The Nature of Sin

May 2, 2010

The night air was as thick and as silent as velvet. When suddenly the stillness was broken by the soft flapping of leathery wings. Out of the gloom came anger, his already contorted features twisted as he saw the man. Anger’s cohorts were already there, perched on one shoulder was despondency while alcohol clung to the man’s back.
Knowing that it wasn’t right the man tried to shake the demons free but they were too strong for him to combat on his own. And still anger sat there, waiting, biding his time. Despondency dug his claws in deeper and as he rode the man alcohol twisted his mind and brought his will to submission.
And as anger watched and mused he planned his attack on his helpless victim. Once the twin demons of despondency and alcohol had broken the man’s will then and only then would it be anger’s turn and anger would make the man dance to his tune. Oh yes, then he would be in control. And the things that anger could do in co-operation with the twins. Who would the man vent his anger on, his family, perhaps slap the kid around a bit, teach him some respect. Or maybe it was time that his wife knew who was boss. Maybe it would be a friend, someone who tried to help him break the ties of alcohol, yes now wouldn’t that be fun, he could show that wimp what a real man was made of.
And there it was the perfect opening, alcohol and despondency had been joined by self-pity who was reminding the man of all the abuses, both real and imaginary that had been heaped upon him. The time was right and anger swept in his wings beating furiously in the air, and he had the man in his grip. Helplessly the man struggled in the grips of his own private demons unable to do the right that he wanted to do but compelled by forces beyond his reach to do those things that he hated. Once again good had lost the fight and in anger he struck out at the ones he loved.
What a great story, it’s super fiction but rotten theology.
How does sin affect us, how does sin control us? What makes us sin? And what is the result of our sin? The mania that swept the Christian world after Frank Perriti had published the novels “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing the Darkness” in the late eighties would have us looking in every corner and behind every door for the demons who twist and distort all things good and drive us to do the things we hate. But is it scriptural to blame demons for our sins, or is that simply a cop out. Thirty years ago the comedian Flip Wilson would defend his actions by saying “The devil made me do it”. Have we accepted that as a valid excuse in 2010?
Let’s look at sin. The passage that was read earlier is one of the best known references to sin (Romans 3:21-26) and it’s found in the book of Romans. Romans is the sixth book in the New Testament and the first of what we call “The Epistles” now contrary to popular belief the Epistles were not the Apostles’ wives. It’s just a fancy word for letter and the rest of the New Testament is a collection of letters. Some of the them personal, for one person and some of them were corporate, they were meant to be read aloud to a church. The book of Romans falls into that category. The book was written by Paul who we were introduced to in the book of Acts. The book was written around AD 57 to a group of believers, most of them Gentiles in the capital city of the Roman Empire. Thus it is addressed to the Romans, if it was for a group in Halifax it would have been the book of Haligonians.
Why was it written? As you read through you discover a couple of reasons. So Paul could introduce himself to the Romans and to encourage them.
The very first question has to be: What Is Sin? Good question, let’s start by going out on the street and seeing if we can find an answer. Video what is sin
Collins dictionary defines sin as “the breaking of religious or moral law, especially through a wilful act.”
While the Old Testament never formally defines sin the concept is “anything contrary to the known will of God”.
The word used throughout the New Testament is ἁμαρτάνω hamartano
literally means “to miss the mark.” that is certainly testified to in Romans 3:23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Now I am sure that we could enter into all kinds of legal definitions of sin at this point, is this sin, how about this. And if we do that we end up like the preacher who declared that there were 748 sins and after the sermon people were lined up to get a copy of the list. In its simplest definition sin is disappointing God through our disobedience. That’s sin.
The second question then has to be: “Why Do We Sin?” and that is a good question why do people sin? Well the most elementary answer is “because”. You see we sin because that is the nature of the beast. Adam was created in the perfect image of God, but when he chose to sin in Genesis 3 that image became distorted, not destroyed simply distorted. When I was in college a friend of mine accidentally knocked a photograph of my sister onto the floor. In the fall the glass broke, and while the image of Dianne was still there it was distorted because of the cracks in the glass. The same thing happened at the dawn of time when the first man and first woman chose to wilfully disobey God’s commandment the perfect image was distorted not destroyed just distorted. The legacy that Adam and Eve have left us with is the legacy of sin.
I’ve mentioned it several times but it bears repeating, nowhere is original sin more clearly defined then in children. Have you noticed that you don’t have to teach children how to say no, won’t, don’t and other negative words, but you have to teach them how to say please, thank you and you’re welcome. Never had to teach a kid how to throw a tantrum, how to cry how to rebel. But kids have to be taught how to be polite, and pleasant, how to obey.
It was through Adam and eve that sin entered the world and it became their gift to us, along with the punishment for disobeying God’s will Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.
When Paul gives us a list of specific moral sins in Galatians 5 he begins by saying these are the acts of the sinful nature. The human nature. But he tells us that they should not be the actions of someone who is a child of God because he says quite plainly in Galatians 5:19-21 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Well then the third question is: if we sin because we have to sin How Do We Not Sin? very frankly it’s impossible. You do not have the power to not sin. If you are a people and most of you look like you are a people then for the very reasons that we mentioned above you cannot not sin. Even when we try our hardest to please God, and do all the good things that we could possibly do the prophet Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 64:6 We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
Well preacher that is really depressing, first you tell us that we are all sinners then you tell us that because we are all sinners we are all gonna die, and then you tell us that there isn’t a thing that we can do about it, thanks bunches you made my day. Even though it’s true that there is absolutely no way that you can not sin, don’t forget that if you have been born again there is a difference, or at least there ought to be, Paul tells us in Romans 7:5-6 When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death. But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.
Paul talks about our sinful nature in the past tense, something that used to be but isn’t now. He backs this up in Romans 8:4 when he says that we no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the spirit.
You see what we once were and what we are now should be two different creatures completely, 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! Does that describe you, has the old gone has the new come? Christ tells us in Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
You cannot serve both God and your sinful nature, either you will hate the one and love the other or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. Romans 8:8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
But How Do We Conquer The Sinful Nature? How do We get on top of it? Job asked that very question in Job 34:31-32 “Why don’t people say to God, ‘I have sinned, but I will sin no more’? Or ‘I don’t know what evil I have done—tell me. If I have done wrong, I will stop at once’?
The answer of course in found in Galatians 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
That statement concerning crucifying the sinful nature indicates an act of the will. The main reason why Christians don’t crucify the sinful nature is that they don’t want to. They enjoy the sin they are dabbling in. We hate to admit it but it’s the truth we sin because we want to sin.
During my fourth year of college I attended an ice hockey game that went until 2:00 o’clock in the morning, it was the only time we could rent the ice. The next morning I just couldn’t convince my body that we should get up at seven so I could be to my eight o’clock class, even though it was my favourite subject. Later that day I ran into my professor and apologize for not being there, “I really wanted to be there Dr. Kanzelmar” I told him. His reply has stuck with me now for over twenty five years because he said, “Denn if you had wanted to be there you would have been there, because you do what you want to do.” profound isn’t it you do what you want to do. “Preacher you don’t really believe that do you?” sure do.
That philosophy fits right into the reality of Philippians 4:13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
You see what we can’t do on our own, we can do through Christ. What you can’t do on you own Christ can give you the power to do. And that is in all areas of your life. But the decision to obedience to God is a conscious decision. It’s something that you decide to do.
There are times that we fall, but they tell us that the difference between a pig and a sheep, and I wouldn’t know haven’t never owned a sheep or a pig. However they tell us that the difference between a sheep and a pig is that if a pig falls into mud, he gets right into it, wallows and plays and stays in the mud. However if a sheep should fall into mud they immediately get out. How do we react to sin, if we slip do we get right out or do we play around in it.
Falling into sin isn’t fatal, staying in sin is. A lady asked an old fisherman who was standing on a wharf, “if you fell in the water here would you drown” “naw” he said “falling in the water doesn’t drown anybody, it’s the staying under that does the drowning.” falling isn’t fatal but staying down is.
Let’s go back to Galatians 5:19-21 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Paul is being very straight forward, if we live in a sinful manner, that is continuing to sin, if we stay under, we will not inherit the kingdom of God. No ifs, no ands, and no buts. And what it comes right down to your choice, not mine, not your parents not your spouses, nobodies choice but yours and yours alone. You will choose to serve God, or you will choose to serve your sinful nature. But make no mistake about it, it will be your choice.
But what about the demons? What demons, oh right those demons. The ones with the leathery wings, and contoured features. You know between you and me, I think we give the demons credit for a lot of stuff that we deserve the blame for. “Oh preacher I couldn’t help myself it must be the demon of lust.” that’s rubbish. Most of the people who get hyped up on demons use Ephesians 6:12-13 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.
And so we talk about the powers of the dark world, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. But don’t forget vs. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armour so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.
Vs. 13 says that we are going to win, that we stand, that we don’t give in. The greatest demon you will have to fight will be the demon of self. You will only commit sins that you are willing to commit. Do I see a few raised eyebrows and detect some doubt among the faithful? One of the greatest promises of the bible is 1 Corinthians 10:13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
God did not say that we wouldn’t be tempted, even Christ was tempted. But God did say that you would never be tempted by something that you couldn’t resist. Our problem is that many of us are like Augustine who prayed save me God but not yet. We want to have our cake and to eat it too. We want to be Christians, we want to go to heaven but we want to sin as well. We want everything that this life can give and everything the next life can give.
But God doesn’t want anything less then everything. You can’t say this 95 percent of my life is God’s and this five percent is mine. Doesn’t work that way, not at all. You don’t plant a garden and then reserve a corner of it for weeds. Cause if you do the little green monsters soon want it all. No man can serve two master. You can’t serve God and self. You can’t serve God and sin. You can’t serve God and the devil. Because you will either love one and hate the other or devote yourself to one and despise the other.
If you play with fire you will get burned. And if you play with sin you will get burned. Remember sin will always take you further then you want to go. Sin will always keep you longer then you want to stay and sin will always cost you more then what you want to pay.
You will never be sin’s master it will always be your master. Sometimes I hear people tell me that they have mastered sin and I think of what Augustine said: To abstain from sin when one can no longer sin is to be forsaken by sin, not to forsake it.
Galatians 5:16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The secret The secret is letting the Holy Spirit guide your life. And how do you do that? Well probably the first step is to admit that you can’t do it alone. As long as you are trying to live a sinless life by yourself you will blow it can’t be done. If you were to go to an a. a. meeting you would hear people get up and say “my name if Bob and I’m an alcoholic, or my name is Alice and I’m an alcoholic.” now they may not be drinking, may not have taken a drink for twenty years but even as a sober alcoholic they acknowledge that they have a problem with alcohol. Maybe in church we need to stand up and say “I’m Denn and I’m a sinner, or my names Jason and I’m a sinner” that doesn’t mean that we have to continue to sin, but it does mean that we know who we are and what we are. And we can’t do anything to change the fact that we are sinners.
But the apostle John tells us in 1 John 2:1 My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.
Catchy isn’t it, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But then John goes on to say if we fall it’s not fatal when he says I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.
The bottom line is not following a book of rules, or a list of do nots instead it is being obedient to God. And he promises that he will give us all the help we need in being obedient if we want it. But it is our choice. Because bottom line is this the bottom line is not following a book of rules, or a list of do nots instead it is being obedient to God. And he promises that he will give us all the help we need in being obedient if we want it. But it is our choice. Because bottom line is what Jesus said in John 14:23-24 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them. Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me.