Woke up early this morning – 0430 – with my dogs ready for their breakfast. Got up and a thought hit me: What is sin?
The next thought that hit me was of a buddy of mine who is an actual by gum pagan! He told me that in his belief system there is no sin! I thought, “Now that’s convenient!” When you don’t believe in sin then there is nothing you do that can be considered wrong. Boy, that’s living!
Alas, however, there is sin based on God’s absolute moral law. And whether you call it that or not you cannot deny there is right and wrong in the world. We all believe – except for the odd psychopath – that murder, rape, assault, theft, and any crime against children is wrong. The vast majority of us believe that “smaller” things, such as lying, cheating, and even disrespecting people is wrong.
And where do you think we get this notion of right and wrong? Well, scripture! God’s moral law addresses each and everyone of these issues and is the foundation of our understanding morality. In fact, we are told that God’s laws are written on our hearts, so we know instinctively – unless you’re a sociopath – know what is good and what is evil. And that is why criminal justice systems are based completely on the Judeo-Christian ethic!
That all said, none of that is how I define sin.
Simply put sin is selfishness.
We sin – rebel against what God has commanded us to do – when we in our selfishness decide to seek the things we want instead of wanting what God wants for us.
The struggle is real.
Scripture tells us that every day our flesh (sinful nature) fights against our spirit (our true selves) in a battle to either follow what the Lord says is best for us or to rebel against the Lord and choose something lesser and potentially harmful to us. (Galatians 5:17)
To fully grasp this, you have to buy into the idea that what God has commanded is the absolute best thing for us. Because God loves us, He doesn’t want us to do anything that would be harmful to ourselves. So, He put up guardrails and boundaries that we read about throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
Need to make and editor’s note here: Don’t confuse God’s unchanging moral law with the ceremonial and ritual laws in the Old Testament that were written specifically for Israel. We as gentile Christians are not under those laws and never have been. We’ll address the moral law and its consequences in a bit.
The moral law tells us in no uncertain terms the dos and don’ts if we want to live life to the full (John 10:10). So, let’s examine this in our own personal lives.
I’m going to pick a handful of moral laws that God has set down for us and I want you to think of a time you broke one or more of these laws. How did it work out of you? Were you or someone else harmed due to your decision? Here we go:
Let’s just start with the easy ones: The Ten Commandments
1. You shall have no other God’s before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images.
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it Holy.
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. Thou shalt not kill.
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
8. Thou shalt not steal.
9. Thou shall not bear false witness.
10. You shall not covet.
Now remember that Jesus told us that if we even think it we did it in our hearts and are guilty!
Let’s list a few more.
- No sexual immorality (sex outside marriage, homosexuality, incest, sex with non-blood relatives, lusting after someone, etc.)
- No cross dressing
- No coarse language
- No discord or disunity
- No gossip
- No witchcraft or the like (astrology, divination, spirit mediums, etc.)
- Don’t drink onto drunkenness (don’t abuse alcohol/drugs or do illegal drugs)
- No hatred
- Do not oppress the weak
- Don’t take revenge
- Confess your sins
- No weighted scales (scamming people)
- No insulting or harming others with words
- Love God and love others as yourself
If I were to categorize this short list, I would say they all fall under this:
Don’t act on your impulses.
You see sin is selfishness. Sin is us rebelling against what God says is best for us and others. Sin is us acting on our fallen nature (flesh) in such a way that it harms ourselves or someone else.
When I look at this list. I can honestly say I’ve not done several of them! But I cannot say I’ve not done any of them. I’ve either done them physically or I’ve thought about doing them which Jesus tells us is a sin in our heart (Matthew 5:28). And how did that work out for me? I’ve certainly harmed others mentally and emotionally. And I’ve done the same to myself.
This is why God doesn’t want us to rebel! It harms His children, and no Father wants harm to come to His children.
Yet I think we currently live in the most self-centered, self-absorbed, selfish society in the history of the world.
In other words, sin is rampant!
And I’m not just talking about unbelievers here. Those in the Body of Christ are as guilty – wait – even more guilty than those outside the church. Why? Because those in the church know exactly what they’re supposed to be striving for but instead serve their selfish whims. I can give a lot of slack to unbelievers because – well – they’re unbelievers and they are blinded by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4) and don’t know the redeeming and regenerative love of Christ. But those of us in the faith are totally without excuse.
Here’s what I am seeing in the world today:
- Marriages are disintegrating due to husbands and wives not sacrificing for each other, for their marriages, or for Jesus
- Sexual immorality and sexualization has been mainstreamed and no longer is considered a moral wrong
- Members of the Body of Christ are unwilling to “die to themselves” and instead act out their carnal desires just like those outside the Body
- Churches across America are embracing cultural norms instead of God’s commands
- Social media has created a vortex of self-absorption with the selfie culture, so-called influencers, and an obsession with “likes” and followers.
- There is division across any demographic one can imagine – there is no love for one’s neighbor
- Society has reduced the value of the human life to near meaninglessness
- Wrong is enabled and those who stand for holiness are mocked, attacked, and canceled
This all sounds pretty bleak, and it is. Paul told us that there would come a day when men won’t listen to sound doctrine but will follow whatever their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4). Yet, there is still good news! I like lists as you can tell so let me make another one of all the positives we need to hang onto and act upon as true followers of Jesus!
- God is the same yesterday, today and forever! He is our solid rock on which we can absolutely count on!
- Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law which was punishment for everyone who broke the moral law – we don’t have to suffer the consequences of our rebellion because Jesus took our punishment for us!
- The Holy Spirit still regenerates spirits allowing us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12) so that we can see this world through God’s eyes not through the blinded haze Satan puts on us.
- There is always a remnant. While scripture tells us that many in the church will be lured away, there will be a remnant of us who stand firm and the gates of Hell can’t stand against us!
- There are no throw-away people in God’s economy! We don’t know how or when the Holy Spirit will get to a softened heart, but we do know that our job is to continue to preach the Love of Jesus to people and share His grace, mercy and forgiveness of sin to help bring people to the point of their salvation.
- To steal back a phrase from the culture, Love wins. Not our love because we didn’t love but God loved us first. It’s God’s love for His creation that wins! Scripture tells us that God wants none to perish (2 Peter 3:9) even if He knows that some will choose that route by rejecting His love. Yet His love is always there, always given for anyone who wants to accept it.
- Self-sacrifice for the Lord always overcomes selfish sinful rebellion.
Scripture tells us that we all have a fallen nature – a sinful pride of life, lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes that fights against our desire to do what is right in God’s eyes. Everyone of us struggles with this – nobody is immune, and nobody is better than anyone else. That is why we all need Jesus!
I truly believe that Satan is winning the battle at this junction of the war by blinding people to the truth by creating a culture of self-absorption and self-love at the expense of loving God and loving others. Yet, we all know that Satan loses the war which is why those of us who truly want to be disciples of Jesus will stand firm in this crazy selfie world!
Can we make a difference? Heck yeah, we can!
Those of us in the faith must do these things to lead others to Jesus:
- Be honest about your own struggles. We are not the holier-than-thou crowd. We are sinners just like everyone else in need of a savior.
- Show others how you strive and fight against acting on your own impulses
- Show others the difference between when you didn’t follow God and when you did and the consequences
- Share how Jesus forgives and how much better it is to live for Him than to live for yourself
- Meet people where they are; don’t expect them to meet you where you are
- Speak to people in their language not churchy language
- Truly care for people. Be concerned for their worldly issues and their eternal issues
- Show how shallow gaining self-worth via selfishness really is and contrast that with the depth of self-worth one gets from understanding who God says they are
- Be patient. Changing from being self-centered to Jesus-centered is very much an incremental process. It was for us, and it will be for others.
- Lastly, walk the walk don’t just talk the talk! Nothing worse than a hypocrite.
Things aren’t easy out there for Christians, but they never really have been. None of us in America are being fed to the Lions or being used as torches to light up the streets of Rome so there is no risk in us sharing the love of Christ with others including holding those accountable in the Body to God’s good and wonderful moral laws.