Dear Mr. Hamilton,
I'm a bit confused. It is possible to keep all of God's commandments, but I thought people will never be perfect on earth -- only God is perfect. Or does God demand perfection?
But then we're not made right with God by our works. We are made right with God because of Jesus.
Also, people are not forced to sin, it is our choice. That makes sense. Why does everyone still sin though? I look at Jeremiah 17:9. It seems like men's hearts are inherently evil. Wouldn't that explain why we sin? If we are not naturally inclined to sin, then why do we all sin? Are we all in darkness before we hear God's word?
I definitely appreciate your help. Thank you for your time.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings" (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
The heart in biblical terms is the seat of your emotions. Your emotions can easily lead you astray. That is why people who argue that something feels right to them are likely to make an error in judgment. Another similar passage is "He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But whoever walks wisely will be delivered" (Proverbs 28:26).
The phrase "desperately wicked" translates the Hebrew word 'anash. It refers to an incurable wound or disease. If this was referring to a person's sins, then it would be saying that there is no cure for people's sins, which is false since Jesus did provide the cure for sin. But feelings can't be made reliable because feelings are not based on knowledge and reason.
Thus, this is not a passage about people being evil, but a warning not to trust your feelings.
The Bible states that we all start out sinless. There is no law that we've transgressed when we are born. "Truly, this only I have found: that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes" (Ecclesiastes 7:29). But given time and the pressure from Satan, we all eventually give into sin.
Consider the laws of a country like the United States. When a child is born, it has broken no law; yet, I don't know anyone who claims that they have never broken some law. People cross the street where they should not. They drive at moments a little too fast. There are even laws they are unaware of, which they end up breaking. And being a man-made law, I'm sure that there are contradictory laws that mean even perfectly keeping laws you end up breaking some other law. Does that mean everyone in the United States is born a criminal? No. There is a weakness in people. We get careless at times, we don't know everything, we follow our feelings when we know we should follow our heads, etc.
Satan takes advantage of the law to use it against people. "But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me" (Romans 7:8-11). Notice that Paul said there was a time when he was once alive, but when he became aware of the law, sin deceived him and killed him.
While in theory, no one has to sin, and Jesus proved it was possible, in reality, mankind is so prone to sin that we have all been guilty of it. However, we are limiting our discussion to reasoning adults. Infants do live sinless lives because they are not aware of the law and their responsibilities. This is why the Israelites' children were allowed to enter Canaan when the adults were not allowed. "Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it" (Deuteronomy 1:39).
You are correct, our works don't make us righteous, but our obedience to God gives God just cause to grant us righteousness as a gift. God doesn't demand perfection, but He does require that we trust Him and strive to do what is right. "For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity" (Proverbs 24:16). A righteous person doesn't give up. That is why you see so many encouragements in the Bible to persevere. "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).
"This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (I John 1:5-2:1).
The righteous try not to sin, knowing we will slip up at times. God has provided a just way to forgive us when we do fall, while still condemning the wicked who never really do try to do what is right.