What is 'sin'?
"Do I know my condition? ... Do I have a grasp of what it is about me that requires the death of the God-man for me to be saved?" -John Piper
I once overheard someone say, "Can a gay person actually be a Christian?". I shuttered. I knew this wasn't the only person out there who would ask a question like that.
The fact that questions like these are floating around our Christian communities proves that not only do we not understand grace, we do not understand sin.
We have forgotten what sin actually is. We have forgotten that sin is not just what we do, it's who we are. We have forgotten about our sin nature. We have forgotten the fact that that nature dwells within us, enslaves us, controls us, and produces sinful desires, thoughts, actions, etc.
"I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate...I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it." Romans 7:15, 17, emphasis mine
When we let that sink in and grasp that truth, it changes everything.
We will no longer look at our neighbor, comparing who is better or worse. We will simply see all as equal - equally guilty because of sin and equally blameless because of Christ.
We will no longer need to hold up signs of disgust. We will no longer shake our fingers in other's faces, pointing out their specs, because we will understand the planks we are carrying ourselves (Matthew 7:3-5).
If a liar, a drunk, someone with anger issues, or someone who is jealous can be a Christian, so can your gay friend. You and your friend are no different because we are all sinners no matter how that sin manifests itself on the outside.
"For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (James 2:10 NIV, emphasis mine)
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23 NIV, emphasis mine)
Does this mean that we condone, accept, or even ignore sin? Of course not! Many times we are commanded to live righteous lives (more on this later) and to speak truth in love. But, what is truth?
Christ. Christ is the Truth (John 14:6). The fact that we need Him to save us, that He died for us, and that He forgives us completely is truth. The fact that without Him we can do absolutely nothing and with Him anything is possible is truth. The fact that Christ, The Truth, is what sets us free is truth.
"Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6 NIV, emphasis mine
"...and the truth will set you free" John 8:32b NIV
"So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36 NIV
When speaking truth to others the main point should always be Christ, never our sin. Understanding our sin is necessary. The deeper we understand it, the deeper we can understand and appreciate God's grace and mercy. But sin is never, and I mean never, the main point.
The devil, however, would say otherwise. He is the one that makes sin the main point. He is the one that creates shame and guilt by magnifying sin and demagnifying Christ.
He is the one that twists God's commands about righteous living, causing us to strive in order to reform our behaviors. He is the one that speaks the lie that we can do better in our own strength. That has been his specialty from the beginning (see Genesis 3:4-5).
When we bite into that fruit like Adam and Eve did - believing that if we just do enough, say no to enough, control enough, obey the law or the word of God enough, then we will be acceptable - we are walking in the ways of pride.
We are believing that although faith saved us and although grace justified us, it is still up to ourselves to change. It is still up to our own strength to do better. When actually it isn't up to us at all, but up to the Spirit at work within us.
"I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can’t make myself do right. I want to but I can’t." (Romans 7:18, emphasis mine)
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5, emphasis mine)
"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him." (Philippians 2:13)
When we put our faith in Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin because His spirit battles against it and takes control. His spirit starts changing our hearts to be more like His own. His spirit gives us the power to be free from sin. His spirit gives us new desires. His spirit is what produces good fruit.
His spirit. Not ours. It is always God. We simply put our faith in Him and His promise of eternal life (salvation), of abounding love and grace (justification), and of changing us from the inside out until we are completely Christ-like (sanctification).
Sin, therefore, is a heart condition, a state of being, that we are born into and need to be saved from. It is our identity before Christ.
Sin creates the need to lie, so we call ourselves "liars". Sin creates homosexual thoughts, so we call ourselves "gay". Sin creates the desire to drink, so we call ourselves "alcoholics" or "drunks".
On the outside we may look or act differently then someone else - our sin nature may lean in a particular way - but deep down to the core isn't it really all the same?
We can try to muster up as much of our own strength as we can, but before Christ we are always slaves to sin. Some days we may act better than others, but even on those days we are living in sin because sin lives in us.
So what do we do then? If we still have sin within us, even after faith in Christ, and we cannot change based on our own strength, what do we do?
Surrender. Surrender the striving. Surrender the guilt. Surrender the control. Surrender the shame.
Loosen your grip. Let go of the weight. And hand it all off to God, trusting Him to save you, free you, and work within you.
He will give you the power. He will give you the strength. He will give you the freedom. He will give you the change of heart. He will produce the fruit of the Spirit within you.
This is what Christ was speaking of when He called all who were burdened and promised them rest. He knew the weight of sin. He knew the weight of the law. And He wanted to free us from all of it.
Have faith in Him and what He has promised us and live in that freedom until He returns. He didn't become sin in our place to leave us in bondage. He came to save us and set us free.
"God caused Christ, who himself knew nothing of sin, actually to be sin for our sakes..." 2 Corinthians 5:21a, emphasis mine
"God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior."John 3:17
"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20, emphasis mine)