For years I have had this nasty bush on the side of my house. It probably isn’t a bush, but it’s not a tree, whatever it is, it is nasty. I have chopped the thing down about every other year, and it always comes back. I’ve even got a little below the dirt, and all but done some magic spell on the thing, but it seems to always survive. I wish my vegetable garden grew like that.
The reality is, I know what I need to do. I need to get it at the root. I need to dig up the ground, and pray that it hasn’t started growing into the foundation. If it has, I’ll have to dig deeper, then add masonry work to it. So why don’t I do that? Because it’s just easier to get the saw out, chop it down to the ground, and deal with it again in a year or two.
It takes about 5-10 minutes to saw it down to the ground and get rid of it. I know if I were to get it at the root, it would take me several hours, or I’d have to pay someone. So, what do I do? Take the easy way out, but the problem never goes away. It just gets pushed to the side only to return for future frustration.
This is how we often deal with sin, is it not? We “kind of deal with it,” but we don’t deal with it. Make a small change or two, confess, forgive, and act like there isn’t anything deeper, which is the problem. So how do we pull the root out of the ground? How do we rid ourselves of sin?
The first thing we need to realize is that there are different levels of sins. There is the sin that we see, the leaves and the “fruit” of it. There is the trunk of the sin. Then there is the root sins which often lay below the dirt. If we can understand the difference between these things, we can identify the root and start pulling the roots out to understand how to deal with the problem.
Let’s say that someone is slandering me. They are unjustly attacking me about things that are not true. This upsets me because those things are lies about me. I want people to think well of me. I make enough of my own mistakes that I don’t need people talking bad about me of things which are not true.
This makes me upset. As it goes on for months and doesn’t stop, my frustration turns into anger. Then I let my anger boil over in me, and then it turns into sin. I start slandering that person, cursing them out or chewing them out. Another’s sinful action has caused a sinful reaction by me.
In this scenario we need to understand that there are three levels going on here. My cursing or chewing out this other person is the fruit of sin. It is rotten fruit. This is not the root of the sin. Now if I were to poll a bunch of people asking them what the root of the sin was, they would probably say anger. They could see the wrath pouring out of me. I would say that anger is the tree trunk, not the root. So what is the root sin?
In 1 John 2:16, we see three root sins are listed. Now, in a way, it isn’t that simple, but it does give us a template to consider. 1 John 2:16: For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but from the world. These are the three root sins.
These three root sins are not just mentioned in John. In fact, if we look at the temptations of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11, we see that Satan attacked Jesus in these three areas. I won’t get into the depth of it, but if see the three temptations, we will see Jesus is tempted in these three ways.
Now, while we can go from John to Matthew, or the temptation of Jesus, we can move back even further, or better yet, start from the beginning. In the garden Satan used these three root sins to tempt Eve and Adam. What can we learn from this? Satan really has no other tricks. He’s been operating the same way throughout time.
Genesis 3:6 says, 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. We see that in regards to the forbidden tree, Eve was tempted with the tree for food, or lust of the flesh. We recognize the lust of the eyes when it says that the tree was a “delight to the eyes.” Then we see how the pride of life comes out when she realized the tree was “desired to make one wise.”
So in our scenario with the person slandering me, and me cursing someone out, how does this work? First, we see the fruit of the sin. I am cursing someone out. This is not the root of sin, it’s the fruit of the root.
Second, we can dig down deeper and see that anger is what is producing my sinful response to the person. Now, my anger might be justified here. This person is trampling over my justice. There is such a thing as righteous anger. But my response was sinful. Now, I wouldn’t call anger the root. I would call it the trunk. But out of the trunk or branches came the fruit of my sin toward that person.
Third, we now find the root. Remember, the root sin is either lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, or pride of life. In this scenario, I would say that the root sin is pride of life. How or why?
The reason I am so angry is because of my pride. Now, again, remember that being upset about being slandered is not a bad thing. We should want the truth to be said about us and be spoken about us. But I’m so prideful, that I have to be spoken of correctly. If not, I become angry and feel I deserve justice. If the slander is not corrected, my wrath will become unleashed. My pride is the root of that sin.
Now I need you to understand that we can’t always directly correlate anger to pride of life. Maybe in another scenario anger comes from the lust of the flesh. Potentially we see something someone else has, we want it, we can’t afford it, and then become angry. So a sin like anger doesn’t always correlate to the root sin of the pride of life, but it does correlate to one of the three root sins.
So we have identified root sins. If we stop here we haven’t completed the circle. The other questions that we have to ask: once we identify root sins, how do we handle them, or pull them out? Then the next question is, how do we replace root sins with Fruit of the Spirit? This is what we will look at next time.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.