AUDIO VERSION: YouTube Podbean
God says that He hates sin. When we hear this as a complete thought and then try to understand the presence of sin in the world with spiritually young minds, we end up concluding that sin somehow snuck in here against God’s will and that He has nothing to do with it. A wall then appears between us and God, with Him on the good, pure, innocent side of things and us wallowing in the moral muck. We’re told salvation will resolve the sin problem for us, but it doesn’t. We still sin, and the longer we believe God hates sin and wants nothing to do with it, the more isolated our sin makes us feel from Him. This is when we need to go to the Holy Spirit for help in resolving our crisis before we get hopelessly bound by shame and guilt. But in the Church, we’re not taught to go to the Holy Spirit, we’re taught to overcome our sinful desires in our own strength. Well, that’s not going to happen. Oh, but in the New Testament, we find some of the apostles commanding us not to sin like it was some simple choice. Well, that just shows you how spiritually advanced those men weren’t that they should hand out such useless advice.
You’re not going to find a lot of mature teaching in the Bible because the men who contributed to it weren’t there yet in their personal lives. James still thought God would heal everyone who asked and that spiritual peace was just a matter of resisting demons. John insisted that Christians were incapable of sinning and of not loving their fellow men (a view which required quite a bit of denial and hypocrisy on his part). Peter quoted Yahweh saying, “Be holy as I am holy” as if it was some kind of attainable goal. Paul constantly teaches people to use prayer as a means for telling God what to do instead of as a means of submitting to God and aligning with His agenda. All of these men demonstrate the shortsightedness of spiritual youth, yet we hold them up as examples of maturity, and this is why you don’t find mature teaching in the Church at large. If our shepherds aren’t leading you totally astray, they’re feeding you baby food and encouraging you to view a vastly complex God in extremely simple terms. And then when you ask a good insightful question, they either give you the wrong answer or tell you that it’s not your place to question God. Well, this is useless. God welcomes our questions and He fills us with curiosity so that we will be intensely bothered by inconsistencies that we think we find in His Nature and methods. If you are serious about maturing in the faith, you need to ask copious amounts of questions, but then you need to make sure you are listening to the Holy Spirit for the correct answer. Don’t just accept some human’s theory. Always check with God Himself.
SIN & SOVEREIGNTY
So then, let’s dig deeper into this sin issue. God is sovereign. Nothing exists without Him creating it, choosing it, and sustaining it. The whole concept of sin was God’s idea in the first place. He could have made creatures who only obeyed Him, but instead He came up with the concept of rebellion and made creatures who had options.
Now when God designed humans with the capacity to rebel and sin against Him, He also defined the limits of that rebellion. This means that every fallen impulse you find within yourself comes from God. He didn’t just curse the whole lot of us in Eden and then sit back and gasp at how quickly we spiraled downhill. When Cain murdered Abel, it was only because God gave Cain the capacity to murder and also the desire to do so. Every desire you find within yourself originates from God: your desire to do right and your desire to do wrong. This is tricky for our human minds to get around, because we never create something from nothing. We always start with materials that we got from someone else, and this means there are always unknown factors present within our creation which often catch us off guard. A man might build a table and then be shocked when the whole thing collapses under a weight of books. He created the table, but he didn’t create the wood that he made the table out of, so he did not fully understand the wood’s properties and capabilities. Even when we study things very closely, we still miss little details that then come back to haunt us later. This is why we have to spend so much time on things like stress tests. We design small model skyscrapers and then we shake them, blow on them, and stress them in every way we can think of to try and search out flaws in our design before we put human lives at risk. But none of this testing would be necessary if we had created everything ourselves, for then we would understand everything and there wouldn’t be any unknown factors.
God created everything from nothing. He didn’t work off of blueprints that someone else drew nor did He rely on someone else’s calculations. Everything you see in this world and everything you see in the mirror is the work of three Beings: Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. They are the origin of all things. Nothing exists apart from Them.
We often think of life as if we are walking down a path that God has made, yet we can choose to step off the path and create new paths for ourselves at any time. We often view sin as a path which we created as a spinoff of the good thing that God created. But no, this is wrong. God not only created the path, He created all possible deviations from the path. No one can create new possibilities and choices in God’s universe—they can only select from the possibilities and choices that God has made available. We think we come up with new ideas on our own but that is only because we are so blind.
Suppose you decide to murder your boss. In the Church you are taught to view this as your own warped idea that has nothing to do with God. In other words, you came up with the option of murder all on your own. But no, you didn’t. God created the concept of murder, the desire for murder, and the methods of murder. When you decide to murder, you aren’t dipping your hand into a secret stash of options that Satan created for you when God wasn’t looking. Everything that exists originates from God. This is why we give our Gods the capital C when we say They are the Creators. We are creators, but Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are the Creators. We create everything from something, but They create everything from nothing. We can’t create anything until our Gods give us material to work with. Everything originates from Them.
Sin started with God. It was His idea, and He is the One who controls all of its forms. So when you read about the Romans crucifying Jesus, who do you think dreamed up the cross in the first place? If you want to blame demons, go ahead, but you can’t stop there, for who controls the minds of demons? Who gave them their intelligence and desires? Now in the Church, you’ll be taught that God only made good angels who surprised Him by going bad. But no, because now we’re back to a limited Creator. God made all things, not just some things. He didn’t just make good angels, He made good angels with the capacity to go bad, and He defined every nuance of that capacity. If we want to advance to the deeper levels with God, we need to face the concept of His sovereignty full on and start wrestling with the many disturbing questions that it raises.
So if everything that exists can be traced back to God, now we need to understand motivation. Why does God create in the first place? Because He finds it pleasurable to do so. God only creates things that benefit Him in some way—this includes the good and the bad. Now things get even stickier, for what possible benefit can God get out of sin? Are we saying that God wanted Adam and Eve to fall? Of course He did, for nothing happens in God’s universe that goes against His will. We exist in a completely closed system—one in which all of the choices we make are being guided and directed by God. We talk about free will, but we’re never truly free in the sense that we can invent options for ourselves that God doesn’t want us to have. When we choose, we are only ever choosing between options that God has placed before us, and He only presents us with options that work within His plan.
There used to be these things called choose-your-own-ending books. When you first opened one, they looked like any other book: the story started on the first page and you read along for several scenes until the main character came to some important decision. Then suddenly the text would stop and there would be a couple of italicized notes that read something like this:
If John decides to go with Martha, turn to page 67.
If John tells Martha to go on without him, turn to page 34.
As the reader, you would then decide which way you wanted the plot to go and you’d turn to that page. There the story would continue: you’d read a few more paragraphs, and then you’d come to another decision point.
If John decides to enter the house, go to page 81.
If John decides to get back in the car and turn home, go to page 14.
Eventually every plot thread came to an end. Many ended tragically, some ended good. They were odd little books, yet they offer a good picture of how human will works. When the choose-your-own-ending books were published, the author had already worked out complete stories for every possible choice he was going to present to you. Many options ended up looping back to the same ending. Maybe on page 52, a man springs out of the closet and shoots John to death. The first time you get to that ending, you don’t like it, so you back up and try to make different choices so that John will live. But often the new plot path you choose loops you back around to that same annoying end on page 52 because that is how the author has set it up. Many roads lead to the same end in choose-your-own-ending books, just as many roads lead to the same two final scenes in God’s story: Heaven or Hell.
There are many choices that God gives us in life, but like the writers of choose-your-own-ending books, He has already worked out ahead of time how every choice we make will end. So when you find yourself deliberating whether or not to murder your boss, God is the One putting both of those options before you: to kill or not to kill. No matter what you do, God is going to end up being pleased with the end of His story. You might not be pleased—if you ignore the Holy Spirit’s convictions and decide to kill your boss, then He will probably write you into some very painful chapters of discipline. If you obey Him and choose not to kill your boss, then God will move you on in a different, pleasanter direction. As a human, you do have some legitimate freedom: you choose which course of action to take when God places multiple choices before you. But every choice was written by God and you’ll never have an option that He didn’t give you. You might think you dream up something on your own, but you don’t. God controls the way your mind works, and He only lets you conceive of the options that He wants you to choose between. Ever look back at a situation and think, “If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently?” Well, God is the reason you didn’t know more. When we say that God is intimately involved in every area of our lives, we aren’t just saying what we wish were true. We are living in a universe which is tightly controlled by its Creators. Nothing happens in this world apart from God’s will, because God never gives anyone options that He doesn’t want them to have. So when God says that He hates sin, He isn’t telling us a complete thought. He’s just expressing one tiny part of the picture. God doesn’t just hate sin, He also wants sin, that is why sin is here. God considers sin to be an essential element of the human project, which is why He makes sure we are all born into it. You didn’t choose to be selfish and prideful, you were born that way and you’ll never be able to totally get over it as long as you’re on this earth. God has filled your flesh with what He calls perverse desires—lusts for all sorts of nasty things. But while God attaches labels like bad, evil, and wrong to things, these labels can be deceiving. Sin isn’t only bad to God. It is also very good, and that needs more unpacking.
THE PURPOSE OF YOUR EXISTENCE
Let’s talk about why God made you. You aren’t a plant or a frog or a rock, you are a human being. God designed you with a specific purpose in mind—a different purpose than the other created things around you. God designed you to have a special kind of communion with Him. A very personal bond is what God is after with you, but this is far more complicated than it sounds because God is a vastly complex Being and you are an extremely limited fleck. How does limited form a relationship with complex? Even when we talk about creatures that are the same in nature—like a human adult and a human child—major difficulties arise when it comes to forming deep relationships.
A human child is far too immature and ignorant to understand much of the complexities of the adult human’s world. There is a major lack of identity between the two, and that lack of identity severely limits how much intimacy they can experience between them. It’s easy enough for the adult to come down to the level of the child, and the child finds it quite satisfying when he does. A wholesome round of coloring together or playing catch outside makes the child feel very bonded to the adult. But should the adult try to share the things that interest him, the child would be overwhelmed, confused, and uninterested. As a result, the bond between them becomes very lopsided, with the child feeling far more understood by the adult than the adult is by the child. Swap out two humans for one human and one God, and the problem becomes infinitely greater. How does a complex, infinite God create an environment which will help form a bridge of identity between Himself and His tiny dot of a creature? Total identity is not even the goal, nor is God looking for us to satisfy His emotional needs. Our three glorious Creators are quite satisfied with Their own Company. They weren’t wanting more peers when They created us, They wanted something quite different.
When it comes to relating to us, our Gods are going more for the parent-child type of bond: a very lopsided relationship in which all the dependency is on the side of the child, yet there is still the existence of a very real heart bond. Let’s return to our discussion of a human adult trying to relate to a human child. If these two don’t have any history together, then their bond will be quite shallow and the differences in their ages and life experiences will feel like insurmountable obstacles between them. But suppose the human adult is the father of the child? Then suddenly a very strong heart bond appears in the mix. The father feels extremely bonded to his little child even though the boy can’t do anything to solve the father’s problems, nor can he even grasp most of what the father thinks about during the day. But there is still a very rich, strong bond between them which instantly appeared the moment the father was handed his infant son on the day the child was born. Who causes that instant bonding feeling to rush over us with such intensity the moment we hold our newborn child? God does. Why does He do this to us? Not just to motivate us to properly care for our children, but also to help us understand the way God views us. A human father doesn’t control the deep shift in his heart that happens when he holds his child for the first time, nor can he explain it logically. He can hold another man’s baby and it’s just different than when he holds his own. Why? Because it just is. And just as we accept this, God wants us to accept it when He says He is deeply in love with us simply because we are the works of His hands. We want God to provide us with a list of logical reasons for His attraction to us, but instead He just says, “I made you. You are My own dear creatures.” That is explanation enough, as far as God is concerned. But of course we don’t believe Him, so He comes up with things like the cross to help us grasp the depth of His desire for us.
When God says that He loves us deeply, He is talking about the same rip-your-heart-out-of-your-chest kind of bond we feel when we get the news that something bad has happened to one of our children. God has intentionally wired in some very deep connections between us and the humans we love on earth in order to help us understand how He feels about us. God loves us intensely, and He wants us intensely. But here is where a problem arises, for God is not a human, and at the beginning we sense no identity with Him whatsoever. God has designed us with a need to have some measure of understanding and identity before we can bond with something. Suppose you were to try and fall in love with a leaf. It wouldn’t go anywhere because you have zero identity with a leaf, therefore you find yourself unable to develop feelings for it. When you find out that God is an eternal, uncreated Being with no beginning or end who knows everything before it happens and can listen to the thoughts of every human on the earth without getting confused, you don’t identify. God is like a leaf to you, and if He doesn’t do something drastic, He will remain this way and you will never desire to bond with Him. This is where sin comes in. From the Divine perspective, sin is a relationship builder.
THE ABILITY TO KNOW GOD
Our three Creators are not innocent minded simpletons who sit around contemplating nothing but happy thoughts all day. They are vastly complex Beings who understand both good and evil. If we’re going to form a deep bond with Them, we need to get a serious introduction to Their complexity and variety. A world filled with sin provides us with this glimpse.
Take sin out of the world and you also take away all forms of sorrow, anguish, suffering, violence, anger, jealousy, mercy, forgiveness, and sacrifice. In a perfect paradise where nothing ever goes wrong and no one ever has less than all of their needs met, there is no room for God to introduce us to what He feels are some of His most essential qualities.
If someone asked you to describe yourself in three words, what would you say? Now suppose you were talking to someone who had no idea what those three words meant. Would you feel understood by them when they hear your description and then stare at you with a blank expression? Not hardly.
In the Bible, we find Yahweh giving several summaries of who He is. But what we don’t notice is that whenever Yahweh chooses to describe Himself in just a few words, He picks words that would have no meaning to us outside of the context of a sinful world. Let’s look at a couple of examples. In these two verses, Yahweh is the One doing the talking:
“For you shall not worship any other god, for Yahweh, whose Name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Ex. 34:14)
“Yahweh, the Lord Yahweh, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth…” (Ex. 34:6)
With these two statements, we can start composing a list of characteristics which Yahweh feels are essential for us to understand if we are going to know Him at all. He is extremely jealous (notice He says His Name is Jealous). He is truthful, compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and He is abounding in both love and kindness. Excellent. But now try to define any of these terms apart from sin. You can’t.
Well, let’s see. One dictionary defines jealous as being intolerant of rivalry or unfaithfulness. But if there was no sin in the world, you wouldn’t know what a rival was, nor would you understand unfaithfulness. You live in a perfect paradise where nothing ever goes wrong—what do you know about tolerance? The concept doesn’t come up for you. Jealousy isn’t something you’ve ever seen or felt. Yahweh feels His jealousy is such a defining characteristic that He offers it as an alternate Name for Himself, but you—a sinless innocent—have no clue what He’s talking about. How unsatisfying for Yahweh.
Well, maybe we can get farther with compassionate. God is compassionate—what does that mean? Our dictionary says: “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate.” What is distress? This is a totally foreign concept to you as you stroll through the perfect Eden. You’ve never been in distress, so what do you need with compassion? You have no idea what Yahweh is talking about.
Okay, let’s try gracious. Our dictionary defines this as a synonym for mercy—a disposition towards showing kindness and offering undeserved favor or help. But now what does it mean to be kind? “Of a sympathetic or helpful nature.” As soon as we bring up sympathy, we’re talking about pain again and that’s something you know nothing about. You don’t understand anything about being desperate or depraved, so you don’t appreciate a God who is passing out undeserved favor. You don’t need His favor because you don’t have any problems. In your sinless state, you feel perfectly content and self-sufficient. Everything you need is right there at your fingertips. What do you need with a gracious God?
Yahweh says He is slow to anger. Here’s another meaningless term. What is anger? You’ve never experienced anger because nothing goes wrong in a perfect world. You’ve never felt cheated, abused, or misrepresented. You have no use for a God who gets angry. To you, Yahweh just seems like He’s getting all worked up over nothing. When He explains that He wants justice, you don’t know what He’s talking about. We can’t explain why something is right until we contrast it with what is wrong, and in your perfect sinless world, nothing is wrong.
Yahweh says He is abounding in truth. What is truth? Sincerity in action, character and speech. Fine, but what does it mean to be sincere? It means being free of hypocrisy. What is hypocrisy? You have no idea. Yahweh’s descriptions of Himself mean nothing to you.
Do you see how much we rely on an understanding of wrong to understand what is right? Without sin, we cannot understand who God is. We need to live in a world of chaos and suffering where good and evil are constantly clashing and warring against each other before we can start to understand the things God says about Himself.
As a human, you take the benefits of sin for granted. As a Christian, you’re taught to view sin as a terrible thing. But once we understand that God created sin, we know that it can’t be all bad, for everything God makes serves some good purpose. By creating sin, God has created a common language between you and Him. He is constantly bathing you in experiences which are equipping you with the ability to understand what He’s talking about when He says His Name is Jealous. God wants you to know Him. You can’t understand all of the mechanics of how He operates, because His activities are far too complex for you to grasp. But His Character you can definitely understand, and that is the only part that you need to understand if you’re going to form a solid heart bond with Him (see Knowing without Understanding).
So then, without sin, you could not know God in the way that He wants to be known by you. Sin is about making an intimate bond possible between you and your Makers. Suddenly it’s not sounding so bad, is it? Now let’s talk about a second advantage that we gain from sin.
THE PROPER DYNAMIC
The kind of relationship dynamic God wants with you simply will not work between two humans. He wants to completely dominate you. When humans dominate each other, the dominated party ends up severely abused and both parties end up internally warped. But when God dominates us, we actually end up thriving. His tight grip on us ends up freeing us up instead of suffocating us. This is a totally foreign concept.
When we try to obsess over pleasing another human, we end up ruining them along with ourselves. We turn into dysfunctional messes who strangle the good out of each other. But when we obsess over pleasing God, the opposite happens. We blossom, we mature, and we see the best parts of ourselves expanding. The way that we need to approach God is completely unnatural and involves mindsets which we learn to label as bad and harmful from our experience with other humans. Yet there is no room for compromise in this area, for God did not create us to function as His peers but as His subordinates. If we try to function with God outside the parameters He has set for us—and we are often taught to do this in the Church—all we will experience is stagnation in the relationship. We must approach God in the way that He demands if we are going to grow closer to Him.
So what can God do to move us into the only position that will work in a God-human relationship? He needs to create some third element that will cause us to see our total dependency on Him as a good thing. He needs something that will inspire us to bow down at His feet in humble submission—something that will cause us to view ourselves and Him in two vastly different camps without losing all hope of a connection with Him. We can’t thrive with God if we think we are also gods. There is an infinite difference between us and Him and this difference must not be minimized. We must see God as superior to us in every way, yet not to the point that we become hopeless about ever bonding with Him. God needs some kind of brilliant catalyst that will drive us to accept our utter dependency on Him and at the same time motivate us to reach for an intimate heart bond with Him. Enter sin: the perfect solution to the crisis.
First God defines the concept of righteousness, then He designs us to be the complete opposite of righteousness. He then makes it impossible for us to fix ourselves, and at the same time He demands that we do. The result: a desperate sense of depravity on our side and an understanding that He is right and we are wrong. Excellent. God now introduces us to the concepts of mercy, grace, and salvation. The result: a deep sense of gratitude towards Him which drives us to embrace the role of humble servants. Good. The proper relationship dynamic is shaping up very nicely. After salvation, God refuses to correct our desire to sin. We still find ourselves strongly attracted to evil—an attraction which He is constantly defining as wrong. The result: an acute awareness of our desperate need for Him in every moment. Excellent. If all goes well, we now view ourselves as lowly creatures who are loved by a kind and superior God. God instills an intense need to worship within us so that we’ll continue to see Him as the superior One and also find exalting Him to be intensely satisfying to our souls. This also helps us stay within the bounds of the relationship dynamic He wants.
Now that things are off to such a good start, God can use sin to teach us more about who He is. He makes sure that we keep on sinning after salvation, for this is a vital part of His plan. We must see ourselves acting like wretches so we can experience His gentle grace and learn about how different His love is. Human love focuses on outward actions, but God’s love focuses on heart intention. Do we wish we could do something to bless Him? Then we already have. With God, our inability to follow through does not lessen the worth of our desire for Him. He receives our gifts at a soul level, whereas humans stand back and say, “If that’s how you really feel, let’s see you prove it with actions.” When we feel deep love for another human but are incapable of expressing it in a way that meets their demands, then they reject us as liars. But God does not do this. When our souls cry out their love for Him, He receives that love fully and completely, and responds with great pleasure even if we can’t translate that love into any righteous behaviors.
With God, all the rules are different. It’s an entirely new dance, and we could never hope to learn it without sin. We need sin. We need to be sinned against, we need to sin ourselves, and we need to live in a world that is a fallen, hopeless mess. It is only within this context that we can understand and pursue the kind of relationship God wants to have with us. Take away sin and you take away the potential for everything that is good and wonderful. This is why God is so unthreatened by evil. Evil was His idea. Evil is His invention and the perfect tool that He uses to enhance good. He could have started us off in Heaven, but instead He came up with the ingenious idea of starting us off in a broken world first. This is why He made sure the very first humans sinned by giving them the forbidden tree and then attracting them to it like magnets. Yes, Eve chose to eat the fruit, but it was a choice that God gave her and the choice that He wanted her to make. He could have sprung out of the bushes and knocked the fruit out of her hand, but He didn’t want to. He wanted Adam and Eve to defy Him so that He could retaliate with a dramatic curse and put the finishing touches on His glorious new world.
Establishing a solid bond between humans and their Makers: that was the main purpose in creating this world from the very beginning. Now here you are, getting your little dose of it and having the chance to get your own eternal relationship with your Creators off on the right track. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you get the most out of all the experiences He puts you through down here. Always ask Him to show you what He wants you to learn when sin is making a mess out of things, because there is always a lesson. Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit created sin as a tool for drawing you closer to Themselves. Everything our Gods make is designed to turn our focus back onto Them.
MORE ABOUT SIN:
Can God force us to obey?
Can God force us to sin?
If God controls everything, how is it fair that He punishes us for making certain choices?
MORE ABOUT GOD’S COMPLEXITY:
The Complexity of God’s Will