|The Nature of Sin
The following passages offer four insights into the nature and results of sin.
Bible Reading: Genesis 3:14-19
Key Bible Verse: And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.” (Genesis 3:17)
Describe the punishments given to everyone involved in the first sin in the Garden of Eden.
How do you see the effects of the first sin played out in your own life?
Reflection: Sin is disobeying God. Adam and Eve learned by painful experience that because God is holy and hates sin, he must punish sinners. The rest of the book of Genesis recounts painful stories of lives ruined as a result of the fall. Disobedience is sin, and it breaks our fellowship with God. But, fortunately, when we disobey, God is willing to forgive us and to restore our relationship with him.
Bible Reading: Matthew 8:1-4
Key Bible Verse: Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. (Matthew 8:3)
What does this verse suggest is a significant precursor to our ability to be healed?
Have you experienced the healing power of Jesus in your life? If so, describe the experience. If not, pray that Jesus would meet you in the areas of your life that need healing.
Reflection: Sin is a disease beyond human cure. Leprosy, like AIDS today, was a terrifying disease because there was no known cure. In Jesus’ day, the Greek word for leprosy was used for a variety of similar diseases, and some forms were contagious. If a person contracted the contagious type, a priest declared him a leper and banished him from his home and city. The leper was sent to live in a community with other lepers until he either got better or died. Yet when the leper begged Jesus to heal him, Jesus reached out and touched him, even though his skin was covered with the dread disease.
Sin is also a universal disease—we all have it. Only Christ’s healing touch can miraculously take away our sins and restore us to real living. But first, just like the leper, we must realize our inability to cure ourselves and ask for Christ’s saving help.
Bible Reading: Mark 7:1-23
Key Bible Verse: And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” (Mark 7:20-23)
According to this passage, where is the real source of our sin?
What thoughts or attitudes are you aware of in your own life that you need to confess before the Lord and allow him to transform?
Reflection: Sin has an inward as well as an outward aspect. Do we worry more about what is in our diet than what is in our heart and mind? As they interpreted the dietary laws (Leviticus 11), the Jews believed they could be clean before God because of what they refused to eat. But Jesus pointed out that sin actually begins in the attitudes and intentions of the inner person. Jesus did not degrade the law, but he paved the way for the change made clear in Acts 10:9-29 when God removed the cultural restrictions regarding food. We are not pure because of outward acts—we become pure on the inside as Christ renews our mind and transforms us into his image.
Bible Reading: Romans 6:15-23
Key Bible Verse: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
What does it mean that the “wages” of sin is death?
How does it make you feel that God has provided a way out of this debt that is free to all who accept it?
Reflection: Without Christ, the results of sin are death. You are free to choose between two masters, but you are not free to manipulate the consequences of your choice.
Each of the two masters pays with his own kind of currency. The currency of sin is death. That is all you can expect or hope for in life without God. Christ’s currency is eternal life—new life with God that begins on earth and continues forever with God. What choice have you made?
The following passages offer five aspects to dealing with sin.
Bible Reading: John 19:28-37
Key Bible Verse: When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit. (John 19:30)
When Jesus says, “It is finished,” what do you think he means?
What should our response be to the work that Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished?
Reflection: Realize that Jesus’ death and resurrection were God’s final remedy for sin. Until that time, a complicated system of sacrifices had atoned for sins. Sin separates people from God, and only through the sacrifice of an animal, a substitute, could people be forgiven and become clean before God. But people sinned continually, so frequent sacrifices were required. Jesus, however, became the final and ultimate sacrifice for sin.
The word finished is the same as “paid in full.” Jesus came to finish God’s work of salvation, to pay the full penalty for our sins. “Then Jesus explained: ‘My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work’” (John 4:34). “I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). With his death, the complex sacrificial system ended because Jesus took all sin upon himself. Now we can freely approach God because of what Jesus did for us. Those who believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection can live eternally with God and escape the penalty that comes from sin.
Bible Reading: Matthew 5:43-48
Key Bible Verse: But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
According to this verse, how high is the standard God has set for us?
Consider the state of your own life right now. How are you doing in meeting God’s standard of perfection?
Reflection: Look to Jesus, who requires us to be perfect. How can we be perfect? (a) In character. In this life we cannot be flawless, but we can aspire to be as much like Christ as possible. (b) In holiness. Like the Pharisees, we are to separate ourselves from the world’s sinful values. But unlike the Pharisees, we are to be devoted to God’s desires rather than our own and show his love and mercy to the world. (c) In maturity. We can’t achieve Christlike character and holy living all at once, but we must grow toward maturity and wholeness. Just as we expect different behavior from a baby, a child, a teenager, and an adult, so God expects different behavior from us, depending on our stage of spiritual development. (d) In love. We can seek to love others as completely as God loves us.
Bible Reading: Psalm 139:1-24
Key Bible Verse: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24)
What does David ask God to do for him in this passage?
Ask God to do this in your life and take the time to listen to his answer.
Reflection: Be open with God regarding our sins. David asked God to search for sin and point it out, even to the level of testing his thoughts. This is exploratory surgery for sin. How are we to recognize sin unless God points it out? Then, when God shows us, we can repent and be forgiven. Make this verse your prayer. If you ask the Lord to search your heart and your thoughts and to reveal your sin, you will be continuing on God’s “path of everlasting life.”
Bible Reading: Luke 3:1-20
Key Bible Verse: Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had turned to God to receive forgiveness for their sins. (Luke 3:3)
What signs does John call for in verses 3 and 8 of Luke 3 to show that people have really chosen to follow the Lord?
How does your outer life reflect the inner decision you have made to follow Christ?
Reflection: Repent in order to counteract sin. Repentance has two sides—turning away from sins and turning toward God. To be truly repentant, we must do both. We can’t just say we believe and then live any way we choose (see 3:7-8); neither can we simply live a morally correct life without a personal relationship with God, because that cannot bring forgiveness from sin. Determine to rid your life of any sins God points out, and put your trust in him alone to guide you.
Bible Reading: 1 John 1: 5-10
Key Bible Verse: But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:9)
What does this verse tell us we need to do in order for our sins to be forgiven?
What sins in your life need to be confessed to God so that he can restore your full fellowship with him? Take that step today.
Reflection: Confess our sins to God. Confession is supposed to free us to enjoy fellowship with Christ. It should ease our consciences and lighten our cares. But some Christians do not understand how it works. They feel so guilty that they confess the same sins over and over; then they wonder if they might have forgotten something. Other Christians believe that God forgives them when they confess, but that if they died with unconfessed sins, they would be forever lost. These Christians do not understand that God wants to forgive us. He allowed his beloved Son to die just so he could offer us pardon.
When we come to Christ, he forgives all the sins we have committed or will ever commit. We don’t need to confess the sins of the past all over again, and we don’t need to fear that God will reject us if we don’t keep our slate perfectly clean. Of course we should continue to confess our sins, but not because failure to do so will make us lose our salvation. Our relationship with Christ is secure. Instead, we should confess so that we can enjoy maximum fellowship and joy with him.
This study is adapted from the Handbook of Bible Application (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2000), available everywhere books are sold.