What is the Greatest Sin?

Ten Commandments Tablets
By Herbert W. Armstrong
August 1969 Tomorrow's World Magazine Personal from the Editor


WHAT is THE GREATEST SIN that anyone could commit?   The most terrible sin of all is probably the very last one that most people would name. In fact, most people might not consider it to be a sin at all!

I have known what this sin is for 42 years, but the GRAVITY of this supreme sin was given great emphasis as I was reading in I Chronicles 29, in the Fenton translation.

It was 3,000 years ago. David was King over Israel in Jerusalem. It was in the heart of David to build a Temple at Jerusalem for God, and God said to David that he did well in desiring to build the Temple. But, because David had been a man of war, and had killed many, he was not allowed to build it. God decreed it should be built by his son, Solomon, after David's death.

In response to David's request to the people that they contribute for the building of the Temple, they responded with enthusiasm and great liberality. "Then the people rejoiced," we read in I Chronicles 29:9, "for that they had offered WILLINGLY, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the Eternal: and David the king also rejoiced WITH GREAT JOY!" They were stirred, moved, inspired, fired up with anticipation of this glorious HOUSE FOR GOD!

David also was deeply moved! He knew all they gave had come from the Great God! He was inspired to realize the GREATNESS, the MAJESTY, the SUPREME GLORY of the living God! He was moved to an inspired prayer, publicly expressing his gratitude and praise for the Great GOD.

So this is what I read, in the Fenton translation, beginning the next verse-the 10th:

"Blessed be YOU, the EVER-LIVING, - The GOD of Our Father Israel, - From Eternity to Eternity! With You LORD, is Greatness, and Power, And Beauty, and Splendor, and Glory! For all the Heavens and the Earth are Yours, LORD! The Government, and Exaltation, And Headship of all!"
 
The Fenton translation omits part of the next verse, so I continue from the Moffatt translation in modern English:

"Riches and honor come from Thee, who reignest over all; in Thy hand lie power and might, and in Thy hand it lies to make all great and strong. Hence, O our God, we ever thank Thee and praise Thy glorious name. Yet who am 1, what is my people that we should be able to offer such free will offerings? All gifts come from Thee, and we only give Thee what is Thine." (I Chron. 29:10-14).

As I read David's inspired words I seemed to catch the vision of the GREATNESS, the POWER, the BEAUTY, the SPLENDOR and GLORY of the Great God - and of His Throne in Heaven! Did you ever stop to think of it? God is not the author of ugliness, unsightliness, darkness, cheapness, inferiority! God Himself dwells in brilliant SPLENDOR! From His throne in Heaven brilliant lightning flashes forth! It is resplendent in beauty, brilliance and GLORY!

Said the inspired David, "Riches and honor come from thee!" Not poverty - RICHES! God is the great GIVER of all GOOD THINGS! Poverty is not of God. Filth and squalor do not come from God, but from disobedience to His Laws! RICHES come from God, to those who UNDERSTAND and follow His WAYS! For those who learn how properly to use them!

ALL - absolutely ALL good things, wanted things, desirable things - come from GOD! God is one who GIVES - not one who TAKES! He SHARES, and has given us precious promises that, if we yield to Him and His ways, ALL THAT HE HAS we may SHARE! If we are Christ's we are His own HEIRS - to INHERIT what He HAS - to SHARE it with Him! Can your mind comprehend that?

God IS, and HAS, the ULTIMATE ! The GLORY of God - His THRONE, ruling the universe - His POWER -   is    the    SUPREME    Of    SUPERLATIVES    MAGNIFIED.'

Yet all His power and glory we may share! All this we may INHERIT.

Look at this life NOW! Every GOOD that is desired, wanted, craved, comes from God!

He gives, not only to the deserving and the righteous, but to the unjust and undeserving. "He makerh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:45).

Yet, of course, transgression of His laws (the CAUSE of desired results) brings penalties and cuts one off from the extra blessings.

Then, in the life to come, there is the PROMISE that we may inherit ALL THAT IS HIS - that we may SHARE with Him all that He has!

What is the GREATEST POSSIBLE SIN?

It is that which cuts one off from the GREATEST POSSIBLE GOOD - the SUPREME ACQUIREMENT! It is that which separates one from the GIVER of all that is GOOD!

It is not only in this life that the GOOD THINGS come from God. The good things we may receive from Him here and now are only an earnest - a small portion of a down payment - of what He wants to give us later.

But what of the desired things we may have from God here and now?

As I look back on my 77 years up to now, I realize my own life illustrates the point. As a young man I was ambitious. Desire to succeed - to accomplish - to get to the top in life - was fired like a red-hot flame within me at age 16. It was a selfish goal. But I began to study deeply and intensively, apart from school   studies.

Later, after a self-analysis stimulated by a book titled "Choosing a Vocation," I chose the advertising profession. I studied hard. I drove myself with energy. I applied my mind to thinking about what I was doing while I was doing it - something most neglect to do. Thus I gained by experience as well as from books.

I became successful, probably the most successful young advertising man in Chicago, between ages 23 and 30. At 28 I was making, in my own publishers' representative business, the equivalent of $28,000 to $30,000 per year measured by today's dollar-value. My business brought me into constant contact with leading multi-millionaire executives of the largest industrial and business corporations in the middle west, and with Board Chairmen, Presidents and executive Vice Presidents of the nation's largest banks.

My ambition - my goal in life - was to achieve STATUS - to be looked upon as important. By the time I was 45 or 50, I expected to be regarded by these successful men as their superior. I was full of vanity and self-confidence. 1 was completely self-centered, I was cocky and conceited, yet I was also sincere, honest, and I had my own well-meaning ideals. But even that was self-centeredness.

All this time I was receiving the GOOD God showers on both the sinners and righteous. I was receiving from God the breath that gave me life - the blessings of the sun and the rain in the form of food to sustain life, and clothing and shelter. But I was NOT enjoying real inner peace. I was not free from fear and worry. I had not learned what real HAPPINESS is. I was cutting myself off from the Great God who lavishes on those enjoying contact with Him all the EXTRA blessings!

And all this time I was, without realizing it, committing this CAPITAL sin!

God was calling me to a special mission but my swelled-up ego prevented me from seeing it then. So - for my own good - God took away my business. Three successive businesses! Through forces and conditions entirely beyond my control. He brought me down to POVERTY spelled in capital letters! Then by providential circumstances He angered me into a study of His Instruction  Book, the Bible.

I fought against His truth. I delved into evolution to see if I could prove the non-existence of God. This study proved, instead, the falsity of that theory and the existence and the reality of God. Further research proved the infallible inspiration of the Bible - in its original writing.

When God began to reveal Himself to me - when I caught a glimpse of His Almighty Power and Glory - of His Truth - of His living REALITY, (even as King David saw it in the prayer I have quoted,) I began to see myself for what I really was - an egotistical, swelled-up piece of worthless HUMAN VANITY !

The life ambition I had cherished, striven for, expended all my energy on, was only another god before the true God!

What is the greatest possible sin? I repeat. It is that which cuts one off from the greatest possible GOOD the supreme acquirement - it is that which separates one from the GIVER of that supreme GOOD! It is to have another god before the REAL God!

No one can gain contact with God until his idol his false god - is DESTROYED! And the true God had now shattered to bits my false god! I was humbled and brought low. Low enough to be willing to give my life over to GOD - and I did!

Material possessions alone do not bring happiness. Real happiness is primarily a spiritual, not material entity. I gave up all concern relative to status - to what "big men" thought of me. It was unconditional surrender to God.

It was necessary to remove entirely the setting of my heart on material things - letting them, or vanity, be the god at whose shrine I worshipped. To this end, God put me through 28 years of economic poverty. Stripped of good financial income, I learned what HAPPINESS really is. I was now poor in material goods - rich in having received God's Holy Spirit! I experienced JOY - happiness brimfull and running over! I learned to love and ENJOY digging out new truths from the Bible with others of the world's poor.

Meantime, yielding myself to GOD'S WORK, I was being prospered. Not financially - not in personal finances. That didn't seem to matter. But THE WORK was continuously prospered. Its growth averaged close to 30% each year.

Even today, I own nothing - save such personal things as clothing. I own no home, no automobile. But I am privileged to live in a College-owned home on each of our three campuses. These fantastically beautiful campuses are my lawns and gardens which I am privileged to enjoy - along with hundreds of students and faculty people. And there is a car at each campus put at my disposal, with a driver for each, since I now am able to see only through one eye too dimly for safe driving. And further, since the operations of the Work of God grew to such worldwide power and scope, necessitating much travel to all parts of the world, there is a private corporation jet plane and crew always at my disposal. After 28 years of material poverty and spiritual wealth I had learned NOT to set my heart on physical things. Now God allows me to use them.

Now I look back on a life that has been used in helping many thousands to see and follow THE WAY of peace, happiness, and abundant well-being. Actually, I didn't do any of it - GOD DID! - but I was privileged to be used as an instrument in His hands. I live on college campuses not only beautiful in physical environment, but filled with happy, smiling, wholesome, radiating and vigorous young men and women utterly unlike those on the average university campus.

And yet, when I say that I am the most blest man on earth, many of them and of the many executives in this Work around me, will smilingly assure me that each of them is the most blest! I rather like that kind of disagreement!

God blest me with the loveliest, finest wife in the world - for fifty years - a full half century. And when she died, more than two years ago, I did not have to grieve as others who have no hope. Rather, I look back on those 50 happy years - and forward to a soon-coming resurrection when we'll be together again.

Yes, when I tell you all the GOOD THINGS come from God, I am speaking from EXPERIENCE!

Recently, my son Garner Ted was speaking about the protests, the rebellion, the violence on hundreds of college and university campuses all over the world. They are Communist inspired. But Communist rabble-rousers could not stir up all this mass discontent unless something was really WRONG with modern education. But at our own Ambassador College campuses there is no discontent, no rebellion, no marches on the Chancellor's residence, no protest, no violence.
Where there is inflamed discontent it is aroused because of the absence of something - students themselves do not realize what - but something that would SATISFY! My son said what they really are crying out for, without knowing it, is what our students do have on the Ambassador campuses.

It is two things:

1)    The Missing Dimension in Education. Ambassador students have learned what are the TRUE VALUES, and stopped pursuing the false! They have learned the meaning and real PURPOSE of life - and THE WAY to achieve it. And they are on THAT WAY, the true way of life!
2)    They have - most of them (and the others not far from receiving) - that which assures achievement of life's real goal - that which alone really satisfies, God's Holy Spirit within, guiding and leading them.

And THAT is the real essence of what discontented student rebels hunger for. The missing true knowledge, and God's Spirit dwelling within, opening the mind to God's TRUTH, showing them THE WAY, filling them with God's LOVE, and with peace and joy! It is the only ingredient that can fill that void of emptiness - that can really SATISFY.

That is God's GREATEST of ALL GIFTS. It is the gift of God Himself coming into our lives. It is the presence, conditionally, of ETERNAL LIFE. It is the "living waters" that quench inner thirst - the spiritual food that feeds inner soul hunger! It is Love, Faith, Power! It is what makes life WORTH LIVING, NOW! It is what makes life here and now full and rich and abundant. It is the SOURCE and BASIS of HAPPINESS!

But it is MORE!

I said God wants to share with us everything He has!

That includes His ETERNAL LIFE, His POWER and GLORY!

After enjoying the fullness of abundance in this life, there is the life for ETERNITY with God. In this present life we are HEIRS - IF His Spirit dwells within - IF we follow, and are led by His Spirit. But following this life we shall become INHERITORS! Inheritors of  ALL  THAT  GOD  HAS.1

Notice! "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you . . , But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth  in you . . .  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the SONS OF GOD. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of SONSHIP, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we arc the children of God: and if children, then HEIRS; HEIRS OF GOD, AND JOINT-HEIRS WITH CHRIST . . . For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He [Christ] might be the FIRSTBORN among many brethren" (Rom. 8:9, II, 14-17, 29).

Study that! UNDERSTAND it!

If we are Christ's - IF His Spirit dwells in us - IF we are following where His Spirit leads - we are now His children, but now only HEIRS. Not yet inheritors. But Jesus Christ then becomes our elder brother. He is the first BORN of many brethren. We are His brethren and co-heirs. He has now been BORN of God - and He IS God! Notice it!

In Romans, the first chapter, "Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh [that is, as a human Jesus was a son and descendant of David; BUT]; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the resurrection from the dead"  (Rom. 1:3-4).

Notice how plain! Jesus Christ, who was BORN of the human virgin Mary in the human material flesh, was a descendant of David. BUT, He was declared to be the Son of GOD "by the resurrection from the dead."

As such - a Son of GOD WITH POWER, ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT OF HOLINESS - that is, of divine SPIRIT, He was the first BORN of many brethren. Not the first to be BORN of material human flesh. The first to be BORN of divine HOLY SPIRIT, with POWER.

By a resurrection from the dead, He became the Spirit-composed divine Son of God, the first so BORN of MANY BRETHREN !

He was born once, in the physical human flesh, of the virgin Mary. But not the first to be born human. He was later BORN AGAIN - the first so born of many brethren - by the resurrection, of divine Spirit composition, as the divine Son of God. So by this second birth to divine Spirit - by the resurrection - He was BORN AGAIN - born a second time even as we may be. Born once of physical human flesh. Born a second time composed of divine Spirit.

Not that Jesus ever sinned. He didn't. Not that He needed redemption or salvation, in the sense that we do - He didn't! Rut Jesus had possessed and shared the divine GLORY of God through eternity, UNTIL He divested Himself of that Power and Glory to be divinely begotten in His human mother Mary. See John 17:5, 1:1, 14. He gave up ALL that He shared with God the Father, in order to save the human race. But after His resurrection, again He shared EVERYTHING- the universe - with the Father. Notice what He has now:

Jesus Christ is now "a Son whom He [the Father] has appointed heir of the UNIVERSE, as it was by Him [Christ] that He [God the Father] created the world. He [Christ], reflecting God's bright glory and stamped with God's own CHARACTER, sustains the UNIVERSE with His word of POWER." (Heb. 1:2-3, Moffatt.)

He now controls every force, power and energy in the universe. He SUSTAINS the entire universe. He ADMINISTERS the Government of God over the ENTIRE CREATION !

And with all this God promises we, too, are now heirs- IF we are Christ's - IF His Spirit dwells in us IF we follow and are led BY His Spirit!

Jesus Christ has now INHERITED ALL His Father has - all He shared with the Father before His human birth - and has been set to administer God's Universe Government! We are joint-heirs. He is the pioneer who lias gone on before, inheriting what WE, if we are His, shiiU also inherit and share! (Heb. 2: 6-11).

WHAT a heritage! WHAT a supreme potential! And all God's GIFT - the GIVER of ALL that is good!

What, then, is the GREATEST, most terrible sin anyone could commit? It is that which cuts one off from all GOOD - all blessings NOW, and the SUPREME the ULTIMATE, for all eternity in the life to come! It is to have another god before Him. It could be money. It could be excessive TV viewing of the wrong kind of programs. It could be clothes, pleasures, one's selfish ambitions (that was my false god in early life).

Many things could be another god before Him. Nearly everyone does have one or more other gods before Him. DO YOU?

Better face that question now, before it is too late!
Do YOU have some physical material idol?

How completely do YOU want ALL THE GOOD THINGS? Enough to give up whatever stands between you and the great GIVER ?



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