104.0 - Sin, A Primary Concept: Sin is a very primary concept in the redemptive work, obviously. So, let's consider it here. And, perhaps the best way to do that is to continue with the idea of influence and the question of who will have charge over our influence.
When we begin with this question, we are well positioned to understand the nature of the essential sin which leads to the condemnation of the soul. And, when we understand this, many, many other things in our spiritual life simply become obvious.
104.1 - The Answer To The Question: Again, the question of who to trust with our personal influence involves two choices. One, we can pursue a friendship with our Creator by electing to return the government of our lives to Him. Or two, we can choose to retain control for ourselves, and just chart our own course in life.
The choice to do the latter, to reject God's love and authority in favor of our own willful intent is the perfect idea of the Essential Sin. Sin, in its essential form, is just a deep rooted, instinctive motive to be free of outside restraint or interference from God. And it is this motive which endangers the soul, long before any evil deeds are done. Those deeds are only the product of this motive. So, it is this deep and driving instinct that is the primary issue in redemption.
We usually conceive of sin as some ugly and evil action. But, the reality is that sinful acts are a secondary issue. In fact, it is the Sin Motive that is the primary issue. And it is the presence of this motive in our heart for which we will ultimately be judged - not the works which it spawns.
And, in fact, this instinct for self-determination does not always show itself as an ugly, shake-your-fist-in-God's-face kind of expression, at all. It may actually occur as simply a quiet, self assured independence in our daily decision making.
And this more acceptable looking, but still self-guided, course can, indeed, be very moral and socially sensitive. It can be one that practices religion, and quickly acknowledges the goodness of God. But if, in the practical terms of the everyday, we are instinctively driven by the sin motive to just quietly do our own thing - then, we remain in peril of soul, in spite of our seeming "goodness."
104.2 - Sin Has Two Dimensions: We should also emphasize what we have already noticed: there are, indeed, two distinct dimensions of sin. We have already described the first, the inner impulse for self-direction.
But, the other dimension of sin is, of course, the more concrete expression - the act of sin which springs from this inner motive. So, we have this invisible but very real and pervasive sin instinct. Then, springing from this basic motive is the visible sin, the action.
It is important to understand this dual nature of sin. It is only as we make a distinction between the two dimensions of sin, the motive and the act, that we can begin to understand why the sin motive is God's primary concern in redemption. It is because what we do, is always based in who we are. Thus, the work of Christ is aimed at changing who we are in our heart; because, that ultimately takes care of what we do.
So, God's first priority in redemption is to remove the sin motive, the real source of our behavioral problems.
Behold, "The Great Dead Tree" of sin. The visible, sinful acts are certainly a blight on the landscape of our life. But, to merely cut down the visible tree does not remove the problem. It has, in its roots, an invisible essence, a living motive which will simply regrow its ugly presence.
Obviously then, destroying the visible tree, the expression of sin, is not really the solution. Getting at the invisible essence of the tree, the sin instinct or motive, is the real answer. And, while we can't really do that, Christ can, as we shall see.