When was the last time you sinned? Do you know? Were you even aware of what was taking place?
Many people are not that concerned about the subject of sin. It has become so much a part of life and the society in which we live that, sadly, many of us are unaware of sin when it occurs. We may have sinned this morning or sometime yesterday. We may not sin tomorrow or the next day, but we will sin.
Often, sin results from a thoughtless response to a circumstance because sin has become a habit. Sin can be that common and that much a part of our lives. It may be an expletive left undeleted, a thought, an action or a reaction, deliberate or inadvertent. But we need to realize that sin is much more than just a single deed. Sin is a way of life. It's as natural as breathing.
Ignorance of the ubiquitous nature of sin is a tragic sign of our times. Sin isn't talked about much today. Mothers speak approvingly of their sons' or daughters' live-in partners. Youths talk about ripping off someone's automobile and taking it on a joyride as though car theft could be part of a normal holiday excursion. The use of cocaine and other drugs has become a recreational pastime.
Successful motion picture or television series routinely contain profanity and explicit sex. Rape and murder appear daily on the front page. Political leaders lie to their citizenry or instigate ethnic cleansing, and it's no one's fault. Religious leaders condone "alternative lifestyles." Single women bearing children outside of marriage isn't unusual or considered immoral. Cheating of business, government, insurance companies, the welfare system or the general public is accepted as routine.
Sin has its consequences
Some recognize what is happening, but most do not realize these acts are actually crimes. They are punishable by death. Only the few in the religious sphere make a point of addressing such activities as sin, and when they do, they are criticized. Only the few warn people that to sin is to die. In the sight of God, the transgression of His law is that serious. Unrepented of, sin exacts the death penalty.
Is that an astonishing statement to you? It shouldn't be. It wasn't to your grandparents and perhaps your parents. Not many generations ago, much of society felt the same way. Sin is wrong. Sin brings unhappiness. Sin kills.
It is amazing to see the extent to which we, as a society, we have come to accept sin as normal activity. But sin is not acceptable to God. God hates sin, and so should we-because, unrepented of, sin kills.
To sin is to die
None of us wishes to die, so perhaps we should understand where our wrong actions can take us. It is frightening to consider that the consequence of sinning is death, but be assured it is so. If you doubt it, why not get hold of a Bible and turn to Ezekiel 18:4. The message is clear: The soul who sins shall die.
The same message is repeated in the New Testament. Romans 6:23 notes that "the wages of sin is death." Wages are what we earn for what we produce. They are the remuneration we receive for our actions. To think we could receive such dramatic wages-the death penalty-and not even know we have earned it is frightening.
But unthinking reaction or deliberate action is a reflection of the heart and way of life. If that way of life is the way of sin, the result is death. We all need to understand that.
Today we often hear the question, "If it doesn't hurt anyone, what difference does it make?" and, "Whose business is it anyway? If it's something I want or it makes me feel good, what's wrong with it?"
What is sin?
"Sin is lawlessness," says 1 John 3:4, or, as the King James Version words it: "Sin is the transgression of the law." But whose law?
Parliamentary law is one of our oldest forms of law. But is it British or American law or some other man-made standard that really tells us the difference between right and wrong?
Most Western societies have done away with punishment that fits the crime, excusing many sins by considering them part of normal human activity.
Who, then, establishes the law or has the right to tell you how to live? There is One who has the right to determine right from wrong. God is the ultimate Judge and Rewarder of humankind. The One who created all things has the right to say how His creatures should live.
The complete quote from 1 John 3:4, above, reads, "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness."
In the New Testament, in Matthew 22:36-39, we read where a young lawyer asked Jesus Christ: "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus summed up God's law to the young man by saying: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Anything contrary to these great principles espoused by our Savior is the way of sin. Any thought or action against God or our fellowman is a sin, whether it is a conscious act or not. We might excuse an action by reasoning, "I needed what he had, and he had more than he needed. Therefore, it's all right for me to take it." The human, physical mind is not subject to God and His ways (Romans 8:7). Human nature is the way of sin. We are simply not able to obey God without help.
We are all guilty. Hear what the apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:3: "For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles-when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries."
Maybe you have never been drunk, perhaps you have never lusted after anything, but you have committed other sins-hundreds of them. You and I have broken the law of God repeatedly through allowing something else to take the place of God. We have all, in some way, lied, cheated, or coveted someone's property or husband or wife. We have all earned the death penalty.
There is a way out
The good news is that help is available. God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die and pay the death penalty for each of us. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, first, to open our minds so we can understand the way of God, second, to become an integral part of our lives, third, to give us the strength to go a different and better way.
Mankind's sins can be forgiven. That is the greatest news this sad, old, sin-filled world of ours can hear. The penalty is already paid by the death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:7 tells us: "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." You may not be aware of when you have sinned, but God, through Jesus Christ, can forgive you.
It's frightening to realize how addicting sin can become. And it's wonderful to know that you can be forgiven. There's even better news. In Romans 6:23, we read earlier that "the wages of sin is death" Now finish the verse: "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
You not only can be forgiven for sin, but you can receive the gift of eternal life. In the book of Hebrews, we learn that Jesus Christ, "...after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified" (Hebrews 10:12-14).
To be sanctified is to be set apart for a special purpose. Once we have repented, we are set apart from the rest of society to become children of God. The death penalty was paid by Jesus, out of His and His Father's great mercy. Upon true repentance, every person can receive the promise of eternal life. God puts away their sins, never to remember them again. He blots out the record forever.
If you are found to have broken the law of the land and are sentenced by a judge, you become a convicted felon. Regardless of the prison term you serve, when you are finally released, your record follows you. The conviction is on your record forever.
But this is not so with God. When you repent, your sins are forgiven, and God forgets them. There is no record to check, because there is no record.
The future is bright
If we sin in the future, God is more than willing to forgive us, because we are His children. This truth should reassure us. Once we have repented, we will never have to give account for those past actions, deeds or thoughts again. Of course, any future sins will have to be repented of, but we can be confident that God will also forgive them if we truly repent.
The apostle Paul tells us:"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Galatians 6:7-8).
The seed we sow is important. For example, if we sow adultery, lying, stealing, unfaithfulness, we will harvest death. On the other hand, if we sow love for our fellow human beings, honesty, faithfulness, we will reap the gift of eternal life.
You and I can be forgiven regardless of how we have lived. We might be as the people in the days of the apostle Peter, when he preached his first recorded sermon. After telling his listeners about Christ and their responsibility for His death, he said: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
We can live
The gift Peter spoke of sparks our life as spiritual children of God, Who becomes our spiritual Father; and Jesus Christ becomes our elder Brother. Together, they will make every effort to see that we join them in the future as a part of the family of God.
Every human being needs to repent. No one is excluded, and no one receives preferential treatment. Whatever our background, race, nationality or gender, we need to repent.
If we are new to the Christian faith, we will be forgiven, baptized and receive the Holy Spirit, which in turn helps us finally to be given the gift of eternal life at the resurrection and the return of Jesus Christ to earth. That is the priceless gift we all look forward to.
You may not remember the last time you sinned, but you know you did. The act of sin in itself isn't the most important thing. Sin, of course, isn't to be taken lightly or passed over, but keep this in mind: Repentance is more important than sin.
God holds the wonderful blessing of forgiveness for each of us, and it is a gift He gives you and me and all of humanity at the time of our repentance of past sins. Then there is no longer any penalty for our sins.
Then, at our resurrection, along with Jesus Christ, we will live for eternity as the children of God our Father.