105.0 The Nature of Sin, The "Death Tree" Obviously Sin, as the counterpoint to Faith, is also a very primary issue in Christian Redemption. If faith can be accurately characterized as being, essentially, a profound "humility" before God, then Sin can be characterized, equally well, as being "arrogance" before God. So, let's now consider the precise nature of this deadly arrogance. And, perhaps the best way to start, is with an associated idea - the idea of Influence.
In the simplest terms, our personal influence is primarily the power to bend reality to our wishes. That influence may come in many varied forms such as money, political or social clout, or military might. But, in essence, our personal influence is simply the sum total of our ability to effect change in accord with our wishes.
From the beginning of mankind's existence, we have been an independent influence in the Universe. God gives each of us the ability to make independent decisions and take independent actions which truly affect our personal, and the larger reality.
When we understanding the nature and significance of personal influence, we are well positioned to grasp the true nature of the essential sin which leads to the condemnation of one's soul. And, when we gain that very basic understanding, many, many other things in our spiritual life simply become self-evident.
105.1 - The Telling Question: So, in considering the issue of influence, the telling redemptive question becomes, "What will I do with my personal influence?" And that question actually entails our self-sovereignty, or said another way, our "right" to personally and independently govern our own lives.
And, this revealing question of what we should do with our personal influence really involves only two choices. One, we can elect to humbly return our influence to Christ by embracing His Lordship. Or two, we can prefer to retain our personal sovereignty over our life and simply wield our influence as we, alone, see fit.
A preference for the latter, which causes us to reject God's love, authority and guidance in favor of our own willful intentions, is the perfect idea of Essential Sin. Sin, then, in its most elemental form, is simply this deeply instinctive heart-value of self-sovereignty.
And, it is this arrogant motive, which exists on the deepest governing level of our core person, that then causes us to see ourselves as self-sufficient. And, ultimately, it is this value which drives us to simply do as we please, without any significant reference to our Creator's wishes.
Thus, it is this life-governing heart value of self-determination which first estranges us from our Creator and endangers our soul, and this occurs before there is any observable expression of this motive as a real behavioral action. Those behavioral deeds are only the product of this more essential governing value.
So, it is this deep and driving motive within our core person which is really the "invisible inner essence" of the more visible expressions of sin in our actual behavior. Thus, it is the value, itself, not its resulting actions, which is the more primary and enduring wedge between God and mankind.
And, it is this most essential form of sin, the sin value, at which the redemptive work of Christ first takes aim. Obviously, the sin value is the foundation from which all else springs. So, the idea in the redemptive work of Christ is really a simple one: First, destroy the foundation, and the elevations which stand upon it will then naturally crumble also.
105.1a How the Sin Value Presents Itself: We should also note, however, that this arrogant instinct for self-determination does not always present itself as an ugly, shake-your-fist-in-God's-face kind of expression. It may actually occur as simply a quiet, self assured decision making process in our daily life-pursuit.
And, this much more attractive, 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 real terms of everyday life-governance, we continue to rely on our own values, life-interpretations, and self-assured direction - as morally attractive and socially responsible as all of that may be - yet, we remain in peril of soul. This is so because the value of self-determination is still present as the unaddressed essential sin, even though it is beautifully veneered in moral and responsible behavior.
Here in lies a great treachery. Redemption is never about good works before it is about a humble heart that truly embraces the Lordship of Christ - His values, His truth, and His daily life-guidance. Again, it is important to remember that the first matter is always who is truly in charge of your influence, not how responsibly you wield it.
105.2 - A Final Clarification: We have already noted that there are, indeed, two distinct dimensions of sin. There is the inner impulse, the sin value. And, there is the more concrete expression of that impulse - the act of sin.
It is only as we make this clear distinction between the two dimensions of sin, the motive and the act, that we can begin to understand why that inner sin value is God's primary target in redemption. It is simply because what we do, is always based in who we are.
Thus, the work of Christ is first aimed at changing who we are in our core person; because, that ultimately takes care of what we do, behaviorally. So, God's priority in redemption is to thoroughly remove that self-determination motive from deepest governing level of our core person. It is that value which is the real source of the rift in our relationship with Him, as well as, our day-to-day behavioral problems.
Behold, "The Great Death Tree of Sin." That dark behavioral structure is certainly a blight on the landscape of our life. But we cannot rid our life of that blight by simply cleaning up the above-ground view. We must also kill the root of that hideous thing to be truly rid of it. That unseen root is the real source of its vitality. And, while we, as mere human beings, can't really do that, the Living Christ absolutely can - as we shall see.