Sin starts in the heart and the mind

In my talk on “Scandal” from 2 Samuel 13 I highlighted 7 reasons why sin is serious and deadly.  In our next few posts I want to pick up on a few of these in a little more detail.

First of all, we said that Sin starts in the mind and the heart.  It starts here because this is the first response to temptation. We entertain the idea.

We see this in Genesis 3. The Serpent tempts Adam and Eve with the promise that if they eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil then they will become like God.  We are then told:   

“The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it.”[1]

A number of commentators, in particular Cornelius Van Til have observed that one of the roots of Adam and Eve’s sin was their desire for autonomy. Instead of simply believing God’s Word to them and obeying his command, they choose to make their own decision. They evaluate the options. They are saying that they know more than God.

Van Til observes that this is both simultaneously rationalistic and irrational. It is rationalistic because they chose to rely on their own intellect. It is irrational because every bit of evidence they have points to God being trustworthy and his word being true. .[2]

 

We realise at this point also that there is a movement from temptation to sin. Temptation itself is not sin and sometimes we can be under constant pressure, bombarded with images and thoughts.  However, for each of us, there is a point when we move from simply being tempted to entertaining the temptation and allowing it to take root in our hearts.

The challenge is this. If the only reason why I don’t put the thought into action is fear of being caught and punished, then am I really resisting temptation.

Jesus gets at this when he says:

“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’[j] 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”[3]

This links to something else we saw in the sermon. Sin is rooted in idolatry. I look to other things and other people instead of God to supply my needs. When I entertain the temptation then I am saying that the thing I long for is better able to provide for me than God is. When I long after it then I am saying that it is of greater value than God.  My hearts longing is meant to be after God.

“As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I go and stand before him?”[4]

How can I take steps to resist temptation?

  1. Remove those things that cause me to stumble. This may mean a change in habits such as the route I take to work or the time I go to work. It may mean changing the newspaper I read and where or if I look at the internet.
  2. Replace those things with helpful things. Give time to reading Scripture, find useful hobbies and activities. Give hospitality, seek out fellowship, set aside time for prayer.
  3. Get accountability. Talk to a trusted brother or sister in Christ about your struggle. Pray for one another.

[1] Genesis 3:6-7.

[2] Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge (Phliadelphia.  P&R Publishing, 1969), 231-38. See also Dave Williams, How Do you know? (unpublished), 6. Available from our publications page

[3] Matthew 5:27-28.

[4] Psalm 42:1-2

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