What Would You Say is the Greatest Sin?
If I was to ask you, what is the greatest sin anyone could commit, what would you answer?
Would you say murder, idolatry, adultery, hatred, perversion, blasphemy?
Those would be the sins one finds identified in the Ten Commandments.
When I was converted, 43 years ago, one of the main sins that seemed to be in most people’s minds was “judge not”, which was interpreted: think not, discern not. Many people accuse others of being legalistic, if they quote from the Law of the Lord.
“Intolerance and Racism”
Today, the greatest sins seem to be “intolerance” and “racism” (a term first developed by Leon Trotsky, head of the soviet Red Army, in order to counter criticisms of the communists. If you oppose communism, you are obviously “a racist”. An acronym for Racist: Rather Annoying Communist Inspired Silencing Tactic).
Another modern day sin is anti-Semitism. On my 5-country, 2-continent, 5-week mission for the Reformation 500, in 2017, ministering all the way across America and Europe through to Wittenberg, Germany, my first meeting was in San Jose, California. After a presentation on Martin Luther – Captive to the Word, the first question from a lady, sitting in the back was: “What about Martin Luther’s anti-Semitism?” I asked her what she was referring to? She said, he wrote the book “On the Jews and their Lies”. I asked her if she had read the book. “No”, she replied. I asked, “What is your position on blasphemy?” She replied, “I do not understand”. I said, “What do you think about blasphemy? The taking the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ in vain? Cursing and using the Name of God like a filthy swear word, an expression of disgust?” “I do not know” she said, “but I am against anti-Semitism”.
What about Blasphemy?
“I understand that ma’am, but considering that you live in California, within a short distance of the greatest blasphemy industry on the planet, Hollywood, what is your position on blasphemy?” “I do not know” she replied, “but I am against anti-Semitism”. “Well Martin Luther was against blasphemy and he wrote a book against blasphemers and against those producing pornography, running child prostitution and a whole lot of other vices, including robbing widows and orphans of their homes, by usury and other unethical banking practices. It is not that Martin Luther was anti-Semitic, it was that he was pro-Christ and anti-blasphemy”. Should we be accused of being anti-Semitic because we are against Hollywood’s blasphemy industry? Because we protest against abortion and pornography? Or because we are against communism?
Redefining Sin by Guilt Manipulation
Today, many people have started to define sin, not in terms of God's Ten Commandments, but in terms of some kind of societal guilt manipulation social engineering. There are those who have now come up with terms that are not found in the Bible and assert that these are the worst sins anyone can commit.
What is the Least Important Commandment?
Interestingly, some time ago, a group of theological students were asked to rearrange the Ten Commandments “in order of importance”. They quickly all agreed that the most important commandment is “You shall not murder”. The second most important commandment, should definitely be “You shall not steal”. They then became quite divided when it came to one of the “least important ones”. About half of the students were divided on whether “You shall not commit adultery”, was the least important or “You shall have no other gods before Me”. After more discussion, the “least important commandment” determined was the first commandment – “You shall have no other God before Me.” It is most interesting how these theological students made their order of priority according to man, therefore the worst sin was to take a person’s life. The least important priority, according to them, was God. Taking God's Name in vain, committing idolatry, or having other gods before Him were considered unimportant. This is the exact opposite order of how God structured His Ten Commandments.
What is the Most Important Commandment?
When our Lord Jesus Christ was asked, He replied that the greatest Commandment is this, that you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength and you shall love your neighbour as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). There is no commandment greater than this. Love God wholeheartedly.
What then is The Greatest Sin?
It follows then that if the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, what is the greatest sin? To fail to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength! Failure to love God is the root sin, which leads to all other sins.
The Heart of the Problem
Putting man in the centre, instead of God, is at the root of sin. The middle letter of sin is “I”. The middle letter of pride is also “I”. Selfishness is at the heart of our all problems and our rebellion against God. You cannot love your neighbour, until you first love God. Only after I was converted to Christ, out of a regenerate heart, did I develop a concern and love for my neighbour, to obey God's Law. The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart.
The Day of Judgement as Described by Our Lord
What counts in God's eyes is not so much the bad that we have done, evil, as serious as that is, is not the main problem. Turn to Matthew 25, concerning the Day of Judgment: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the Throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: ‘ for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46
Sins of Omission
Here in the Words of our Lord Jesus, He makes it clear that the Day of Judgment is overwhelmingly focused on sins of omission. Whereas many people delude themselves that they are good people, but do not think of the things they could have done, but did not do. “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” James 4:17
The Greatest Sin is to Fail to Love God Wholeheartedly
The greatest sin is to fail to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength and to fail to serve and obey Him, as He commanded. What counts in God's eyes is not so much the evil we have done, bad as that is, but the good that we fail to do. He said to those on His left: you did not care, “depart from Me”. It is unforgivable to not care. Jesus demands wholehearted love. Not with some, or most, but with all. Nothing less than everything we have is sufficient enough for our God and our Saviour. Nothing less than the best we have is worthy for the Redeemer, the Sovereign Lord, who is our Creator and our Saviour.
There are four aspects to this command, which our Lord emphasised. You must love God with all your heart. ‘Heart’ in the Bible is the centre of your being. It suggests the core of your being. It is not referring to the pump that moves your blood around your body, which is essential for life. It speaks about your essence, your inner being. Today many people use the term heart, as though it is just your feelings, but your heart is a lot more than feelings. There is will, character and many other aspects involved. We should love God emotionally, our heart should be filled with love for God and we should be excited about the grace of God, the character of God and the Word of God. We should eagerly desire to experience His presence. The Psalmist writes, “…Your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure forever…” We should have an attitude of gratitude for God's creation and for His Re-creation, His Redemption, His Salvation, for His mercy and grace.
We should love God with all of our heart and soul. We need to experience His glorious presence and majesty, through constant prayer, through enthusiastic praise and through intense worship. Our soul should feed on His Word and drink of His Spirit. Your walk with God is even more important than your work for God. That is why it is so important for us to structure into our day: Bible Before Breakfast. Our Daily Bread. Psalm Before Lunch is something we have incorporated into our Mission. Before lunch we read a Psalm, or a chapter from another Book of the Bible. Scripture Before Supper, or Scripture After Supper, is a wonderful principle to weave the Bible into our daily routine, both personal and corporate. As a ministry, we start with Hymn singing every morning and we read a Scripture before lunch. I try to never give a lecture anywhere, without starting with a Hymn to bring people back to the treasures of the Church. KwaSizabantu Mission prays before tea and before starting a vehicle to drive somewhere, even if it is just a short journey. These are good practices. “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1
Renewing Our MInd
We should love God emotionally, spiritually and with all our mind. The Bible says we must reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, yet they shall be as white as snow (Isaiah 1:18 ).
We are told to renew our minds. Christianity is a reasonable Faith. We need to fill and renew our minds with the Word of God. God’s Word must cleanse our minds, our thoughts, our way of thinking and our perspectives. We need to have a Biblical worldview. As we study the Bible, we need to bring our minds into reverent submission to God's revealed will. You may have your convictions, or opinions, but when you find that your views are in contradiction with God's Word and God's Laws, you know what should give way. We should not twist God's Word to suit us. We have to submit our lives, minds, thoughts, ways, habits and practices in conformity to God's Revealed Law in the Bible.
In Spirit and In Truth
What comes into your mind when you think of God is the most important thing about you. No person is greater than their concept of God. The essence of Idolatry is thinking unworthy thoughts about God. God cannot be adequately represented, or communicated, through any statue, icon or symbol. We must purify and elevate our concept of Almighty God, for He is gloriously infinite and majestically eternal. He is the Righteous One, the God of Justice, the God of wrath, the God of Judgment, the God who hates evil. He is the God of creation, a God of love and mercy and He is the God of Salvation. Our worship of God depends upon our understanding of who God is, His attributes, His character, He is infinite, eternal, omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. He is the Alpha and the Omega. God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth. That is why the Reformers threw statues out of the church, the crucifix and the altar were replaced with the pulpit and an open Bible, emphasising the reading and preaching of the Word of God. Listening to the Word of God is central. Protestants see the sermon as being an essential part of the worship, not just singing.
The Protestant Work Ethic
All of our lives should be worship to God. As Martin Luther taught: “A dairymaid can milk cows to the glory of God.” Every aspect of our work, can be done to the glory of God. We need to have a Christian Protestant work ethic, as essential to worship. We must perform our daily tasks in a way that is excellent, to glorify God, to be a witness and meet the needs of God's people and creatures.
Idolatry in Practise
As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:8,10: “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord… that I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection” A Christ-centred Biblical worldview must be Bible-based, otherwise people will just have an idea of what they think and what they feel. People make up their own version of God. Their god is an idol that they have set up in the temple of their mind. John Calvin said that the human heart is an idol making factory. We need to be so careful not to make an idol of anything. Many people will be silent and say nothing while the Name of our Lord Jesus is taken in vain, but if their favourite sports team, politician or their Hollywood idol is criticised, then you see a Chernobyl nuclear meltdown and how people become animated and erupt. That means that idol is more important in their life than God. God is not their priority.
A Living Sacrifice
We must love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is not enough to love God with some of, but in all of these four areas. Out of love for God, we must present our bodies as a living sacrifice to serve Him practically. We worship God through our time, talents, treasure, our energy and abilities with all our strength. We need to serve God practically. True love is measured by sacrifice. You know how much you love someone by how much you are willing to sacrifice for them.
Christ’s Great Commission Must Be Our Supreme Ambition
Apostle Paul wrote: “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God.” Acts 20:24. The Great Commission is our supreme ambition. To serve God, to let the whole world hear His voice. Let the whole world hear His Word. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy. May the Lamb of God receive the reward for His sufferings. Loving God is not just emotional, it is not only spiritual, it is mental and physical. It cannot just be with our mind, heart and soul, it must also have feet and hands. It must be head, heart, hands and feet. Put feet to your Faith. That is why the laced-up boots are a good depiction of our Christian Faith. Feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel.
True Love is Shown in Actions
We must love God with all of our hearts. We must seek Him with all of our soul. We must obey Him with all of our mind and we must serve Him with all of our strength. Anyone can tell who a real Christian is. Jesus said the mark of a real Christian is real love. We should love as Jesus loved.
He showed us, He proved it by His actions, by His Life, by His Death, by His Resurrection. While we were still His enemies. He died for us. If Jesus showed His love to us, should we not do the same for Him? “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
Love in Action
C.T. Studd, the great cricketer, said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then nothing I can do for Him could be a sacrifice too great to make! Some like to live within the sound of church or chapel bell, I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell... Only one life, it will soon be past, only what is done for Christ will last”.
Not A Sacrifice – A Privilege
Dr. David Livingstone said, “I do not think that word sacrifice ought to be mentioned in reference to anything we can do for Him. Who though He was rich, yet for our sake, He became poor.
Anything we do for Him is simply a small part payed back of a great debt, which we can never repay”.
These heartfelt expressions were backed up by lives, decades of sacrificial service in the field, of people who were motivated by love for Christ.
True Love is Measured by Sacrifice
How much have you sacrificed for Christ?
What Have You Done For Christ?
The night that I was converted, 3 April 1977, I heard the preacher describe what Jesus had done for me and then he said, “What have you ever done for Him?” Shamefully, on that day, at age 17, I had to admit, nothing! I had never as much as thanked God for life itself. I had not thanked God for preserving my parents in the war, for protecting me from all kinds of sicknesses and adventures where I was almost killed, I had not thanked God for health or food, for not a thing. The first sin I had to repent of was ingratitude.
Love In Action
That was a challenge: What have I done for Christ out of gratitude for what He has done for me? Today the average message is more about what can God do for me. It has become so me-centred. Rather, we should ask What can I do: What can I sacrifice for Christ?
A Middle Ages Prayer
Teach us, good Lord,
to serve You as You deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do Your will.
Elements of Love
Love entails intense enthusiasm, a longing to be near, a desire to serve.
Do you love Jesus Christ that way?
Love is seen in service, love is seen in enthusiasm, love is seen in sacrifice.
Do you get enthusiastic about Jesus?
Does the thought of worshipping God and experiencing His presence excite you?
Do you overflow with joy when you talk about Jesus Christ?
If not, then you do not love Him with all your heart!
Do you long to be near Jesus?
Do you feel incomplete if you are separated from His presence?
Do you eagerly long for the next worship service or Quiet Time?
If not, you cannot say you love God with all your soul!
Are you dedicated to serving God in every possible way?
Are you determined to use your abilities, talents and energy for God?
Our love for God, should make us want to serve Him.
If your love for God does not make you want to serve Him, then you do not love Him with all your strength.
A Materialistic Illustration
Imagine if the church offered you R10 for every tract you distribute; R500 for every hour you spend in prayer; R1000 for every person who you lead to Christ. If this was offered, would it make you pray more? And be more evangelistic? Would it make you study how to evangelise more effectively, to bring more people to the Lord? If the answer to that is yes, it would mean that you love money more than you love God. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24
To Love God is to Obey His Commandments
We need to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The greatest commandment is to love God above all else and more than anyone and anything else. The root source of our growth, fruit and success is our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus said, if you love Me, you will obey My Commandments.
Turn the World Upside Down
We need men and women who love God with all they have. Such people can turn this world upside down and back to God. The evangelist John Wesley declared, “Give me one hundred men who love God with all of their heart and who hate nothing but sin and who fear no one but God and I will turn the world upside down.” Even if it was one thousand men we could turn the world upside down, right side up, back to God.
Seek a Deeper Relationship with God
The more we come to know the Word of God, the more we will know the God of the Word. Love grows out of time spent together in a committed relationship. We need to deepen our relationship with God, to spend more time in seeking Him. “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13. When we search for the Lord in prayer, in worship and in our quiet times, on our own and together with other dedicated believers in fellowship, we will find Him.
A Blacksmith keeps his iron in the fire long enough for the fire to come into the iron. We need to be so immersed in God's Word and spend much time in His presence that His fire will burn in our hearts. Love is like a fire, it grows if it is fed, but dies, if it is starved of fuel. Love is like a fire, it spreads easily but it constantly needs more fuel to keep it going. Our love for God needs to be fed by faith in His Word, in worship and prayer and praise and adoration, through service and sacrifice, through seeking first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness.
Seek To Know and Love God
Anselm, a Church leader in the 12th century, prayed:
“Let me seek You in longing; let me long for You in seeking,
Let me find You in love and love You in finding”.
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
See also: True Love is the Fulfillment of God’s Law