In Japan, one really needs to be careful to define what we mean when say the word sin when preaching the gospel. The Japanese generally associate sin with “crime.” So things like murder or robbery or rape would be “sin” in their minds.
But sin, of course, has a much broader meaning than just “crime.” And it has a broader meaning than simply “doing bad things.”
Sin at its root is a lack of faith in God. It’s failing to trust him. It’s saying to God, “I don’t believe you. I don’t believe your way is best. I don’t believe you want the best for me.” And because of that attitude, it leads to all manner of other actions we call sin.
And that was Jeroboam’s problem. God had told him through the prophet Ahijah,
I will take the kingdom from [Solomon’s] son’s hands and give you ten tribes….However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. (I Kings 11:35, 37-38)
Jeroboam believed enough to stage a rebellion against Rehoboam. But after the kingdom was his, he started to worry. Will God really keep his promise to me?
The thing he was really worried about was that the temple was in Jerusalem in Judah where Rehoboam reigned. And God had told the people that they were not to just worship anywhere, but in Jerusalem. But Jeroboam feared that if the people in his country continued to go to Jerusalem to worship God, they would eventually turn back to Rehoboam as king and kill Jeroboam.
Jeroboam had a choice at this point. To believe God’s promise that he would continue to be king regardless of where the people worshiped. Or to not believe. And he chose not to trust God. The result? He installed idol worship in Israel. I believe he was essentially doing the same thing that Aaron had done. He set up idols and said, “This is Yahweh. Worship him.” And he set up his own places of worship as well as his own priests to officiate the worship. He also installed his own religious feast days to substitute for the ones that God had commanded Moses to keep.
And because of this, instead of building a lasting dynasty, it died with Jeroboam’s son.
In Hebrews 11:6, it says,
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
The question we need to ask ourselves is whether we trust God or not? We cannot please God unless we trust him. If we don’t trust him, then we start to do things our own way, and that’s sin.
I believe that it was C.S. Lewis who pointed out that that’s why the solution to sin is not found in doing good works. The opposite of sin isn’t doing good things. The opposite of sin is faith. And so if our sins are to be forgiven, God requires that we put our faith once again in him, starting with Christ’s work on the cross.
How about you? Are you walking in faith? Or unbelief?