“To err is human” (Plutarch). Sin is a part of life. Fortunately, it is an unnatural part of life that God has overcome. God never intended humanity to deviate from his will, but he made preparations to redeem man since he knew he would. Because sin is an inarguable part of our everyday existence, in that we can fall far short of God’s standard of conduct so frequently (Rom. 3:10, 23), how should the Christian view sin? Should Christians get used to the nature and presence of sin in their lives and embrace it, or should there be resentment and disgust toward disobedience to God and a reasonable attempt to mitigate all occurrences of it in their lives?
We know that sin is contradictory to the life of God’s children. All who seek Him should depart from evil (2 Tim. 2:19). However, do God’s people consistently depart from evil, or do they entertain sin in their hearts with a desire to engage in it? People often take on the viewpoints and ideologies of the current culture. We live in a society that justifies sin, extols wickedness, and praises the virtues of evil. The only life deemed repulsive is the Christian one with its moral constraints. God condemned those Israelites who chose evil over good for that very thing (Mic. 3:2). Society does not esteem the righteous life as something worth pursuing. In fact, our 21st century America is openly hostile to it.
Isaiah dealt with this view: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Is. 5:20). After the preaching of the gospel in Thessalonica, many rejected it. They then caused an uproar in the city about their teaching. Luke writes, “And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:6, emphasis added).
The gospel of Christ can overturn the world’s view towards sin and place things back in their proper perspective. That is, it can elevate right and proper conduct while discouraging corruption in the lives of God’s people. This upside-down world that we live in has influenced many Christians to depart from the faith because they do not see sin as exceedingly sinful.
Why is it such a surprise, then, to see Christians succumbing to the narrative peddled by so many today that sin is good? John tells us that “whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law, for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). To transgress or go beyond what is written violates the standard God has enjoined on the believer. To do so willingly is to leave no sacrifice for sin (Heb. 10:26ff). The Psalmist says, “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over me, then shall I be upright and innocent from the great transgression” (Ps. 19:13). The attitude of a Christian toward sin should be revulsion. Christians should not esteem or laud sin as the wicked do. The Psalmist shows the heart of the true believer, the one who will dwell with God: “In whose eyes a vile person is condemned, but he honoureth them that fear the Lord” (Ps. 15:4). Those who hate the things the Lord hates and love the things the Lord loves will dwell with God in heaven. We know God condemns those who love wickedness (Rom. 1:32).
The law teaches us about sin so we might avoid it. Yet it is also informative because it shows one’s shortcomings. Paul writes, “Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful” (Rom. 7:13). Paul states the law itself informed us of the knowledge of what God desires for our lives. Whenever Christians don’t comply with that standard, they are sinning.
Thus, there are two answers to the question: “How should the Christian view sin?” First, Christians should view sin as an obstacle that will keep them from heaven when practiced. Second, Christians should view sin as something that Christ has defeated.
Christians must change their mind toward sin and see it as an obstacle to overcome. One of the most challenging obstacles for God’s people is developing the spiritual mind and seeing things as God sees them. When the commandment or law of Christ shows the proper way to conduct one’s affairs in this world, then a violation of His standard should cause disgust. There is a realization that sin affects all, but willful or presumptuous sin should not define the Christian. John clarifies any ambiguity some might have to that idea: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:7-8). Since sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4), we should strive with all our being not to violate it. A Christian attitude towards sin should be sorrowful for having committed it (Matt. 5:4). There is grief in the heart for wrongs committed and a desire to change so that Christians can be pleasing to God. Paul tells us that “…the carnal mind is enmity against God, because it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7). To change the mind toward wrongdoing is to change the inward man and seek to do good. “Hate the evil, and love the good…” (Amos 5:15). Indeed, “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil” (Ps. 97:10). When sin is viewed as an obstacle to overcome rather than as a prohibited joy, the lives of God’s people are all the more enriched.
Christians should view sin as something Christ has overcome. Christ defeated sin for humanity on the cross. When God’s people triumph by defeating sin through the blood of Christ and take part in that death, burial, and resurrection, that triumph changes one’s attitude toward the practice of wrongdoing. Christians can live with confidence and joy, knowing the burden of sin has been lifted. The Christian’s attitude toward sin, with this knowledge, is one of gratefulness to God and relief that God spares Christians from condemnation (Rom. 8:1). There is comfort in knowing the consequence of sin is removed by Jesus the Christ through his death on the cross. As Paul wrote, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:55-57).
Chance preaches for the Charlotte Avenue congregation in Rock Hill, SC.