Intro: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10, NASB). This statement is rather daunting. Who can keep the whole law? If we are good enough to only stumble in one point we are as guilty as if we had stumbled in all points. James statement seems to present to us an insurmountable challenge of perfection.
1) But I am convinced that our understanding of James’s analysis of sin is a vital element in our quest for righteousness. Fits well into our theme for this month. Those who truly hunger and thirst for righteousness do not minimize unrighteousness; especially their own. They see sin as God sees it.
2) What this scripture is not teaching:
- That there is absolutely no distinction in sinful conduct. God certainly made a distinction in the punishment of certain moral transgressions. There was no sacrifice available for the willful or high-handed sin. God is able to read the heart.
3) What this scripture is teaching: From the perspective of God, every sin is an affront to His authority. Sin or lawlessness is always a demonstration of disobedience to His will.
a. James teaches us that our willingness and ability to keep some of the law does not mitigate against the guilt of the laws we break. God’s law stands as a single entity. (Some have used the illustration of a pane of glass; You cannot punch a hole in a part of the glass without breaking the whole pane; When one breaks through a small opening in the fence he becomes a trespasser, even though the rest of the fence remains intact.)
b. Every sin has the same ability to condemn us. Sin will always separate us from God and lead to eternal death if we continue in it and do not repent.
- Isaiah 59:2 – 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.
c. While we recognize the capacity of every sin to condemn us, we have a tendency to treat some sins more seriously than others. This is evident in both our thoughts and our actions.
I. The Challenge of Moral Consistency: In Catholicism, there is a special warning against the “Seven Deadly Sins” or “Cardinal Sins” (i.e., Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and laziness). There is a great tendency for us to treat sins differently. Even Christians tend to elevate certain kinds of sins as more devastating to us spiritually than others (e.g., adultery vs. lying, forsaking the assemblies vs. covetousness, etc.).
A. The Moral Consistency of God: James’ statement not only equalizes transgression (one sin makes one guilty of all) but also he also tells us why this must be correct.
- James 2:11 – 11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. The law condemns equally because the Lawgiver is consistent.
1) Although God’s law does recognize a distinction in the hearts of men, He consistently condemns all sin, all the time.
a) He does not change His moral stance with the changing culture or public sentiment. Sin does not affect Him. Because He does not practice sin, He is not tempted to change His view of it. God does not need to justify Himself or His practice.
2) God has consistently spoken against sin. “He who said, do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder”. Although God gives special care to His children, God has never expressed favoritism in regards to willful sin. The sin of David is as much condemned in scripture as the sin of Pharaoh.
- Habakkuk 1:13 – You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness.
II. The Reasons for Our Moral Inconsistency: To treat some parts of the law of Christ seriously and other parts of the law as minor, trivial, or inconsequential is moral inconsistency. Why is this common among us?
A. Personal Viewpoint: We Often View Sin from a Personal Standpoint, Rather Than by the Standpoint of God: Sin is bad is as much as it affects us physically or socially. We do not see the moral tragedy involved. Lying is not so bad until someone lies about you.
1. In our fight against sin, we are often more quick to address those sins that are personally troublesome or offensive to us. This reflects a selfish approach to morality. Depending on a person’s background, one may, for example, be more troubled by the sins of sexual lust, homosexuality, and the drinking of alcohol than greed, gambling, lying or the neglect of prayer.
2. In addition, we frequently place a higher value on certain laws of Christ over others because we personally enjoy keeping them. We have mastered these obligations, and there is little challenged involved. (singing w/o instruments, attending services vs. personal evangelism and giving to the poor.) The Pharisees easily condemned others for adultery because they would never be tempted with that sin, but .
B. Personal Practice – Another reason for moral inconsistency is that many people do not want to give up their most favorite sins or pleasurable activities. For example, a person may be quick to condemn profane language (Eph. 4:29 – He would never curse) but continually partake of television shows and movies that contain foul language.
- preaching against smoking cigarettes – first question asked about the visiting preacher.
- While most, if not all brethren may condemn the sin of adultery, in contrast, the sin of covetousness, is tolerated by more brethren today than ever before (Perhaps due to living in such a materialistic society?).
1. Paul described those of his day as … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4). Instead of promptly putting away all sin, they cling to those sins that are especially desirable or pleasurable to them personally. Isaiah 5:20 – 20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
C. Personal image – Our attitude and action toward sin might be altered depending on who is watching us. This can be seen in at least two ways:
1. Excusing sinful conduct because we think no one sees it. David was able to morally tolerate his sin because he was able to hide it from others. But he was not hiding if from God.
2. Condemning sin more readily because it embarrasses us. I can remember being punished for doing something at the neighbor’s house that I was not punished for at my house. This again is a selfish approach to morality. There is a proper regard for how our sin affects our influence (image), but it has nothing to do with maintaining our good looks.
3. Why are you here tonight? Is it because other people are watching and toy do not want others to look down on you for not attending? Some are motivated to be “obedient” in order to maqintain their image. In contrast, these same brethren are not nearly so motivated to obey the command “Devote yourselves to prayer” (Col. 4:2a). Hebrews 4:13 – 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
III. The Impact of Moral Inconsistency.
A. We Prove Ourselves to Be Hypocrites, Rather Than Disciples of Christ: If we continually live morally inconsistent lives we are not genuine disciples of Christ! We must be willing to make consist application of God’s law.
1. When the Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples of breaking the Sabbath law by rubbing stalks of wheat in their hands and eating the grain, Jesus brought up the example of Daivd eating the showbread, meant only for the priests. He exposed their inconsistent application of God’s law.
a. This is a common flaw of the hypocrite. He is unable to be consistent because he is motivated by other things than true morality or righteousness. Romans 2:1-3 – 2 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. 3 And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?
B. We Lose Our Influence for Christ: Later in Romans 2 Paul writes…“You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one should not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you…” (Rom. 2:21-24). One thing is absolutely certain: Non-Christians will spot our hypocrisy a mile away. How do we undo the damage caused by inconsistent, hypocritical living?
C. We Put Our Soul in Eternal Jeopardy: James is clearly teaching us accountability. …stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10). The principle of obedience to God requires that we strive to obey all that God has said. One part of God’s law is just as binding as another. Thus, if we disobey any law of God, we will, as a result, be guilty of the whole. If any part of our life is sinful, then we will be judged as a sinner. Any sin that we continue in will lead to eternal death (Rom. 6:23). No one will be able to plead before the throne of God on that Last Day and offer their good deeds as a way to avoid punishment for bad deeds that were never put away (i.e., repented of).
IV. What Does Moral Consistency Require? The morally consistent Christian is not sinless. This is an important distinction:
- God calls us to sinlessness. The standard by which we are to judge our moral conduct is Christ Himself. 1 John 3:2-3 – 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Nothing lowers the standard.
- But we are not perfect. We have already messed that up. We cannot claim moral perfection. We will set ourselves up for failure and such thinking is foolish and dishonest to God and us 1 John 1:8-10 – 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. What does God expect?
A. Total Commitment to righteousness: God requires that we do our best to “walk in the light” or practice the truth in every area of life
- 1 John 1:5-7 – This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
B. Consistent Obedience: Phil 2:12-16 – 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Do others know what to expect from you?
C. Repentance and Confession: God expects us to face up to our failings and take responsibility. Repentance is the only avenue to moral consistency. Any attempt to hide my sin derails the process of forgiveness from God, and disqualifies me to judge sin honestly.
- Matt 7:3-5 – 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
1. In addition, we must learn to grieve as God grieves over all the sins that we commit. Consider the fact that our sin causes sorrow to the heart of God: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Eph 4:30-31).
a. Awareness that our sin is against God – David’ confession in Psalms 51:4 – 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight – That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.
Conclusion: I cannot be pleasing to God without learning to deal with sin with moral consistency. And the most crucial sin I must deal with is my own. “Be not deceived God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows that shall he also reap.”