Sin has various definitions including disobedience or deliberate rebellion to the declared will of God, missing the mark by failing to meet His requirements, transgression, wrongdoing and iniquity (Rom 3:23; 1 Jn 3:4). Because of ‘the fall’ of humanity in the Garden of Eden, sometimes termed 'original sin' we all have inherited the bias towards evil and wrong, so responding to the ‘law of sin’ we are sinners (Ps 51:5; Rom 5:12,19, 8:2). The focus of sin is always self, ‘how my desires can be met’, and is an attitude of heart and mind that chooses to disobey others, so is in rebellion to what God demands, which is to love Him with our total being and our neighbour as ourselves (Mk 12:30,31). To live a godly life we need to be in submission to God’s authority and serve one another in love by exercising self-discipline rather than indulging the sinful nature (Gal 5:13). Sin is not just the breaking of God’s laws but also the breaking of His heart, through the violation of the relationship of trust and dependence He desires with us (Gen 3:8-11).
It is important to recognize this distinction between the general sinful nature that we are all born with as opposed to specific actions, the personal choices of wrongdoing that are sins. Christ died to pay the penalty imposed for our sinful, root nature thus liberating us from our sentence of separation from God. This is personally made effective when we accept his offer enabling us to make a new start as redeemed "justified" children of God. Through this conversion experience we become ‘new creations’ in Christ with our loyalty transferring from self (under Satan's control) to Him with the assurance of eternal life (Rom 2:6-9, 8:2-4; 2 Cor 5:17,21; Gal 6:15). Failure to come to Him for salvation results in eternal damnation.
The only way to become worthy is to stop sinning – I Corinthians 15:34
"remembers our sins no more" (Ps 103:3,12; Jer 31:34; Rom 5:9; Heb 8:12, 9:14, 10:17; 1 Jn 1:7,9). This calls for our ongoing repentance and denying ungodly lusts by considering the old rebellious nature dead – as signified by water baptism (Rom 6:1-14,19, 13:14; 1 Jn 2:16). However, even though we have confessed our sins we can’t escape the earthly consequences – the effects and detrimental influence often continue through following generations unless radically addressed. If we fail to repent of these sins, while not affecting our eternal destiny, they will have an impact because “each will be rewarded according to their own labour” (Ex 20:5, 34:7; 2 Sam 12:9-14; Jer 32:18; Ezek 18:4,20,23; 1 Cor 3:8-15). Although not always immediate, divine judgement or penalty for sin will come as we can’t sin and get away with it. Moses advised the people to “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num 32:23; Lk 12:2,3)!
Until the day we die we will continue to have an internal conflict and often will sin, yet our life is not to be characterised by a sinful lifestyle, so when we are aware of sin, we need to repent and ask for the Spirit’s help to live a life pleasing to God (Rom 7:14-23; 2 Cor 7:1; Gal 5:17; Eph 4:22-24; Phil 1:6; 1 Jn 1:8-10). Failing to address known sin in our lives hinders our relationship with God, thus it is wise to put matters right quickly (Ps 32:1-5, 51:1,2, 66:18; Isa 59:2). Although being tempted is not sin, if an action is sinful, so too is the thought itself (unless rejected). Jesus said ‘entertaining’ wrong behaviour in the mind by visualizing it taking place is sinful so we must make that choice to “die daily”, purging our lives of all carnal passions and desires (Gen 4:7; Ex 20:14; Mt 5:27,28, 15:19; 1 Cor 15:31; Gal 2:20; Col 3:5-10; Jas 1:14,15). Don’t entertain wrong thoughts, instead defeat them using strong convictions, self-discipline and reliance on the Holy Spirit to live victoriously according to our recreated nature, following in Christ’s holy way (2 Cor 10:5; Eph 4:24; Jas 4:7). This is not just turning over a new leaf, rather it is beginning a new life under a new master.
Am I still clinging to areas of sin in my life?
standards of integrity and morality that God’s Word teaches (1 Cor 5:1-13). If personal responsibility is admitted, through confession and repentance, the spiritually mature are to humbly and lovingly restore sinning believers back into fellowship so they are not embittered, resulting in further sin (Isa 59:2; Hab 1:13; Act 3:19-21; Gal 6:1). As the Psalmist did we can ask “Search me, O God...test me...see if there is any offensive way in me” so we can live in close relationship with the Lord (Ps 139:23,24).
Some key terms
Temptation is the lure to do wrong because of our selfish desires.
Sin is the action of turning away from God’s directives while sins are specific actions.
Backsliding occurs when sin is not dealt with, and a person continues in an unrepentant lifestyle rather than a close ‘cleansed’ relationship with God.
Conviction by the Holy Spirit, the pricking of our conscience, points to specific sins of which we are guilty, as opposed to a generalized feeling of condemnation from the enemy.
Confession is acknowledging ‘I have done wrong’ by owning up.
Repentance is turning from sin to God. It is more than a glib, ‘I’m sorry’. God commands us to repent of both willful disobedience and what is done in ignorance (Act 3:17, 17:30).
Forgiveness is what we receive when we truly confess our sin and is essential in our relationship with God. Both giving and receiving forgiveness are necessary in interacting with others (Mt 6:15; Lk 11:4, 17:3,4; 1 Jn 1:9).
Justification is God declaring sinners righteous 'just as if they had never sinned' (Rom 5:9).
Sanctification is the process of being made righteous (1 Thes 5:23).
Apologies and restitution, to those involved, together with a change of behaviour indicate repentance is genuine (Mt 3:8).
Sins of commission are acting ways forbidden by God (Gen 3:2,3,6).
Sins of omission are what hasn’t been done but should have been (Jas 4:17).
Sins of presumption occur when we think our conduct is acceptable to God when in fact it offends Him. They include thinking we will receive pardon without repenting.
Unforgivable sin. "A sin which does not lead to death" is one that is genuinely repented of and for which forgiveness is available because the attitude of the sinner is meek and truly sorrowful. God is merciful to them and forgives, and so they are not unto death. The rebellious and defiant attitude of the sinner that refuses to obey God's laws and statutes or attributing His work to the devil is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit set "sin leading to death" apart from others and is termed ‘the unpardonable sin’ that won’t be forgiven (Lk 12:10; Heb 8:12; 1 Jn 1:9, 5:16,17). There is a limit to God's tolerance of sin in our lives (Heb 12:16,17).
Society classifies some sins worse than others, yet sin is still sin regardless of the degree of effect and severity of judgements (Mt 11:20-24; Lk 12:47,48; Jn 19:11).
Dealing with sin
1/. Because sin adversely affects every part of the world we must specifically guard our lives against the intrusion of wrong or damaging influences which become controlling (Gen 3:16-19, 6:5, 8:21; Prov 4:23). Thoughts, words and actions originate within the heart and we will be required to give account to the divine judge for them (Mk 7:20-23; Rom 14:12; 2 Cor 5:10; Heb 9:27). Sin is serious – it cost Jesus His life with His once only sacrifice paying the penalty for all sin that everybody will ever commit, however each, individually, must accept that offer to be set free from Satan and sin’s control or else bear the consequences in a lost eternity for the wages of sin is spiritual death (Jn 1:12, 3:16, 8:32,36; Rom 6:6,23).
2/. Our sinful actions are primarily against God, through breaking His moral rules, even though in most instances other people are also sinned against (Gen 39:9; 2 Kgs 14:6; Ps 51:4). These interpersonal conflicts must be resolved so we can communicate with God in all honesty for the two relationships affect each other – when we sin against another believer we also sin against Christ who sets the parameters (Mt 5:23,24, 18:15-17, 25:45; 1 Cor 8:12; 1 Jn 4:20). Besides asking for forgiveness from God we should humbly confess our faults to those we have sinned against, asking for their forgiveness and their prayers so we will be healed (Mt 6:12; Jas 5:16). It is important to understand that while sin can result in sickness, sickness is not necessarily caused by sin (Jn 5:14, 9:1-3).
3/. If we love God we will not intentionally continue to sin but instead endeavor to ‘walk in the light’. We were bound up in sin as slaves being dictated to by our selfish nature but now we have been liberated to live for Him (Rom 6:1-4,15-18,22; Gal 5:19-24; 1 Jn 1:6, 2:10,11, 3:4,6,8,9). Christ came to set us free from all the influence Satan has over us and it is an insult to Him if we are not increasingly gaining victories over those sinful habits that once controlled us (2 Cor 5:21; 1 Jn 5:18). We are now free to follow Christ, yet not free to do as we want for He gave His life to redeem us, we are now His property (Gal 3:13, 5:1,13).
4/. Acknowledge you are powerless to get victory over sin by yourself, and that you daily need the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to achieve this. Take practical steps to disassociate from the source of your problem – run from trouble or cut off the root that is feeding the problem. Be accountable to others and ask for their prayers but do not focus on sin’s power over you – instead praise God for His greater power which is available to you (Eph 3:20; 1 Jn 4:4). It requires the Holy Spirit to effect a fundamental change of character. Nonbelievers cannot please God as their response comes from the wrong foundation (Rom 2:14,15; 8:5-8).
Sin is the primary issue to be resolved in the Christian life
the Bible principles, will keep us from sinning (Ex 20:20; Ps 119:11). Sin gets the mastery over us when we move away from our identification with Christ, signified by our baptism – our figurative dying to the old sin-controlled life and rising to a new and victorious life (Rom 6:4,6,11; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 2:20).
Sin is an essential component (key doctrine) of the Christian view of humanity. The Bible states realistically that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). However, it also explains fully how this ‘disease’ can be overcome. In no other religion, does God stoop to the human level, or present Himself as an innocent substitute dying for the sins of their followers.
See also: baptism (water), body/soul/spirit, bondage,
confession, conscience, conviction,
cross, divine judgment, entry
points, eternal damnation, eternal life,
evil, forgive/forgiveness, guilt, justification, lust,
put off/put on, release, repentance,
salvation, Satan, saviour, self,
self-discipline, seven deadly sins, shame,
sinners prayer, temptation, unforgivable