that in the New Testament, it talks about hating someone as murder? It's not the act of murdering a person that qualifies for murder alone. Even just hating someone is equal to murder in God's eyes *5.
Do you see that its what's in the heart, not necessarily the behavior, although the behavior is a fruit of sin and will be counted against us. But even if the behavior is outwardly good, yet the heart is devoid of God, the heart is in darkness and will have sinful desires. This is the problem throughout every generation, that affects every person.
I could grow up and live a decent life. I could make straight As in school, go to college, get a good career, marry and have children, give to the poor, have some maturity in being kind to others, take care of my elderly parents, provide well for my children, and still miss the boat. I could do all these things and more, and still miss God. It would look like I would be doing well at keeping the commandments and helping others, but if God is not in the life, there is no life at all.
The biggest and oldest sin we are all guilty of is idolatry. You might think of idolatry as something people did thousands of years ago. And it is, but it is just as active today, as it was 6,000 years ago. Idolatry is simply being attached to, or loving something other than God, or in the place of God. In the Old Testament, we see the Israelites continually going after idols. Sometimes, they were terrible idols, like Molech, but other times, they were just idols that took the place of God, where God should have been. God's rightful place is in the center of everything, but instead, we are in the center of everything. We run our own lives, outside of God. We want to be our own boss. We want to call the shots. We want to run the show. Especially when we don't like something God says.
The Great Commandment is to 'love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths.'*6 The commandment that ties in with it is to 'love our neighbors as we love ourselves'*7. We love ourselves. Do we love our neighbors in the same way?
What are we attached to? Who do we live for? How do we live out our lives? Is God there or is He kind of like a 'good luck charm' or 'Grandfather in the sky' to us, whom we use when we need something or want something?
God is not a means to getting something. He is the Something we should go after and want. Is your marriage in trouble? God can help. But He helps by changing you or me first. We have goals of healing our marriages, and wanting a healed marriage is good, but it is not the ultimate goal of our lives. God is.
Only God can help us let go of our idols. We might have good things we like and want, and it is not wrong to want something good. It is when our desire for that particular thing is too much. Then it becomes an 'inordinate affection' and is replacing God in our hearts.
Everyone struggles with idolatry. Idolatry leads to other sins of the heart. If the heart is right with God, then good things will come out of it. Our hearts cannot be right with God, until we repent of our sin, turn to God, and trust in Jesus as our Savior from sin. Jesus died to take our punishment for our sins, but also He can give us the power to live a Godly life. The Bible says that when we come to Christ, we are born again, and we become new creatures in Christ. The Holy Spirit lives in us then, and gives us the power to say 'no' to sin, and 'yes' to righteousness.
Alright this is long, I know. I will probably write out the lists of sins on another page somewhere. We have to go back to the heart to find our sins, rather than looking at external behavior, many times. Otherwise we will be captive to sin the rest of our lives, and never have any idea of that happening.
For more information on the Gospel, go to http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com
1. Proverbs 6: 16-19 ESV
2. Matthew 15:18-20 ESV
3. Galatians 5:19-21 ESV
4. Matthew 5:28
5. 1 John 3: 10,15
6. Deuteronomy 6:5
7. Leviticus 19:18