Saturday, July 14, 2012
Just what do you know about sin? That may be a stupid question to some but given the percentage of the world’s population that has never stepped inside a church it has to be assumed that there are those who have no concept about sin and what it means. I, for one, didn’t understand it in my younger years. And ironically, my family was somewhat religious and went to church every Sunday. But my ignorance may not have been completely the church’s fault. I was a very restless and inattentive child. But the fact remains is that I grew up into adolescence without a firm understanding of sin, its affects or its consequences.
This observation, however, eventually raised some other questions for me. Like what did I know or not know? What did I understand? I heard of Jesus, and knew about Him, obviously. But did I understand what He did for me, and for the world, on the cross? Did I have any concept of this idea of transgressing against God?
I do remember when I was 13 going through something called catechism. I didn’t understand what it was at the time but what I know is that my knowledge of church, the Bible and even God was very little. I couldn’t even tell you where certain books of the Bible were. But it was during this period in my life that I slowly began to ask questions and gain some understanding into this thing called sin. God was slowly at work on my heart even at that age.
Now when I mentioned catechism, you may have thought that I was referring to the Catholic church. It wasn’t, however, but a branch of Catholicism. It was at a Lutheran church that my family attended and where I eventually was confirmed. From what I know, the Lutherans are a branch off the Catholic church which split as a result of Martin Luther and the Reformation. The problem with Lutheran theology is that different divisions evolved from Martin Luther’s teachings and much of what we see today is nowhere reminiscent of its original concept.
There’s not much point to this explanation other than to help you understand the process by which I came to understand this thing called sin. This period of time was also a particularly disturbing part of my life. The irony is that I was going through a stage when I was rebellious and getting in trouble a lot. (The irony being that I was sinning without knowing what it was.) I remember it was after this time that my mom sought to get me involved in church; a different church from which I grew up. It was non-denominational and its teaching was much different from what I’d heard before. It was then that I heard the Gospel message. And it was then that I also heard about sin and what it meant.
Can I honestly say that the Lutheran church I attended never explained the concept of sin and how it separated me from God? I don’t think I can but it’s clear that if they did teach this then it completely missed my attention. It may not have been something they emphasized. Back then when I heard the word sin and how Jesus died for my sin it was puzzling to me. Weird ideas would come to mind like, “What was sin? And why do I need sin that Jesus would die for them?” Did you catch that? I thought sin was something that Jesus died for so I could have it.
Years passed however. The revelation of what sin really was and the fact that Jesus died on the cross as the propitiation for my sins still wasn’t enough to get my attention. Maybe there were concepts of theology that I still didn’t understand. In fact, I know that’s true. I’ll get into that more the next time. But I also think I wasn’t ready to admit my condition and give myself over to God.
The issue that I think we need to resolve here is this – the reality of sin, what it is and what it does. The thing is that if one doesn’t truly understand that there’s a problem, why would he/she begin to look for a solution? And sin is a problem. A serious problem. What’s disturbing is that the world doesn’t even realize the depth of the seriousness or severity of sin. Often we hear people joking about it as it’s some dirty joke or some dirty little secret. So let’s identify sin before we go any further.
As defined by The Free Dictionary
1. A transgression of a religious or moral law, especially when deliberate.
a. Deliberate disobedience to the known will of God.
b. A condition of estrangement from God resulting from such disobedience.
3. Something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong.
intr.v. sinned, sin·ning, sins
1. To violate a religious or moral law.
2. To commit an offense or violation.
As defined by Oxford Dictionaries
an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law: a sin in the eyes of God [mass noun]: the human capacity for sin
an act regarded as a serious or regrettable fault, offence, or omission: he committed the unforgivable sin of refusing to give interviews
verb (sins, sinning, sinned)
commit a sin: I sinned and brought shame down on us
(sin against) offend against (God, a person, or a principle): Lord, we have sinned against you
As good as those two definitions are I believe that the following definition gives more clarity on the subject.
Sin is any deliberate action, attitude, or thought that goes against God. You may think of sin as an obvious act, such as murder, adultery, or theft. Although that's true, sin is also wrongdoing that's far subtler and even unnoticeable at times, such as pride, envy, or even worry. Sin includes both things you shouldn't have done, but did (sins of commission) and things you should've done, but didn't (sins of omission).
The issue that most of us have is that we generally think of ourselves as good people. And from a human perspective that may be true. We can all show merits of goodness. In fact, when we look back we probably would say that most of the good in our lives outweigh the bad. The real issue, however, is that God doesn’t look at us with the same weights or measurements as we do. God’s standard is perfection. But what is perfection? What is this standard that God uses? Inherently, we all understand what this is to a degree. Think about it – don’t we all have a conscience that tells us right from wrong? Sure we do. God gave it to us and we were born with it. It’s just that with some, they do what is wrong so often and with no regard that their consciences are seared (1 Timothy 4:2) or God gives them over to a depraved mind (Romans 1:28). But ultimately, all we need to do is look to His Word (the Bible) and to His Son (Jesus Christ). It’s by looking to the life of Jesus that we find the one and only Person that lived a perfect and sinless life.
So what does God see when He looks at the rest of us? What He sees is rebelliousness, lawlessness and a complete disregard for Him as the Supreme Authority of heaven and earth. We do things that God finds repulsive. We lie, we steal, we covet, we do things that hurt other people and mostly because we are selfish and self-centered. If it weren’t for His patience and longsuffering, God would have given up on us a long time ago. I even think there are far more people today that dismiss the notion that God is even real or present. This act alone causes problems between man and God that lays the groundwork for God’s wrath. Mankind tends to have different views than God…false views that ultimately lead to our destruction.
If there is any doubt about what I’m saying read Psalm 14:1-3:
The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.
2 The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
How many “fools” are there? Sadly, all of us. Pay attention to Romans 3:10-18:
10 As it is written:
“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11 there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Going back to the definition that Richard Wagner provided previously, we need to read it again and understand sin and how we are all guilty as a result of it. It’s clear that in these previous passages that God views humankind as sinners. But the sin that is even more grievous than pride, envy, murder, theft and the like is the sin of turning away from God. Our problem, the human condition, is that we somehow believe we are capable of saving ourselves. We think that we are self-sufficient and that our righteousness (or good acts) shows some merit to God. These passages, however, paint a much different picture. Don’t you see the part where God says He looks to see if there are any who understand and seek Him? The passage from Romans answers that question and God says, “…there is no one who seeks [Him,]…not even one.”
Sin has a very damaging effect on our souls. It not only puts us at odds with God (as the Bible says in Colossians 1:21), but it deceives us at the same time (Romans 7:11). This is a serious problem. Why? Already we see that God’s standards are different from our own, but what does that matter? What can sin do to us? Sin, my friend, is the catalyst of God’s wrath. God cannot tolerate sin because He is holy! This statement may not mean much to you or me but God’s holy nature is such that because of sin there must be judgment. And this kind of judgment is not the kind to be taken lightly. Unlike the court systems of our world, God’s judgment is final and eternal. It will be swift and it will be severe. The Bible describes it like this:
The Judgment of the Dead
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
This is the problem that the world is in. But that doesn’t have to be the end. God can change our path and destination. It’s only by the grace of God that He would reveal our sinful nature, help us to understand this and even with us face the problem head-on. The question is why would He do this? Why would He help us, sinners and enemies of God, find a way to be saved?!?! That is a good question and one I intend to help answer next time.
In the meantime, pray. Pray that God would open your heart and eyes and reveal His truth to you. Pray that He would help you understand how you have sinned against Him personally. Pray that God would give you a heart and desire to begin the process of repentance and forgiveness. (Repentance simply means seeing sin the same way God does and making a conscious decision to turn from it and turn to Him. GotQuestions?org states repentance is, “…a change of mind that results in a change of action.”) And pray that God would give you the faith to believe. Believe it or not, if you are doing any of this it is God who initiated the process and it is God that will help you through it. He is the Author and Perfector of our faith!
“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile —the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”