EVEN GOOD PEOPLE ARE SINNERS
Sin is not a thing. It’s a condition; a privation of something good.
To ask about the origin of sin is like asking about the origin of darkness or the origin of decay. Just as darkness is the absence of light and decay is the absence of health, sin is the absence of goodness and respect (especially to God). Sin, like darkness and decay, is found in varying degrees.
Some people live very good lives with relatively little sin and some live wretched lives with considerable sin. But, regardless of degree, the fact is that every person is a sinner in the sight of God.
Reading the Bible will reveal sin and intensify a person’s conscience, but even without the Bible, everyone has an innate sense of right and wrong. To violate our God-given conscience is to sin (see Topics 5 and 6). We sin by doing what we know we should not do and by not doing what we know we should do.
It’s useless to measure degrees of sin because the Bible says: (a) Any unpardoned sin, however small the sin, is enough to keep a person out of heaven. (b) Accepting God’s offer gives a person complete pardon of all sin, however large the sin. Therefore, the issue is not the degree of our sin but rather the receiving of God’s pardon.
THE BIBLE GIVES PRINCIPLES BUT DOESNʼT DEFINE EVERY SIN
Sin is essentially a relationship matter. It’s only incidentally a performance matter. God cares more about our heart than our deeds.
The Bible doesn’t list and categorize every sin, but it gives us principles and real-life examples of the kind of relationship we should have with God and with other people. Here are the principles for a model relationship:
TEN COMMANDMENTS: Listed in Topic 38. (God to Moses, Exodus 20:3-17)
TWO GREATEST COMMANDMENTS: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Jesus, Matthew 22:37-39)
GOLDEN RULE: Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Jesus, Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31)
Sin is violation of these principles. Obviously, everyone is a sinner. By these standards, we can understand why the Bible says that ‘all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.’ Consequently, everyone is bound for hell unless he receives a pardon and God says he gives a pardon in only one way: upon confession of sin and acceptance of Jesus Christ as personal savior.
EVERYONE MUST CONFESS AND REPENT PERSONALLY
To get the benefits of God’s offer (see Topic 56) and to establish a relationship with him, the Bible says we must recognize our sinful condition and confess and repent to him... personally!
A person doesn’t have to name every sin but he must at least acknowledge his general sin nature, his disgust with it and his desire to change.
A prayer by a clergyman during a church service or mass imploring God to forgive the sins of the congregation is a good gesture of corporate contrition, but it’s not sufficient to forgive anyone’s sin unless the individual also prays it for himself... personally!
With God, confession and repentance is not a mechanical or corporate matter. It’s a personal matter, from the heart, direct with God. No one can do it for another.
REPENTANCE IS SINCERE SORROW FOR PAST SIN
Repentance means seeing our sin from God’s perspective and being sincerely sorry for it.
Our natural inclination is to justify sin and to minimize and make excuse for it. But in repentance we humble ourselves before God and repudiate our sin.
The keen awareness of the holiness of God and the indignity of our sin causes sorrow, but the presence or absence of tears does not measure genuineness of repentance.
REPENTANCE IS ESSENTIAL CONDITION OF GODʼS OFFER
Many people don’t take God’s offer seriously because it seems too simple to be believable. Human experience teaches us to be suspicious when something of great value is offered free of charge. Most thinking people usually dismiss such offers as bogus or ask, ʻWhat’s the catch?’
In a way, there is a catch to God’s offer: He will not give us new life unless we confess our sins and sincerely desire to turn from them. This change of mind and intention away from sin and toward God is called repentance. It’s only through repentance that we can receive God’s forgiveness. We must sincerely desire to live a new and better kind of life.
SUPERFICIAL REPENTANCE DOESNʼT FOOL GOD
There must be genuine repentance, otherwise God won’t answer a person’s prayer for forgiveness. A person can’t fool God into thinking he’s sorry for his sins if he’s not truly sorry or doesn’t want to discontinue them.
God Credits Our Account
Some people think God has a big ledger sheet and records all of our good deeds and all of our bad deeds and, at the end of our life, ʻbalancesʼ our account like an accountant: if thereʼs more good than bad, we go to heaven; if thereʼs more bad than good, we go to hell. But thatʼs not what the Bible says!
Instead, the Bible says that if we ask him, God will ʻcreditʼ our account with Jesus Christʼs righteousness. Only a perfect life (Jesus) has enough merit to balance against all our sins. Without Jesusʼ righteousness, we donʼt have enough merit in our account, regardless of how many good things we do. Without his righteousness, weʼre spiritually bankrupt and canʼt get to heaven.
The Bible says that Jesusʼ righteousness will ʻcoverʼ all our sins (not ʻcoverʼ as to hide under a blanket, but ʻcoverʼ as to fully satisfy or forgive a debt).
The Bible says that Jesus, by his perfect life and sacrificial death, paid the debt of all our sins. If we acknowledge and accept him as our substitute (savior), all that he did (paid penalty for all sin) and all that he is (perfect in Godʼs sight) will be credited to our account.
The Bible says, however, that God doesnʼt credit our account automatically. Very important point! Each of us must personally ask him to credit our account (see Topic 62). If pride or busyness prevents us from asking, we donʼt get the credit.
Hereʼs a sampling of what the Bible says on this subject.
We are born in sin; Adamʼs sin corrupted his human nature and the human nature of all his descendants
Our righteousness is like filthy rags before holy God
Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12
Everyone is a sinner
Result of sin (without Christ) is eternal separation from God
I Timothy 1:15
Jesus Christ came to save sinners
Christʼs death is ʻcreditedʼ to us for our sins
For help, see Topic 29.