In a world gone mad, we shouldn’t be surprised that many people no longer know the difference between right or wrong. They are being taught that there is no God, that we are merely animals, that morality is invented, and rules for behavior can only come from government. In turn, our government has long been telling us that abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism, fornication, euthanasia, riots and vandalism and theft (for left-wing causes), and special privileges for those in power are good things.
So, it was no wonder to me that my home church in Virginia Beach had to explain to one of our choir members why she was not allowed to continue to sing in front of the congregation after she refused to stop living with her boyfriend. When other members of the choir questioned the church’s decision, it had to be explained to the entire choir. Because today’s Christian doesn’t know what God requires of us.
Do we know what is sin?
More recently, one young man who is very active in our Christian community at the prison where I live was surprised when I told him that homosexuality was a sin. He said, “Really? I didn’t know that.” This from an avid Bible reader. I encouraged him to study it, and afterwards he told me, “Wow! It is a sin! It was right there!” After this exchange, I asked our inmate leaders to address sin in our services and Bible studies.
One of our leaders, Manuel Fernandez, approached the subject starting at Genesis 2 and 3. He concluded with, “Sin is when you aren’t satisfied with what God has given you. When you are greedy for more than He has provided. When you want what is outside of His plan for you. By way of example, he spoke of the beauty of a sunrise or sunset as more than enough of a feast for the eyes to give us pleasure, yet we exchange it for pornography, representations of violence, glorification of wealth, and the like.
Genesis 2:16-17 reads, “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.'” The Garden of Eden, a paradise stuffed with everything man could ever want, had a single restriction. Man’s response was to pursue the one thing that God said to not do. In Genesis 2:6 it reads, “The woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, so she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
Hebrews 13:5 tells us, “Be content with what you have.” When we are not content in our circumstances, circumstances that God has provided for us, we are lusting after what is outside of God’s plan. We become envious, jealous, bitter, and angry. In Romans 1:21-23 it reads, “For although people knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal human beings, birds, animals, and reptiles.”
Romans 1:28-31 takes us further into the definition of sin: “… just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent new ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.”
Ephesians 5:3-4 continues: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be any obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” The Bible contains much more on the subject. There are the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), and Christ gave us The Golden Rule (Mark 12:30-31). Ephesians 4:25-5:7 provides yet another list of examples of sin, as does 1 Peter 4:3-4.
But then there are statements that should cause us much pause. Like James 4:17, “It is sin to know what is good and not do it.” And like Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect as God is perfect.” In Romans 14:23, we are told that “anything that does not come from faith is sin.” Or perhaps the highest standard is what Christ provided in John 8:28-29 and 12:50: I do only what God tells me to do, and say only what God tells me to say.
These are not suggestions, they are commands. Philippians 4:8 says, “… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” To do otherwise, is to reject God’s authority like the youngest son in Christ’s parable in Luke 15:11-31, to go our own way, to run from God. When God commands us to forgive as He has forgiven us, we must. Too many times I’ve had conversations with Christians who tell me, “Yes, but I can’t forgive.” Or, “Yes, I know what the Bible says, but I can’t love my enemies.”
We are quick to judge while knowing that Christ said, “Do not judge.” Luke 6:37-42 (cf Romans 2:1-3). We lash out with unkind words while knowing that James 1:26 commands us to have a tight rein on our tongue. We gossip and slander and grumble despite God’s law against these. Romans 1 and James 4-5. Do we look after orphans and widows? James 1:27. Do we entertain strangers and visit prisoners and the mistreated? Hebrews 13. Do we love money? Hebrews 13:5.
When we are unsure of what to do, when we think that it may be too difficult to know the will of God, when we ask ourselves, “I don’t know if this is sin or not,” we must turn to the Word of God. The Holy Spirit will guide us to all truth. He will help us understand what He requires of us. He will remind us that we are His creation, His people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood. We are His servants, and it is our duty to obey Him in all things.
Galatians 5:19-23 contrasts our choices, providing the solution to our struggle. Do not lose hope, for He is a forgiving Father, and Christ suffered and died so that we may be redeemed from the consequences of our many sins. He has also provided to us the way to conquer sin so that we may follow Christ in all things. For we can know what is sin, and how to overcome it.
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Gal 5:19-23