When God tells us He does not want us to sin, what does He mean?
Well first, what is sin? We use this word so often I wonder if it has lost it's true meaning and application.
The OT has many hints and peeks of what was going to come. One of those peeks is into the life of a man who did everything right, Job. He obeyed the law about perfectly and was considered blameless....and so as he lay there in ashes, he had every reason to complain since he had done everything right and should be able to rest on his laurels for being so good, especially since the law was so difficult to obey on a consistent basis!
However, after everyone had been coming and going, a fella named Elihu came and finally began sharing with Job somethings that he really needed to hear. In Job 35: 1-16 Elihu begins to tell Job the truth. In vs 4 he tells Job to look up into the huge sky and then asked himself what he accomplishes against God if he sins? And even if he sins over and over again what effect will it have on God? Then, how about if he is good, is this some great gift to God? Is there anything that Job could possibly give to God? Then Elihu says, "No Job. Your sins and gifts only affect people."
We seem to think that it moves God when we sin. That He gets upset and reacts the same as we do. But God is not moved. He is never shaken or changed by it. Emotionally we are affected by the goings-on around us...but God is not. God is God. If someone wrongs us, they have essentially taken something from us and depleted us a little. But nothing we do can take anything away from God. If you continue to read Elihu's words to Job through chapter 35 to the end of 37 he continues to strongly remind Job that what we do or don't do has absolutely no comparison to God's greatness...and what God has already done or will do for us.
So we learn from Job's story that God is actually not moved by how good we are, or how bad we are for that matter. It doesn't add to Him or take away from Him either way. Then in Chapter 42 Job realizes something really important about God...that just knowing about Him, and obeying all His laws, and having it altogether on the outside, is not what pleases God. No.
Imagine you want things to be better in your household, so you put up a list of rules in your house and you strictly enforce them. After time the house is pretty clean and there are very few arguments anymore, and the doors don't get slammed, and everyone obeys when you speak...yet, you know that your desire for your family has still not actualized. What went wrong?
What pleases God is when we get to know Him first hand - when we have an ever-growing relationship with Him as our heart meets with His to the point where we become more and more what we were originally created to be when we walked and talked with Him in the garden. Rules can never do that.
Which is why a robot, that can't have relationship at all can still successfully obey a list of rules...and which is why the list of rules that were put up in the previous paragraph didn't do the trick. Rules can affect outter behavior, but they cannot affect the inner-person.
Col. 2:23 These (rules) look like wisdom with their self-imposed
worship, false humility, and harsh treatment of the body. But they have no
value for holding back the constant desires of your (inner) nature.
Ok, back to the question...what is sin anyway? Another word for it is 'missing the mark'. Imagine the 'mark' is how we would be living with God before the fall. So, sin is actually not living God's way in any given situation. It's missing the mark.
The OT law made us have to keep close watch on our behaviors so that we would be careful not to sin...however, it didn't work, as imperfect people could not keep each perfect law perfectly on a regular basis (except Job)...and scripture tells us that if we offend in one point of the law, then we have offended in every point.
However, the New Covenant wasn't called New for nothing! So after God allowed us to experience being failures at keeping the perfect law, He chose to give us a new plan where we could not only have victory over sin, but transform us as well to be more like Him. This plan would do what the law never could for an imperfect people.
In the OT the law made people focus on not sinning. And even though Job was meticulously good at it, it was still not enough to please God...as we said before, being good at rules, does not make one good at relationships.
It was kind of like putting your focus on the place on the target that you don't want to hit. If you look at the above target, the goal would be to hit the center...to 'hit the mark'. But how could you do that if your mind and focus was on where you don't want to hit (your sin) because you have to make very sure you don't hit there!
Sin is the ever looming fear for us humans. So, we have to try very hard and keep our minds on not hitting those places! In fact it is in our human nature to focus on the 'don'ts' and the punitive...which is why Adam and Eve ran from God. In the minds of Adam and Eve, what they did overshadowed the love God had for them. That same love that they personally got to know as they walked and talked with God just shortly before became small in the light of their sin. So, they didn't just run, they also felt shame, and then tried to shift blame to the other as well!
Gods' new plan is to get our focus off the 'don'ts' and onto the 'dos'. His New Covenant is a plan where our sin is completely paid for and forgiven...so now we are to take our focus off of that...and put it behind us. Yes!! He wants our focus off our sin, and on to *Him! Then in so doing, the sin part of us naturally comes under subjection...and then we get off the rollercoaster that never allows us to stay ontop of things very long.
Now read again in Galatians 5: 16-26 where I know I've asked you to read before. God tells us in vs 16 that when we both focus and aim at the center (verses 22-23), then with practice...
Heb. 5:14 But solid food is for mature people, who by practice learn to distinguish between good and evil.
...we begin hitting the center more and more. And it is obvious that if your dart is hitting the center, then it won't be 'missing the mark' just naturally! (vs 19-21)
If you are practicing hitting the mark of kindness towards someone for instance, then it will get easier and easier to avoid hitting outside of the mark. In other words, it is hard to focus on being truly kind towards someone and then be indifferent towards them at the same time.
*Heb. 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of
our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame,
and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
* Heb. 13:21 May He equip you with all you need for doing his will. May
he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is
pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.