LIFE IS DECISIONS AND CONSEQUENCES
Life is a perpetual process of decision-making, from the moment we awake in the morning until we fall asleep at night. Mostly, that’s what life is all about. We benefit from our good choices and suffer from our bad choices.
WE ‘SIN’ WHEN WE MAKE A WRONG MORAL CHOICE
In a sense, all of our choices have an element of right and wrong, as choosing the ‘right’ tie to wear with a certain suit or taking the ‘right’ route to work. But in a deeper sense, most of our choices are morally neutral. Only some choices have moral significance.
‘Moral’ means making the distinction between right and wrong with respect to God’s standard. A wrong moral choice is called a ‘sin’ (offense against God).
The definition raises this question: How we can distinguish between what’s really right or wrong from what’s morally neutral or what’s merely cultural? In other words, how do we know for sure what is sin?
Because this is God’s world, we must defer to his definitions, even though people are constantly telling us to either limit, expand or modify what he says.
The primary way to recognize sin is to read God’s book, the Bible, because in it he specifically identifies attitudes and behaviors he calls sin.
Another way to recognize sin is to listen to our conscience, which is his Holy Spirit speaking personally to us.
To help us understand God’s point of view, the Bible identifies hundreds of sins. But they are only examples; every sin is a personal offense against God shaped by individual circumstances, knowledge and motives.
No attempt is made in this handbook to list, categorize or summarize sins. The fact is that every one of us knows we’re guilty of committing sins, and each of us can name our own sins. There are some gray areas where we’re not sure, but the point IS NOT that we must identify every sin we commit but rather the point IS that we must acknowledge that we’re sinners.
Salvation (rescue from the eternal consequences of our sins) is not a matter of uprooting each and every sin but instead is the result of accepting God’s remedy (Jesus Christ) for our sin nature.
EVERYONE IS BORN WITH A SIN NATURE
The Bible says our earliest ancestors – Adam and Eve, the first man and woman – lived briefly in a wonderful environment not scarred by sin (the ‘Garden of Eden,’ an actual place between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in present day Iraq). When they disobeyed God, they were driven out into a hostile world of both good and evil. Sin had entered the human race, and because they are our progenitors, their sin nature has been passed on to all subsequent generations, even to us today.
It’s really a moot issue that their sin nature was passed on to us, because even if they hadn’t sinned, we would have sinned ourselves. There’s no escaping it, everyone does things which displease God.
FREE WILL (TO SIN) IS ESSENTIAL FOR REAL LOVE
God is LOVE (see Topic 48) and it’s essential that we have free will to decide how we will respond to him. True love can exist only when the object of love can choose whether or not to return love.
Example: A person could program his computer to print ‘I love you,’ but this wouldn’t be real love because the computer can’t do anything except to obey the command. God couldn’t really love and enjoy us if we were merely programmed to love and obey in return.
The stronger and freer we are, the better we’ll be when we go right, but the worse we’ll be when we go wrong. That’s a necessary risk of free will. (For more about free will, see Topics 48 and 60.)
SIN IS OUR BIGGEST PROBLEM
The basic problem of mankind is SIN. What do we do with our sin? How can we limit it? How will we pay the consequences for it?
Sin plagues us. It weighs us down like a heavy burden. We try to shake it off, but it won’t go. It saps our energy and robs our dignity. Often our sin pains others, and their sin pains us. Ultimately, everyone has to stand judgment before God for all unpardoned sin. It’s a very serious matter.
Most people have been carrying the heavy weight of sin for so long that they can’t even imagine what it would be like to have it lifted off. In fact, most people are unable to recognize that sin is such a serious problem because they’ve never experienced the wonderful clean, light feeling of God’s total forgiveness.
In the Topics ahead – particularly Topics 53-66 – this site explains how, and under what conditions, God gives immediate and total forgiveness of all our sins (even future sins!), without any cost on our part. When we experience this forgiveness, it’s so good and so radical that we’re virtually a new person! That’s why the Bible says this gift of forgiveness is new life. (See Topics 56-62.)
WORST SIN OF ALL IS CHOOSING TO IGNORE GOD
All sin is bad, but one sin is worse than all others, and it’s the only sin that’s absolutely fatal. It’s the sin of ignoring God, of living as though he doesn’t matter.
The Bible says, and common sense affirms, that the worst sin of all is telling God, by word or action, that we don’t want to have a relationship with him or that we will have a relationship only on our terms.
Refusing to listen to what God wants to say, and refusing to take the new life he wants to give, is the ultimate and catastrophic sin. Theologians sometimes call this the ‘unpardonable sin.’ Actually, a better term is the ‘unpardoned sin.’
God gives blanket forgiveness for every sin a person has ever committed – and ever will commit – when that person understands and accepts what Jesus Christ did for him by substitutionary death (see Topics 54 and 55). BUT if that person has adequate knowledge of what Christ did but never responds to it by personally identifying with it and giving God recognition for it, that person has committed the one sin that is not automatically pardoned.
In other words, one sin – continuing to live without regard to what God (Holy Spirit) is saying to us – can block automatic forgiveness of all other sins, and thus it’s the one sin that’s absolutely fatal. Conversely, listening to God and accepting the new life he offers through personal faith in Jesus Christ gives automatic forgiveness of all other sins!
At first thought, it seems impossible that one simple act of faith can overcome the whole sin problem, but that’s exactly what the Bible says. This website sets this wonderful offer in full theological perspective and explains how a person can get this forgiveness and new life by one all-important act of faith.
Here's a sampling of what the Bible says on this subject.
I John 5:17
All wrongdoing is sin
First man and woman, first sin
Everyone is born into sin
The unpardoned sin
For help, see Topic 29.