In Every Sin We See Self at Work
In every sin we can see self at work. Although people today classify sins into an untold number of categories, yet inductively speaking there is but one basic sin: all the thoughts and deeds which are sins are related to “self” In other words, though the number of sins in the world is indeed astronomical, the principle behind every sin is simply one—whatever is for self. All sins are committed for the sake of the self. If the element of self is missing, there will be no sin. Let us examine this point a little more closely.
What is pride? Is it not an exalting of self? What is jealousy? Is not jealousy a fear of being supplanted? What is emulation? Nothing less than a striving to excel others. What is anger? Anger is reacting against the loss the self suffers. What is adultery? It is following self’s passions and lusts. What is cowardice? Is it not a caring for self’s weakness? Now it is impossible to mention every sin, but if we were to examine all of them one by one, we would discover that the principle within each one is always the same: it is something that in some way is related to self. Wherever sin is, there is the activity of the self. And wherever self is active, there will be sin before God.
On the other hand, in examining the fruit of the Holy Spirit—which expresses Christian witness—we shall readily see the opposite: that they are none other than selfless acts. What is love? Love is loving others without thinking of self. What is joy? It is looking at God in spite of self. Patience is despising one’s own hardship. Peace is disregarding one’s loss. Gentleness is overlooking one’s rights. Humility is forgetting one’s merits. Temperance is the self under control. And faithfulness is self-restraint. As we examine every Christian virtue, we will discern that other than being delivered from self or being forgetful of self, a believer has no other virtue. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is determined by one principle alone: the losing of self totally. . . .
The Lord looks not at the good or evil of a thing. He looks instead to its source. He takes note by what power the thing is done. Apart from His own will, God is not satisfied with anything else. Apart from His own power, He is not interested in any other. Were it possible for a believer to do something better than the will of God, the latter would still condemn the action and consider the believer as having sinned.
Is it true that all your works and pursuits are according to God’s will? Or are they simply your independent decision? Do your works originate with God? Or are they done according to your pleasure? All our independent actions, no matter how excellent or virtuous they may appear to be, are not acceptable to God. Everything done without clearly knowing the will of God is a sin in His eyes. Everything done without depending on Him is also sin. . . .
The meaning of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is none other than being active outside of God, seeking what is good according to one’s thought, being in haste and unable to wait to obtain the knowledge which God has not yet given, and not trusting in the Lord but seeking advance in one’s own way. These all can be summed up in one phrase: independence from God. And such was man’s first sin. God is displeased with the man who departs from him and moves independently. For he wants man to trust in Him.
The purpose of the Lord in saving man as well as in creating him is for man to trust in God. And such is the meaning of the tree of life: simply put, it is trust. “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,” said God to Adam; “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it.” Among all the trees whose fruit could be eaten, God especially mentioned the tree of life in stark contrast to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “The tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” In taking note of God’s mention particularly of the tree of life, we ought to realize that of all the edible trees this is the most important. This is what Adam should have eaten of first. Why is this so? . . .
The tree of life signifies the life of God, the uncreated life of God. Adam is a created being, and therefore he does not possess such uncreated life. Though at this point he is still without sin, he nevertheless is only natural since he has not received the holy life of God. The purpose of God is for Adam to choose the fruit of the tree of life with his own volition so that he might be related to God in divine life. And thus Adam would move from simply being created by God to his being born of Him as well. What God requires of Adam is simply for him to deny his created, natural life and be joined to Him in divine life, thus living daily by the life of God. Such is the meaning of the tree of life. The Lord wanted Adam to live by that life which was not his originally.