Have you ever taken a wrong turning and ended up far from where you meant to be? Have you ever shared in the shame of the footballer who missed a penalty goal in a crucial match?
These are telling illustrations of the all-important but horrendous Bible word sin. Sin means missing the right road or missing your target. Driving across the double white line in the centre of a busy main road illustrates the Bible word trangression. So, what is sin?
Anything we think, say or do that disappoints or angers our God is a sin. Our thoughts, plans, motives and desires are so important. When we nurse thoughts of lust, envy, covetousness contempt or revenge, we sin.
Our words are also important. To speak words we know are not fully true, or words that are cruel or harmful to ourselves or others, is a sin. Peter's boasting words of loyalty to Jesus, even if well-meant, were sadly proved to be empty hot air by his later cowardice and lies1. Malicious gossip, deliberate slander and foolish talk are all sins.
And our actions so often speak louder than our evil words. As well as wicked thoughts and unkind words, theft, murder, adultery and deceit come from inside us, from our hearts, and make us unclean in God's sight2. We can sin with our eyes, ears, tongue, hands, feet, body and mind. Think about this.
And anything we fail to do or say which is right and helpful is a sin. When we pass by on the other side of a needy stranger whom we should help, we sin. When we fail to speak out for justice and truth, or fail to speak the truth in love, we sin. Sin is pretty pervasive, isn't it? yet always ugly and destructive.
Sin's pleasures are real, but last only for a short time or at most for this earthly life only3. So often we fall short of God's high and holy standards and never reach his pass mark of perfection.
Sin is lawlessness4. Everything that does not come from faith is sin5. And everyone who sins is a slave to sin, Jesus said6. We are sinners by nature, habit and choice. We are selfish to a degree and tempted to worship ourselves. Note the personal pronoun at the centre of our word sin, and our word pride, the worst of sins.
Sin is the deadly poison passed on to us all by Adam. He was the first man created by God and was the federal head of the human race7. But the mystery of evil goes deeper than the tragic events of Genesis 3, for Satan, the usurping angel-prince of this planet, was a sinner before Adam lived...
The consequences of sin were and are intensive and extensive, affecting our environment as well as ourselves. The immediate consequences were that Adam and Eve felt afraid and ashamed and tried to hide from continued contact with the LORD God8. For their rebellion God condemmed them to hard work on the cursed ground and to hard labour in childbirth. Then God expelled them from the Garden of Eden with it's tree of life. Adam's disobedience led to physical and spiritual death for him and for us. Spiritual death separates us from fellowship with God, and physical death separates our mortal bodies from our immortal spirits. Paul said 'The wages of sin is death'9 and wages are something we earn or deserve, aren't they?
Thank God there is a cure for our sin! God himself is the cure. For God is love and rich in grace and all-powerful. The Father initiated his rescue mission to us, the Son died for sins as our substitute and the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins and enters every true believing Christian10. By sacrificing himself on the cross, Jesus opened up the way of forgiveness to every repentant sinner. If we confess Jesus openly and truly believe that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved11. The glorious promise of Jesus in John 5.24 comes true. The believer has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has passed over from spiritual death to spiritual life.
Most religions stress good deeds as the means to salvation. But true Christianity stresses that good deeds acceptable to God are the result of becoming a Christian12. Indeed, before becoming a Christian even our righteous acts are compared to 'filthy rags'13.
Most religions stress doing good deeds as the way to salvation. But true Christianity stresses the done factor. Jesus has done everything necessary for our salvation and we must accept it all as a gift from him. The entrance fee to God's kingdom costs us nothing, but our annual subscription should cost us all that we have and are14.
Sin is so great an evil that God the Son had to die to set us free from the slave market of sin. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and our need of God's pardon, we must cry out to him to save us, forgive us and guide us.
(1) Mark 14:31,72; (2) Mark 7:21-23; (3) Hebrews 11:25; (4) 1 John 3:4; (5) Romans 14:23; (6) John 8:34; (7) Romans 5:12; (8) Genesis 3:8; (9) Romans 6:23; (10) John 3:16; (11) Romans 10:9; (12) Matthew 5:16, Acts 26:20; (13) Isaiah 64:6; (14) Luke 9:23
Philosophers down through the ages have pondered the meaning of life. What are we doing here? Where did we come from and where are we going to? But surely the greatest mystery of all is the person of God. If he is a God of love then why does he allow so much suffering in the world. And can we come to know him in a personal and meaningful way?
What is true Christianity? Can a logical, coherent and rational case be made out for the existence of Jesus Christ? Was he really the Son of God who came down from heaven to atone for the sufferings of mankind? And if he was, what relevance does that have to the everyday needs of 21st Century men and women?