The tragic flaw of unbelief

1 Cor 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (ESV)

John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” (ESV)

Thousands of years of religion has distorted the meaning of this word “sin.”  It doesn’t mean what you think it means.  What it is not is “moral infractions that must be dealt with by discipline and increased will-power.”  It doesn’t mean “your inability to follow the law of Moses.”  It doesn’t mean “smoking and drinking and dancing and cussing and watching rated R movies.”  It actually has nothing to do with any of that.  It has everything to do with unbelief.  Living in sin is nothing more that doing what comes natural when you don’t trust a loving God and live out of His power and provision.  It is acting out of the tragic flaws each of us have based on our “wiring” and “experience.”  It is often our undoing resulting from our uninformed best intentions.  When we operate out of our power and resources, our limited ability will likely fall short of what God could do if we were trusting Him.  Every tragic flaw begins with unbelief.  Here is the Greek word often translated as sin:

266 /hamartía (“sin, forfeiture because missing the mark”) is the brand of sin that emphasizes its self-originated (self-empowered) nature – i.e. it is not originated or empowered by God (i.e. not of faith, His inworked persuasion, cf. Ro 14:23).

Did you know that the word “hamartia” was around for a long time before Jesus walked the Earth?  Did you know that this word represents a concept in Greek literature that the “tragedy” writers would use to emotionally charge their stories?  Here are some excerpts from Wiki and others:

Hamartia is a personal error in a protagonist’s personality that brings about his tragic downfall in a tragedy. This defect in a hero’s personality is also known as a “tragic flaw.”

Aristotle used the word in his “Poetics” where it is taken as a mistake or error in judgment. The term envelops wrongdoings which may be accidental or deliberate. One of the classic examples of hamartia is where a hero wants to achieve something but, while doing so, he commits an intentional or accidental error and he ends up achieving exactly the opposite with disastrous results. Such a downfall is often marked by a reversal of fortune.

To put it in a simplistic way, hamartia means “no matter where you go, there you are”;  there are elements of our selves from which we simply cannot escape, and, for the Greeks, these elements are “inherited” and will sometimes determine the course of our lives.

In a Biblical view the word has the same meaning and the “tragic flaw” emerges when we listen to lies and stop believing in the goodness of God.  This is exactly what happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden.  Remember this passage?

Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (ESV)

Did God actually say?  This is where it begins.  This is where the devil challenges what we believe.  God had given them everything in the Garden.  We weren’t ready for the knowledge of good and evil.  When we ate that poisoned fruit our first response was to hide in the bushes.  Suddenly our understanding of God shifted.  We now saw all our flaws and knew “He must be mad at us.”  The truth is God came looking for them.  He wasn’t mad.  He even provided clothes for them to take away their shame.  He has been doing the same ever since.  He desires mercy not sacrifice.  He wants us to see and believe in His goodness.  Want to know what it looks like when we stop believing in His goodness?

Gen 4:6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (ESV)

Cain did not offer an acceptable offering.  We find out later the rest of the story:

Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. (ESV)

So I want you to “see” this truth.  God is telling Cain that “sometimes you get it right and sometimes you get it wrong but why has that made you angry and depressed?”  God knows why.  Cain doesn’t trust God.  He doesn’t have faith in God’s goodness.  As a matter of fact, that is why his offering wasn’t acceptable.  He was operating out of duty and unbelief.  He was trying to move God when we are the ones that need to move.  We are the ones that need to move out of our unbelief and step into His goodness, mercy and Grace.  We have the same struggle today.  We don’t believe.  Religion teaches us that we have to perform to move God and site the Cain story as an example.  Unbelief.  It is the root of all our issues.  Check out this verse:

Rom 14:23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (ESV)

This is fun.  Substitute the word “unbelief” for “sin.”

For whatever you do that isn’t from faith in a loving, amazing, merciful God is UNBELIEF. (LLT)

“But wait a minute Pastor Lance, doesn’t it say that breaking the law is sin?”  Good question.  Check out this verse:

1 John 3:4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (ESV)

Is sinning lawlessness or is lawlessness sin?  OK, confused.  Try the unbelief substitution:

Everyone who keeps on living in unbelief practices lawlessness because unbelief is lawlessness (LLT)

So what is it we believe in?  Jesus of course but not just the facts regarding Him.  No it is the whole package.  Jesus is everything including all His promises.  There are so many.  Check out all the promises just in this passage:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned,

And this should really drive the point home.  What happens when we don’t believe in the goodness of God?  We look like Cain:

but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (ESV)

For the next few posts I want to have some fun with this substitution of the word unbelief for sin.  As an example look at the verses at the opening of this post:

1 Cor 15:56 The sting of death is UNBELIEF, and the power of UNBELIEF is the law. (ESV)

John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your UNBELIEF, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your UNBELIEF.” (ESV)

How awesome is that?!?  Can you see Cain in the first verse?  The poisoned fruit brought us the concept of law, performance, good and evil comparisons.  The power of unbelief is found in the perfect law.  We absolutely will never ever get it right.  The law highlights that with Hubble magnification.  What are we confronted with?  Tragic flaw after tragic flaw.  We hang our heads like Cain and contemplate even murder to make ourselves look better.  All the while God is standing right there smiling at us.  He says “look to the cross, see my Son?  I’ve paid it all.  I’ve demonstrated my love.  I’ve told you that you can be like Jesus.  I’ve told you that you have Me in you.  I’ve told you that you have all authority and My power in you to change the world.”  How could we be downtrodden?  We stop believing.  In that unbelieving place we are dead.  We are no longer living His life.  We are trapped in our selfish worlds, taking and taking when God says “hold out your hands, I have a gift.”  Please step into believing.  Cry out to God like the father of the epileptic boy “I believe, help me in my unbelief.”  Then our tragic flaw of unbelief is removed and we move into eternal life, walking in the Kingdom of Heaven right here on Earth.

Yay God!


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