The Problem with “Sin”

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9 (NIV)

The Bible talks about sin, a lot.  Depending on the translation you check, the word “sin” appears around 450 times.  God talked about sin, Jesus talked about sin and the prophets and apostles talked about sin.  But, in our culturally sensitive and morally relative society, the word “sin” makes us uncomfortable.  I wrote about that in an earlier devotional.

The result of our discomfort is that we talk around sin, but don’t talk about sin.  What do I mean? We want to analyze the word “sin.”  We ask, when does something go from a bad idea to a real sin?  Is it a sin if I am annoyed with something, or do I need to be really angry and lose my temper?  You may have gone through this analysis too.  Plug in other actions like stealing, lying, lust – you get the idea.  We want to quantify sin.  In our mind, we break things into “big” sins and “small” sins, serious sins and sins of little consequence.  For me, that usually means my sins are small and of little consequence and other’s sins are big and of great consequence.  And, we want to measure sin.  Do a lot of little sins equal on big sin, and if so, how many?  If I have a pile of sins, can I reduce the size of the pile by mixing in good stuff, like being nice even when I’m tired, helping somebody, or giving a dollar to that guy at the stop light holding a sign asking for money?

We don’t find any analysis of “sin” in the Bible.  Instead of talking around sin, the Bible talks about sin, and it is a different conversation.  The passage today is a good example.  John, the disciple of Jesus, writes this:

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.  (1 John 1:5-10 (NIV))

John doesn’t try to define sin, analyze sin, quantify sin or measure sin.  He simply makes an assumption, no one is without sin.  From the tiniest thought or action that crosses over into our definition of “sin” to the greatest, most terrible thing we can imagine, John says we have all sinned.  John isn’t alone.  The rest of the Bible says the same thing, everyone sins.  That creates a problem for us.  As John says, God is light and sin is darkness.  If we sin, what John calls walking in darkness, we can’t have fellowship with God.  That’s bad news.

But, there is good news, if we will stop talking around sin and talk about sin.  John goes on to tell us, when we admit to ourselves and to God that we have sinned, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and remove the effect of sin on our life.

The first step to solving the problem we have with the word “sin” is to admit that we have a sin problem.  Our sin separates us from God and, until we confess our sin to God and he forgives us, the barrier cannot be removed.  When we confess our sin, God forgives us and changes our life forever.

Start today with your “self-talk” about sin.  Stop analyzing, quantifying, measuring and minimizing the things you do.  Get rid of the darkness in your life by turning on the light of confession and forgiveness.  Instead of self-justifying self-talk, try some simple God talk, “God, I’m sorry I did that, please forgive me and help me not do it again.”  See if that changes how you live this week.

Press On!


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