So many believers are stuck in a cycle of living in sin Monday – Saturday; and feeling guilty on Sunday; but sometimes don’t you wonder if this the victorious life Jesus died for? Why is it that believers today subscribe to the idea that ‘no one is perfect’ in order to justify a life still lived in sin? What does the bible have to say about the life we called to live – one free from a life of sin? Is it even attainable?
In my last post I spoke about the ‘altar call’ gospel. The gospel so many of us heard as our gateway to Christianity. The gospel of ‘believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and you shall be saved’. In that post I explored – how this is not the FULL gospel – or good news – about how we can be saved. I showed – through Acts 2:38 – that in order to experience the fullness of salvation in Jesus Christ we must repent, be baptised and receive the Holy Spirit. I spoke on how the ‘belief’ in our hearts and ‘confession’ of our mouths that Jesus is Lord necessitates action (you can read my last post here).
In this Good News Series, over the next couple of posts, I explore the actions we must take to enter into and partake of the Kingdom of God.
In this post – I want to spend some time on the bad news – what exactly is the problem? why do we even need a gospel? or a saviour? I hope to show you that human nature is inherently sinful; that sin separates us from God, and that what Jesus came to do is tackle that nature. I also address myths that I see pervading Christian teaching today; like the idea that Christians can live in sin and still be saved.
So let’s dive right in.
The Problem: sin
When God made Adam and Eve – everything was perfect. God’s will for us as mankind was to live in a perfect world, in harmony with all creation, and in partnership with God. In that perfect world, God set up two trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God commanded Adam and Eve saying:
“You may eat freely from every tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” – Genesis 2:16,17
I used to wonder why God would create a tree in His perfect world that would cause the death of His creation. I’ve since learned from studying the Word and from other teaching, that God knows that choice is essential in love. To genuinely love and have a relationship we must chose that relationship. God does not desire a forced relationship – He wants mankind to chose Him. In creating this tree of knowledge of good and evil – and giving Adam and Even access to this tree – God put mankind in a situation where they would have to choose to love and obey Him and chose His standards – everyday.
We know, however, that Adam and Eve disobeyed God – and that this disobedience did not lead to a physical death – but a spiritual one – a separation from God. The bible shows us that God is holy and cannot even behold sin (Habakkuk 1:13) and so Gods drives Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden so they would not eat from the Tree of Life and live forever in a corrupted state (Genesis 3:22-24).
Outside the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve gave birth to more humans, who gave birth to more humans – all with the same nature Adam and Eve now had – a corrupted nature – set up in rebellion to God. The bible shows us that all men and women are born with a sinful nature. Speaking on how sin and death came through Adam, Paul writes:
“… sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned…” – Romans 5:12.
But what is sin anyway?
The bible uses three main words in describing the rebellion of mankind against God – ‘sin’, ‘transgression’ and ‘iniquity’. These words are used alone, together and sometimes seemingly interchangeably, like where David says:
“I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah” – Psalms 32:5 (NKJV)
If we dig a little deeper to the original Hebrew and Greek words, we get more insight into what it really means to ‘sin’ against God.
[Bible Reading tip: the bible was not originally written in english. The old testament was written in Hebrew and the new testament, in Greek. To get the true and full meaning of scripture it is very helpful to go beyond our english translations of KJV / NIC / MSG / etc. and check out the Hebrew / Greek words behind the scripture. The Blue Letter Bible app is a free app that has a concordance built in – my mum has a video on her YouTube page about how to use it to study scripture – which you can check out here. Link to download the app for andoid: here | apple: here ]
Sin, in Hebrew ‘chatta’ath’ is from the root word ‘chata’ which means means to misstep, to go the wrong way, to fail or miss the goal.
So what is the goal we miss when we sin?
If we think back to God’s plan for us in the beginning, we know that His original plan and goal was for us to live in harmony with Him – multiplying in His image. So we ‘sin’ every time we ‘miss’ God’s standards and do not reflect His nature. From scripture we know that God wants us to:
…”Be holy as I [God] is holy” – Leviticus 11:44 / 1 Peter 1:16
and we learn from Jesus, that God ultimately wants us to:
” Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…. [and] to Love your neighbour as yourself.’ – Mark 12:30-31
If we examine the 10 commandments given by God to Israel through Moses in Exodus 20 – we see that the first 4 commandments show how we can fail to love God ( by having other gods / by making and worshipping idols / by using His name in vain / by not remembering God and keeping the Sabbath) and the latter 6 commandments show how we can fail to love our neighbour (by not honouring our parents / by murdering / by committing adultery / by stealing / by lying / by being covetous of other people). All these are ‘sin’ because we have failed to live up to God’s standards.
Transgression is taken from the Hebrew word ‘pasha’ which means to rebel / revolt and to break a covenant; and from the greek ‘paraptoma’ which means to trespass against. It speaks to betrayal and breaking trust. Transgression happens when there is an existing relationship to be broken; for example the old testament to steal from a stranger is theft – but to steal from your neighbour is to transgress. Similarly in the New Testament Jesus charges us to forgive our brothers their ‘trespasses’.
To God, we are all created in His image to be in a covenant relationship with Him; one that, like Adam and Eve is founded on expectations of love, trust, faithfulness and obedience. So, because of the transgression of Adam, we are all born with a nature in rebellion towards God, one that is unfaithful to God. In our lives and our behaviour to other people.
Iniquity (Hebrew: ‘avon’) means perversity / depravity and is derived from the word ‘avah’ – which means to bend, twist or distort. It speaks to our ability as humans to have a crocked sense of right and wrong.
There’s a scene from the movie The Shack that I love: the protagonist – Mackenzie’s daughter was killed by a man that had abducted her. In a time of ‘spiritual awakening’, Mackenzie experiences God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit leading him to understand who God is even in the midst of great tragedy. In this particular scene, the spirit of Wisdom tells Mackenzie to play ‘God’ and judge humanity.
Mackenzie is shown his dad – beating his mother, beating Mackenzie as a boy. Is this man guilty?, Wisdom asks,
“Yes!” Mackenzie says, pain in his voice.
In the movie, the next reel is of a boy being abused by his father, Wisdom asks if the boy is guilty? “Would you judge him?” Wisdom says –
“Of course not,” Mackenzie said – “he’s just a boy”
“But you already judged him guilty” – Mackenzie looked confused
“That boy is your father” Wisdom says.
Next, the abductor is brought for judgement:
“And what about the man who preys on innocent little girls? What about him, Mackenzie? is that man guilty? Should he be judged?”
“Yes!” screamed Mack. “I would damn him to hell!”
“Is he to blame for your loss?”
Wisdom goes on: “What about his father, the man who twisted his son into a terror, what about him?”
“Yes! him too!”
“How far back do we go Mackenzie? This legacy of brokenness goes all the way back to Adam, what about him?”
To me, this scene shows our inadequacy and inability as human beings to judge between right and wrong. From the moment Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, mankind has tried to play ‘God’, dictating its own standards of right and wrong; these standards, unlike God’s standards, are constantly changing, based on limited experience/understanding, self-centred and, even with the best intentions, are corrupt because our nature is inherently corrupt. The thing is our ways are so far from God’s ways (Isaiah 55:9) that any attempt at dictating good and bad for ourselves looks like filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6).
Essentially, God is the standard of what is good; so when we miss His standards – we sin; when we break His trust – we transgress; and when we live by our own ideas of good and evil – we are in iniquity.
If we honestly examine ourselves by the biblical standards of sin, transgression and iniquity, we will agree with Paul that:
“…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,…” – Romans 3:23
The punishment: death
“…the wages of sin is death..” – Romans 6:23
Like I explored above, the punishment for sin is death; not a physical death but a spiritual one. Human beings are made up of Spirit (who we are beyond this world), Soul (mind/emotions/personality) and Body (physical appearance). When the bible speaks of death it speaks beyond the loss of our physical bodies but firstly, to the state of a spirit and soul that is separated from God. This is why the bible says you can be:
“…dead in your trespasses and sins” – Ephesians 2:1 / Colossians 2:13
Yes, you are physically living and breathing but in actual fact, when a person lives in sin, they are essentially a ‘dead man walking’.
Death also refers to the idea of an eternity in hell. If you believe the bible, then it is important to not shy away from this fact. The bible says that:
“But the cowardly [fearful/timid believers who give in to persecution], the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” – Revelation 21:8
Without dissecting the differences between ‘hell’, ‘lake of fire’ and ‘the second death’ etc. – death in this respect is an eternity spending suffering separated from God.
So, what does this mean?
It all seems pretty bleak, right? We are born sinful and yet are punished by God for the very nature we can not help. To many preachers, this picture of the truth is too bleak to talk about. They would rather focus on how good and loving God is; because of this, many myths pervade Christendom today.
Myth 1: God can’t possibly judge us all
I have heard it said that because we are all sinners – and because God is a loving, merciful God – He cannot possibly sentence everyone to death (hell); but, this is a lie. The bible shows us that in the same way God is loving, He is also just and holy and He will not change His standards for anyone. This is why God is able to destroy the whole world – save for Noah and His family (Genesis 6 – 9) – and STILL be who He is – just, loving, holy.
Think about it this way – God is a judge – and what kind of judge would He be if he allowed both the guilty and the innocent to enjoy the same freedoms and rewards?
Myth 2: Christians can live in sin and be saved
Many believers think that they can live in sin and still be ‘saved’; that ‘once saved, always saved’. I used to believe this too; but the more I read God’s Word, the more I see that this life of faith is race – and that it is only those that endure to the end that will be saved (Matthew 24: 13).
In many ways, the experiences of the Israelites in the Old Testament help us understand God more; and I think it is quite telling that out of all the people in the generation liberated from Egypt – only 2 made it to the promise land (Joshua and Caleb) because of sin.
Paul writes in Hebrews that:
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.” – Hebrews 6:6
We see that in a letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul writes:
“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Paul wrote this to believers – people that had experienced salvation. That means that God actually expects us to live in this world without living in sin.
But that’s impossible!
In my next post, I will speak about the 1st step in God’s solution to our sinful nature: repentance; and how the bible makes a distinction between ‘living in sin’ and when a person that has truly been saved – sins. Without giving too much away, it is the difference between walking in the wrong direction – and walking in the right direction and stumbling on your way.
What about you?
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. My prayer for this blog is that it draws people into a relationship with Jesus. My posts are not theoretical. If this post made you uncomfortable; if you are struggling with sin and don’t know why; if you desire more from your Christian walk – please reach out to me here – I am always available to talk, minister, pray and baptise – or to connect you with believers in your area that can do the same.
Till next time; stay blessed. x
I recently received a useful list of sins (with scripture) from a fellow disciple based in London. While this list doesn’t not cover all sin – it has been useful to help people examine themselves honestly before God – and truly repent. You can find that list here. I invite you to truly examine yourself by God’s standards – not your own. If this list makes you uncomfortable, or you don’t agree – please feel free to message me about it.