What Sin?

Romans 7:20 “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

What do you think differentiates one person from the next in God’s eyes?

I’m not referring to the unique genetic makeup that distinguishes us from one another, I mean spiritually—how does God see one person from the next?

I don’t know of one single person who isn’t a sinner. I don’t mean that people can’t go for extended periods of time without sin, I’ve just not met any real sincere believer who doesn’t admit they are a sinner.

How do you think God sees one sinner from the next?

I’ve known the destructive nature of sin, I’ve personally experienced it. I have recognized how seemingly ‘small’ sins lead to greater acts of sin that tend to be much more devastating. I know that ignoring something in my life that conflicts with God’s holiness will open me up to a much greater fall. This process of ignoring sin is simply a disregard for the conviction of the Spirit of God.

In my life I’ve tried to encourage others who I have witnessed living in habitual sin how dangerous their position is before God. It would be much easier to warn others if I was perfect, at least it seems like that from a superficial point of view.

If I was perfect, I could show them just how great it is to forsake sin and give them an ideal for which to strive, unfortunately….this pipe dream is a completely unrealistic approach and simply doesn’t work. By portraying myself as perfect, I place myself into a position that seems unattainable. The reality of it all is, people who want to follow Jesus are still going to stumble over their fallen human nature, and when they do, my image of perfection gives them a sense of defeat rather than hope.

If I look through the Word of God, I can feel defeated if I don’t read it with understanding.

1 John 5:18 “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

It is scripture just like this that makes me stop and think, “what is wrong with me?”

Could I be living a lie, thinking that I have been born of God? Does my propensity to stumble deny my acceptability in Christ?

I’ve found it difficult for myself to understand the meaning of God’s Truth if I don’t have a right understanding of my own life. If I want to encourage others, I’d better look beyond what seems at face value one aspect of God’s truth and also look into the Word with an understanding of what the Spirit is saying to the church.

The Stumbling Sinner

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

When I read a portion of scripture like this, I think to myself, ‘guilty, guilty, guilty’.

When I was a young man it was common for my church to have people step to the front of a meeting and give their testimony. Having grown up in a christian household, I always listened very intently to the stories of those speaking. I would hear what their lives were like before they became christians and they would almost always end their testimony with a, “praise God, I’m a new man or woman, the person I once was is gone and I am free in Christ”.

These testimonies were defeating to me. I would think to myself of how I’d committed some of those sins after I was a christian. If those people are now perfect, do I need to have a period of disaster in my life so that I can also turn to Christ in such a dramatic way?

I’ve learned since then, those people were still sinners. The dramatic nature of their testimony was like a Hollywood script meant to show a happy ending—but the testimony wasn’t real. They were far from perfect, I knew them, I watched their lives, in some cases they seemed way worse than I was…at least I thought. Comparing myself to others became common practice and so the pattern of showmanship when it came to my spiritual image, was something I began to practice. I would be ‘Joe Christian’ in some circles and in other circles, they wouldn’t have the faintest idea I was a believer in Christ.

This pattern of living up to others expectations was taxing and self-destructive, not being authentic is a train ride that comes off the rails in due time.

I now know that a born again believer is not perfected in practice but rather perfected in position before God. Our position is perfection by the blood of the Lamb, our practice of honoring the Lord in our conduct is where the sanctifying work of the Spirit in us becomes so important. The intent of a born again believer is to please God, that is their practice. The will of the flesh unfortunately doesn’t always align with the will of the spirit in man.

1 John 3:9 “Anyone having been born of God does not practice sin, because His seed abides in him, and he is not able to continue sinning, because he has been born of God.”

Practicing sin is another matter.

The Practicing Poser

When I was in Highschool, it wasn’t uncommon to hear someone labeled a ‘poser’. A poser was someone who attempted to look like someone they were not. It was a derogatory term because it seemed that everyone recognized the false image that person presented except themself.

A person who calls themself a christian and yet ‘practices’ sin, is a spiritual poser.

1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

So how do you know if someone is a stumbling believer or a practicing poser?

  1. Love—Does that person love the Lord with all their heart or do they love the world? The love of a poser is for their comfort, position, or self-gratification. The love of a born again believer is for the Lord and when sin occurs, the heart felt loss of relationship to God is understood. We cannot have both the love of the world and the love of God in our hearts—the two do not work together.
  2. Freedom—The one who thinks they have the freedom to continue in sin–doesn’t have it. The born again believer knows what freedom in Christ is like and when they stumble in sin, they recognize the loss of relationship and want it back. Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” The Lord leads His people away from sin because it is destructive in our relationship to Him. Sin is counter to God’s Holiness, we offend Him personally when we commit sin. vs. 7 “For he who has died has been freed from sin.” When we died to our old lives, we were released from the grip of death sin had over us.
  3. Death—The poser is still dead in their trespasses and sins. A key distinction between one who is born again and one who isn’t is the life or death that embodies them. For the true believer, he has this promise in Romans 6:7 “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” For the poser who denies God’s holiness and continues to let sin reign in him, the enslavement of sin is a common reality. 1 John 3:9 “Whoever has been born of God does not (practice)sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.”
  4. The Holy Spirit—The born again believer has God’s seed dwelling within them, the Holy Spirit. The christian poser does not have the Spirit of God and therefore the practice of sinning is more common for them. The literal greek translation of 1 John 3 indicates the authorship of sin is in the practitioner. For those who are still ruled by sin, they are controlled by the spirit of rebellion which is of Satan. For the born again believer, they are controlled by the Author of Life. Hebrews 2:10 “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting for God, for whom and through whom all things exist, to make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” The Author of Life is none other than Jesus and it is His Spirit that dwells within His people.
  5. Righteousness—The knowledge of sin is found through God’s moral law. Sin is affront to God personally. The christian poser claims allegiance to God and yet practices offensively against Him, he practices unrighteousness. The born again believer who truly loves God may stumble because of foolishness, brief weakness, spiritual immaturity, or allowing patterns of the world to weaken their walk….the focus is still toward honoring the Lord in all the do. 1 John 3:7-8 “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”

Our testimonies should be a proclamation of God’s goodness in our lives. Before Christ, there remained only death and hopelessness, but after Jesus has redeemed His people the freedom from the bondage of sin is worth celebrating. The bondage of sin is the death associated with it. We born again believers know that we have not yet been perfected, our flesh reminds us of that fact everyday, but God’s people strive toward perfection because of their love for Him.

This is the difference.

God’s people love the Lord because He first loved us, and gave Himself for us as a ransom for our sin.

I hope for all who have never known the true life that exists in Christ, their affiliation with Christ might one day become real. It’s not easy looking ourselves in God’s spiritual mirror (His Word), and seeing ourselves for who we are, but it’s worth it if it changes us into His image.

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