Sin & Sanctification

It's amazing how the shortest words are often the ones that have the most impact in our lives (love, death, joy, etc...), while the really long words are often kinda stupid (like 'monosaccharides' which is just a fancy name for sugar...).

I've been hit by multiple sources lately on just how crucial a true understanding of sin is.  It would seem to me that without understanding how we sin, what affect it has on us, and what is necessary to overcome sin, we can never really appreciate what it means to be a Christian. 

So what is sin? 
In Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem defines sin as "any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature."  That leads me to believe that sinning is not just when I do something which is wrong, but when I think or feel something that is wrong. In the Bible, the Ten Commandments talk about actions and feelings. It says that you should not steal, but it also addresses the root of that sin, which is coveting. Jesus also addresses our attitudes during His time on Earth. In Matthew 5 (the Sermon on the Mount), He says that anyone who murders is held to judgment, but also that anyone who holds anger in his heart is equally held to judgment. There is no distinction between big sins or little sins in the eyes of God.

The Bible also talks about how we cannot avoid sinning. Romans 5:12 says "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." It is in our nature to sin, because we are descendants of Adam. We are born with sin. Trust me, my son Boaz is a sinner. People like to excuse sin in babies because "They don't know any better", but that argument holds no water because we, as adults, do know better and we still sin. It's not like if he knew the consequences of his actions, they would be any different.

Finally, the Bible addresses the fact that we have no ability to do what is right on our own. Paul says in Romans 7:18, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out."  In Isaiah 64:6, it says "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment." So compared to the holiness of God, even the 'good' things that we do are inherently sinful. Think about it, and be completely honest, is there one thing that you've done in your life that you can say with 100% confidence wasn't influenced by some sort of pride or selfishness, or a desire to get something else in return?

Pastor Mark Driscoll describes two types of sin, commission and omission. Sins of commission are things we do that we should not do. Sins of omission are things we should do that we do not do. There are also sins of the heart, where even though you may not take any action whatsoever, the attitudes and emotions of your heart are sinful. 

Finally, the Bible makes it clear that any sin, even one, even a seemingly insignificant one, makes us guilty before God and is deserving of punishment. James 2:10 says "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." God gave the law, which is a huge, detailed description of everything that the Israelites could not do, in order that they might realize that keeping the law is impossible on their own. Also in Romans 6:23, it describes what sin deserves, "For the wages of sin is death."  So no matter what good we do in this life, no matter if we do far more righteous deeds than sinful ones, we still are held guilty by our sin and deserve to be destroyed.

This understanding of sin and it's true nature and effect on our lives only serves to show just how awesome God is that He has taken care of this problem for us. God is holy, perfect, and totally just. So if we are to stand with Him in heaven we must also have that holiness ourselves, we can't be in the presence of God if we are guilty. But if we are as messed up as the Bible says we are, how can that ever happen? Someone would have to take the blame for those sins and be punished in our place. But it couldn't just be anyone, if another person sacrificed themselves and took the punishment I deserve, that wouldn't help me, because that person also had sins of their own and deserved their own punishment. The sacrifice would have to be perfect, it would have to be God Himself.

2 Corinthians 5:21 - "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

For the Christian, we understand this already, but just take a moment to ponder how amazing it is that God would be willing to die so that you can be saved. Never let that feeling of gratitude go. It should motivate us to worship Him with everything we have for the rest of our lives. 

Not only does God save us and justify us so that we can live eternally with Him and be considered holy in His eyes, but then He enables us to break free from some of these sins while still on Earth.   This is called sanctification.

Sanctification begins once you believe in Jesus and accept Him into your life. It is the "progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives. [Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem]" God will help you to stop doing some of the wrong things you are doing, and start doing what you always should have been doing. These are the works that we are called to in James where he says that "faith without works is dead". Because if you have experienced the love and spirit of God, you will be motivated to live better and avoid sin. Your actions have nothing to do with whether or not God will save you, but by becoming more sanctified, you can live the better life that God has set you apart for.

In Romans, this process is described as 'killing' your sin (Romans 6:11-12, 8:13). This implies that sanctification will sometimes be painful. There are sins in our lives that we are so engrossed in, that to stop doing it is quite literally the same process as an addict giving up their vice. And like an addict, you don't even realize how harmful and destructive that sin is until it's out of your system. Sins like this are pride, greed and the love of money, gluttony, laziness, not to mention the actual addictions to substances or sex.

Sanctification begins at the point of conversion, continues throughout the Christian's life, and is only finished upon death and your entrance into heaven. No man or woman can ever claim to be fully sanctified or free from all sin. And this sanctification only really works when you trust in the victory of Jesus and live in that freedom. If you still put blame and guilt upon yourself for these sins, you are denying that Jesus' sacrifice was enough for you. 

It doesn't take much to see that your life will be categorically better when you are freed from the sins of your past. Yes, you will always have to deal with the earthly consequences of your actions, but even when you face trials and hardship, you will find peace and joy. You may be tempted, but God will always show you the way out. He will not push you harder than you can take. Living free from sin is part of God's plan for us to prosper. As Pastor John Luhmann often states, "The best possible life you can have is following Jesus."

So I hope that this little study is beneficial to you in some way. It certainly has been for me, because sometimes you just need to state what you believe. You man know it in your head and feel it in your heart, but there's something about writing it down or speaking it aloud. It really helps to build up your faith and understanding. 


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