For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23 NKJV)
SIN – trespass, transgression, law-breaking, missing the mark, committing an offence, disobedience, rebellion.
If there were no Sin, there would be no sinners
No need for laws, or rules or prisoners
No place for guns or any weapons
No need for locks to protect possessions
No armed forces
No life-skill courses
No bias or discrimination
No greed or self-determination
No dread of world extermination
Of everyone and everything
And Jesus would be the only King
Is it true that humans are sinners? The Bible makes a big thing of sin from the third chapter of Genesis onwards. The rest of creation is not accused of sin. A rock cannot steal, a tree cannot lie, a bear cannot blaspheme. But the whole of Creation is out of kilter because of sin. The apostle Paul wrote:
Romans 8:20-22 NIV For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope (21) that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (22) We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
The whole of Creation is being frustrated in its purpose because of us. There is widespread recognition of this now. Weather patterns have experienced radical changes, volcanoes have erupted, earthquakes have brought cities down, fires have consumed forests and animals have become extinct throughout human history. We ‘see’ it now, but do we accept that it is sin that has frustrated creation? I think we do. We blame politicians and magnates of sins like greed, wilful ignorance and selfishness because they are guilty of causing the problems. Surely, we should accept personal responsibility and guilt too.
There is a dubious moral outrage going on around us. It is common in my experience to hear cruel and dismissive words about neighbours, about the police and the National Health Service and politicians. Fingers point at others with little or no admission of personal fault. Jesus called this hypocrisy. It was the same in His day. Self-righteous people condemning everyone else. He taught that we need to get the plank out of our own eye!
We recognise wrong behaviour, mostly in other people, but we also try to paint it over and provide excuses for these failings. We are encouraged to blame our environment, parents, teachers, poverty or genes for our ‘bad’ behaviour. This ‘blame game’ began with Adam, when he blamed his wife for the fact that he had eaten the fruit!. We make excuses for the wrong we do with no concern for the trouble we cause others. We excuse our transgressions. We hear hurt people saying that they could never forgive. The fact is that we all understand the notion of wrong and the need for forgiveness. The Lord Jesus, as He was being nailed to a Roman cross said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” The Roman soldiers had no idea of the dreadful thing they were doing but they still needed forgiveness. Ignorance is not a valid excuse.
Sin exists in us like a virus. Wrongdoing is like the spots, the rash, the symptoms of the disease. Jesus spoke about our hearts,
Matthew 15:19 NIV For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
These sins emerge from a condition of sin. We might try to cover up these symptoms or even try to claim that they are OK and not symptoms at all! When driving my car I am often troubled by a dirty windscreen. I use the windscreen washers but still have a smeary screen. I have applied special screen cleaners on the outside. What I needed to do is clean the inside of the windscreen. As far as the inside of my life, my heart, is concerned, only God can clean that. He offers His cleansing forgiveness. This should encourage me to ask His forgiveness for the wrong that I have done.
Each of us has wronged God.
Romans 3:23 NIV for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
This statement covers sins like lies, stealing, pride and laziness but also has a wider and far-reaching meaning. God wants us to realise that we have trespassed, we have crossed the line. If I am willing to accept this truth then I will be happy to know that God has provided the remedy for our sin and the forgiveness that will clear our conscience of guilt.
An English poet Alexander Pope wrote: “To err is human; to forgive, Divine.” It is human to make mistakes, to be in error. Laws have been devised to punish and correct this fault. Society and culture have developed methods of training children about how to be good. There is no method needed to show children how to do wrong.
I need to make something clear. Alexander Pope was not suggesting that we need forgiveness for getting a sum or a spelling wrong. Though, I remember that, in my schooldays, children were punished for such errors. We must not confuse making mistakes with sin. A little child will tumble and fall when learning to walk. That is not sin. Wrong ideas about the nature of sin have confused us about the need of God’s forgiveness. They can produce a false guilty conscience.
Anyone with a conscience will suffer pangs of guilt. Like the apostle Paul, you might ask, “Why can’t I do the good things I know I should do? Why do I do things that I know I should not do?” [see Romans Chapter 7]. The Bible teaches that our hearts, our souls, have been messed up. Humanity was created in God’s image in order to care for this planet and be His children. Adam’s disobedience broke the connection with God and let in all kinds of bad connections. God designed us for a purpose, but we have decided to follow our own ways. Our purpose was not to lie to one another, or be selfish and unloving, proud or cruel. These ways are not God’s will for us and are called ‘sin’.
The Bible contains many biographies of men, women and children and describes their sins and failures as well as their faith. Lives are portrayed from God’s point of view. We see how God intervenes, how sin is dealt with. There is correction and punishment. There is correction and forgiveness. The Bible also reveals that there is a spiritual battle going on, somewhere else in time and space, which has spilled over into this planet. The final result of the battle is already fixed and is described as ‘the Day of God’s Wrath’. From our perspective it looks as though God has delayed that day of judgement. For now, God is waiting for demons and men to repent, to change their minds, to surrender. Eventually, at a fixed point in time, God will wrap things up. Then, all who surrendered and sought forgiveness get eternal life, those that refused the offer get eternal death.
The Bible describes two everlasting conditions for humans, Life and Death. The words are intended to describe spiritual existence. We are different to other animals in that we possess a soul. This is not merely the breath of life but a moral awareness of self and responsibility for our actions. It does not just die and disappear. This soul, or spirit, has an everlasting existence. God holds the right to judge us according to how we have lived. The result of that judgement decides where our everlasting existence will continue. The problem is that we have all broken God’s laws. God is absolute truth, righteousness and holiness.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6 NIV)
Not much hope of being found ‘not guilty’. But God is absolute love and mercy too. There is hope.
Genesis Chapter 3 tells how animals died and their skins were used to make clothes for Adam and Eve. There is a double lesson here. Their nakedness was covered and, also, their sin. God’s plan of Salvation for sinners was revealed here. The Old Testament describes how many people saw that God would forgive them on the basis of their faithfulness and His mercy. This fact continues into the New Testament.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14 NIV)
Salvation, rescue from eternal punishment, is possible!