“But sin is not just doing wrong.  The book of James says, ‘He who knows the good he ought to do but does not do it, sins.’  So sin is not only doing what’s wrong before the Lord, it’s also not doing what you know you should be doing.  On top of that, sin in its essence is taking anything other than God and making it ultimate.  Sin can be the exaltation of a really good thing—making your spouse ultimate, making your children ultimate, making the pursuit of money ultimate.  You make anything other than God ultimate, that’s idolatry—and it’s sin, even if that thing, whatever it is you’ve elevated, is a good thing.

Mostly what we do when we hear that is, really, nothing.  We very tritely say, ‘Yeah, I’ve broken the laws.  Yeah, I have other things ultimate.’  But we don’t feel the weight of, and most of us never walk in the grief of, our sin.  ‘Yeah, I’ll acknowledge that it’s just there.’ But it doesn’t tend to bother us.  The reason for that is twofold.  Here’s the first one.  There’s a misunderstanding when it comes to the idea of goodness.  Despite the fact that you can’t survive the Ten Commandments without failing, and everyone knows there are other things they pursue with greater vigor than they do their relationship with Christ, we just buy into our intrinsic goodness.  We say, ‘I’m a good guy.  Yeah, I know, but really, I’m a good guy.  Now, Roger, my neighbor—dirtbag.  But me, I’m a good guy.’  What’s happening there is you’re taking the idea of goodness, and you’re defining it differently than God does.  And even the questions we get sometimes about the exclusive claims of Christianity, like, ‘What about good Hindu?  What about a good Muslim?’ There’s no such thing as a good Hindu, a good Muslim or a good Christian, not in the way God defines goodness.  God’s definition of good and our definition of good are two different definitions, and they aren’t compatible.

For example, my four-year-old son might be strong or smart by some measure, by some standard, when he’s with others of his age, or when he’s by himself in his room, but the second his father walks into the room, he is no longer strong or smart.  When I walk into the room, he is weak, small and ignorant, in comparison.  When he’s in the room by himself, he might be strong, and he might know how the world works, but when I walk into the room, that’s no longer true. When a higher, bigger, smarter, faster, stronger status comes in, the bar is raised, and then his weakness, foolishness and ignorance are revealed.  So, my boy is only strong if I’m not in the room.  And you are only good if there isn’t a holy God.  If you took your life and you laid it out on a piece of paper just clean, straight—this is you—and you took the prophet Isaiah, and you put his life next to yours, and we just kind of measured morality, you’re going to get smoked.  It’s not even going to be close.  You put it down and say, ‘One of these gets doomed, one of these gets eternal life. Who gets what?’  It’s not like the jury needs to deliberate six hours.  They’d just say, ‘Yeah, Isaiah’s in, and this guy goes.’  But when Isaiah, who makes you look sophomore B team when it comes to morality, sees God in a vision, he falls on the ground in terror and says, ‘Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the king.’  He’s saying, ‘How wicked, how dirty, how horrible am I?’  He’s terrified because he saw a holy God whose transcendence and beauty was so great, that Isaiah thinks that the only proper response upon his eyes seeing the king is that that king incinerate him.”