What is Sin?

Author’s note: I received a question on the web site not too long ago from an individual asking why we didn’t have more information on the subject of sin on our web site. I was a little at a loss as to the question because not a single article or outline is posted that doesn’t have something to do with the avoidance of sin in our lives, but then I realized that the individual probably had reference to the generic subject of sin. There are, I believe, a few things dealing with that subject, but I thought that another article wouldn’t hurt.

In 1 John 3:4, John writes, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law”KJV. The American Standard Version reads, “Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.” So is sin “the transgression of the law” or is sin “lawlessness”? The answer is that it is both. Imagine if you would a circle. Name this circle, “the law.” Consider one who abides within the circle as one who is remaining within the law. Consider also that the person who steps outside the circle has transgressed the boundary of the law and is now outside the borders of law. Sin is both the transgression of that which is lawful and the exit from law into lawlessness.

In 2 John 9, the apostle writes, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son”KJV. Again, the ASV reads as follows: “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son.” Here is another passage which is parallel with 1 John 3:4. Consider the same circle as in the above paragraph. Instead of writing “law” in the circle, write “doctrine of Christ.” When we step outside the circle, we transgress the doctrine and we go onward outside of Christ’s teaching.

Consider also James 4:17 “To him therefore that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” Here we have what many refer to as the sin of “omission” because the sin is committed by not doing something good as opposed to doing something that is right. But if you will once again considered our circle and inside the circle write, “doing that which is good,” you will notice that if you step outside the circle, once again, you have transgressed, gone beyond, and gotten into territory where “good” is not defined, lawlessness. This is yet another passage that sets forth the idea that sin is defined as not doing what God wants us to do.

Finally, consider Colossians 3:17: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Here is a passage that is just the opposite of James 4:17. Draw the circle again. Write inside the circle, “that which is in the name of the Lord,” in other words, that which the Lord wants us to do, authorizes us to do. When we step outside of that circle, once again, we transgress, go beyond, and enter into lawlessness.

Our conclusions regarding what sin is must be as follows: sin is going outside of the law of God, the doctrine of Christ, that which is good, and that which is authorized by Christ in our behavior, whether words or deeds. When I go beyond Christ’s authority regardless of what the matter is, I have sinned. Sometimes the Bible tells us where the line is and what not to go beyond. Sometimes the Bible simply says, “this is right behavior” and expects us not to behave in a different way. Regardless of whether the Bible says to avoid certain behavior or behave in a particular way, to go beyond what the Bible says is right is wrong.

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Musings of a Jaw Breaker

Some of you may know that I have a jaw-breaker the size of a billiard ball in my office. The reason for my having this jaw-breaker is another story, but I was looking at it today and thought that it might make for some interesting reading. A jaw-breaker, as we all know, is a piece of candy that is virtually impossible to break with your teeth. So in order to consume it, you must put it into your mouth and let it slowly dissolve away. But, a billiard ball size jaw-breaker is impossible to put into your mouth. If you can’t get it into your mouth, then how can you dissolve it? Seems like a rather difficult dilemma, doesn’t it.

When I bought this particular jaw-breaker, I asked the sales lady, “How do you eat this thing.” She told me there were only two ways that she knew to do that. You could either lick it until it dissolved enough to put into your mouth (I can’t imagine how long that would take) or you could break it with a hammer. Being a man, the second solution appealed greatly to me. However, I have not, as of yet, applied this solution, as I have ulterior motives for the purpose of the jaw-breaker, such as writing this article.

But suppose I were to take a hammer and smash the jaw-breaker; what do you suppose would happen? I would no longer have a jaw-breaker, per se, but a thousand tiny pieces of sugary candy. At that point, no doubt, it would be fit for consumption, but it certainly wouldn’t provide the lasting enjoyment that a jaw-breaker is supposed to provide. Its purpose would basically, be destroyed. Such is, however, what happens when force is brought to bear upon that which is obstinate.

Such reminds me of the Old Testament prophets and the message that they often had to get across to others. They dealt with a people that were very similar to a jaw-breaker. Regardless the amount of scriptural force that was brought to bear upon them, they would not budge. They were obstinate. Isaiah also wrote regarding their condition: “Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass” (Isaiah 48:4). Jeremiah wrote regarding these people: “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words” (Jeremiah 19:15). In order to break them, God had to bring an irresistible force upon those people; the result was that they crumbled underneath it.

My jaw-breaker also reminds me of the character Haman in the book of Esther. You remember that Haman was promoted to be the number one man next to king Ahasuerus after the king’s other counselors plotted against him. However, when Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, he decided that Mordecai had to go. Ahasuerus, on the other hand, sought to honor Mordecai. Haman thought Ahasuerus wanted to honor him. He ended up being humiliated in leading Mordecai around the city on a horse. Ultimately he was hung on his own gallows for his plot to kill God’s people. Just as my billiard size jaw-breaker is too big for its own good, so also was Haman. Romans 12:3 says, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”

Finally, my jaw-breaker reminds me of the task that God has set before each one of us. This jaw-breaker could be consumed by licking it over and over again. But it would take some time to consume a billiard-sized jaw-breaker simply by licking it. How could we accomplish such a task? One lick at a time. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” James 5:11 reads, “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” If one really wanted to consume this jaw-breaker, it could be done. We have sometimes a seemingly impossible task before us, but it can be done, if we really want to do it. We take it one day at a time (Matthew 6:34).

Who would have thought that a billiard-size jaw-breaker could teach us so much? Let us not be so hard that God has to break us into a thousand pieces in order for us to be useful. Let’s not be so big that we cannot accomplish the purposes for which God made us. Let’s do be patient enough to be able to “lick” those seemingly impossible tasks that are before us. God has given us the tools that we need in order to serve Him appropriately. Let’s do what we can each and every day to keep our spirits pure, humble, and patient as we long for the Lord’s return one day.

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Paganisms Promises

Witches, warlocks, bards, ovates, and druids: you’re probably thinking that Halloween is over for this year, so why the strange list? Well, according to Reuters news service, pagans are celebrating Samhuin, the Celtic new year, and “a time for remembering dead ancestors before the darkness of winter” explained one pagan priestess. According to the article, paganism is on the rise in Britain where they claim to have nearly 100,000 adherents to the religion. The same priestess explained the phenomena: “People are not finding enough insight with a Christian God. Christianity is all about having rewards when you are dead, druids are all about living life fully and reaching out.” Does Christianity offer insight? Is it merely about getting rewards after one is dead? Does being a Christian mean that you have to have a dull and boring life?

Christianity offers insight which no other religion can offer, namely, God’s insight. Of course, paganism doesn’t believe in one God, per se; paganism believes in the existence of multiple gods. Every living and non-living thing has a “spirit” in paganism; and these become the things that are worshipped. The same Reuters article quoted a pagan gathering chant: “We call upon the powers of the south, the inner fire of the sun and the island of fire. We seek the blessing of the great stag in the heat of the chase. Spirits of the south join us now in this our sacred circle. Hail and welcome.” Does paganism have insight that Christianity doesn’t have? The American Heritage dictionary defines “insight” as follows: “The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation; penetration.” How can one have more insight (discern the true nature of a situation) than the one who created everything to begin with? When you have a question regarding the operation of your car, do you consult the “spirits” of the motor, doors, windows, and wheels? Or do you read the operator’s manual, written by the manufacturer? From what source does true insight come? Really all that paganism does is replace God with a system of idolatry that has no insight to offer other than what one personally feels, and that is no insight at all. The prophet Habakkuk wrote, “Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach!” (Habakkuk 2:19).

Is Christianity merely about getting rewards after one is dead? Are we just wrapped up in some big cosmic game show so that if we play the game right we get the prizes at the end? That seems to be what is being suggested and it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation. Heaven isn’t a reward, per se; it’s the continuation of life. Paganism claims to value life fully, but doesn’t understand that there is no value in life when sin has marred one’s soul. Sin takes life away by enslaving individuals to its mindless grasp (2 Peter 2:19, 20) and dumping them into eternal death (Revelation 21:8). Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). True life; real life; eternal life comes from Jesus and walking in His footsteps, not from some personified spiritualization of rocks.

Does being a Christian mean that you have to live a boring and dull life? I suppose that depends upon what one considers boring and dull. If you find it exciting to talk to trees and worship boulders, then I guess Christianity might be boring! However, if one is discussing whether or not Christians are allowed to enjoy the benefits of life, the answer is, “of course!” God made the world and all the things that are within it for man. He has provided “fruitful seasons filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). He has blessed Christians richly with every blessing that he can provide (Ephesians 1:3). He has given all things for us to eat if we receive them with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:3). He has blessed man with friendship, companionship, and wonderful relationships (Ephesians 5:31). He is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). He has given to us freely all good things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). He’s told us that all things are ours (1 Corinthians 3:21). And promised blessings not only in this life, but in the world to come (Mark 10:30). With all of these things at our disposal, what cause does anyone have to claim that the Christian can’t have a full, rich, wonderful, and blessed life now? The problem is not that Christianity can’t provide these things. The problem is that most “Christians” don’t know what true Christianity is, much less pagans!

The Reuter’s news service article ends with a story about a man who went to one of these pagan “stone circles” and chipped off a piece of the stone to take with him. About a year later, he mailed the chipped-off piece back to the owners of the “rock circle.” In his letter he told them to glue it back onto the stone as it had only brought him “bad luck.” The same mentality that caused him to value such, ended up causing him to condemn it. What a fickle standard by which to judge reality. Paganism offers no true insight to life; it has no value for this life; and can provide no lasting life beyond the grave. It is merely another excuse on the part of man to do that which is right in his own eyes (Deuteronomy 12:8).

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