Truth and Sin
Truth is by revelation
Truth cannot be found by human reason and effort alone.
The reason for this is that our knowledge is limited and we may be deceived by our lack of what we don’t know.
The Christian view is that God reveals truth. He knows all things and communicates truth to us.
- By our conscience – inbuilt witness of the Spirit of God (Rom.1)
- By the leading of the Spirit of Truth
- By Christ who is the truth
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
14 If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
The truth is needed for our restoration:
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
- Repentance (metanoia = a change of mind) involves facing up to the truth instead of denying it.
- We must have and hold onto a love of truth, an honest heart.
- To live in the truth means that we obey his word and practice it.
- Deception begins with denial of the truth – self deception. This distortion leads to more and more deception.
What is Sin?
Sin is an old fashioned word and needs to be explained.
One of the major questions faced by thinking persons is, “Where does evil come from and what is it?”
The answers vary.
Various forms of humanistic philosophy are the predominant forms of religion in our modern culture. They either deny that there is a God at all, or they view God as a cosmic force or energy within the universe.
Materialism says that the universe itself is the only reality. God, in the sense of a being who is transcendent or ‘other’ than the universe, does not exist. In the end materialism reduces all things to physical actions and reactions. Everything reduces to physical, chemical and biological processes. All events occur within a cause-effect chain. This is a form of determinism or fatalism. Logically, according to this philosophy, there is no real free will and no such thing as good or evil. Things are simply as they are.
Of course, most of us believe that certain things are right and others are wrong – especially when these things directly affect us. We tend to consider it morally wrong if someone else hurts us in some way. So, although there are many materialists, not many are consistent materialists.
Eastern religions and New Age thinking identify God with the universe. In other words, God is within the cosmos and is in everything that exists. If this is so, then everything shares in the divine nature. Whatever exists has something of God in it. This kind of thinking also tends to accept the present reality as it is. Things are not really good or evil; they simply are how they are.
Unfortunately for these philosophies, we are all quite aware of the existence of evil and wrong in this world. In order to explain this obvious fact, humanism and other religions often explain evil as some kind of temporary immaturity or imperfection on the evolutionary journey to a better or perfect future. Evil is the result of ignorance or our human limitations. Wrong behaviour is the result of biological problems, perhaps of genetic defects, or the outcome of the influences of our environment. Behaviour is caused by social/environmental influences or heredity.
If we accept this way of looking at things, we will see the evildoer as an unfortunate victim of factors that he couldn’t help and which caused him to be the way he is. The vilest murderer or thief is sick rather than deliberately selfish and rebellious.
Evil is the outcome of genetic or environmental factors. People do wrong because they were born with some twist in their makeup, or because society or parents damaged them. Either way, they couldn’t help it and are not responsible for it.
The Christian view of sin is quite different. The Bible makes it quite clear that sin is a deliberate choice to do something wrong when the person knows that it is wrong.
God created human beings with a moral freedom to choose to obey or to disobey. The story of Adam and Eve stands definitively at the beginning of the Bible because the question of obedience and sin are fundamental to our relationship with God.
The disobedience of Adam and Eve tells us where sin originated, but also defines the nature of sin. Sin is a deliberate rejection of the authority and command of God. It is the choice to place self as the ultimate authority in place of God.
- Sin is disobedience to God’s command (law).
In contrast with the thinking of modern humanism, sin is not ignorance nor is it sickness. The Bible reveals it to us as disobedience and rebellion against the Lord.
1 John 3:4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
James 4:17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
- We can only be held guilty if we transgress a known law. In other words, a person must know something is wrong before he can be held responsible.
John 9:41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.
Romans 4:15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.
Romans 5:13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
Romans 7:7-11 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.
3. Two Motivating Forces in Life
Everyone is born with two God-given motivating forces in his or her life:
- The desire for happiness and personal well-being.
- Conscience. (A God-given awareness of right and wrong and the knowledge that I ought to do right).
The desire to find happiness and fulfillment is not inherently evil, but if this desire overpowers conscience, a person will make self the most important thing in his life. Self sits on the throne of his life.
The conscience is an inbuilt awareness of right and wrong. This motivates a person to do what is right. It should control the desire for personal happiness and pleasure so that we consider the well-being and needs of others. The person who follows conscience will seek righteousness and find that God’s power is needed to achieve it. Thus he will be led to trust in the Lord and make Jesus the Lord of his life.
The Bible refers to these as walking according to the flesh or according to the Spirit.
- “Flesh” does not mean “human nature”, it means “the desires of the human nature”.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
Illustrate with the example of how the laws of aerodynamics overcome the law of gravity.
4. Our Ultimate Choice or Basic Moral Orientation
The best definition is that sin is selfishness. There are two possible attitudes to life. One is to live for self; the other is to live for the Lord.
To live for self is sin. This has to do with what we might call our ultimate choice in life.
If I live for self, then I consider my own happiness and pleasure to be the most important thing. Everything else is there to serve me and for me to use for my own desires.
Every person has a natural desire to be happy, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it becomes wrong when it becomes the most important thing. Even people who appear outwardly good, can still be self-centred at the core. A person may do good things simply to have the approval and admiration of others, simply because he thinks this is the best way to maximize his own pleasure and happiness. In his heart he may still be as selfish as the worst sinner.
The other ultimate choice is to live for the Lord. Such a person recognizes that God is the most important person in the universe, not himself. He also recognizes that other people are just as important as he is, so he considers them.
Because sin is the choice to live for self, it puts love of self above love of God and love of others.
This is exactly what Jesus said.
25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He [Jesus] said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” 27 So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
You will notice that Jesus uses the word, ‘heart’. The heart is the place of your deepest desires. When Jesus tells us to love God with all our heart, he means that this must be the first desire and motivation of our lives.
Many people come to God when they are in trouble or unhappy. God is merciful and will often help them, but he wants us to grow out of seeing him as our servant and helper. God is not there to serve me and make me happy; rather I should be there to serve him and make him happy, and to serve other people too.
All the evil things in this world spring from the root of selfishness. And the first step I must take to become a Christian is to deal with this in my own life.
5. The Law of Love
When Jesus spoke to the lawyer, he was quoting a key commandment of the Law from Deuteronomy 6:4-5
4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!5 “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
The word ‘love’ has many meanings in English. Often it refers to our affectionate feelings towards the things that give us pleasure. For example, “I love ice cream”, means that ice cream evokes a pleasurable emotion or physical feeling in me. This is the way ‘love’ is used in matters of romance and man-woman relationships. “I love Susie,” means that Susie makes me feel good. Her personality and attention towards me give me enjoyable feelings. This may be simply because the admiration and approval of a girl make me feel important, or my pleasure may be of a mere physical nature – I enjoy the sexual stimulation that this relationship brings. Put in this way, it is easy to see that this ‘love’ is a self-centred thing. I love the things that make me feel good. I love them because of what they give me, not because of their inherent worth. This love is actually self-love not love of the other person or thing at all.
When the Bible commands us to love God, it is not speaking of having warm feelings toward him because of what he can do for us. Such a love of God is really still love of self.
In the New Testament the Greek word agape is translated love. This love is a love for the object because of what it is. We are to love God because he is supremely lovely. He is morally perfect and utterly beautiful in his personality and actions. God is the ultimately valuable thing in the universe.
Our love for other people is similarly based not on the things they give us, but on the fact that they have value. The truth is that other people are just as important as I am.
I must recognize this truth and not put my desires and needs above theirs. Selfishness puts me first. Selflessness or love puts others above (or at least on the same level as) me.
A good definition of love is this: Love is the choice to put God and other people above myself in importance.
This means that love is the opposite of sin.
Another definition could be: to love is to always act in such a way that the highest benefit and well-being come to God and others.
There is a proper and healthy self-love. It is the recognition that God made me and I am valuable to him. I should therefore take care of God’s property. Remember that Jesus said that we should love others as ourselves.
Righteousness means that my attitudes and actions reflect the ultimate choice that the Lord is the most valuable person in my life. In all that I do, I will act for what is best, what enhances the welfare of God and all his creation.
Sin is the opposite. It means that in all my actions I live to maximize my own pleasure and welfare, irrespective of any pain caused to God and others.
Here we summarise the characteristics of sin:
- A sin is a wrong action or attitude.
- It is a deliberate choice.
- The sinner has the power to choose or refuse.
- The sinner knows that the action is wrong.
- Behind each sinful act and individual choice lies an established attitude or motivation that we might call an ultimate choice.
- There are only two possible ultimate choices –the first is to choose love towards God and other people; the second is the choice to gratify self above all things.
Sin enslaves the person who chooses and does it. The result of sin is brokenness, a sickness of personality and spiritual death. But note that this sickness is the result, not the cause of sin.
We live in an environment that is corrupted by the results of sin. This environment influences us negatively, but does not cause sin, because we can reject evil by our own choice.
The power to overcome sin is not in our will or human strength, but in the power of God through his Holy Spirit living within us. Nonetheless, God does not want to control us like machines or robots. He desires children who freely follow of their own will. For this reason, we must choose to respond before God can do all that he wants to do in us. (Note however that God takes the initiative to work in our lives, so our choice is a response to his grace, not a means to earn salvation).
- Choice is ours – the switch
- Power is God’s – the electricity
The Results of Sin
It is not hard to see that the outcome of choosing self is evil. In a world where everyone seeks to get as much as possible for himself – pleasure, power and possessions – then conflict will arise. Individuals will be willing to hurt others in order to get a little more for self. Paradoxically, the quest for self leads to self-damage too.
Why did God give his commandments and law to mankind? Was it merely a test of obedience, an arbitrary set of rules to see if we would obey? Of course not. God is love and if we take the above definition of love, it means that God himself chooses to maximize the well-being of mankind. His laws define the kind of behaviour that will lead to a world where everyone is happy and well. Conversely, disobedience to God’s law will lead to pain and damage. Even the commandment to worship God alone will benefit us by protecting us from the evil consequences of self-worship. Theft, murder, disrespect for parents, and lying all lead to hurt of others.
But let us now consider the results of sin in the life of the sinner himself.
Romans 6:16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Galatians 6:7,8 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.8 For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.
The results of sin are these:
1. Separation from God. We have no fellowship with him. 1 John 1:6
2. We damage ourselves. Our whole beings are corrupted by the choice of sin. The Bible calls this death. Gen 2:17
3. We become enslaved to sin. Rom 6:16 Jn 8:34
4. We become subject to the oppression of demonic spirits. Eph 2:1-3 Col 1:13 Acts 7:42
5. We become guilty before God and must suffer the penalty of his judgment. Col 2:14
The work of Jesus on the cross deals with each of these problems.
1. Jesus took the penalty upon himself
2. He sets us free from slavery to sin.
3. He sets us free from the power of evil spirits.
4. He restores us to fellowship with the Father.
5. He heals and restores us - so that we become new creatures.