The Heart of the Problem is A Problem of the Heart

Sin lurks deep in the hearts of the wicked, forever urging them on to evil deeds” (Psalm 36:1 TLB).

The human heart can be a dark place. When God is not pursued, and people declare themselves as Lord the result is dark.   Yes, the light overcomes the darkness, but darkness rules where there is no light.  We become savages. We victimize the vulnerable, spread gossip, and give in to every sinful desire of the flesh.

Dark hearts lead to a dark society where people suppress their better selves and rise based on intimidation, bribery, and blackmail.   A dark society rewards power and force and downplays the Fruits of the Spirit. 

Jesus taught, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander” (Matthew 15:19).  The heart of the problem, is simply a problem of the heart.  We truly need a new heart and a renewed spirit that seeks Him above all else.

To be clear, in the Christian theology, humanity is treasured, priceless, and is destined for Glory. We are created in God’s image. But we have squandered our inheritance and dishonored God by ignoring Him and flowing another voice.  Yet there is hope!  And his name is Jesus.  He came to rescue us from us.

I love the book of Genesis because it is so foundational to Judeo-Christian theology.  It is in this book that the “first mention” often occurs, which is when a word or term is first used.  The introductory use is often filled with foundational instruction and understanding.  As with all Scripture, it is always important to remember the context and to use Scripture to interpret Scripture. 

Most Jews and Christians will point to Genesis 3 as when sin first entered the world.  The serpent came to sew seeds of doubt with his typical goal to deceive, divide, and destroy. 

Yes, sin entered the world in Genesis 3, but the word “sin” does not appear until Genesis 4.  The first teaching on the dynamics of sin is in the context of Cain’s bitterness towards his brother Abel, and the fact that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted, and Cain’s wasn’t.  It’s in this context that we have the first mention of sin. 

Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?   If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’  Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’  While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4:6-8).

Cain was just warned by God that sin is imminent in his life, “crouching at your door,” its intention is “to have you,” and provided an escape route, “you must rule over it.”

I suspect that the Apostle Paul had Genesis 4 in mind when he wrote his first letter to the church in Corinth.  “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13, emphasis added).

So, how do we “rule over sin”?  Romans 7:21-24 provides insight.  “I have discovered this principle of life–that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”  This “other power” that is at work in Paul is the same other power that is at work in all of us.  In the book, “The Four Voices: Taking Control of the Conversation in Your Head” by Patrick Morley, founder of Man in the Mirror and author, he identifies the four voices inside all of our heads as God, the enemy, our flesh, and society. 

Sin is so much more than “a mistake” but rather the result of saying no to God and yes to one of the other three voices.  Sin is just like the enemy in that both seek to deceive, divide, and destroy you and me.  Sin searches for our soft spots, which are typically one or more of the following:  pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. 

Throughout Scripture, God demands blood for the redemption of sin, and that is as true today as it was in the beginning.  The only difference is our sin has been paid by the blood of Jesus on Calvary.  Colossians 1:22 (emphasis added) reads, “But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical Body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation (emphasis added).”

Jesus wants us to be reconciled to Him and died for this purpose – to preset us holy to God.  Our free will is a two-edged sword.  We are free to earnestly repent of our sins or not.

Romans 6:22-23 tells us that each of us will ultimately end up in heaven or hell even though we have been “set free of sin”.  “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.   For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (emphasis added)”  Please note that a “gift” has not fulfilled its intended purpose if it is rejected by its intended recipient.  The recipient of each and every gift has free will to accept or reject any gift. 

Some people think that if the blood of Jesus covers their sin, then they do not need to repent of their sin.  Matthew 18:18 goes directly to the problem of unrepented sin.  Jesus taught, “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”  In short, if you are bound by sin on earth, so shall you be similarly bound in heaven. 

Repenting from sin is much, much deeper than saying “I’m sorry” or feeling regret for our words, thoughts, or actions.  True repentance is a sacred, holy, and private conversation in the presence of the Holy Spirit and is completed by confessing the sin to the Holy Spirit and asking for His help to literally turn your focus away from that sin and toward your Lord and Savior. 

In 2 Corinthians 7:10 Paul writes, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”  True repentance from our soul bears fruit that is seen by God and leads towards reconciliation and salvation. God wants us in righteous relationship with Him and sin separates us from Him.  The blood of Jesus will cover our repented sins.  The unrepented sinner does not listen to the Shepard’s voice on earth, and their salvation is a matter of theological debate.

Jesus warns us in Matthew 7:21-23 of the perils that await those that “practice lawlessness.” 

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.   Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’   And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

Jesus only gave us two laws.  He told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”   If you are living in unrepentant sin, ask yourself this one question.  Am I loving God by living in unrepentant sin? 

We have free will to repent or not.  Choose wisely.   

Prayer:  Dear good and gracious God, Thank you for your love, grace, and mercy.  Thank you for Jesus and the forgiveness of sin and life everlasting that is available to us through Him.  Send Your Holy Spirit upon each of us to search us and reveal everything that separates us from You.  Help us to wisely use our free will to earnestly and sincerely repent of the sins that Your Spirit has revealed to us.  Amen and amen.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and a Certified Lay Speaker with the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is a Board Member for Gulf South Men, an Action Team member for The Kingdom Group, and a Board Member for the Lagniappe Country Walk to Emmaus.  Todd is a Past President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men and remains active in this and many other local, regional, and international ministries.  Todd is the proud father of Emma and Kyle and resides in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Additionally, he’s the author of the inspiring book “Fathering A Special Needs Child.” Todd also enjoys filling the pulpit for pastors to share the Good News of our Lord and Savior.

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