Saturday, May 10, 2008

What IS Sin?

In the comment section of this post, there have been some pretty great comments made. If you haven't read it, I'd strongly suggest it. This is where today's post is coming from, but to lay out the context I have to quote a few segments of comments so it'll all make sense.

In the comments there, Eric says this:

"In short, I am simply attempting to convey that distasteful music choices are merely a symptom of many other underlying issues, and treating the symptom on its own is likely going to be counterproductive."

I replied:

"The draw that rebellious, angry, self-centered music has on people (young or old) is indeed a symptom of a much deeper issue. If you are looking at the situation from Christian worldview, you'll recognize immediately that this deeper issue is a sin issue and a proclivity to follow after the sinful avenue. Of course it's tempting, the Scripture is very clear (and we can all attest to this) that sin is indeed pleasurable - for a time. It's still sin, however. The earlier that kids understand this, learn how to recognize it and avoid it, the better for them."
Eric replied to that last statement and asked:

"Unfortunately (and perhaps obviously) I do not see from a Christian world-view. After reading this a few times, I would like to know what your definition of sin is. From my own understanding, sin is an act, or (in my psychological terms) overt, observable behaviour, that is judged as wrong. With this definition, I would still consider sin to be a symptom of another issue. However, I get the sense that you have a different definition, and would like to know what it is. "
Now that, is really a great question. How do you define sin, in the context that it is a sin issue that compels people to seek out sinful forms of entertainment (such as certain types of music)?

Well, the more I thought about this question, the more obvious it became to me that you have to back up first, and explain sin from the beginning - before it will make sense as to the "now" or in the context of daily lifestyle choices. I don't mean to sound condescending when I say that, so I sure hope it doesn't come across that way. It just doesn't seem right to me to jump in "in the middle" and explain something without the vital background.

In our Bible class for school several years ago we had a course that taught the Westminster Shorter Catechism. I found this a very useful tool for helping the kids understand critical points of Christian doctrine, in a way that even helped me as an adult. As to the question of "what IS sin?":

Q. 14. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God. (Leviticus 5:17. And if a soul sin, and commit any of these things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the LORD; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity. James 4:17. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. 1 John 3:4. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.)

The thing about this answer is, is that is will quite likely bring more questions. I remember when I heard it for the first time, I had questions. When we went through the WSC at school, the kids had more questions when it came to this definition. Question 13 just before it tells us how sin came into the world, then 14 defines it, and the next several questions address how that affects us, how God views it, and more. It's a really great tool for teaching, and for summarizing what Scripture teaches about key Christian doctrines.

Due solely to the fact that I am incredibly long winded, my definition would certainly include the breaking of God's law by either omission or comission, but I'd have to give a bit of further explaination, such as; we sin when we either do, say or think something that God's law says we should not do, or when we DON'T do, say or think something that God's law says we should be doing.

So then, why are we like this, and why is God's law the standard by which our lives are being measured?

God's law is our standard because He is the one who created us. The WSC addresses this in the first three questions:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Q. 2. What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.
Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
Man's #1 purpose in life is to not only exalt, glorify and magnify God, but to also enjoy Him, forever! The very God that created us - and sustains our every breath and every heartbeat - also wants us to not only know Him but to enjoy that fellowship with Him, forever. He also gave us Holy Scripture to understand what we should believe about Him, what we need to understand about ourselves, and what we should do about that. I find that pretty incredible that the God that created us did this, and desires this from His creation.

The problem with this is, man is totally depraved (meaning, every part of man is affected by sin; intellect, rationale, reasoning, emotion, spiritual condition even physical condition) and can't glorify God OR enjoy Him on his own OR believe what the Bible says about either Him, or man.


Adam, our representative head and first man, was given the liberty to make his own choices in the garden. One of those choices was to sin against God. When he did that, all humanity fell into a state of sin, right along with him. Adam's choice left a mark on humanity that resulted in the spiritual deadness and blindness of every human being from that point onward. In a very similar way that you might inherit green eyes or blonde hair from your parents, you also have a spiritual heritage in Adam, in that you and I and every other person ever born, are born physically alive, but spiritually dead, blind, and in rebellion against the the things of God.

It's that spiritual deadness that is at the root of why we sin against God. When we do what we ought not do, or don't do what we ought to do, as an unbeliever, we're doing it because we are in fact slaves to our very nature. We can't do anything BUT sin against God, because it's who and what we are; we are sinners, therefore we sin. Just as a cat cannot change itself into a dog, a spiritually dead man cannot give himself spiritual life and change his own nature. That act has to come from the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit of God.

When, as a Christian and a believer, we sin against God, it's because we are still struggling against and battling against that old sin nature, even after becoming born again or regenerated spiritually by the Holy Spirit. The unbeliever will sin against God and not even realize or acknowledge that this is what he is doing, because there is no righteousness/sinfulness basis for him to view this by. For him, it's just a matter of choices, likes, dislikes, opinions, etc.

When the believer sins against God it's because he's given in to his own sinful desires rooted in that first nature and done or thought or said the very thing he wanted to do, without regard to whether that thing was good and right, or not. The book of James tells us "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed." (James 1:14). Simply put, we sin because we want to.

Now, to put this all into the context of how sinful desires are what lead people into sinful choices, such as undesirable musical content.

In the most subtle but very common examples, you could select any rebellious young person (rebellion alone is sin) full of self-absorbed attitude (also sinful) toward any kind of correction (yep, more sin). That person is already primed for hearing a song that speaks to this very attitude and tells them it's OKAY to have that attitude, that parents are stupid, God is not real, please yourself, get revenge, do whatever you want, etc. so on and so on and so forth. That song, and all the others just like it, are going to attract that rebellious young person because it's a voice that validates how they already feel. So yes indeed in this situation, the choice to listen to this kind of music is in fact a symptom of something deeper than just musical preference.

Depending on that young person's spiritual condition (either an unbeliever or immature Christian struggling big time with the old sin nature), they will either continue to feed themselves with this kind of destructive music (it definitely will not help them, it will only fuel a fire already burning), or they will be convicted by the Holy Spirit that the whole attitude to begin with was purely selfish and wrong, and they'll eventually dump the music along with the attitude, and truly repent of that sin. The latter example is a very real one that describes a lot of Christians I've known over the years. Many will testify to just what a stronghold ungodly music once was, in their lives.

The unbeliever, on the other hand, will quite often just find some sort of humanistic numbing solution to his problems, something that makes him feel better about himself and carry on with his life - still rejecting God and never once addressing or even admitting that he has a sin issue to begin with, because he's spiritually dead in the first place, and blind to the things of God, and put off by the very suggestion of turning TO God, for his answers.

That answer, to the sin issue? God's answer is found in faith in what Christ did, in our place. If someone doesn't understand that, I would suggest reading Romans 5, and the gospel of John, for starters. The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb. 4:12) There is just no way in the world I could have ever said that any better than this.

I hope I have Biblically, fairly and adequately addressed this. This is a gigantic subject, and one that I'm not 100% certain that even I can adequately address, so I hope that I have been able to do that. While I am indeed certain of my own faith, I'm not all that certain of my ability to express it to others. I suspect this will probably raise even more questions, and as always, I welcome input and feedback, and those questions.

(I may not have opportunity to get back to this today - connectivity is still brutally unstable, and the sun is shining and the lawn needs a haircut.)

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