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TEXT: Romans 1:18-32
In my last sermon I talked about witnessing, which to my shame I don't know very much about. However today I am going to speak on something I know very well. In fact, is it something that I am sort of an expert on. Something that I do every day. I am going to talk to you about sin.
What is Sin?
The word sin originates from a word in Greek and Hebrew which mean to miss the mark. I won't try and pronounce the words since I don't speak Greek or Hebrew. But in Greek the word means failure, being in error or to miss the mark when throwing a spear. In Hebrew the word originates from archery and literally refers to missing the "gold" at the center of a target but still hitting the target. You missed the mark.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks "What is sin?" and it answers the question this way: "Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God." If we take this definition we can break it down into two parts.
Sins of Omission
The first part is the "want of conformity unto the law of God." This basically means that you sin if you fail to do what God has commanded you to do. This is also known as sins of omission. In Luke 6:46 Jesus says: "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?"
Let's look at this verse for a minute. 'Lord, Lord.' In Hebrew when a word is repeated like that it is emphasizing the word. When it is used with a name or referring to a person it is showing that there is a closeness or an intimate relationship.
We see it in Genesis 22:11 when Abraham is about to sacrifice his son and God calls down to him: "Abraham, Abraham! Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."
We see it in 1 Samuel 3:10 when God speaks to Samuel and says. "Samuel! Samuel! Behold, I will do something in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle."
We see it in Luke 22:31 where the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail."
If we go back to Luke 6 where some call Him "Lord, Lord" they are basically saying that they have a close relationship with him. But more than that. The word 'Lord' means something like 'master'. So if we were to paraphrase this text, what Jesus is saying is this: Why do you say that you have an intimate relationship with me and that I am your master but yet you do not do the things that I say?
James says in chapter 4 verse 17 "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." These are sins of omission, where we fail to do the things God tells us to do.
Sins of Commission
The second part of the Westminster Shorter Catechism says that sin is any "transgression of the law of God." This is known as sins of commission, where we actively do things that God tells us not to do.
In Genesis chapter 3 we see the sin of Adam, where God says:
"Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?"
We can see this in the sin of Achan.
And Achan answered Joshua and said, "Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it."
These are sins of commission where we do things that God tells us not to do.
There is no little sin
The Bible says in Romans 6 that "the wages of sin is death." Ezekiel 18:20 says "The soul who sins shall die." But I fear that we don't like to read it that way. I would rather if it would have said: "the wages of my big sins are death, but my little sins, they don't matter much." It shows how backwards I am compared to a holy God.
On the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire.
-- Matthew 5:21
You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
-- Matthew 5:27
I wonder if we have truly comprehended these passages. "Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment." We like to think that this does not apply to us. We are not angry without a cause! That person did this and then they did that. We are justified and have every reason to be angry with them. But I wonder if God would see it that way.
"Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Even in our culture, as corrupt as is has become with regard to sexuality, they still see adultery as bad. But who would say that looking at an attractive woman and wishing you had someone like her, is bad? I mean after all I never touched her.
When I was younger and I remember sometimes going into different stores that had glass in them and my mother would say to me: "you can look but you cannot touch." This is the morality that our culture has with adultery, and I fear that this has seeped into the church. We watch movies or TV shows we should not, we look at women we should not look at, and then try to make excuses in our minds. We say things like "I was just admiring the beauty that God has made."
God wants us to be separate from the world. We are to have different standards from the world has. Listen to what Job said:
I have made a covenant with my eyes;
Why then should I look upon a young woman?
For what is the allotment of God from above,
And the inheritance of the Almighty from on high?
Is it not destruction for the wicked,
And disaster for the workers of iniquity?
-- Job 31:1-3
I wonder if people would think we are weird we did what Job did. 2 Corinthians 6:17 says:
Therefore "Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.
I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty."
-- 2 Corinthians 6:17-18
I wonder if the world would treat me differently if I truly obeyed this passage.
Our motives are wrong
Everything we do should be for the glory of God. "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." Corinthians 10:31. The Bible says we should love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul and mind. But we do not do that. Instead we use our mind to contrive new ways to sin. We think up ways to excuse our sin. We even use scripture to do this.
In the wilderness when Jesus was tempted. Satan used scripture to tempt him. We do that also. The Bible says "whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." So we say "well, I have already sinned with my mind so I might as well do the act." Or worse we tempt God by saying it is ok if we sin because God will forgive us, forgetting that the Bible says "Do not tempt the Lord your God". We see this command in: Deuteronomy 6, Matthew 4 and Luke 4.
Why do we sin?
You see the problem is that the Bible is true when it says "the heart is deceitful above all things who can know it."
Our culture says that we are basically good. Oh sure we do a bad thing here or there but for the most part we are good. In movies we see the hero does a bunch of bad things and then at the end when it count he does the right thing and saves the day. It is promoting this message that, sure he did a few bad things but basically at heart he is a good person.
In the words of a popular song:
"Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace,
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one"
The problem is that we have bought into this lie. If you ask us about our unsaved neighbors or our friends you might hear us say something like "oh he's a pretty good person."
But this concept is 180 degrees from what the Bible says:
There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.
You see, the sins that we commit come from inside us. The reason we think that our neighbors and our friends are "pretty good" is because we think we are pretty good and we don't see them as that much different than us. Does a pig know that it is dirty?
The Bible says: "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."
It is not that we are basically good at heart and sometimes fall. But rather the Bible tells us that we are full of sin. Like David said: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." Psalm 51:5. David is not saying that his parents sinned when he was conceived, but rather that he himself was a sinner from birth.
As we see in Luke: "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." Luke 6:45
Or another one from James:
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
-- James 4:1-3.
You see, we are not sinners because we sin. If that were the case, we could just stop sinning. No, the malady is much worse! We sin because we are sinners.
The problem is not what we do. The problem is what we are.
G.K Chesterton got it right when he wrote one of the shortest letters to the editor. He said: "Dear Sir, Regarding your article 'What's Wrong With the World', I am. Yours Truly, G.K. Chesterton"
Why is sin so bad?
But then we might ask ourselves, why is sin so bad? I mean most of my sins no one else sees, right? So how can it be that bad? Many times I have thought that way. I make excuses for my sin or say to myself something like "it is not really that big of a deal" or "everyone else is doing it." I think worst of all is that sometimes I say "well the Bible does not specifically say this is wrong" even though I know in my heart that it is wrong.
You see the problem is that we have gotten used to sin. Dr. John R. W. Stott in one of his books says:
"Many of the happenings of civilized society would not exist if it were not for human sin. A promise is not enough we need a contract. Doors are not enough we have to lock and bolt them. The payment of fairs is not enough we have to be issues tickets which are punched, inspected and collected. Law and order are not enough we need the police to enforce them. All these things and many others, to which we have grown accustom that we have taken them for granted, are due to our sin. We cannot trust each other. We need protection from one another. It is a sorry state of offers."
Sinning against a holy God
The reason that sin is so bad is because sin hurts. If you have ever been lied to, cheated on, if someone has stolen from you or you've had a friend stab you in the back then you know how much sin can hurt. Sin not only hurts others it also hurts ourselves.
But when we sin we are not sinning against our friends, our children, our husbands, our wives or even ourselves. When we sin we are sinning against God. As David in Psalm 51 said: "Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight."
If I punched my brother that would be bad. If I punched my mom that would be worse. And if I punched the president of the United States that would be even worse. But when we sin we are not sinning against our brother, or our parents or even the president of the United States. When we sin we are sinning against a holy and an infinite God. When we sin we are basically saying to God "I will not have this Man rule over me."
We can start to see just how awful our sin is when we look at the cross. Those sins that you think are so small, they are the same sins that nailed Jesus to the cross.
Ye who think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great, here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate. Mark the sacrifice appointed, see who bears the awful load; 'tis the Word, the Lord's Anointed, Son of Man and Son of God.
-- Thomas Kelly
One of the places we can see this clearly is in Isaiah 53:
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
"But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him." You see the punishment that Jesus suffered is the punishment that we deserve. And not just for our big sins. "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." James 2:10. All of our sins deserve death.
God is Holy
Remember earlier I talked to you about how the Bible will repeat a name to emphasize the relationship that they have. The Bible also does this with other words. We see this in many places where it says "verily, verily" or "truly, truly". Such as John 8:51 "Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death."
In Ezekiel 37:10 it says "So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army." The last part which was translated "an exceeding great army" in Hebrew literally says "army great very, very."
The Bible uses this repetition for emphasis. But there are some places where instead of repeating the word twice it repeats the word three times. We see this used with one of the attributes of God.
Let me read a short passage in Isaiah:
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
And one cried unto another, and said, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
The only attribute of God that is repeated to the third degree is his holiness. The Bible does not say: "love, love, love" or "mercy, mercy, mercy" or even "justice, justice, justice." Instead it says: "holy, holy, holy."
It seems that this is the attribute of God that we need to call attention to most. You know it is easy for us to think about "love" because we have a basic understanding of love. We love our children, we love our husbands, our wives, our parents. We also have a basic understanding of mercy and justice. But I wonder how well we understand holiness!
I think holiness is so much outside the realm of our day-to-day lives that I am not sure we really understand it. We are so much surrounded by sin that holiness is foreign to us. We see sin in ourselves, our fellow Christians and in the world around us and we have grown so used to sin that we struggle to even understand what being holy is like.
Have you ever tried putting on glasses with a red tint? It changes the way you see everything. Red objects disappear, green objects turn brown, blue objects turn purple and white objects turn red. But this is how we look at the world every day. We look at the world through the glasses of our sinfulness and it taints everything we see, making it hard for us to understand the holiness of God.
In the Bible we see that the holiness of God is a traumatic event and because of our sin the only response we can give is one of fear. Do you remember when Moses came down from the mountain after seeing God?
And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.
And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come near him.
Even the reflection of God's holiness on Moses made the Israelites afraid. Isaiah had a similar reaction and said: "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."
We can see this reaction in the Bible time and time again when someone encounters God.
If the only way we can see the awfulness of our sin is next to the cross, then the only way we can only see the depth of our sin next to the holiness of God.
What is the solution to sin?
But God has given us a way out! John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Christ took our sins in his own body on the tree. As the hymn goes:
I need no other argument,
I need no other plea;
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me.
I cannot see your heart. I do not know what you are putting your faith in. The Bible says "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith."
Faith is an interesting thing. Many people have faith in faith itself. If you ask someone how they know they are saved they might say something like "because I believe in Jesus Christ." But you have to ask the question as to which part of that statement they are putting their faith in. Is their assurance coming because "they believe", or is their assurance coming because of scripture's promises and the life, death and burial of Jesus Christ who has made these promises certain?
In our culture people say things like "it does not matter what you believe as long as you believe." But that kind of faith will save no one! You see it is like faith in a chair. One person believes the chair will hold him but remains standing, while the next goes and sits in the chair. It is this latter kind of faith that saves us.
How do we know if we are saved?
Have you put your trust in Christ? The Bible says that you shall know them by their fruit. Does your life reflect that? Look at your life, look at the way you walk, look at the desires of your heart.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
If you have had an encounter with God then it means your life has been changed. You cannot have an encounter with a holy and all-powerful God and remain the same. If you were born blind and was unable to see anything your whole life and then Jesus healed you, that would completely change your whole life. How much more should it change your life if God replaced your heart of stone with a heart of flesh?
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
--1 Corinthians 6:19-20
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