Monday, September 2, 2013

To Do, or Not To Do

"Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'"
Luke 17:9-10 (emphasis added)

We all know that sin is bad. Stealing is bad. Hating your brother is bad. Coveting is bad.  We were taught, “Don’t do this or that, because that’s a sin.” And I’m not trying to downplay sin. Doing something that God forbids is horrendously detestable.

However, were we ever taught, “Do do this and that, because if you don’t, that’s a sin”? That’s when it gets a little more complicated. Or actually, it’s not that complicated; we just like to complicate it so then we can excuse it.

“But if I spend an hour doing devotions and Scripture memorization, I won’t get math done in the morning when I can think best, and then math will take longer, and then I’ll get behind in all my other school subjects, and then I can’t go to volleyball tonight, and my whole day will be behind. Yeah, so I’ll just skip devotions today. It’s better this way.” (That’s all very hypothetical, by the way.)

Or maybe we downplay the matter. “Should I wipe down the counters? They’re really not all that dirty… They’ve been worse, so this isn’t too bad, really. They’ll be fine.” “I really don’t need to go make things right with that person. It wasn’t too mean, and they didn’t look that hurt.” “It’s just a three-minute cat video. My chores can wait three minutes.” (Still very hypothetical.)

Sometimes we like to over-complicate issues, and sometimes we neglect “little” factors, but either method, it’s sin. “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17, emphasis added).

We can commit, and we can omit. And both are vile in God’s sight.

Because the sin of omission is deceiving, we often wave it away. But look at the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37. Were the priest and Levite condemned because of something they did? No, it was because they didn’t do anything.

What’s the best way to wreck a relationship? Abuse? Angry words? Or is it… neglect?

I often (and I think this applies to most of us) think I’m doing fairly well because I’m not stealing anything, I’m not lying, I’m not watching X-rated movies. I have my little checklist of “Not’s” and I like to think of myself as “pretty good” because most of them are checked. But how worn is the checklist of “Not not’s”?

Now some may think, “Well the verse says, ‘Whoever knows the right thing and doesn’t do it, it’s sin,’ but what if I don’t know I should be doing this or that?” I would say that’s where sanctification comes in. As you study Scripture and understand God more deeply, you learn to realize what is good and what is bad, what you should do and what you shouldn’t. God gave us the Bible for a reason!

Now some may think even more, “Well, if I don’t read the Bible or listen to sermons, I can claim ignorance, because I didn’t know the right thing to do, so therefore I never failed to do it!” To that, I would question your salvation. The reason we do good is because we love Christ. Paul addresses this issue in Romans 6:15-18:
What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
And slaves of righteousness, redeemed by Christ’s blood, would endeavor to be obedient to God in all things.

A sermon on James 4:17 put it this way: “Most people have the idea if they don’t do certain things they are good Christians. If that were true then my dog is the best Christian I know. He doesn’t steal, he doesn’t drink liquor or any of the things we would consider bad.”* We should not look like dogs. We should look like Christians because of not only the sinful things we don’t do, but also the righteous things we do do out of a motivation of love.


All Scripture references are ESV unless otherwise indicated

*“The Sin of Omission” sermon by Melvin Shelton


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