What Is Sin?


The Hebrews had a saying, “The man who knows his sins is greater than one who raises a dead man by his prayer.” God is all-powerful. God is all-good. Terrible things happen. You can reconcile any two of these propositions with each other, but you can’t reconcile all three. The problem of evil is perhaps the greatest single problem for religious faith. There have been numerous theological and philosophical attempts to solve it, but when it comes down to the reality of evil itself, none of them are worth much. When a child is raped and murdered, the parents are not apt to take much comfort from the explanation that since God wants man to love him, man must be free to love or not to love and thus free to rape and murder if he takes a notion to. Christian Science solves the problem of evil by saying that it does not exist except as an illusion of mortal mind. Buddhism solves it in terms of reincarnation and an inexorable law of cause and effect whereby the raped child is merely reaping the consequences of evil deeds it committed in another life. Christianity, on the other hand, ultimately offers no theoretical solution at all. It merely points to the cross and says that, practically speaking, there is no evil so dark and so obscene — not even this — but that God can turn it to good.

Sin in the Bible is a falling away from or missing the right path. The underlying idea of sin is that of law and of a lawgiver. The lawgiver is God. Hence sin is everything in the disposition and purpose and conduct of God’s moral creatures that is contrary to the expressed will of God. The sinfulness of sin lies in the fact that it is against God, even when the wrong we do is to others or ourselves. The being and law of God are perfectly harmonious, for “God is love.” The sum of all the commandments likewise is love; sin in its nature is egotism and selfishness. Sin is actual disobedience.

Some would argue that “original” sin has affected all of us. A term used to denote the effect of Adam’s sin upon the moral life of his descendants. It is formally defined as “that whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil.” The reality is that all of us freely choose to sin as Adam chose to sin. Just as a child created in the image of his/her parents freely choose to be disobedient, we who are created in the image of God choose to be disobedient. Now we understand why there is not degrees or difference seen in sin, other than Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. You and I see some sins as worse than others! Murder is worse than lying. Stealing is worse than disobeying parents. Adultery is worse than not honoring the Lord’s Day. God sees only one sin, disobedience.

So, Paul writes, “I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. Paul is saying that you were not a Christian. When living this way you had no redemption for your sins. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul is saying that we obeyed from the heart the pattern of teaching unto which we were given over. They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!” Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area. A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside.
The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.”
He gave them permission, and the evil spirits came out and went into the pigs.
The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.

We may not experience the demonic invasion that this man did, we can, however, be possessed by harmful and destructive character traits, unclean attitudes and thought patterns can take up residence within us. When Christ comes how will He find us? Will Christ find me a zoo of lust, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds? My name was Legion.” And like the demoniac, the cure for us is to run to Jesus, bow down before Him and allow Him to cast out whatever may possess us.

In the last congregation I served there was a family who had a little boy who was born with a severe handicap that would cause him to go into very violent seizures without any warning. The father would usually be the one holding their son during worship services and I remember on one particular occasion when the little guy started into a seizure, seeing the father get up with their son and with a strong yet gentle love carry the boy to the back of the sanctuary where he held him close to his chest and rocked him, whispered to him and did all he could to help his son through. One thing I noticed most of all was that there was not the beginning of a show of embarrassment or frustration in that father’s face — only love for his hurting son. Can’t we just hear God speak to our own heart in so many words say “That’s just the way I love you through your imperfections. I’m not embarrassed to have people know that you are my son.” I have come to know that it’s in my times of greatest frustration that my Father draws me close and weathers the storm with me.
How good it is that with all of our faults we have a savior who is “not ashamed to call us brothers.” That’s Love!

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