James reminds us in 4:17 to “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” When God has given you a clear direction about what you should do and you decide not to do that, it is considered sin.
Paul understood this very well. He tells us in Romans 7:15, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” Probably every one of us can relate to Paul. We do what we do not want to do. This is our sin nature. It only seeks its own desires. So when we give in to it, we are giving in to our selfishness. When we allow our flesh to take over, we are allowing ourselves to live in sin. Jonah did this very thing. He allowed his hatred for Nineveh to take over. His view was clouded and he ran from God’s will and ended up in the belly of a whale. Even after he went to Nineveh, he sat on a hill and waited for God to strike Nineveh down. He still did not understand God’s mercy and grace. God still moved in the people of Nineveh, despite Jonah’s attitude.
James is right when he tells us that it is sin to know what we should do yet turn from it and not do it. It is a rebellion against God when we turn from His ways and instead entertain our own. Take some time today to ask God to help you in your obedience.