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27 Lessons from a 27 Year Old

Last updated on October 11th, 2017 at 01:38 am

On 7th October, this past Saturday, I turned 27 years of age. Along the way, I have learned a lot majorly through failure. Here is a trimmed list of 27 lessons from a 27-year-old.

Life

  1. I am more sinful than I can dare believe (Genesis 6:5; Psalm 51:5 ) but God is more gracious than I can dare imagine (Romans 3:23-25; Hebrews 8:12)
  2. Stop trying to chase 35,000 dreams when you have one life to live. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and pick something you are passionate about, then do it—and do it well.
  3. We are born to die. The earlier you discover this, the earlier your life will find meaning.
  4. Failure is not what they told us it was, it is not something to avoid but one we should make our daily teacher.
  5. While everyone wants to be famous, no one wants to do the dishes.

Knowledge

  1. Strive for intellectual curiosity. Read blogs every day and at least a book every month, then ask yourself this question: What did I learn this week/month?
  2. Learn from people who are better than you. Sit at their feet and shut up.
  3. Listen to podcasts–a lot of them. Avoid YouTube videos.
  4. Trash the selfie stick and replace it with a pen.
  5. Carry your notebook to the shower; it is a labour ward for great ideas.

Dreams

  1. A true dream is one that is bigger than you, the dreamer.
  2. Have you a dream? Want to be a writer? Start now. Open up blogger.com and start writing. They say that water does not begin to flow until the faucets have been opened.
  3. Is your work creepy? Keep going, even butterflies are born ugly.

Friendship

  1. Your true friends are defined by what they do for you when you are not around, i.e., dead.
  2. It is good to have friends but it’s even better to become a friend.

Love

  1. Love is not earned, it’s free.
  2. Marry the one you love so that you will love the one you marry. (I heard that from a movie)

Purpose

  1. No one is born without a purpose.
  2. Our primary purpose is not to be something but to receive something–salvation (grace and mercy) from God.
  3. The theological why to all life’s whats and hows has to be the Gospel. In other words, the only inspiration in life should be Jesus’s work on behalf of sinners and sufferers.

Law and Gospel

  1. The Law of God is holy and perfect. It also reveals to us what God is like–perfect and in turn shows me the depth of my sin.
  2. The Gospel is not what we do or what God has called us to do.
  3. The Gospel is solely God’s work.
  4. The Law may demand that I obey, but only the Gospel can produce in me the desire to obey.

Sin

  1. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.
  2. No one has the power to defeat sin, God Himself is the only One able to defeat it on our behalf.

Plans

  1. Resolutions are a way to atone for the mistakes committed in the past year.

[Bonus] Manifesto

  1. Whatever you do, live by a code. I live by the Ragamuffin Code: [Lord] Have mercy on me a sinner.

Image: Unsplash/ Ryan Holloway

Martin Luther: The Distinction between Law and Gospel

But you ask how it can be the fact that faith alone justifies, and affords without works so great a treasure of good things, when so many works, ceremonies, and laws are prescribed to us in the Scriptures?

I answer, before all things bear in mind what I have said: that faith alone without works justifies, sets free, and saves, as I shall show more clearly below.

Meanwhile it is to be noted that the whole Scripture of God is divided into two parts: precepts and promises. The precepts certainly teach us what is good, but what they teach is not instantly done. For they show us what we ought to do, but do not give us the power to do it. They were ordained, however, for the purpose of showing man to himself, that through them he may learn his own impotence for good and may despair of his own strength. For this reason they are called the Old Testament, and are so.

For example, “Thou shalt not covet,” is a precept by which we are all convicted of sin, since no man can help coveting, whatever efforts to the contrary he may make. In order therefore that he may fulfil the precept, and not covet, he is constrained to despair of himself and to seek elsewhere and through another the help which he cannot find in himself; as it is said, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in Me is thine help” (Hosea 13:9). Now what is done by this one precept is done by all; for all are equally impossible of fulfilment by us.

Now when a man has through the precepts been taught his own impotence, and become anxious by what means he may satisfy the law–for the law must be satisfied, so that no jot or tittle of it may pass away, otherwise he must be hopelessly condemned—then, being truly humbled and brought to nothing in his own eyes, he finds in himself no resource for justification and salvation.

Then comes in that other part of Scripture, the promises of God, which declare the glory of God, and say, “If you wish to fulfil the law, and, as the law requires, not to covet, lo! Believe in Christ, in whom are promised to you grace, justification, peace, and liberty.” All these things you shall have, if you believe, and shall be without them if you do not believe. For what is impossible for you by all the works of the law, which are many and yet useless, you shall fulfil in an easy and summary way through faith, because God the Father has made everything to depend on faith, so that whosoever has it has all things, and he who has it not has nothing. “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 9:32).

Thus the promises of God give that which the precepts exact, and fulfil what the law commands; so that all is of God alone, both the precepts and their fulfilment. He alone commands; He alone also fulfils. Hence the promises of God belong to the New Testament; nay, are the New Testament.

This is an excerpt from Martin Luther’s “Concerning Christian Liberty.” It was edited for clarity.

Your God is Ugly

“And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.”—Luke 15:14 (ESV)

The two sons in the parable of the prodigal demonstrate before our eyes the futility of giving ultimate worth to anything smaller than the Jesus of the Bible.

The younger son, who came peddling his Father’s death certificate before he could drop dead, showed that what he needed the most was not his Father but the Father’s things.

The older son also obeyed, not out of love for his Father but for his Father’s things.

Luke’s account tells us that the younger son got the things. We also learn that the things never saved him.

The god of the younger son was not enough for him. The things got used, and he began to lack again. The emptiness in him that he thought the things will fill became even wider. His god was finite and ugly.

To illustrate the ugliness of this god, you need to think about a bucket full to the brim with water. If you started scooping water out of that bucket, you would run it dry, one way or another.

That is what happens when we put our hope, trust, security, identity, worth, value and salvation in things that perish with use.

They run out.

In the end, we are left wailing, enslaved in enemy territory, destitute, smelly and ugly like the gods we trusted to deliver us in the first place. Even the pigs will not share their food with us because we are ugly.

On the other hand, the God of the bible is different.

He is like an ocean. From age to age, He never runs out; He never runs dry. He is infinite. He offers a sure salvation, but above all, He is beautiful and makes beautiful.

Christian, we have Autism

“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”—Psalm 78:4 (ESV)

Autism is a rare disorder.

Children who suffer from it spend all their time focusing on a small aspect of their life. It may be a button on their jacket.

An autistic child can, for the whole day, restrict their attention to the button. They will do just that—repeatedly.

What therapists do for these children is disconnect them from the narrow focus the disorder restricts them to by making them look up in the sky.

When it comes to miracles, all Christians are autistic.

We have drawn conclusions of what qualifies to be a miracle and what doesn’t. Miracles are essentially the big things, the ones we will talk about during testimony time in our prayer meetings and heads turn. Anything short of that is not a miracle, we have concluded.

We focus on one aspect of life and close out everything else.

When we restrict our attention to the “extraordinary,” we miss a God who works in ordinary ways. We forget that the God of the Bible works and saves through ordinary means. He also gives Himself to us through the ordinary means of bread and wine. When we overlook the ordinary, we miss all the things God is doing in our lives.

We miss the miracle that woke up this morning.

We miss the miracles that we have people who love us.

We miss the miracle that God has given the opportunity to hear and believe His Gospel.

We miss the miracle that our children are able to go to school and graduate with degrees.

We also miss the miracle that we are able to give our children in marriage.

Yesterday as I was running late on my commute to work, I found a taxi which was to cut traffic jam by way of using a different route. Was that a miracle? Absolutely!

When I got to town, I found another taxi which needed just one passenger to hit the road. Was that a miracle? Because I’d be sitting waiting for it to fill up, it was a glorious miracle.

Miracles have their place in our daily grind. It is in the sweat of toil, the patience of parenthood, the perseverance in faith, the pain of suffering, dinner with a new neighbour, and the serenity of family quiet times that God works. Miracles happen every day.

What we need is to look up and see how vast the universe is. Until then, we will not be thankful for the miracle that we are alive today.

AMEN.

How to Become Better without Selling your Soul

The colonial education system was one way colonialists instilled order in the people they controlled. For the best part, schools—like the Police and the prison services—ensured that colonised people knew who runs the place.

The only way one could become better in such a school system was by submission whether you liked the program or not. Some pupils were good at doing the program while others always messed up.

What inspired improvement in school was the terror which the teachers were known for. There was always a saying that the backside (akabina/ekibunu) belongs to the government and so the teacher was free to whip his learners. All the time, we obeyed because the whip was always in view.

Our obedience was a result of fear. We didn’t like what was being imposed on us but it was easier to obey than endure the agony of punishment.

Terror-inspired obedience is always grounded in insecurity. Obedience is meant to earn something—respect, approval, favours, acceptance, and love. You can’t become better this way, you instead become a lunatic who is a good person when the guy you fear is around but when they are away, you become something else.

This is the kind of obedience legalism produces. A legalist treats God as a hungry bookkeeper out to get everyone who is cheating on the taxes. Such a God carries carrots for the good boys and girls, and sticks to whip the bad ones. Obedience under such a God is through fear—the fear of the heinous things that God will do to them.

Paul in Romans chapter 6 demonstrates a different kind of God, one who takes the initiative. He puts on flesh to do what we have all failed to do.

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Romans 6:20-22, ESV)

This kind of God graciously hangs on a tree, with nails through His hands and feet, but shouts “forgive them.” In His pain, He sees our pain instead, and dies so that we will live. For us who were once slaves to sin because of Adam’s transgression (which was imputed to us), He by faith makes us slaves to righteousness, again by imputation. All this happens after He has accepted our sin—far and wide—to be imputed (credited) to Him. The God of the bible deals in only one currency—grace.

It is from this free gift of grace which none of us deserves that is now our new identity. We are children of God who now call Him Father. His love for us attracts us to him, not the other way round. And this love alone can transform our lives.

The root of His justifying work at Calvary births in us a fruit of obedience. It is out of his love and mercy towards us who deserve wrath and damnation that obedience springs. Paul says that Jesus’s saving work leads to sanctification—which is theological word for becoming better. Being better, in the Christian sense, starts with Jesus, any other thing that promises results apart from Jesus is fake.

His love for us alone has the power to make us better. No elbow grease, no sweatshops, no treadmills, just sheer grace. Trust Him alone above everything else this world promises, you never know, some fruits may pop up in your life for the glory of His name.

[Audio] The False Doctrine of Asceticism

For the past thirteen weeks, some amazing folks and I at The fellowship have been strolling with me through Paul’s letter to the Colossians. To say that we have been “strolling” is not to say that we have been doing it aimlessly. No.

As I teach through this amazing letter, God does show how these ancient words are ever true, these doctrines which Paul pointed out at the start of the First Century AD are still around in Church today. The Letter to the Colossians is therefore as important today as it has been through the ages.

Bible Text: Colossians 2:20-23

God’s Glory vs. Man’s Glory

 “And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”—Isaiah 6:4-5 (ESV)

When one of God’s archangels in charge of administration started to question the authority of God, he thought of executing a mutiny.

Lucifer loathed the thought that every created thing on earth, above it and underneath it glorified God. He wanted that glory for himself. But his rebellion fell through.

Since then, Lucifer, the Devil has recruited men starting with Adam so that they will worship him instead of worshipping God in heaven. He promises them things as well as a false independence which, if bought into, keeps all men enslaved to this fallen angel.

When he came to tempt Jesus in the wilderness, he promised him all the riches and glory of the world he does not own in exchange for Jesus’s worship of him: “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8)

The Devil promises men that they will be great: that the other men will glorify them if they first glorify Lucifer himself. He lures men with lots of money, expensive cars, and problem-free life.

God, on the other hand, changes the people who are drawn to glorify him. His glory is so bright that it exposes the darkness in the hearts of men. It is what my hero Festo Kivengere called “God’s radiant character.” When sinners encounter God, they tremble and repent of their sin, which he washes away (Is. 6:6-7).

Unlike the men who promise to change other men after they have glorified them, God changes people so that they will glorify and enjoy him in their new life. God does not deal in baits; he does not to trap mice.

The other thing is that men who demand glory from other men need it so badly to feel like they matter. Their life and identity depend on how many people will lick their feet and how many media houses will carry the pictures.

God, on the other hand, does not need a man to glorify him in order be God. Even if men do not glorify him, he remains God. This is what theologians called the ‘asiety of God’—He is self-existent and independent from the creatures he created.

We can, therefore, come to one conclusion: man was never created to be glorified. His quest for glory is a consequence of the corruption in him and into which he was born. When men seek to take for themselves the glory which only belongs to God, it points to the perversion in our worship. God alone deserves the Glory.

The answer to our idolatry is found in the Gospel. Jesus, by his life, death, and resurrection alone, can transform our worship. He alone is able to convince us of the futility in bowing down to things and people smaller than Jesus.

The glory we give to men can only be redirected to God by God himself in Jesus. He already did at Calvary.

One Rejected Prayer which Forever Changed the World

“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”—Luke 22:44 (ESV)

The culture we live in today is so full of itself.

One unanswered prayer can mean so many things. I have heard someone say to a group of people that their prayers remain unanswered because they did not purify themselves.

I am still trying to figure out what that statement means.

Others say that our unanswered prayers are because we have unrepented sin.

And also others say that we just don’t know the words to use when we pray.

What I have not heard, however, is someone explain away the reason why God (the Father) did not answer His Son’s request when he prayed in the garden. Is it not the bible which clearly says that “good fathers” don’t hand their children stones and snakes when they ask for a toast and some good fried fish?

Two lessons from this event hit you like a slap in the face.

Number one, fervor and frequency are never the stuff which get prayers answered. The angel at the Prayer Booth in heaven seems not to be very interested.

Luke, in his Gospel, when referring to Jesus’s routine activities, always uses the words “as was his custom.” Jesus’s custom constituted going to the temple and reading from the Law and the Prophets (4: 16) and praying up in the mountain (22: 39). But his prayers were also fervent for his idea of sweating was to bleed from the sweat pores.

That also did not move his Father in heaven.

Number two, God’s silence does not mean that he did not answer. I understand that all of us have an idea about how this world (including our lives) could be made brighter than it already is but the problem is that none of us down here owns a universe.

God has sole discretion over his universe and creation. He also has in his pocket the property deed to this universe. He owns it, solely.

Sometimes God does let us wallow in our sinful passions; that is granted. But that also happens because he has let us.

So, even as concerns our prayers, he is still sovereign. His “Yes” or “No” are both answers to prayer.

Think about it: What would be of this world had God the Father said “Yes” to the Son’s demands in the garden? What would be of salvation, mercy, grace, substitutionary atonement, simul justus et piccator, it is finished and all those beautiful statements we use to communicate the Good News?

Do you now see that one “No” from God is far greater than a lifetime of “Yes’s” from the entire mankind since creation?

Rest in the glorious reality that God’s “No” is also Good News because; it took a rejected prayer to save this world and all the train wrecks in it—even you.

AMEN.

My Dad and the Grace which Runs Deeper than our Sin

A few days to Christmas day of 2001, I remember walking to my dad and telling him that I wanted him to come with us to church on Christmas day. He had said yes.

My mum had died a year and a half earlier. She was the one who took us to church. When she died, there was no one to go with us to church. I remember my young brother Simon and me changing from our Anglican church to a nearby Pentecostal church where they gave biscuits and sweets after Sunday school. I was 11 and my brother was 7.

While growing up, the only time we went to church with dad was when my brother and sister were being baptised. I was 8 then, if I remember correctly. But the day I was baptised, he didn’t show. I don’t know why.

I was terrifically happy that my dad had accepted to go to church with us. On the morning of Christmas day, I happily walked the corridor that led to his bedroom to tell him to dress up quickly as we were running late. I found him in bed and that is when he told me that he was not feeling fine.

He was later admitted into a hospital and on New Year’s Day of 2002, he breathed his last. He never went to church with us.

********

I find the account of the call of the disciples particularly interesting. The calling of Levi (Matthew) strikes me the most. Luke in the twenty-seventh verse of the fifth chapter tells us that while Jesus was walking around (of course not aimlessly), he saw a tax collector standing at the tax collectors booth and he told him these words: “Follow me.”

Later that evening, the tax collector threw a party for Jesus and he invited fellow tax collectors. The Pharisees and Scribes also came.

I prefer Luke’s gospel because of his emphasis on detail.

Notice that Jesus comes to Levi’s booth. Back then, tax collectors were outcasts and traitors. They held both titles concurrently. They worked alongside the oppressive Romans to solicit taxes from their fellow Jews. In order to earn a wage, they had to charge an “extra” amount on the taxes. They kept that “extra” as their wage. But many of them, if not all, charged a hefty “extra” on the taxes thereby becoming stinking rich.

They thrived on exploitation which they did without shame, no one liked them anyway.

Jesus comes to that booth—a place of shame—and calls Levi out. He is not afraid to associate with the outcasts that no one wants to be seen talking to. He leans over the booth and whispers to Levi: “Dude, join my team.” Levi is called as a tax collector not as a reformed man. Christ comes to him in his outcastness and treason and calls him without requiring him to first change. He calls him as he is—dirty and ridden with mixture of shame and national ridicule. In the stench of his sin, Jesus touches Levi’s shoulder and calls him to follow Him.

This is only possible if there is something greater than Levi’s besetting sins. And yes, it is there: grace. The grace of God in Jesus was able to redeem Levi, even amidst his sins, because this grace ran deeper than the sins he had committed, even the ones he would commit later on.

Jesus is attracted to Levi because of the very thing that condemns him before his countrymen—his sin. Because “those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”

********

The time leading to the Christmas of 2001, dad was always sick. One time he was down for a couple of days. I remember my Uncle bringing a friend of his to pray for my dad. I think it happened on two occasions.

On none of those occasions was my dad preached to. Those men came to pray for him but never told him about Jesus and the love He had for my dad. They came to deliver God’s gifts, not God Himself.

I can’t tell why my dad always shunned church. May be it was the guilt. He had made some terrible choices that threatened to tear our family to shreds. May be he condemned himself for that. I know that a few relatives did.

I have always asked myself what would have happened if someone had told my dad about Jesus. That no mistake he had committed or would ever commit could ever hold a candle to the love that God had for him. I think of what would have been of his life had he heard the Gospel that the grace of God in Jesus ran deeper than his sins, the grace of God in Jesus Christ which exclusively redeems our mistakes. What about hearing that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ?

No one sat my dad down to tell him that the sins he cannot forget, God cannot remember. When I think of what would have been and what is now, I thank the Lord for the men and women whose hearts burn to teach and preach the Gospel, the true Gospel of Jesus and His free forgiveness of our sins.

My brother later told me that some people had come to my dad’s deathbed and told him about Jesus. He also told me that my dad died after he had come to the faith.

How to Pray like a Pharisee

“The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’”—Luke 18:11-12 (ESV)

When you hear the “Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector,” you can quickly brush it off as something you have moved past. The initial reaction to this parable is to say, “Well, I don’t pray like him, how could he!” And I’ll say: “Not so fast, friend.”

On close examination—I mean aside from moralising this parable and creating in it the gibberish categories of “us and them”—I have come to see how I pray like the Pharisee. You may think that this guy taught me how to pray.

I have on many occasions closed my eyes, (or humbled my eyes like my brother likes to say!) and prayed: “Thank you, God, that I have life, many have died….”

Or like this: “I thank you, Father, for the provision, for the food and clothing, many don’t have them…but I do…” What my prayer essentially is this: “I thank you, Lord, that am not like other men…”

The problem with the Pharisee’s prayer is that it is centred on him and how he is better than the guy in the pew across. So is mine. We, like the Pharisee, go before the throne and start bragging about how we are good in comparison to other people. Because it is boxed in prayer, we never get realise it.

Or, we may realise what we are doing, but it’s better than calling ourselves “sinners who are unworthy of anything, even the oxygen we breathe or the warmth and light given off by the sun.”

When we do this, we show how we are oblivious of the stench of death that surrounds us, it also shows how we have forgotten that the very life we live is a gift and any good thing that comes out of it is produced by God as benefit from Jesus’s work on our behalf. In short, to pray life the Pharisee is to forget the gospel which says that there is no life and justification in our goodness.

The tax collector’s prayer, however, is different. It is an attempt to find life outside of himself, in God Himself. He was humbled by his unworthiness and took it to God, and in his sin, he found justification.

May we daily be reminded of how broken we are and that the answer is found outside of us—in God alone. May God be exalted as he humbles us.

Amen.

Image: Free Bible Images

Christ Came To Save Sinners

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”—1 Timothy 1:15 (KJV)

The Apostle Paul, after planting numerous churches in the Gentile world and taking the Gospel of God’s free forgiveness of sins to places it had never been heard before, still thought that he needed saving.

After healing the sick, going through all forms of persecution, and spending the most part of his life in the cold, you’d think that he would at that moment consider himself “arrived.” He didn’t. Towards the end of his life and ministry writes to his Spiritual son, Timothy, he calls himself the chief of sinners.

With his influence, Paul still knew that he was weak. He was aware that because of the body of flesh he was putting on, he still needed daily saving. He was mindful of the fact that no matter his achievements, he was not beyond God’s saving grace. In other words, it rang true in his heart that Christians don’t grow by moving away from the Gospel to something else but by moving deeper into the Gospel. That the cross and blood which ushers us into salvation at the beginning is the same that keeps us in until we get home.

He was also acutely aware that the life which justifies him is not his own. He had died with Christ, and now he lived in Him, no wonder he could afford to sound ridiculous. Robert Capon has an eloquent way of saying it:

“The life of grace is not an effort on our part to achieve a goal we set ourselves. It is a continually renewed attempt simply to believe that someone else has done all the achieving that is needed and to live in relationship with that person, whether we achieve or not. If that doesn’t seem like much to you, you’re right: it isn’t. And, as a matter of fact, the life of grace is even less than that. It’s not even our life at all, but the life of that Someone Else rising like a tide in the ruins of our death.”

Regardless of what you are going through right now: relational tension, addiction, the crisis of faith, sickness, pain, fear, guilt feelings, etc., be reminded that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom [you] are the foremost.” For you the chief of sinners he came to die. You are hidden in him. He knows your struggles by name. Take heart, it is finished.

AMEN.

The True Nature of Sin

When is sin a sin? Isn’t that the most asked question in church today? What about playing the lottery, is it sin? Where do we draw the line? You will agree with me that chalking the line to what qualifies as sin and what doesn’t is not a piece of cake. Especially so, in a culture that, instead of ‘finding the truth, chooses to create it.’

Thankfully for us, there is God’s word—the Bible, to help us answer this question. Since sin is disobedience towards God, then God Himself is better qualified to respond to the question “What is a sin?”

It is important to note that a statement like “sin is to dishonour/disobey God” will be sufficient until we go down to brass tacks—or the ‘cogs in the wheel,’ so to speak—of what disobedience really is. To help us answer this question will be Genesis chapter three, probably the most pivotal chapter in all of scripture. In this, we are going to see that sin challenges truth, moral standards, and identity.

1. Truth

 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. (Genesis 3:4)

The serpent’s approach in the garden was first to dispute what was true—namely—God’s Law. We are aware that God had commanded Adam and his wife to eat from every tree in the garden except one. So the Devil used that to sow seeds of doubt in our ancestors. Sin is always birthed when we choose to suppress the truth, in favour of a lie (Romans 1:24-25).

2. Moral Question

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)

When it comes to God’s moral standard, it’s always a question of what is right. Sin, therefore, attempts to answer it differently. It was right not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil; it was right not to worship the golden calf in the desert, and it was also right not to have relations with Bathsheba.

A young man who had been kidnapped and forced into homosexuality and pornography was narrating the ordeal to us a few years ago. He told us that all those who were forced into these actions were first convinced of how right­ these acts were. He gave an example that a green plastic bottle will be placed before you and you are asked which colour the bottle is. They then went on to convince you that this green bottle was actually red!

When you believe this, then something else becomes right for you.

3. Identity

For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

Who am I? Paul, in Romans 1:25 makes it clear that I am either the Creator or a creature but not both and that orders my worship, you too. After sin has distorted the questions of “what is true?” and “what is right?” it goes on to make us the “authors and finishers” of our salvation. We then assume the place that can only belong to God.

This is evident in the serpent’s words to the Woman that if she ate from that tree, she would be like God herself. Sin, therefore, is man substituting himself for God.

Sin is not what we do

“The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands.”—Martin Luther

There is a growing, and a rather simplistic tendency to limit sin to our actions, that is, what we do. The problem with that approach is that if sin is an activity (what we do), then inactivity (not doing) will be the way we overcome it. Sadly, this is not the way the Bible defines sin.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tears to shreds this simplistic moralisation of God’s Law by saying that before God, anger and lust are the same as and carry the same punishment like murder and adultery, respectively. What Jesus does is to drill sin down to our minute motives and intentions. Therefore, to murder is to bear the motives which are demonstrated in anger, and to commit adultery is to have the intentions to do so which are expressed in lustful desires.

Sin is not what we do, it is what we are—our thoughts, desires, motives, and intentions expressed inwardly and most of the time unconsciously (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:20-23). Before it flows outwards in actions, sin has its nursery bed inwards—in the human heart. That is why, from Genesis 3, the ground work to picking and eating the fruit happens internally (Luke 6:45), in Adam and his wife’s hearts, that is where the questions of What is right? What is true? And Who am I? are asked and answered (albeit very wrongly) before they are acted out.