Sin: Why All The Confusion?
There is much controversy in Christ's Church over which types of behavior are acceptable and which types are not. God's Word seems quite specific concerning some behavior, yet seems to be silent concerning others. Some people sin and feel no guilt. Others sin, feel guilt, and know they must make changes in their lives. Still other people want to please God. But they have heard so many conflicting opinions, no matter which path they choose, they will still be miserable and will have no peace.
Why is God so vague about issues that have the potential to ruin so many lives? Why is God not more specific about issues that can so easily separate us from Him? Why would God allow this confusion? "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." (1 Corinthians 14:33 KJV) We were already separated from God before we could make the claim that we sin because the Bible provides insufficient guidance. We alone are responsible for the sins we commit.
We cannot blame our sins on God because He has not "spelled it out" for us. We sin simply because that is where our hearts are. We sin because that is what we want to do. We enjoy it. We sin because we choose to cling to the teachings of those who tell us the lies we want to hear, instead of adhering to the truth we need to hear.
"Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you." (Romans 8:5-11 NIV)
A sinner craves sin more than he craves having a relationship with God. A saved person relishes his relationship with God more than he relishes the sins he used to hide in his heart. A saved person is willing to give up whatever he must (sin or otherwise) to receive God's approval.
When it appears God is not giving us the information we are seeking, it is because we are not looking in the right places for the answers. The answers to our questions are to be found by us examining our hearts. Then we must use the understanding gained by this examination to reconcile our differences with God.
God seems vague because our perception of sin is vague. When we were part of the world, we had no perception of what sin was. But as we moved closer to God, our thoughts were brought from the darkness into the light. When God seems vague, we are just not listening to His voice.
God wants us to search ourselves and search His Word for truth and meaning. Using our highlighters to mark the bad stuff in our Bibles is an easy way to avoid some sins. But God does not want us to be legalistic. He does not want us to have a checklist so that after the list is checked, our work is done and no further effort is required on our part. If we have a checklist, we think we can do it all on our own. Without a checklist, we must open ourselves to God's total judgment of our sin. Then we will see for ourselves the things in our lives that need to be changed.
"Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence." (Col 2:20-23 NIV)
Think how much we would be missing if we desired only a list of sins to avoid. God wants to draw us into a closer, more intimate relationship with Him. He listens to our heartfelt prayers when we are open to the Holy Spirit. God wants us to seek Him. He is a loving, caring Father and wants to nurture us. God wants us to depend on Him, not a list of rules.
"We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:11-14 NIV)
Sin is sin. Big or small. Short or tall. It is all sin and it is all an abomination to God. We cannot classify sins by deciding which ones are worse or which ones have a greater degree of wickedness. True, some sins may be more socially objectionable or may seem more destructive than others. But, still, sin is sin, and it cannot be evaluated, categorized, or measured.
We cannot rationalize with God. We cannot say we are better people today because we have committed fewer sins or "better" sins than we did yesterday.
We sin and will continue to sin. That is a fact, not an opinion. We will sin regardless of how well the Bible or anyone can spell out what sin is or what it is not. Once we come to that realization, it is just a matter of semantics to argue over differences of opinion regarding sin.
We will always be sinners. We would always be lost except for the grace of God. We must realize that sin is so much a part of our world, that we must ask forgiveness for both our known sins and our unknown sins. No matter how big our sins are, no matter how secret they are, Christ Jesus will forgive us when we ask His forgiveness and repent (turn away) of our sins. God's grace is bigger than any sin.
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:1-5 NIV)
Our understanding of God is limited. Our intelligence is limited. Our flesh is weak. We must have faith that God's grace will thoroughly and completely cleanse us of our sins. Even when we cannot enumerate our sins, the Holy Spirit can intercede for us. We must have faith that we will be shown what God expects of us. Through the Bible. Through prayer. And through other Christians. There is no other way we can know the truth.
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." (Philippians 3:12 NIV)
We are in a growth process. We are not perfect. We are being perfected. As we grow, things in our lives that were hidden will be brought to light by the Holy Spirit and we will have to give those things up (let go of them) to keep our relationships with God healthy. That does not mean the things that were hidden, but now have been made known, have kept us from being saved in the past. It means our relationship with God was not close enough and strong enough yet to drive those things from our hearts.
We must admit to God that we do not have all the answers. We must admit that we cannot find our way of our own power or strength. We must cry out for His help.
"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:26-28 NIV)
You have chastised yourself, maybe even punished yourself. Over and over again. Do you feel like you are caught in a trap and there is no escape, no way to break free? Does the task seem insurmountable? Here's a suggestion: let Jesus do the work for you! He would be delighted to carry your burdens!
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV)
Maybe you have struggled with sin and temptation. Maybe you have searched the Bible for answers. Maybe you have prayed. Maybe you have sought the counsel of mature Christians. Are you still struggling? Why? You experience no freedom. You experience no peace. I cannot give that to you. It can only be found through a solid and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:16-17 KJV) So stop fretting and fussing over where you have been. Start rejoicing over where Christ wants to lead you. You will be amazed at the results!
We become obsessed with a particular practice thinking if we knew God would approve of it we would be released from worrying about it. But if we actually came to the realization that this practice was Scripturally acceptable (or we found a way to overcome or avoid this sin), what other practice or sin would be waiting in line behind that sin to worry us? In other words, we are flawed humans and there will always be room for improvement in our lives.
I am not saying this is an excuse not to move our focus from the physical to the spiritual. I am saying it is unwise to overemphasize one sin (or even one positive thing) to the exclusion of dealing with everything else. Change starts with a changed heart in the spiritual realm, not with a fascination for something in the physical realm.
Do confess your sins and ask God to help you think and behave more like Christ. But you also have to devote yourself to spiritual growth to take your focus off the physical realm. When you take care of business in your spiritual life, your physical life will tend to be taken care of for you, by God.
We see sin and follow the example. As humans, we want/need to see examples to model our behavior (good or bad) after, before we are willing to try it for ourselves. But this is just our feeble reasoning and expectation of how things should work. The Holy Spirit is the one to choose both how and when, not us.
Since it is the Holy Spirit that is initiating and empowering the response within us, we don't have to have someone coach us on how to make the Holy Spirit jump through hoops for us. We don't have to set the stage. We just need to get our eyes off the physical and on to the spiritual. Yes, God's hand is moved by our prayers. But the Holy Spirit can do so much more than we expect if we are willing to let go of control of ourselves and quit directing God how things should be done.
You don't have to have all the answers or even an action plan for how to handle things. Just yield to God's will. Listen to the Holy Spirit, Who will tell you in no uncertain terms what you must do. Simply. Directly. And lovingly. No conflict or anxiety about it. Just do it and you know you will have done everything expected of you and everything that can be done.
A young boy cannot understand everything. He looks to his father for guidance and wisdom. The father has earned the boy's trust. The boy has learned from his experiences that his father seeks what is best for his son. So when the father explains something to the boy and the boy does not fully comprehend, the boy can still be satisfied that he knows all he needs to know. His dad will take care of the rest. Just like God will take care of the rest of the things we donít understand in our lives.
Before receiving the Holy Spirit, a person cannot imagine what the experience will "feel" like. So how can he plan for it? And since he is entrenched in the ways of the world and has the character of the world, how can he possibly guess how God wishes to work through his life? He doesn't know Godís character, so he certainly will be surprised by what God asks of him, because his mind has been off working someplace else in earthly pursuits. We all need the Holy Spirit to know God's character so His character can be incorporated into and reflected in our lives.
Leave the door open for spontaneous results. It sometimes seems that we must be doing something to make things happen, like Bible study, prayer, good deeds, rationalizing, etc. But hear this: God does not need our help! I know that God loves YOU so much that He wants to touch your life today, right now. He wants to take away your struggles, your burdens, and your pain.
Examine yourself and say, "Regardless of outward appearances, this is who I know, in my heart, God wants me to be." After all, some things are just between you and God.
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