Thursday, May 17, 2012

Essay Number Two: What is Sin?

So, what is sin?  Why is it important?  Can a non-believer sin?  If you are a Christian, are all your sins forgiven?  If you die with unredeemed sins, do you go to heaven or hell?  Do you have to be “prayed up” before you die?

Again, these are heavy questions and are often debated amongst various Christian denominations and non-believers.  Before I get to the answers as I understand them, I have to restate that I am learned in the Wesleyan tradition and my understanding comes from my understanding of the Bible, reason, experience, and church traditions.  Some Christians will disagree with what I’m about to discuss.  That’s a good thing.  We should all seek the Lord with “fear and trembling.”  Remember I grew up in the Church of God, Assembly of God, and Baptist churches, but I have become a Methodist for many reasons that sit well with my soul.

So what is sin?  Dictionaries often define it as a transgression against a religious or moral law; deliberate disobedience to the will of God; or a condition of estrangement from God resulting in disobedience that is often shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong.

My understanding is that sin is when mankind makes a choice to be disobedient to God’s will, to separate from Him, to live without Him, to break the relationship with God.  We do this by choosing to do things that hurt our relationship with God.  When we put other things before doing His will, we hurt that relationship.  For instance, we may choose sex, work, drinking, drugs, or anything that is purely ego-centric that does nothing to further the kingdom of God.  These things may be crimes, but they do not have to be. 

So what is God’s will?  Jesus told us in Matthew 22:36 to 40.  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment?”  Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”

So we are to love God, have a real relationship with him by keeping him in our hearts, our souls, and our minds (reason) and to show this love by how we treat others.  Notice he does not say, “Treat other Christians” or “Treat only your denomination” or “Treat only people who agree with us”, but he says, “Treat all people (neighbors), as you would like to be treated.  Love them as you love yourself.”
I think the greatest sins we commit are by not representing Christ to others.  Not showing love, understanding, forgiveness, respect, or charity for others. 

Adam and Eve willingly sinned against God.  They made a choice to taste the Tree of Knowledge, and in so doing broke the relationship man had with God.  If a wife or husband lies to their spouse, does this hurt the marriage relationship?  Of course it does.  The same is true here.  To make sin even worse, it is in direct opposite of God’s Love.  In effect God cannot look upon sin, as it is an anathema to His divine character. 

So man chooses to break the relationship with God, to deny God’s will for our lives, to live in a selfish, egotistical lifestyle that is man centered, not God centered.  So now God cannot look upon us, as man has basically divorced himself from God.  Sin has caused the death of man, the end our spiritual relationship with God, and the death of our bodies.  And don’t think that Christians are immune to sin!  Paul writes in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fallen short of God.”  Sin is universal.  Romans 5:12 states “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all have sinned.”  Those who live self-righteous, outwardly pious lives are not better than anyone else in God’s eyes, as “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10).  So we chose to live apart, to not follow God’s will, and selfishly seek our own earthly things such as power, money, sex, and influence.  This all leads to death, destruction, and nothing we make or do on this earth will last forever.  So what can we do about it?  What can Man do?  Nothing!  It is not in our power to fix this problem.  This is what we mean by man living in a fallen state. You can’t be good enough, do enough, love enough, sacrifice enough, tithe enough, to earn your way to heaven, to heal the broken relationship with God.

God allowed us to try.  He created the Law and allowed man to try to live righteous lives under it, to sacrifice, to tithe, to keep His commandments.  But it was impossible.  Man couldn’t do it, and the Old Testament proves mans failure at this time and time again.  The problem is that now that we have knowledge of Good and Evil, sin is beguiling, enticing, sexy, and deceitful.  It makes us believe that we don’t need a relationship with God.

So, the relationship is broken, we can’t fix it, all mankind is doomed for our own love of the earthly things.  Are eternally doomed to death?  Is the God of Love done with us?  Is there no hope?

  The greatest love ever shown was given to humanity by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  Because through it all, everything truly goes back to God seeking us. 

  God wanted a relationship with us. He wanted us and loved us so much, that he sent a part of Himself to become human to repair our relationship with him. Think about this. It’s all about God seeking Man. It is not about what man can do to achieve or be worthy of God. In Christianity there is nothing we human beings can do to be worthy of Heaven, of a relationship with the Creator of everything. He sought us and is still seeking us. That’s amazing and one of a kind in the religions of the world. That’s Grace. God seeking us. God seeking you.
  Jesus, though fully human, was sinless. He was obedient to God’s will and as such became the sacrifice necessary to pay the costs of our sins (death), so that we might have eternal, glorious life with God. He died on a cross for the redemption of our sins. He paid the cost of our sins. My sins. Your sins.

He suffered and died on that cross for me, for you, for all humanity for all times and places. But you want to hear something that will blow your mind? He would have done it just for you. If you were the only one willing to follow him, accept him, he would have suffered all that, for you.

As he was dying, he asked God to “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

And he died. 

Three days later he was resurrected and defeated sin and death, thereby establishing a permanent relationship between people who accept Him into their heart and the God of everything.  Remember that God couldn’t look upon sin?  Once you accept Christ as your savior, accept Him to live within you, you become a changed person.  Christians say you have been reborn.  Now when God looks upon you, he sees Christ.  Your sins have been forgiven, you have been redeemed, the eternal relationship between God and man has been restored.

Why was Christ’s sacrifice important? Imagine an eternal gulf between God and man. God cannot look upon sin, so the pure spirit of God could not cross the gulf that divides us. Man, in his sinful state cannot cross the Gulf to reach God. But Christ, who was fully human, and fully God can cross the gulf. See Christ was human and divine, and he was sinless. He paid the price for all our sins, so when God sees us after we have accepted Jesus into our hearts, he sees Christ in us. He sees us without sin. That’s why only Christ could cross the gulf and save us, redeem us, and allow us to join him for eternity in fellowship with God and one another.

God Seeking Us. God Seeking you. That’s grace. Do you have grace? Do you know him? Do you want to? Simply ask Him into your life.  Tell Him you want a relationship with Him.  You will be amazed at the transformation, the peace, and the hope and joy He offers you.

Until next time.  I’ll be praying for you.

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