What Is Sin?
“But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
See Genesis 4:7
“So Matt, you’re saying that we don’t ever sin? How dare you! We sin all the time!”
“No, I’m not saying that we don’t commit sins–Christians sin, a lot. I’m saying our spirits are perfect and do not have the ability to sin. The flesh? Yes. The unrenewed parts of our thinking? Yes. But not us. Not our spirits. Spirits are what we are.”
This conversation would continue for a while, as I tried to explain how we’ve been given new spirits by grace through faith. “Yes, perfect spirits,” I said, which quickly enraged this gentleman. Even after giving him tons of Scripture to back up the facts of our spiritual perfection, he was mad as a hornet (see Romans 5:1, 6:6-7, Galatians 2:20, Colossians 1:22, 3:3, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and more).
If you want to upset a legalist, tell them they are completely forgiven for all time. I’m not saying try to upset them, I’m saying they will become upset. As for you, always be prepared to give an answer for the hope you have, but do so with gentleness and respect. Let all of your conversations be seasoned with grace (see 1 Peter 3:15, Colossians 4:6).
When I decided to start my social media ministry back in 2011, I would try to keep up with every angry person and respond, but that’s impossible. So now, if I decide to go down that road with someone, in regard to responding to their attacks, it is rare and I’ll usually continue for one main reason: I want to help them relax. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to try to work to keep what I’ve already been given for free. It’s madness. God does not need our assistance in maintaining our salvation, Jesus is doing a fine job (see Philippians 4:7, Acts 17:25, Hebrews 7:25).
However, when I tell someone, “Your spirit is perfect,” thems fightin’ words! That is, if they are a self-centered person. I mean no disrespect by saying self-centered but this is true. They are centered on what they are doing–or not doing–rather than on what God has done through Jesus. They don’t think the Cross really worked. Therefore, they have to add to it to make it suffice.
Fortunately, it is Jesus who keeps us forgiven, not our great behavior or lack of poor behavior. And why is that?…Can I get a drumroll please?…Because Jesus will never die again! When we sin, a death is needed, resulting in perfect blood needed to pay off that sin with God! The Jews got an entire year of sins paid for at the Day of Atonement with animal blood. However, we got something so much better! An entire lifetime of forgiveness by way of Christ’s final sacrifice! That’s exactly what the New Covenant is all about! Why do you think He said, “It is finished!”? (See John 19:30).
Jesus is not dying over and over again, up in heaven, every time we choose to sin. It’s finished. He’s chillin’, and ain’t worried about nothin’ in regard to a Christian’s sin problem. As a legalist, that sentence will enrage a person. As an individual who understands what Jesus has really done, it will give you extreme confidence.
If you want to live by the obsolete Mosaic Law (see Hebrews 8:13)–613 laws, not just ten–try to remember that only animal blood forgives the sins of breaking them. Not asking for forgiveness, not confessing, but only blood. The author of Hebrews explains:
“In fact, the Law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)
When the Law was brought in by Moses, blood became God’s currency to pay off sin with Him. Asking did not forgive people, neither did confessing–only blood.
“But what about that verse in 1 John that says if we confess our sins God will forgive us?”
That would be 1 John 1:9, and if you read 1 John 1:10, you’ll get the context:
“If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10)
In this passage, John was speaking to the Gnostics. The Gnostics were a group who thought Jesus did not come in the flesh, that our flesh was a bad thing, and that they had never sinned a day in their lives. They thought sin wasn’t a real thing.
That’s why John said, if you claim you have not sinned–as in never–you make God out to be a liar. What is the basis of the Christian faith? Being forgiven! Actually admitting you have sins to be forgiven of! So if I say, “I’ve never sinned,” then I don’t qualify to be part of God’s family because I can’t possibly be forgiven.
John knew full well that Christians would sin. As a Jew who understood how to get forgiven–blood–he also knew it wouldn’t be through confession, but only through Jesus. Just look at what he said in the following chapter:
“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1)
John doesn’t want anyone to choose to sin, neither did Paul, neither do I, but sin is a real thing. And if we choose to act on sin, Jesus has already forgiven us.
“Yeah right, Matt! You’re just giving people a license to sin! You’re saying we can do whatever we want!”
Friend, we don’t need a license to sin. All of us are sinning just fine without one–Christians included. Why would having a license make any difference? It wouldn’t. And you say that “we can do whatever we want”? That is true, but we must understand what we truly want as people who are literally possessed by Jesus’ Spirit…we want what God wants. Why? Because He lives in us!
As a Christian, because your supernatural being is woven together with God, your spirit wants what God’s Spirit wants. Your flesh? No. The parts of your mind which are still unrenewed? Nope. But you, you really don’t even want to sin. It abhors you!
“But you’re saying that even our future sins are forgiven! That’s just wrong!”
Well how many of your sins were in the future when Jesus died?…Yeah, all of them were. Friend, God is not bound by time, we are–temporarily–but He’s not! So when you first believed Jesus forgave you, He actually did! That very moment, a literal death of your old spirit occurred and a new spirit was born–a spirit given to you by God.
Jesus tried to explain this to Nicodemus in John 3, and he had a hard time with it–Nicodemus, not Jesus. Paul teaches the Romans this same truth, which is our spiritual death and resurrection while still in these physical bodies:
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin–because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7)
Do you see it?! Our old spirit was crucified with Jesus and done away with! Because of that death we have been set free from the power of sin!
“But Matt I still sin! How can you say I’m set free?!”
Your spirit is set free. Your spirit is perfectly clean, holy, and blameless. The real you, the everlasting you, is ready for heaven as we speak! Paul pens his letter to the Colossians, informing them of what has happened to them inside, just like I’m telling you today:
“But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22)
You died, in spirit! You were raised, in spirit! (See Galatians 2:20). YOU ARE NOW A SAINT! (See 1 Corinthians 1:2). You are no longer made for sin! (Romans 6:2). You’ve been re-created for heaven! (2 Corinthians 5:17). Can sin enter heaven? NO! That’s why you and sin are polar opposites! Oil and water! Peanut-butter and pickles!
So when you choose to act on the power of sin, a conflict will happen inside you. However, making the mistake of sinning doesn’t change your identity. Instead, it causes you to feel uneasy because you don’t have the ability to enjoy sinning any longer. Sure, a flash-in-the-pan thrill might happen for your flesh when you choose to sin, but you can’t stand it.
“Okay Matt, I think I’m getting it. But what do you mean by power of sin? I thought sin was getting drunk, cursing, and whatnot.”
Those are fleshly actions of sin that look bad on the outside–typical by the world’s view. But there are good looking fleshly sins as well, such as mission work and philanthropy. How can those things be sin?…Our attitudes behind them. If we have selfish or arrogant attitudes while acting on anything–even preaching–it’s sin. Sin works its way through our flesh–our hands, feet, mouth, and brain.
Sin is a power in this fallen world. It’s like gravity. You can’t see it, but it impacts absolutely everything. For this reason, you can be driving down the road just fine, nobody is with you, nothing is on the radio, and traffic is smooth–but yet, you get that sinful thought. “Where did that come from?” you might think. That thought is the power of sin working itself through your flesh–but that sinful thought is not you, and it’s not coming from your perfect spirit. It’s an outside force.
Through Adam, the power of sin entered this world. Through Jesus, the power of sin was defeated. When we believe Christ has forgiven us of our sins committed (even future sins), He comes and lives inside of us making us holy after killing off our old sinful spirit (see Romans 5, Romans 6).
As a Christian, sin cannot enter us any longer. It becomes a parasite, a leech, a foreign object in the world and in our physical body–but it’s not in our spiritual body. Our spiritual body is sealed up forever with perfection until the day we go Home! (See Ephesians 4:30).
But in our physical members–our flesh–sin crawls around and is stirred up by demonic forces and Old Testament Law tempting us to act on that sin. Do you think what I’m saying is strange? Let’s look at Paul’s description of sin in his own body, and how Mosaic Law incited such:
“But I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.” (Romans 7:23)
In this verse, Paul is not talking about Mosaic Law when he says “law.” A more accurate translation is the word “power”–sin is a force. And do you see where the sin is powerful? Where it is forceful? In his members! His hands, feet, and mouth! His flesh!
“Okay Matt, but where do you get the right to say that sin is stirred up through Old Testament Law?”
Well, the sin that Paul is explaining here is the sin of being jealous–one of the Ten Commandments of the 613 laws and commands Moses gave Israel. Paul says so himself:
“But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of coveting. For apart from the Law, sin is dead.” (Romans 7:8)
The sin of wanting other people’s stuff was aroused in Paul through the commandment of being told, “Thou shalt not covet!” So what was Paul’s antidote? GET AWAY FROM THE LAW! He knew that the only way sin would not reign in his members is if he was dead to Law and alive in Christ! He told the Galatians the same thing when they started to go back to the Law of Moses to improve their faith:
“For through the Law I died to the Law so that I might live for God.” (Galatians 2:19)
The Law is a ministry of death (see 2 Corinthians 3:7). The Law kills everyone who tries to obey it by showing them how much of a complete failure they truly are (see James 2:10). Attempts at Law observance causes sin, it doesn’t stop it. Our efforts to obey the Law blows bubbles into the power of sin–it grows fruit of death! (See Romans 7:5)
Paul’s solution is to count ourselves dead to sin and alive in Christ, because we truly are in spirit! (See Romans 6:11). Paul’s solution is to walk by God’s Spirit rather than by the flesh, which can be influenced by sin. We are to let Him counsel us–not Moses–and in turn, we won’t let the power of sin in our flesh control us (see Galatians 5:16). Paul’s solution was to simply be ourselves as God’s kids, and as we do so, we won’t let sin reign (see Romans 6:12).
He was saying, “Be the forgiven person you are. Live it out! Don’t go eat from the dumpster because you are seated at God’s table!” This truth changes us! This graceful identity produces organic heavenly behavior and Christ-like attitudes! You are going to act like who you think you are! A spade is a spade, so be a spade!
One last thing about sin. Try to remember, sin is an it (see Romans 6:12, Genesis 4:7). We can bring that it to life through acting on it, but as Christians we are stronger than the sin of this world!
So today, my friends, know this: Jesus has defeated the power of sin through His perfect sacrifice once and for all! (See Hebrews 10:10,14, 1 Peter 3:18). When we choose to act on sin as God’s children, we are not being our true perfect selves–we are being fake. Further, it is the power of sin which causes us to not believe God and that’s what He’s wanted all along–for us to believe Him! Had Adam believed God he wouldn’t have sinned! Even before the Law of Moses was given, taking God by His word is what He’s most desired. The only reason the Law was brought in was so that sin would become much more obvious to us. However, obeying the Law never made a single person righteous. Only believing God can do that! If you’ll believe Him, He’ll solve your sin problem once and for all through your faith in His Son, Jesus. Believe today and become His child forever! (See Romans 5:20, Galatians 2:16, 3:11, John 1:12, 3:16-17 Ephesians 1:5).
A prayer for you: Good morning, Heavenly Father. Thanks for waking me up. Yesterday, I heard about a young lady in my neighborhood dying, and it reminded me of how short this trip to planet earth is. Today, I ask that you bring her family comfort, and I also ask for you help these dear readers to understand how temporary our human life is. Please teach them that you want us all to be with you in heaven, and the only way this can happen is if our sin problem has been taken care of. Reveal to them that only faith in Jesus can accomplish this feat! Open up their hearts and minds to this truth! Teach them how to not let sin reign, but to overcome that weak power by simply being themselves, children of God. We love you, amen.
This devotional is from 60 Days for Jesus, Volume 3. Get your copy here!