“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans ch.3 v.23)
As we saw in chapter one, God made the world, and it was perfect. Look at the night sky on a clear night, or a beautiful sunset. Look at a well-kept garden, or the mountains of the Lake District. It does not take much to agree that God did a really good job.
But hang on! Did we say perfect? What about the bad things in the world? Things like disease, famine, crime and suffering? Why are they around? What has gone wrong with God’s “perfect world”?
The Bible gives the answer to these questions in just one word: Sin.
When God made people, He gave them free will; that is, they were able to choose the direction they went. God made it clear, that in order to maintain His perfect world, people needed to do things His way. Instead, we chose to please ourselves and go against God. We have been going our own way ever since.
What is Sin?
Simply put, sin is the tendency we have to do wrong. Even when we know what we should do, there is something inside dragging us in the opposite direction.
Romans chapter 7, verses 18-19, written by Paul, says that there is no good in him. He goes on to describe the struggle that exists inside him, that when he wants to do the right thing, he cannot. Instead, he finds himself doing the wrong things he really hates.
The verse at the beginning of the chapter tells us that everybody has this problem. “ALL have sinned.” That includes me, and it includes you.
About five hundred years before Christ was born, a prophet called Isaiah also grappled with the problem of sin: “We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah ch.53 v.6).
This is what sin is all about: a person goes his own way instead of God’s way. The trouble is, it always leads to trouble in the end. Imagine a car with faulty steering. You turn the steering wheel in one direction, but the car goes in a different direction. Unless you get the problem sorted out, you are going to hurt yourself, and most likely, someone else as well!
It is not just about doing things that are not right though. It works the other way as well. In James ch.4 v.17, we have these words: “Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
Have you ever had the feeling that you should help somebody, but have never gotten around to it? According to James, that is sin too.
When we break the law of the land, it is called a crime, but when we break God’s laws, we sin. Things like laziness, greed and lust are not crimes against the state, but they are sins, because they go against God’s law. In fact, in 1 John ch.3 v.4 we are told, “Sin is lawlessness.”
Crimes are about what we do, but sin has to do with what we do, what we say and even what we think!
Why is Sin so Serious?
If you were asked what the most important commandment was, as in the Ten Commandments, what do you think it would be?
In Mark’s Gospel ch.12 v.30, Jesus gives His opinion: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” In other words, He was saying we should love God with everything we have and with everything we are! He went on to describe the second most important in v. 31: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
Do you know anyone who has managed to keep these commandments? Neither do I! Have YOU been able to keep them? Nor have I!
The reason sin is so serious is that we soon become enslaved to it. In John’s Gospel, ch.8 v.34, Jesus said, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
If you put a frog into a pan of boiling water, it will soon jump out. However, if you put the same frog into a pan of cold water and slowly heat it, the frog will not notice the change in temperature and will be boiled alive. It sounds very cruel doesn’t it? But that is the way sin works; it does not leap, it creeps.
The biggest problem with sin is that it separates us from the God who made us. Isaiah ch.59 v.2 says that our sins hide God’s face from us; in other words, our sins are like a dark cloud that blots out the sunshine of God’s love.
It is not just a problem for now though. In 2 Corinthians ch.5 v.10, Paul tells us that a day is coming when we must all stand before God’s judgement seat. And in Romans ch.6 v.23 he tells us that: “the wages of sin is death.”
We are not just talking about bodily death. We are talking about an eternal death that separates us from God forever. That is what the Bible calls Hell.
You may feel like a fairly good person, but if you sin just three times a day, that adds up to 21 sins a week. That is over one thousand sins a year, more than 70,000 in a lifetime!
Imagine going to court with 70,000 previous convictions!!
Happily, God has a way of dealing with the problem of sin.