EBible Fellowship Sunday Bible Study – 15-Nov-2009


by John McOwen


How many of you today listening have a besetting sin?  Do any of you periodically fall into a sin which invariably causes you guilt afterwards?  Would you like some helpful hints today?  I see one hand up, two hands up, and if we are honest with ourselves, we all can identify to one degree or another with those statements for sure. 

If you would like some hints to help that situation today, to avoid having to deal with the guilt that we constantly are faced with when we do fall into sin, to aid us in the crusade to put that sin to an end finally, fortunately God offers some help in the Scriptures to deal with those issues.  But in order to successfully remove anything that is unwanted in our lives, we have to attack it first and foremost at the root or else it will continue to reappear. 

The greatest example on the earthly plain, or analogy that we can give to that particular statement, has to be the gardening one.  Where you have weeds—who has a garden that does not have weeds that need to be dealt with?  It is just the way God made it when He cursed the earth.  But when you just mow over weeds in a lawn or in a garden, what happens?  A few days later, they grow back.  So that does not help when you are just trying to pull at the edges.  If you do not go for the root, you are not going to have success in eliminating the weeds.  So you have to attack any problem, anything that is unwanted, at the root to get rid of it. 

It is the same thing with your health.  If you just treat the symptoms rather than the root cause, is that going to cure you?  No.  It is always going to be there.  That is why when cancer is attacked by chemotherapy and other means, it has to go right into the inner core of the body where the cancer cells are and try to kill them.  If you only try to deal with the surface, the symptoms, you will never, never finally get rid of it. 

We have a lot of different examples in the Bible as to what the root cause of sin is, and different types of sin.  One of our American historians poet and author—he was even a philosopher—was Henry David Thoreau.  He made a statement, a quote.  He made a lot of quotes that he is noted for, famous for, and books that he wrote as well.  But one of them I think is very apropos today for this and it will help us understand in a basic way what we are trying to show Biblically as far as a help, an aid for us who have sin issues that we deal with.  But Thoreau said, “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root.”  What did he mean by that?  You know, the idea is that most men deal with problems by simply hacking at the leaves, at the symptoms of something.  But one person out of a thousand in his view, his analogy, actually went to the root of the matter. 

I had the privilege actually, for a few years a while ago, working for General Electric.  They were very known for this Six Sigma program, which was a statistical analysis of processes and procedures in business.  And no matter what the business was, whether it was light bulbs or it was insurance, which I happen to be in, or it could be manufacturing, the Six Sigma program is a Greek term that deals with the statistical analysis of trying to make things consistent so that every time you produce a product, it is perfect. 

Imagine if you have one out of every ten things that come off the assembly line that was no good.  Your reputation for quality is going to go down the tubes and you will not be in business that long.  So Six Sigma was trying to have three parts per million be defective, but that was the limit, the absolute maximum limit that would be acceptable in a procedure. 

Well, one of the tools we had, and I remember this vividly, was called “root cause analysis.”  So whenever there was a problem, a customer complaint or a problem in the manufacturing or process of a white collar job, an office procedure, you always had to deal with the root.  You always kept asking questions about trying to find and delve into and attack the issues from the root to find out what was causing the problem rather than just maybe something that was symptomatic.  Otherwise, that would never solve it, would it.  It might go away for a week, but if you did not attack the root, it would always reappear.  So we had a chance over the years that I was there to exercise that in the business realm. 

I thought that is really what the Bible starts to talk about, when it speaks of root causes of evil or sin.  The same thing has to be applied in our own lives. 

Now let us look at sin in our own lives.  No matter what the sin—let us look at the ones that get all the press for sin: gambling, alcoholism, sexual sin, lying, anger can be one of them that is more prominent, but there are thousands of other sins that we all fall prey to.  Just think in your own life what maybe plaques you most today.  But the antidote to eliminating it is directly correlated to the degree to which you can reach it at the root.  I really think that statement is true for us as human beings as we deal with sin. 

Let us study an example in 1 Timothy 6:6-10, probably a very familiar passage to most of you if you are familiar with the Bible.  1 Timothy 6:6-10 says:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment… 

That word “raiment” is an Old English word for clothing.

And having food and [clothing] let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the [or a] root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 

I translated that word “the” in verse 10, the love of money is “the” root.  That is too strong of a statement in the Greek; it really should be “a” root.  It is not the only one, but it is “a” root.  It is a very common root; it is a very popular one unfortunately for most of us.  The love of money is a root of all evil. 

In other words, the Bible is telling us right away—we do not have to fish around for this one—what is the root of a lot of evil?  What is the cause?  How deep is that root in the ground that we have to pull out?  It is the degree to which I love money.  You might say to yourselves, “I do not love money.  I have some money; it is nice to earn money.  You need money to survive, to live today.  It is the medium of exchange.  That is how you get things and have value for what your employment might be, and actually purchase food and clothing and housing or other necessitates.” 

Well, the Bible says here in 1 Timothy 6:10:

For the love of money is [a] root of all evil… 

Now evil is a broad term.  It is not one particular sin, right?  The word “evil” can really encompass a lot of things that are not righteous, that are not good, that are not according to God’s commandments.  So the Bible is putting its finger on, God is putting His finger on one of the major issues, which is that loving money causes a lot of problems and sin and evil in your life. 

You have to ask yourself the question, let us just start here, “Do you find yourself pretty occupied, and inordinately so, with money or that medium of exchange, the ability that it gives you to accumulate things or to meet certain needs?  Does it cause friction?”  In a marriage, maybe oftentimes it does.  It is known, at least in the studies, the psychological studies in this country, that the number one cause for divorce is apparently fights over money, according to statistical research.  So apparently, that is a problem in relationships, how money is dealt with.  It does not necessarily mean that one loves money more than another, but they fight over it.  So hence there has to be some type of a preoccupation with it and with what it can do for you.

It could also cause problems with your peers at work.  You may be trying to outdo the other person and cheat and whatever to try to get ahead so you get the bigger raise or you get the promotion. 

How about with children in school?  Is the love of money at the root of friction between what should be friendships with everyone in your class?  Not necessarily that, but it could be what it buys, what it does for you, the clothes or the popularity it gives you so that you are cool, or whatever that may mean.  So it really encompasses a lot of what we do in our lives. 

So if you find yourself doing something or things that you are not proud of, in other words “evil,” the Bible says “evil,” which is just sin, then you need to begin looking at the root cause.  So if money is at the root of this negative behavior, then look at what the passage says about how to combat that. 

Let us just identify if money, or the love of it, or the preoccupation with it, is a potential cause of sin in your life, your marriage, your relationships, or just you yourself, and how you deal with your day-to-day life.  Look at 1 Timothy 6:6-8 because the first few verses told us the antidote.  Just like if it was a gardening example, you have to dig and get into the root of the weeds and pull them out that way or you are never going to get rid of that weed in your garden.  You cannot just pull it from the ground; you have to dig and pull it totally out by the bulb of its root.  And here the Bible says what the problem is: the love of money.  Here is how you pull it out.  1 Timothy 6:6:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 

There are two big words there.  Godliness, that is being like God.  So it is being righteous and following His commands.  But contentment, how beautiful a word is that?  Contentment means that I am in what kind of a state with where I am, whatever my condition in life?  Am I nervous about it?  Am I tense?  Am I happy or am I okay with it?  I do not even have to be joyful and happy about it.  But “content” means that I am good with it.  It is alright; it is okay. 

The Bible says here that godliness and contentment is great gain.  Here is why: you did not bring anything into this world and you are not going to carry anything out.  You die, you are buried six feet beneath the surface of the ground, and you carry nothing with you. 

Then it says in 1 Timothy 6:8:

And having food and [clothing] let us be therewith content. 

So the Bible says that whatever your state is, be content.  Then it says, here is the major focus; God says just food and clothing, those are necessities.  So having food and clothing should be sufficient to keep you content.  Hence all else is what?  Luxurious.  It is just luxury, it is just extra, it is a bonus, it is an add-on.  You know, the shelter, the jewelry, the trips, the cars, whatever else money buys and can get you.  Food and clothing is what God says is the starting point.  Those are the bare essentials, and those are the necessities.  Be content with those and hence anything else on top of that should bring joy. 

If you even have a car, be thankful.  Who cares if it is ten years old; it does not have to be new.  But too many people would be sad, or let us say disgruntled or unhappy, with their current situation that way.  You do not need to be.  The Bible says do not be. 

So if you desire more than that, you have the potential to fall into evil.  That is where the weeds are going to start growing.  If you do not hit the root…  Here is the lesson in this one: the root is to be content with food and clothing.  So start programming your mind to always be grateful for anything beyond that as well as thanking God for the food and clothing, because that is not a given even in this life (although in America, the richest country on the planet by and large, that is pretty plentiful for most people). 

Alright, now let us take any other type of sin you might have in your life and see what the Scriptures say about the root cause.  Let us look at one example.  A lot of people do not like to do this but they do it anyway, which is smoking.  It is sinful because it does kill you; it is destroying your body.  You know what our government called it when they first put taxation on alcohol and smoking?  What is that called in the economic textbooks?  Sin tax, that is right, because they were known as sinful behaviors.  We are going to allow it legally in this country to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes, but we are going to tax people.  And it is okay, it is acceptable because of the sin tax.  You should not be doing it, but if you want to do it, go ahead, but we are going to tax you a lot for it.  And a pack of cigarettes today is astronomical for people who smoke a pack a day; it is just absolutely unbelievably expensive to have that habit. 

But let us say you want to get rid of that problem.  What is the common way that people hack at the leaves, as Thoreau said, “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root”?  How do a lot of people try to deal with extricating smoking from their lives? 

Chewing gum, that is one example.  How about the patch?  Some people get the patch to get to the physiological problem.  If you really dig down deep, what is at the root of smoking?  It is an addition.  What is at the root?  Why is it so addictive to people?  It is pleasurable.  You link pleasure to it, so hence in the absence of the cigarette, you think you are not happy.  And especially, when do you turn to it?  When you are nervous or anxious. 

So the root is your own emotions inside; that is what is causing you to smoke.  As soon as something gets stressful, you get anxious.  You go out for a smoke and that will calm you down and make you feel good.  So the root is that you are not able to handle the anxieties of life. 

Why are you not able to handle the anxieties of life then?  Because you are not trusting God.  You are not trusting God to supply a job if you have just been laid off.  You are not trusting God to get you through the hassle, the problem, the squabble that you were just in with someone or the stressful news you just received, whatever it may be.  So the root is trusting God and hence that is where you have to attack the problem to successfully beat smoking, as an example, you see. 

Let us look at what God says in Matthew 23 about that issue.  In Matthew 23:23-26, God gives us a description.  You can either take gum instead of smoking or put the patch on, which is hacking at the leaves; it is the outward, it is not the real problem.  The problem is the emotions, the faith to trust in God.  In Matthew 23:23-26, Jesus is saying:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. 

You see, one of the applications of that verse is that you have to clean from the inside out or else it is not really clean.  You can wash your car on a Saturday afternoon and do a nice job on the exterior.  But if the inside is all full of leaves and mud and dirt and the windows are smeared, is the car really clean?  Maybe to somebody who walks past it in the parking lot, but anyone who gets in it is going to think it is not appealing.  You have to clean from the inside and then go out. 

That is what Jesus was saying here, the heart is not right.  So the human body, us sinning, you have to go deeper than skin, than the surface.  It cannot be the patch for smoking.  The gum is not going to do it.  It has got to be the heart; it has got to be the inner man.  That is where the root of the problem of sin resides, it is inside of us.

Look at the opposite in Luke 11.  Look at what Jesus said.  It is the same example, but in Luke 11:39, Jesus says:

And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. 

He is again saying to them that they are making the outward appearance look as such, but what is really going on inside?  He is telling the Pharisees that it is full of wickedness; the ravening and the robbery, they are thieves.  It is wicked.  They are not genuinely godly people.  They are not following the commandments of God.  They are not seeking Him with the whole heart at all.  It is just an outward appearance. 

Let us take another sin problem that some people have.  What about sexual sin?  What is going on in the inside for that one?  Let us take a look first of all at the outside.  The outside is easy because most people try to attack the outside of any problem.  Outwardly, what is going on with sexual sin?  The lust of the eye.  Jesus pointed to that and said if a man looks at a women lustfully, he has committed adultery with her already in his heart.  Physiologically, hormonal mapping is such that God created us that way.  It is natural, men and women; the sexual emotion is a natural one.  So that is going to happen outwardly. 

[Question from audience: How about tattoos?]  Maybe that could be potentially, it is a good insight. 

But when you look at the outward expression of sexual sin, it is because it is naturally there.  The question then is, if you have a problem with sexual sin, whatever it may be, how do you attack the root?  The root is not the hormonal mapping of your body the way God designed you.  That is just the way you are.  We all are men and women.  We are designed that way.  Once you hit puberty, it is there, like it or not. 

What is going on in the inside with that one?  When I fulfill my desires of the eyes, what is the root?  Selfishness, because I want it.  It is a desire that might be there and I follow through with it.  So it is selfish; because I want this I am going to have it.  I am going to do it whatever that is. 

So the root cause is selfishness.  Therefore, to extract that out of the equation means I would have to get away from thinking about pleasing me and I have to be more concerned about pleasing God and others.  If it is a marital infidelity, or whatever it may be, it is the spouse I focus on and his or her needs as opposed to what I think I want, whatever that may be.  So that is just one little analysis of a big problem that is very common in our country. 

If you are currently battling any type of sin problem, consider what the Bible tells us in the beautiful passage in Luke 3, because a lot of us feel helpless.  Somebody earlier mentioned addiction.  It might be smoking or whatever the sin might be.  You may be addicted to something that is causing you a problem. 

Do you remember what happened when John the Baptist was baptizing?  What was the whole issue there?  John the Baptist was baptizing because he was preparing a way for the Lord, and in preparation for Jesus Christ coming on the scene starting His earthly ministry, John the Baptist was baptizing people in the name of repentance there.  They were baptizing so that they would repent from their sin.  Look at Luke 3:7-8: 

Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him… 

This is John the Baptist.

…O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 

He is pointing to people coming to him and saying, “You are sinners,” in other words.

Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 

What is he saying?  They are coming because they are hopefully sorrowful for their sin when they realize they are wicked sinners.  Every one of us is the same way.  And John the Baptist is saying, “Bring forth fruit worthy of repentance.”  Here is what he is going to say in Luke 3:9-10:

And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? 

In other words, you have your sin problem.  You are saying, “I cannot help myself; that is just the way I am.  I am always anxious.  I cannot help it, whatever it is.  I cannot beat it.  I hate it but I cannot beat it.”  People said, “What do we do?”  Luke 3:11-14:

He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat [or food], let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. 

He is telling people what they are to do because they have these problems.  I am a publican and I am ripping people off—what am I to do?  He tells them what to do: do not do that anymore.  Then he says here in Luke 3:15-17:

And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water… 

He is saying to repent.  Do these good things to get away from the evil you were doing.

…but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. 

What is John saying?  They can repent to try to get away from the evil that they were doing, but that would not be the successful antidote, would it?  What was the real answer he said in verse 16?  Whom is he preparing the way for?  Jesus Christ.  And how was He going to baptize; not with water of repentance, but with what?  That is what was needed—the Holy Ghost. 

John was actually saying, “You will never be cured; you will never be free from that sin unless you are baptized with the Holy Ghost,” which is synonymous with the need to be born again.  This means that your heart needs to be changed to a new heart.  You need a new soul, you need God’s spirit in you or else you will never beat sin. 

The bottom line is, here is the common denominator of all the sins that we could possibly name that plague us, that dog us.  And it is this, no matter what the sin is, we need to be saved to truly have victory, or else we will almost always be struggling to try to beat it. 

The prayer of the sinner, of all of us, is what?  The common denominator is, “Lord, save me.  I need a new spirit; I need to be saved.  And if I am saved, I want to be obedient.  I want to do it Your way.”  You cannot do it by yourself.  Jesus said in Luke 17:6, and we are going to close with this verse, that you have this sin problem, you want it to be gone, you do not want to do it anymore.  He says in Luke 17:6:

And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you. 

He talked about “root cause analysis,” getting it by the root, picking it up and throwing it into the sea.  It is gone, out of the way.  Sin is eliminated.  But how did He say it needed to be done?

…If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed… 

We are back to the prayer for salvation, because is your faith strong enough to do it?  No.  You may have a lot of faith, but Galatians 2:16 says that we are justified by the faith of Jesus Christ.  That is the faith of a mustard seed that you need to say unto that tree to be plucked up by the root and tossed into the sea and it would obey you, because God has to do it.  He is the One who can eliminate any sin problem through His spirit dwelling in you. 

The bottom line to underscore it all is that we need to be saved; we need to have a new heart.  In other words, we have to be born again so we will have victory over sin.  May God give each and every one of us that gift of salvation and the faith of Jesus Christ to pluck up by the root any sin that plagues us today.  Amen.