U: Unbelief, The Root of All Sin

For U, I want to give you a gift. One of my good friends (who has requested to remain nameless) has written a wonderful post for you. I enjoyed the read, so I know you will as well. Enjoy!

We sin in many ways: flagrantly or hidden in the quiet recesses of our heart; repeatedly or once in a lifetime; by omission or by commission. Though these sins vary in their expression, type, severity and frequency, all come from one particularly bitter root—unbelief. This is not just any kind of unbelief or some vague distrust, but, rather, unbelief in one particular idea—that God really is to be the object of all your love and affection, the center of your whole life around which you order every aspect of your entire being, the one thing in the universe without which you could not live. Why might this be? It seems to flow naturally from what it means to be a human. Our whole being yearns to worship something. It is part and parcel of the human condition to seek out something on which to place all our hopes, dreams, affections, activity and energy. If we decide, as we usually do as sinners, to place something other than God in this central place of honor, our entire lives will become disordered—i.e., a total and complete mess of sin.

Take a simple example. Suppose someone, Jon, worships material success and seeks after this above all else; his heart, in its insatiable desire to worship, has chosen to prostrate itself at the altar of money. At first this is not apparent. Jon loves many other good things—thinks it right to be ethical in business practices, give money to the poor and disenfranchised, and attend church. Perhaps if we observed him during fruitful years of economic growth we might never suspect that an accumulation of great wealth was really his most treasured goal. Perhaps God has blessed his wise living. But then the hard years come—stocks plummet, work loads increase, salaries are cut, bonuses are cancelled—and the ever looming threat of financial ruin becomes acutely apparent. In this suffering Jon’s priorities are revealed. Forced between reporting job-terminating losses to his superiors and fudging financial records, Jon takes the immoral path and lies. When deciding whether to give more money to a poor friend suffering from a debilitating sickness and paying the lease on his new boat, Jon chooses a status symbol over the health of one of God’s image bearers. Personally asked to work on Sundays by the CEO, Jon decides to forsake the community of God in order to please an entirely different set of brothers and sisters.

All this behavior grows from one root, a belief that there is one thing Jon cannot live without. This one thing is money. It is not God. For if it were God, financial ruin would be a devastating burden (for money is not evil), but it would not be a crushing one, as Jon would still believe that his ultimate worth and value comes from God, not from money. He could act honestly, generously and faithfully, even if such action means a serious loss of financial status, because Jon would be identified by one supreme truth—that he is treasured and valued by God, a God who is working all things for both Jon’s good and God’s good.

How can we flee from our unbelief, our lack of trust in the goodness of God toward us? There is only one way. We must look to the cross and on it Christ crucified. The blood, the tears, the sweat, the flayed skin, the separation from his heavenly Father. These are the signs of God’s love for us, his complete and total commitment to do whatever it takes to eradicate all manner of idolatry from our lives and bring us into deep community with himself. So turn to him, and rest in his loving embrace. There we will find the strength to defeat the idols of our unbelief and replace them with something far better.

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