Psalm 1:1 describes the slow transformation that is involved in sin in terms of motion. First, the Psalmist tells us, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in the way of the wicked.” It is hard to sin when we are yoked with Jesus and being about his work. However, the Psalmist recognizes that we often unyoke ourselves and warns, “blessed is the one who does not stand in the path of sinners.” Once we stop resting in Christ (which really means to be working with Christ, go figure) we begin to become comfortable with sin. Like a swirling vortex, sin pulls us into a place of comfort and familiarity; a place that many who are “weary and heavy laden” are deceived into turning to, “blessed is the one who does not sit in the seat of mockers.” There we have it – walking becomes standing and standing becomes sitting.
I think James 1:14-15 describes the same thing but in a little different way. I see in these verses a life cycle of sin. The first phase of the cycle is, “temptation comes from our own desires.” In phase two our own desires “entice us and drag us away.” Once we have been dragged away by our own desires, that which remains at the core of who we are in relationship and in rebellion to God, these desires “give birth to sin.” Once sin has grown the next phase is “death.” In the midst of death our desires often remain unchecked and feed off that which has died only to entice us and drag us away and begin the cycle all over again.
In Psalm 1 and James 1 I hear a very strong and familiar call. I hear the same call in the writings of Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton, of John and Charles Wesley, of Francis De Sales and John of the Cross. I hear that the way to escape this vortex or to break this cycle is to read my Bible and to pray. Psalm 1 continues by saying that instead of being sucked into sin the blessed “delight in the law of the Lord and meditate on His law day and night.” James suggests that we be not only hearers of the word but also doers. In order to interpret the word rightly we need to pray. In order to understand and know our deepest desires we need the Jesus Christ to reveal them to us through the Holy Spirit, which happens in our times of prayer when we say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Perhaps the prayer of the Psalmist is appropriate at the beginning and end of each day,
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there be any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
I have found that the difficult part is the prayer of examination; of allowing God to search me. That is a frightful thing and one I am afraid I run away from far too often. As you seek to live a life of holiness I hope these thoughts on sin prove to be encouraging and practical. In praise of Christ.