"Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin."
Devotionals are awesome at times. You take a moment to get away from the distractions of life and the world, and spend a few moments in the word with the Lord, Alone. I love my wife and children, but time alone with the Lord is a necessity that all to often is forgotten.
The reason you have not seen any devotionals for the last week and a half or so is that our family was on a short and semi-local vacation. We spent 5 days east of the mountains in and around the Wenatchee area spending time with each other, God, and the locals at several Starbucks® locations along the way. In the process of relaxation, several long games of hearts, and reading books and scripture, I really felt like the Lord was giving me some great looks into His character, and mine. Awesome and fearful at the same time. Like we saw in last Sunday's message at CCBL, 'it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God [Hebrews 10:31].'
One of the things that God placed on my heart, one of many I plan to share with you over the next few devotionals, is this: You know better.
Think of times back when we were all kids. As we grew, whether it was our parents, relatives or someone else, we always had an authority over us. There was always someone there to teach you things like, don't put your hand in the fire', or don't play with that knife, or to tell us not to run with pencils or scissors - and then following that word with a short story about the horrors of some little kid they once knew who stuck a pencil in his eye, or scissors in their heart. True or not, they had effect, and we did our best to learn from those lessons.
In out younger days, we had a tendency to quickly forget those lessons, and replace them with the joys of a restless heart and active metabolism. Full of energy and a will of investigation, we plowed forward with total disregard for our own safety, often the safety of others, and certainly, on occasion, the rules and advice that had been set before us. Most often not seeing the immediate consequences of our wrong actions or disregard for authorities' advice, we ran like bulls in china shops at life, full bore. All this before the eventual invention of such things as Energy Drinks! (Can you imagine! Makes me shiver.)
Then there were the times when we got caught. Our parents could never understand why we would disobey in such a fashion. To us, we were simply having fun, enjoying life. And then came the inevitable question, "what were you thinking?" followed by, "You know better!" Right they were. We did know better. And that was the point Peter was making when he penned the verse we look at today.
For our own good, for our safety, and for the betterment of society, God has made laws. Commandments if you will on how to behave and act as individuals and as a society. Follow them, and we benefit independently and collectively. But perhaps more importantly, He has given us instructions on how to live as Christians, with a divine purpose, and with an eternal perspective, so that all we do might have an effect on God's Kingdom, here and ever-after.
The point that James is making here is the same point our parents or instructors were trying to make in our lives so many years ago. As you grow, you should be growing not just in experience, but in knowledge and wisdom. Remember, the dictionary definition of wisdom "the ability to make sensible decisions and judgments based on personal knowledge and experience". Paraphrasing, right acting on accumulated learning.
Faced with two choices, the world's knowledge, and God's knowledge, we can understand where the world's knowledge might lead us astray. Wanting to grow in our spiritual walk, it makes us wonder why we do not apply the lessons in our own adult lives as we have learned on our path forward in sanctification. This is that sinking feeling we get from the Holy Spirit when we have chosen the world over God. He is saying, "You knew better."
Anytime we are faced with a decision, we have a foreknowledge of accumulated learning from which to draw. Not only do we decide where that learning comes from (scripture or the world's psychology), we also have a choice of which to follow. As we grow in our Christian walk, our collective learning must be applied in a Godly manner or, by definition, it is not wisdom, rather foolishness. More specifically, ff we have grown in an area, and learned from our life lessons, and we decide against that wisdom, we have sinned. If you know better, and choose poorly, sin has taken hold of that event, and the eventual results are inevitable.
I want to caution you all not to think that this means we are all destined for hell for making a single wrong choice. God's grace is so much more powerful than that. The cross has bore the burden of that penalty. But to continue in a lifestyle of choices that reject Christ, God's design for our life, and the accumulated learning and growth that we have made as Christians, growing each day more like Christ, simply put James says, is sin.
In more practical terms if God has brought you out of a life of social drinking, even if it was not excessive, don't go back there, you now know better. If He has trained you that certain activities, music, movies or TV shows bring you backwards emotionally or spiritually, don't go there, you now know better. In spite of the fact that a certain act, song, movie or drink may not be a universal sin, it may full well be one to you, and you need to stop pretending about it. You know better.
Concentrate on pleasing God, and not man and you will make giant strides towards a Christ like life. Living a life centered on others is where you need to be. Living a life sacrificing self for the benefit of others is exactly what we should be doing, and we all know it. Playing Christian, when we know we need to be living Christian is where we need to be. The time for us to say, "but I didn't know better" is over. Reject society's norm of blaming everything on someone else or circumstances, or upbringing or environment, and take responsibility for yourself. BE a Christian.