by Martin G. Collins
Today, most people believe that morality is relative—changing from age to age and culture to culture. Societal trends, fads, desires, and emotions often drive the ever-changing definition of what is right and wrong, frequently forming new moral and ethical standards seemingly overnight. These new standards either reject God’s law outright, or are very much at odds with it. In fact, many believe that the existence of God’s law itself creates the problem (sin), rather than the harm resulting from a specific illicit act.
Upon rejecting God’s law, most believe they have the freedom to decide right from wrong. Because of their enmity against God (Romans 8:7), people often refuse to confess or even acknowledge their sinful acts. However, a world without God’s definition of sin will typically “learn” to justify culture-sanctioned murder like abortion and sexual perversions like homosexuality and pedophilia, among many others.
What happens to a person’s genuine sense of sin when God’s laws are believed to be no longer valid? The apostle John writes, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8). In the minds of most people, sin occurs as the result of some impersonal, arbitrary law, made up in ancient times to keep people from enjoying themselves. This is why so many waste so much time trying to undermine the credibility of the Bible. When one considers how often even a mature Christian struggles admitting all his sins, is it any wonder the world does the same? No one likes to be reminded of personal failure, so our thoughts easily turn to justification instead. Typical defensive questions include: “Does this qualify as sin?” “Does it really matter anyway?” “If no one is complaining, why should we care?”
1. What does it mean to “confess our sin”? I John 1:9.
Comment: In this verse, “confess” means to acknowledge and admit. To start, we must acknowledge our sin, then admit it, and finally do something to counter its addictive impact. This is the process of overcoming sin (James 1:13-16).
Comment: We recognize the true seriousness of sin when we realize that all sin is committed against God. But another serious effect is that it is committed against oneself (Habakkuk 2:9-10; I Corinthians 6:18). Our bodies are not our own; Jesus bought us with His own blood. So we must glorify God in our body and in our spirit, which are His (I Corinthians 6:19-20).
3. What is sin’s result? Isaiah 3:9.
Comment: The detrimental effect of sin also affects others, beginning with our family, friends, community, country, and the whole world. It is cumulative, with each new sin adding to the detrimental impact so that the enormity of suffering in the world today is beyond measure. We actually curtail our freedom, weighing ourselves down with bad habits. It changes our character, which impacts those who care for us. Each sin is a failure to become what we might have been, corroding our ability to reach our full potential. Self-absorption becomes almost literal; we devour ourselves till there is no proper love for God, oneself, or anyone else. The apostle James expresses the result of sin succinctly, “Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:15).
4. What vital connection does sin break? Isaiah 59:2.
Comment: The word “religion” comes from the Latin re-ligare, meaning, “to bind fast.” Religion therefore requires a connection with God, and where it is lacking, true religion soon begins to fail. Sin violates the relationship—or the connection—we have with God. We can liken this to a deteriorating relationship between a headstrong child and parent. As long as the child remains unyielding, the likelihood of a mature and balanced relationship, and thus growth, is greatly diminished. The solution is found in the very nature of God: love. What is love? “This is love, that we walk according to His commandments” (ll John 6). “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10).
5. Is sin enslaving, even addictive? John 8:34.
Comment: Instead of freedom, habitual sin brings about an enslaved consciousness, and one can gain insight into its nature by comparing it to chemical addiction. Like the chronic use of drugs, habitual sin causes a hardening of the heart (Job 9:4). Just as a junkie needs more of the addictive drug more often, habitual sin lowers the barriers of our conscience to more sin. As Jesus Christ says, “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14).
Our religion—our connection to God—provides us with the moral compass necessary to define both sin and the standards we need to walk worthy of our calling. This same connection also provides us with the ultimate solution for our addiction to sin—His love. We do not live or commit sin in a vacuum. Each sin lowers our inhibition to further transgression and often causes collateral damage to those close to us and beyond. More importantly, it separates us from our Father and His love, without which we would be eternally lost. We can be assured, though, that because of our heavenly Father’s powerful love for each of us, He has provided the perfect antidote to all of our sinful habits in the life and the blood of Jesus Christ.