A Scriptural Look At Sin
To the Christian, the subject of sin should be one of interest - not for the benefits or pleasures of it, but rather what it can do to hinder the Christian walk. Every church "worth its salt" should be preaching against sin and teaching its members to avoid the pitfalls that result in one wallowing in the mire created by sin. But is it enough to just be taught to avoid sin? I don't think so! We, as Christians, must also understand sin and what it can do to us.
So, what is sin? I have heard it preached that sin is "missing the mark." In other words, "the mark" being that kind of behavior which we might describe as perfection. Therefore, when we fail to reach perfection, we have sinned. If that is the case then we sin a multitude of times each day. The analogy used here is one of a marksman (perhaps with a bow & arrow) aiming for the bulls eye or "the mark." When he shoots and does not hit the bulls eye he misses "the mark." So therefore (the analogy), when one does not hit what he aims at (perfection), he is sinning. I think that the assumption made here is that all Christians aim for perfection.
I personally do not like the above analogy of sin being simply "missing the mark." There is some truth to the analogy however, if we are really aiming for perfection - as we should be. But I also feel that the analogy fails to take into consideration that most "sin" is far from merely "missing the mark." Sin is terrible and we must continuously strive to avoid it.
So, again, what is sin? Well, first of all, sin is the breaking of God's law. "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." (1 John 3:4) Anytime we do not abide by the law of God or the commands of Christ we are sinning. Please don't get confused by the teaching that we (Christians) do not come under the law. The "law" (or our obeying of it) will not be used to determine the state of our salvation. Christ died for our sins, and as such we have been given forgiveness for them. However, we are still expected to obey the laws and commands which are applicable under the New Testament. When we fail to obey the laws and commands, we sin. These failures can be intentional or unintentional, but nonetheless they are sin.
Sin is also a failure to do the good that we know we should. "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." (James 4:17) Is there a single one of us who have devoted our lives to following Christ that could not find "good" to be done all around us? How about supporting those in the missions field? How about feeding the hungry and clothing the needy? How about reaching out to the multitude of lost in our communities? How about reaching out a loving hand to a brother or sister in Christ who is having a problem or tragedy in their life? The list goes on and on. There is much good that can be done and we should be about our Father's business and doing it.
Sin is the attitude of desiring to do evil and the inclination or intention of carrying it out. "He who plots to do evil will be called a schemer. The devising of foolishness is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to men." (Proverbs 24:8,9) In our society today we hear about various people who are extremely evil in their nature, the serial killer for example. This is evil to the very bone. Is this sin? Yes! I know that no person who claims Jesus as their Lord and Savior would be guilty of plotting such lawlessness. However, when we talk about sin, this too fits the definition.
Rather than plotting to do evil, Christians may be more likely to fall into the trap of inappropriate attitudes. Being arrogant, selfrighteous, proud and so forth is also a sin. "Haughty eyes, and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin!" (Proverbs 21:4 NIV) These kinds of attitudes are also sin. It may indeed be true that someone may really not want to have these attitudes and may be striving to overcome them. If this is so, then when they fall back into those attitudes occasionally, they could be said to have "missed the mark." However, if we are a person who has these attitudes and don't take steps to correct our behavior, then we are intentionally sinning; not just merely "missing the mark."
To sum it all up in our short discussion of what sin is, we can just say that anytime we do not do the right thing for all concerned, it is sin. "All unrighteousness is sin. . ." (1 John 5:17)
Who is there among us - either Christian or non-Christian - that has not sinned? We all know the answer to that question. No one! I have known many dear people in my life that seem to be good Christian people and I have admired them for their faith in Christ. However, if we were to take the most righteous person we know, that person has sinned! Just look at what the Bible has to say concerning those of us who have sinned: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23); "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10); "But the Scripture has confirmed all under sin" (Galatians 3:22); "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." (1 John 1:8).
As hard as I try, I cannot overcome the human tendency to sin. It is impossible for us to live a life free of sin, perhaps even a day without some form of sin in our lives. However, as Christians we have two important items to consider: (1) Jesus died for our sins, and therefore, we have been forgiven of our past sins and our future sins (the shortcomings or "missing the mark" so to speak); and (2) we must do everything in our power to control the human tendency to sin. In other words, we must strive to identify sin in our lives and then get rid of it. I know that this is a difficult matter in relation to some sin. For example, there are those of us who have what we might call a "private sin." A "private sin" is that which we as an individual deal with each day to overcome but it still plagues us, it seems continuously. This "private sin" could be any number of things: lust, desire for money, pleasure, hatred for someone, a drinking problem and so forth. The key here is that we must always be on the look out for it, and guard against it having an effect on our lives and relationships with friends, family and especially God.
How can a Christian overcome sin in his or her life? Have you ever really stopped to consider this question? Have you tried to overcome sin and been forced to conclude that you just can't? Have you perhaps given up even trying?
I really have two thoughts on this subject. First, I don't think that a Christian can overcome sin. If that were possible, we would not need the sacrifice that Jesus made for us as it relates to our future sin. (Remember that before we became a Christian we were sinners and as such needed the sacrifice of Jesus' dying on the cross for us to receive remission of sin. That is not what I am talking about here.) When Jesus died on the cross, He took ALL our sin to the cross (not just the sins we committed before we became Christians). If we were capable of overcoming sin, we would have just been forgiven of our past sins.
The second thought I have is, even though we as an individual cannot overcome sin, we can through Jesus realize a victory over sin. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) In other words, we (by ourselves) cannot overcome sin; but we (through Jesus Christ and His strength) can realize a victory over sin. Is sin still going to be in our lives from time to time? Yes! Do we have to let sin control our lives? No! Can we control sin - through Jesus Christ? Yes!
Now even though I have said that it is through Jesus that we are able to control sin, I need to make one thing perfectly clear. It is still up to us as to the degree to which sin is controlled! We must take action!
How does one go about controlling sin? Or better yet, how does one call upon the strength of Jesus Christ to help us in this effort? The answer is really quite simple. The degree to which you are able to control sin in your life is in relation to the degree to which you allow God's Word to work in your life. Allow me to explain.
Perhaps you are a Christian, and go to church every Sunday morning and that's it. Are you allowing God's Word to strengthen you to overcome the battles you will have to fight for the coming week in relation to sin. Probably not! On the other hand, if you are faithful to the worship services to the fullest extent possible, spend daily time in prayer and Bible study, faithful in your giving, faithful to the Lord's Supper and so forth, you will find the strength necessary to overcome the temptations of sin.
When you spend quality time in prayer and Bible study you receive the strength that is in God's word to know what is right and the strength to do it. How does it happen? I don't know. I just know that it does. I know because I have experienced it. When I am faithful in those areas mentioned above, I am happier and it is much easier for me to overcome the temptations which come along each day. One of my favorite Scriptures is found in the book of Joshua when he was giving a speech to the Israelites just before they enter the promised land. He is telling them that they are to choose which god they are going to follow. Joshua says. "... choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve,. . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Joshua 24:15) We too in America today need to choose this day (and every day) whom (or what) we will serve. Are we to serve the Lord - or will we serve sin?
All Scriptures quoted are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
About the Author
Stephen Kingery is an author, preacher, teacher and founder of The Home Bible Study Institute.
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