What is Sin?

This is a question that had puzzled me for many years.
If Jesus was without sin, does this mean that Jesus was never a ‘naughty little boy’?
How do we explain 1John 3.9:
Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God

The following quote from an Internet forum would I feel, sum up the beliefs of many:
Repentance will involve confessing my actions, words or thoughts to God as nothing less than disobedience and asking His forgiveness, and might include having to approach someone I have harmed with a similar attitude.  After this humbling experience, I must do all I can to change my ways, to ‘put sin to death’, to remove temptation from my path, knowing that He will meet that effort with the enabling of His Holy Spirit.  God is faithful to forgive sins on this basis.  (This does not mean final victory over sin in a particular area, but it is a necessary and progressive step in the process of sanctification, of being transformed into His image and set apart for Him alone).

A few years ago I attended a meeting organised by a well known Reformed Charismatic church where I was told that Jesus had died because we had all sinned.  I asked for their definition of sin.  This caused some consternation and the suggestion that if I really knew my Bible I wouldn’t be asking such a question.  Later in a one-to-one conversation I was surprised at the vehemence with which I was told that I needed to recognise that God is offended with us.

So what is sin?  There have been so many conflicting attempts to define it!
This was written by Bob Harkema a few years ago and seems to sum up so much of my own understanding:
What we typically call sin are things like sex, drugs, rock’n roll etc, but they are really the fruits of sin (that I tend to think of as ‘ missing the mark of what God created us to be).  Just like the evidence of love, joy, peace, kindness, etc are the fruits of the Spirit whose source is the tree of life (Jesus), so the evidence of hate, evil, selfishness, etc are the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (sin) – (but see ‘The Myth and Symbolism of Genesis’ for an alternative meaning of the two trees).  Some refer to it as living in Christ consciousness or living in sin consciousness.  Since Jesus conquered both sin and spiritual death for us 2000 years ago we can live in Christ consciousness now.

So sin now results in the illusion that causes us to think that God does not love us, that he has separated himself from us, that he loves us less because of some action we took.  Once we believe that lie we begin acting and reacting inappropriately.  We then adopt actions and attitudes in a vain attempt to fill a void that in reality doesn’t even exist.  We walk blindly into the darkness of delusion, convinced that we must be unlovable, unsavable and unworthy.  It becomes all too easy to stay in the darkness (shadow); the rejection is just too painful to risk again.

It is only when we reject the lie, that we turn into the light of the truth that we are loved beyond measure that we once again turn from sorrow to joy.  Accepting the truth that God is always with us, that he always loves us, that he will never leave us, will transform us from death to life, from sorrow to joy, from tears to smiles.

God does not separate himself from us because of sin, we separate ourselves from him (or at least we think we do) because we think we are not worthy to be in his presence.  We suffer from shame.  Once we realise that he always, always loves us and we can live in his affection and seek him, that is what repentance is, we changed our mind about how much God loves us.

Change your mind about God.  He has always loved you.  He has always been with you.  Don’t believe the lie that you are rejected, unacceptable, unloved!  You are worthy!  Nothing can separate you from his love.  And if you are worthy of his love, then you are worthy of your families love, your children’s love, your spouses love, your neighbours love.  And even your worst enemy is worthy of your love!

When we live in the light of that truth we are regenerated and transformed.  It changes the way we relate to God and people.  When we doubt that truth we live in shadow and darkness and stumble along in life running into things that damage ourselves and others.

I am not a scholar but it seems to me that it would be helpful to consider sin as the definition of something we do, rather than the definitions of some of the things we do that might be considered to be sins – maybe the difference between sin as a verb (264 in Strongs’ – to miss the mark – and so not share the prize) – and sins as a noun (frequently 266 in Strongs’) – ways in which we err!

Consider the relatively few scriptures where sin is used as a verb (264 in Strongs’):
Matt 18.21 – “Master, if my brother goes on wronging me how often should I forgive him?  Would seven times be enough?”  Then in verse 33: Didn’t I cancel all that debt when you begged me to do so?  Oughtn’t you to have taken pity on your fellow-servant as I, your master took pity on you?
John 5.14
John 8.11 – Jesus didn’t condemn the adulteress – go and do not sin again
John 9 – the blind man – born blind to show the power of God at work in him!  The whole chapter seems to be referring to the Pharisees as ‘blind guides’.
Rom 6.15 – the difference between law and grace – we belong to the power which we choose to obey, whether we choose sin, whose reward is death, or God, obedience to whom means the reward of the righteous! [The whole of Romans 5 & 6 seems relevant?].
1Cor 8.12 – referring to sin against a weaker brother by doing things that they find offensive!
1Cor 15.34 – Come back to your right senses, and stop sinning like this (let us eat drink and be merry)!  Remember that there are men who have no knowledge of God
Eph 4.26 – If you are angry, be sure that it is not a sinful anger. It’s okay to be angry but not sinfully!
1Tim 5.20 – If sin is actually proved, then the offenders should be publicly rebuked as a salutary warning to others.
Heb 10.26 – Now if we sin deliberately after we have known and accepted the truth, there can be no further sacrifice for sin for us but only a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fire of God’s indignation, which will consume all that sets itself against him.
1John 2.1 – If a man should sin, remember that our advocate before the Father is Jesus Christ and he is just, the one who made personal atonement for our sins (and for those of the rest of the world as well).  God’s laws are the laws of love (consider John 13.34)
1John 3.9 – Now the Son of God came to earth with the express purpose of undoing the devil’s work.  The man who is really God’s son does not practise sin, for God’s nature is in him, for good, and such a heredity is incapable of sin.  No one born of God commits sin?
1John 5.16 – every act of wrong-doing is a sin, but not all sin is deadly.

Many Christians believe that because of sin God does not love us and has separated himself from us – that he loves us less because of actions we take.  Those who believe this then adopt actions and attitudes in a vain attempt to fill a void that in reality doesn’t exist.  There is a tendency to walk blindly into the darkness of delusion, convinced that we must be unlovable and unworthy.

Consider sin as a lack of love for self, others or God that results in a diminished relationship, and something less glorious than it could have been.

The opposite of love is not hate but fear – and what is fear but a lack of security and love?


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