We know that everybody does something bad at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, wrongdoing is a universal experience. All we have to do is turn on the television or go to the home page on our browser to see people doing wrong.
Each of us also knows that personally we have done wrong. Either we have disobeyed an authority like a parent, broken the law, or simply violated our own conscience. None of us can claim to be without fault in our own world.
Generally speaking, this is what we call “sin”—lawbreaking, evil, failure, mistakes, or mess-ups. It is doing wrong to others.
Take an Honest Look at What You’ve Done Wrong
If we are honest, the amount of wrongs we have committed during our lifetime is truly shocking. Think about if you had to pay a quarter for every time you have lied, or gossiped, or said something unkind to someone.
What would be your fine?
While we tend to categorize wrongdoing, calling acts like murder or rape “big sins”—often feeling good about ourselves because we have not committed these—we shouldn’t ignore any of the ways we do wrong.
Let’s just consider one sin—stealing. If someone came into your home and stole your furniture, you’d rightly be angry about it. But other forms of stealing are so commonplace today we hardly acknowledge them anymore:
- Many people regularly pirate music, movies, and computer software, stealing from the artists who created these products who deserve to profit from them.
- Students frequently commit plagiarism, stealing somebody else’s written thoughts or ideas.
- Employee theft in the United States is staggering, amounting to billions of dollars each year. Employees who submit receipts for personal items, pawning them off as business expenses, steal from both employer and government.
- Forget for a moment headline-grabbing acts like embezzlement and fraud—how many people cheat on their taxes?
- Or goof off at work instead of giving their employer the promised forty-hours per week?
Consider the well-known phrase, “lie, cheat, and steal.” Were you to count up just the times, according to human standards, that you violated human laws against such things, how deep in moral debt would you be?
What Does the Bible Say About Sin?
Our Sin Runs Deep
Until now, we’ve only been discussing bad things we do. But how about those sins which are hidden, such as evil intentions or secret attitudes of the heart like greed or lust or pride? This is actually where Jesus finds the source of all evil: our sinful hearts:
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person.” (Matthew 15:19-20a NIV)
Jesus says that harboring hatred in your heart toward someone is tantamount to breaking the command to not murder:
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22 NIV)
Jesus says something similar about lust and adultery:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28 NIV)
In fact, Jesus says that God judges our failures comprehensively and thoroughly—right down to our thoughtless words:
“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” (Matthew 12:36 ESV)
If this is truly the level of judgment each of us can expect, who can stand before a perfect, righteous God? For “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13 NIV).
God’s Judgment Is Thorough
The Bible defines all “sin” in relation to God. Anything we do that’s a violation of God’s commands or in some way contradicts God’s righteous nature, is considered sin.
Why does this matter? Because the Bible also teaches that we all have to give an account one day to God for our lives. The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NIV).
For those who take God and the Bible seriously, this fact should be unnerving. A time will come when we will have to give account for everything—
Thought. Word. Attitude. Action.
Unfortunately, some people believe that when they stand before God they will be asked to present two pieces of paper: one listing all the good things they have done, and the other listing all the bad things they avoided doing.
However, they fail to realize two other lists are also operative: one of all the bad things they actually did (“sins of commission”), and the other of all the good things they could have done yet failed to do (“sins of omission”).
Can you imagine what it would be like to stand before a righteous God who lists every single bad thing you ever did or thought in your life? Could there be anything more devastating than this? And who will pay for it?
If we are honest with ourselves, we know that none of us could ever stand up under such thorough judgment.
God’s Salvation Is Complete
While the Bible never sugarcoats our dilemma as sinners before a righteous God, destined for eternal conscious punishment, it does provide a sufficient solution.
The Bible says that we can stand justified (that is, made right) before God because of what God has done on our behalf.
Knowing that we could never live perfectly righteous lives, God sent his Son, Jesus, into the world. The sinless Jesus did what we could never do: he lived a perfectly righteous life. Though he deserved God’s good favor and eternal life, he gave his life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (in other words, he took the penalty we deserve). He died, and he rose again, offering his righteousness to everyone who has faith in him.
Despite being sinners, we will be able to stand fully justified and forgiven before our holy God if we accept Jesus’ free gift of righteousness. Here is how the Bible explains this exchange:
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24 NIV)
How Will You Respond to the Good News?
By sending his Son Jesus into the world, God made a way for all of our sins to be dealt with. This is the “Good News” that we Christians love to tell.
The question each one of us must answer, then, is how will we respond to this news? Do you want to pay for your own sins through eternal punishment, or do you want Jesus to pay for them for you? Jesus offers to pay for your sins if you receive the gracious gift of his atoning sacrifice and the righteousness and put your trust in him.
Which will you choose?