The Sin We Must Remove
The Sin We Must Remove
The sin we are to remove from our lives is defined by God's word. It covers a wide span of human behavior; word, action, thought, attitudes, omission, ignorance, and conscience.
What is This Sin We Are to Remove?
Sin is an action of a sort that is likely to be strongly condemned.
Outside the bible, the specific behaviors we condemn are constantly changing. What was unacceptable 50 years ago could today be considered morally neutral... or even migrate from the category of sin to the category of virtue. So... outside of the "biblical context" sin is what we say it is. The spirit of political correctness in not new.
God’s word is where we must look for a definition of right and wrong that is not subject to the shifting sands of human opinion.
Yet, Even with bible in hand… we are looking at ourselves [and sin] through a mirror that is obscured and blurred. The obscuring and blurring is not a fault of the scriptures, but a fault with us. Understanding sin calls for wisdom, discernment, and careful instruction.
To engage in the task of removing sin from our lives, we must be able to identify what is sin. Which is more than a run through of the commandments.
Sin is about human behavior as related to the righteous character of God.
Behavior to be strongly condemned because it violates or falls short of the righteous character of God.
Here is where the mirror becomes obscured or blurred... because words, or human imagination, or images cannot reveal the fullness of God's righteous character. The bible gives us essential information about God which human beings are able to process, understand, act upon. With that information we are expected to begin seeing the difference, and making the choice, between good and evil.
1 Corinthians 13:12-13 some matters of clean vs. unclean, holy vs. unholy, sin vs. righteousness we do not fully understand but we work with what we have in sincerity, humility, and trust.
Sin & Law
Romans 7:12 through His word God is communicating with you. His laws, and commandments, are the starting point for understanding what He is all about, and what eternal life is all about. To believe and teach that His law is null and void is to close the door to these two essential goals.
Romans 7:7 we are instructed to categorize certain actions and thoughts as sin. The example provided here "do not covet" is well chosen: it touches on both action and thought. To evaluate yourself against this commandment calls for discernment… because having stuff is not a sin. But how we think about having stuff can be a sin.
Romans 7:8 using the example of covetousness, we become aware that the same action can be good... or evil... based on our attitude... we become aware of all sorts of different layers of sin... layers that go so deep that we soon realize there is no end to sin within the human heart. Applying this level of forensic self evaluation can lead us to conclude we are doomed… but that is not the law’s purpose.
Romans 7:13 God's laws and commands serve purpose: to show you just how deep and far reaching sin really is. Of itself God's law does not actively lead you out of sin... its function is to show you what you need to get out of... and get out of yourself.
The law is just words on paper. The active agents are: God, working through Jesus Christ and you … the power that connects is His spirit.
Romans 8:1-4 Jesus Christ has freed you from sin’s penalty of death... but then you still have some choices to make if your to actually move forward in the Spirit.
Sin and Choice: Living According to the Spirit
To be lead by the spirit or not lead by the spirit... God has given you the freedom God to choose… between good & evil, clean & unclean, holy & unholy.
Sin and Disobedience
A simple, outer layer of sin is that through active choice we violate the law of God. Not just any law by God's law. So, we must know God’s law, know how it applies in the NC, know how it applies in modern day life… What about society’s laws?
Most states have a law requiring seat-belts: Not wearing a seat belt doesn't involve me harming anyone… Not wearing a seat belt in the privacy of my own vehicle doesn't lead to social anarchy.
Wearing or not wearing the seat-belt is not a matter of sin. But, how you think about and interact with civil authority is regulated by God righteous requirement, respect for authority. This requires wisdom.
Sin and Harm
A subtle and effective argument often leveled against biblical morality is: why call a particular act, or thought, sin if no one is harmed? This line of reasoning is used a lot regarding sexual conduct… consenting adults etc.
Behavior identified as sin in scripture are considered sins against God. There’s the harm!
Psalm 51:2-4 --> Genesis 39:7-9 --> 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8
Sin is not about being out of sync with the forces of the universe. Sin is personal. Through sin you have violated your relationship with God and failed in your responsibility and accountability to Him.
Sin can be something you did with... or did to another person… sin can be very private. Either way it harms your your relationship with God… it causes separation, it cause wrath… and through sin you can harm yourself… right here, right now. Sin affects the mind and not in a good way.
Falling Short - Missing the Mark
A variety of words in Hebrew and Greek are translated into English as sin. One of the main words in Hebrew is chata, which means to miss the mark, or lose the way. In the new testament the Greek used carries mostly the same word picture. Paul goes a step further and spells out the concept quite plainly in Romans 3:23. [show visual of target missed]
- If the target you’re aiming for is to become like God and part of His eternal family then [because of sin] your arrows are hitting the ground or flying in the air.
- If the path you want to follow is the one that leads to life everlasting, then [through sin] you have lost your way… wandered into the bushes.
Sinful Nature: Pre-Programmed to Sin?
Humans were, and are, created by God. He looked all that He had created and said "it is good". And humans are good in the sense that they are fit for the purpose God intends. A temporary material existence, with a spiritual component built in, that gives us the potential to move on to immortal existence if God so decides. In the flesh we are incomplete.
We "fall short"of the glory of God in big ways:
- We lack the power of life... but we can receive it as a free gift of God
- We lack the holy righteous character of God... but we can grow into it.
For example; flesh is fundamentally selfish. Its designed to lookout for itself so that we can survive. A shark hunts and kills, not because its evil, but because that's how sharks survive. Humans hunt, kill, eat, and make babies… that’s how we survive. But humans are not mere animals. Through God’s word we learn that there is a right way and a wrong way to do all these necessary things
The spirit within a human, the written law of God, and the power of the holy spirit… gives us a different way of seeing our self. To see and compare our self to the righteous Creator.
Romans 8:5-13 God's law defines sin not to beat you up, or to make you feel hopeless, but to give you a goal, we could say that God's written standard of righteousness is aspirational. If God's plan for spiritual creation were compared to a classroom then the law could be considered the syllabus... an outline of what the class is about, what it aims to teach you and so forth. Along the way you may fail some of your assignments and sin. God is willing to forgive you those sins through the blood of Christ.
What is important is that you learn.
Romans 7:21-25 if we only look at the law as a way to recognize our failure we might become depressed, filled with despair, hopeless. But God through Christ allows us to put our sin behind us an move forward...
A Good Heart or an Evil Heart
Over the past 300 years human thinkers have put forward the idea that if we dig deep down into the human psyche its fundamentally good... it has however become corrupted by external influences [society, culture, religion, etc]. So, if we can eliminate those corrupting forces everything will be good.
Scripture warns us against such wishful thinking Jeremiah 17:9. For example:
- The human heart desires sex. Sex is not wrong, but how you pursue sex can be wrong… so its tricky
- The human heart is incurable… it cannot see reality from the God perspective and so it leads into sin. It cannot fix itself, it cannot become what God intends. It is incomplete and needs the spirit. “the flesh profits nothing it is the spirit that quickens [gives life] John 6:63”.
Matthew 5:22,28 ... is the thought itself sin? if a person has hateful, or lustful, thoughts but never acts upon them in word or action... have they sinned? Digging down into the privacy of the mind seems to set an impossible standard… and another opportunity for hopelessness and despair.
Consider this: If a person has hateful or lustful thoughts going around in their mind, recognize it, refuse to dwell upon it, choose not to act upon them in word or action… are they not overcoming sin?
Matthew 15:18-19 Jesus teaching is that you deal with sin where it begins, which is in the mind. If we do not deal with it there then it will express itself in ways that are sinful.
James 1:14-15 allowing lustful thoughts, covetous thoughts, hateful thoughts to roll around in our mind [like a sweet candy that we roll around in our mouth]... leads to enticement... leads to action or word.
To be tempted… but to resist the impulse to act upon it… Sin or not sin… this takes wisdom.
Sins of Omission
James 4:17 biblical sin is not just misdeeds perpetrated against God or fellow human beings. We can also sin by doing nothing when something ought to be done. We sin if we hate our brother... we sin if we neglect to love our brother. For example, generosity, hospitality, fairness, respect?
Love also begins in the mind... God's instruction is that we do dwell on this in our thoughts... so that our thoughts lead to action or words.
Sins of Ignorance
Leviticus 5:17 if you violate Gods commandments in some way... even though you were unaware, you are still guilty and subject to punishment.
To say "oh well, she didn't know any better" doesn't make the penalty of sin go away. This may be a reason to extend mercy. If she become aware of her sin she still needs to repent, seek forgiveness, and change Acts 3:14-17.
Sins of Conscience
Romans 14:1-2, 23 the specific issue in Rome was vegetarianism... "it is a sin to eat meat". To which Paul the pastor says "no it isn't a sin... but if you have convinced yourself that it is then you better not do it".
From time to time people ask me questions about specific behaviors "is it wrong to do x", "is it OK to do y". Sometimes I have a clear yes or no based on scripture, some are disputable matters where all I can offer is an interpretation of scripture. This calls for wisdom.
- If a person convinces themself that a certain behavior is OK... and the matter is disputable... that might be a situation where the heart is being deceitful, so beware.
- If a person convinces themself that a certain behavior is sin... when the matter is disputable... that might be spiritual immaturity. I don't think God is going to condemn anyone for being excessively strict with themself... UNLESS it becomes a point of spiritual pride... or, a matter that causes strife in the congregation... but them once again we are dealing with attitudes.
Defining Sin based on human opinion is bogus. Those who are lead by God’s spirit will look to God’s word Hebrews 4:12-13. Understanding sin calls for wisdom, discernment, and careful instruction.