PART TWO: Continued from last Sunday’s Post on a sermon by John MacArthur
Definition of sin: Sin is any personal lack of conformity to the moral character of God, or the law of God. Sin is a disposition of the heart, it is a bent. It thinks evil, it speaks evil, it acts evil, and it omits good.
Let me give you those four because those are the four ways in which you sin:
• you sin by thinking evil,
• speaking evil,
• acting evil, or
• omitting good
You sin when you do, when you say, when you think, or when you don’t do, say, think what God commands you to. So, it is commission, as you’ve often heard, or omission.
The first question is: what is sin?
And I’ve just given you a definition. Now, we know what sin is. It is any violation, any violation of the character or law of God, the moral character or the law of God. Summing it up, 1 John 3:4, 1 John 3:4 says, “Sin is the transgression of the law.” Sin is the transgression of the law. That is one definition of sin. Another way to translate that, everyone doing sin is doing lawlessness, anomia, lawlessness.
In other words, it’s ignoring God’s law, it’s violating God’s law. That is sin. Sin and lawlessness, in that Greek construction of 1 John 3:4, are identical. It’s living as if there was no law of God, calling your own shots. It’s further defined in Romans 14:23: “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Anything that you do that isn’t done as a direct act of faith in God is sin. In Romans 14:23, to know to do right and not do it is sin. In 1 John 5:17, “All unrighteousness is sin.”
When you do something that goes against real trust and faith in God; that’s sin. When you know to do right and don’t do it, that’s sin. When you know something pleases God, something that God has commanded, you don’t do it; that is sin. All unrighteousness is sin. All sin is lawlessness. And all of those things are just coming at the same issue that sin is any violation of God’s moral character or His law. To put it another way: sin is going beyond the bounds that God has established. Sin is defined as any breach of God’s law.
Now, where is God’s law revealed? Scripture. We have a problem in our society today… We don’t believe that man is innately a sinner; we think he’s basically good and something happens to him environmentally. But if we do acknowledge that he does evil, how do we define that evil? What is our standard for what is evil? What is it? Well, once, our standard for evil in America, our standard for morality in America was established by the Bible. Our view of morality, our view of crime, our view of justice all came out of the Bible. And once, there were certain behaviors that were considered to be against the law. And that’s changing. That’s changing rapidly. It’s changing in the sexual realm. It’s changing in the homosexual world. It’s changed, of course, in the world of abortion, euthanasia. Watch what happens with the genetic engineering that’s going to come in the very near future as they now can determine the ability to handle the genes and decide who gets born and who doesn’t, and et cetera, et cetera.
As we continue to move down deeper and deeper into the morass of sin and dislodge ourselves from any set standard, being the Word of God, we have no way to define morality anymore except to take a survey. To take a survey. That’s what you do. The politicians do it. They give back what they think the constituencies would vote for. They want to get elected so they basically say, “I believe this,” because they polled the constituents and that’s what they say. And that’s how we develop our morality. There won’t be anybody who can walk into a court and hold up a standard. You can’t walk into a court today and hold up the standard of the Bible as the standard of morality. All we have left is tradition, and tradition will be overthrown by surveys, it will be overthrown by vote, it will be overthrown by referendums, it will be overthrown when the people want to overthrow it. The reclassification of behavior. We don’t have a standard.
How do you go to a generation like that and tell them they’re sinners? Based on what? Based on what standard am I a sinner? And you say, well on the standard of the law of God, on the standard of the Bible. The Bible is not our standard. I think we have no other choice but that to hold the Bible up as a standard and to say to the sinner: it is the standard. And because it is the Word of God, and it’s up to you to determine by reading it carefully and thoughtfully that it is not the Word of God.
The redefining of morality without a standard leaves our society in a death dive, because sin is breaking God’s law. Sin is violating God’s moral character. And there’s nowhere to know that except on the pages of Scripture. And if you don’t believe the Scripture establishes morality, righteousness, and unrighteousness, then you have no standard, and you have no definition of sin. That’s the real issue in our society today. How do we tell our society about a Savior who will save them from sin when their definition of sin is basically non-existent?
What is sin to them? You tell them it’s a violation of the law of God. “Well, where is that?” Well, it’s in the Bible. “I don’t believe that.” But, it’s still the Word of God that the Holy Spirit uses. Don’t equivocate. Keep preaching the Bible and let the Spirit of God take it and use it to convict the hearts.
Let’s look at the nature of sin just briefly. The nature of sin. First of all, sin is defiling. These are things that characterize sin, not defining it, but characterizing it. How it shows up, it first of all is defiling. It is a pollutant. It is to the soul what scars are to a beautiful face, what stain is to white silk cloth. It is ugliness across the face of beauty. It is a kind of ugliness that is defined in Scripture in very graphic terms. In 1 Kings 8:38, sin in man’s heart is compared to ugly, oozing sores from a deadly plague. In Zechariah 3:3, Joshua, the high priest’s sin is like a filthy garment that’s being worn by a person. Sin scars the image of God and man. Sin stains the soul. It degrades man’s nobility.
Ezekiel 20 verse 43 says, “And there you will remember your ways and all your deeds which you have defiled yourselves, and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for all the evil things you’ve done.”
When you really look at yourself, you see the defiling of sin and you loathe yourself. Sin pollutes, sin defiles, and sin corrupts. Paul calls it in 2 Corinthians 7:1, the filthiness of the flesh and spirit. Thomas Goodwin, the Puritan, wrote, “Sin is called poison, sinners serpents. Sin is called vomit, sinners dogs. Sin is called the stench of grave, sinners rotten sepulchers. Sin is called mire, sinners pigs.” It is defiling, degrading, it stamps the devil’s image on the human soul.
Sin is, secondly, rebellion. It is not only defiling; but it establishes a life of rebellion. It is, by its own nature, as Leviticus 26:27 says, “Walking contrary to God.” It is just walking in constant opposition, in constant rebellion. A sinner tramples on God’s law, tramples on God’s character, willfully crosses God’s will, affronts God, spites God, mocks God. And the Hebrew word for “sin,” one of the Hebrew words, pasha, signifies rebellion. Is it, at its core, rebellion. Sin is God’s would-be murderer. Sin would not only dethrone God but un-god God, and replace Him with us. If the sinner had his way, God would cease to be God, and the sinner is the only god in his world. So, sin is defiling, and sin is open, incessant rebellion.
Third, sin is ingratitude. Everything we have, everything we are is from God. We live and move and have our being in God. Acts 17:28 says, “He makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, sends rain on the just and the unjust.” He’s given us everything. And Romans 1, Paul says, “That the wrath of God is revealed from heaven because when they knew God, they didn’t glorify Him as God. Neither were thankful,” verse 21. Sin is just ungrateful. Sin is serious ingratitude. It’s damning ingratitude. And the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against that ingratitude. Sin is defiling. It is rebellion. It is ingratitude.
Fourth, sin is hard work. Most people go to hell sweating because there’s a furious effort to really consummate as much sin as they possibly can. It produces pain and death, and yet people work very hard at sinning successfully. They, in their lusts, conceive of sin, as James says, and then they work out the fulfillment of the conception. Jeremiah 9 says, “O that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.” He’s weeping about the sinful people who are being punished by God.
Proverbs 4:16 says, “They can’t sleep unless they do evil.” They’re robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble. They stay awake just to perpetrate wickedness. This is sin. It’s hard work to sin. In fact, in Isaiah 5:18 he says, “People are like animals who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood and sin. They drag sin as if with cart ropes.” They’re like an ox, a dumb ox, hooked up to a cart load of sin, they drag it around like a beast of burden. That’s what sinners do. Sin is wearying. It is a life-consuming enterprise of hard work, and sinners weary themselves in an effort to fulfill their lusts.
Fifthly, sin is incurably fatal. The soul that sins – it shall die, Ezekiel 18 says. And Romans 3, “The wages of sin is death.” And man can’t do anything about it ‘cause his heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, Jeremiah 17. The whole head is sick, as Isaiah 1:4 to 6. He’s sick from the tip of his head to the tip of his feet and everything in between. And he has been blighted with an incurable disease that ultimately will kill him with an eternal death. That’s why Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Of course not, and sinners weary themselves in an effort to fulfill their lusts.
The problem is, even man at his deepest point, his conscience is defiled. It says in Titus 1:15, “Even
their conscience is defiled.” Even the divinely granted mechanism to cause them to do right is defiled.
The warning system is broken. The warning system is defiled. Sin is incurable.
There’s no human cure. There’s no way that the sinner can expiate his sin even in hell. That’s why hell lasts forever, it doesn’t expiate his sin. There is no human cure, there is no resolution, there’s no reformation, there’s no religion, there’s no reeducation. Nothing man does can cure the deadly malady. It will kill him physically as it has killed him spiritually, and it will ultimately kill him eternally.
Note this, please. God is not a respecter of persons. God is not a racist. God does not resist a person or reject a person because of race, or because of color, or because he’s poor, or because he’s ignorant, or because he’s unschooled, or because he’s disabled, or because he’s weak, or because he’s ill, or because he’s unpopular, or because he’s despised, or because he’s an outcast. God does not resist or reject a person for any of those reasons. God does reject people, but He rejects them because they are sinners. The wages of sin is death. The soul that sins will die. It’s appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment. That’s why God says through the words of Jeremiah, Jeremiah 44:4, “O do not this abominable thing that I hate.” Don’t do it. So, that’s the character of sin.
How many people does sin affect? What is sin? What is sin like? Romans 3 verse 10, “As it is written,” “there is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have become useless, there is none who does good, there is not even one.” That’s it.
There is none righteous, not even one. Universal evil. There is none who understands, universal ignorance. “The natural man understands not the things of God, they’re foolishness to him,” 1 Corinthians 2:14. No one is righteous, not even one, and that’s added because somebody would say, except me. So, the Holy Spirit said: no, not you. Nobody. There’s no one who seeks for God. There’s no one who does good. There is not even one, says verse 12, not even one. Verse 23 summing it up, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So, that answers the question, how many people does sin affect? Answer: everybody. How many people die? Everybody. Do you know anybody who’s not aging? Do you know anybody who is perpetually 21? Do you know anybody who doesn’t grow older? Everybody’s dying, everybody’s dying, everybody. And everybody dies because everybody is in sin.
Sin is the defiling, degenerative power in the human stream. That’s why David in Psalm 51 looks back and says, “In sin did my mother conceive me.” He doesn’t mean he was an illegitimate baby, he means, at the point of conception, I was a sinner. The time of my conception, I was a sinner; the time of my birth, I was a sinner. I came into the world a sinner. And if you’re looking to find my sin in the DNA, it’s not there. There isn’t any way to find your sin in your DNA. You can only find that in the mystical reality of who you are. We’re all dying, so we’re all sinning.
Now, not everybody is as bad as they could be. Not everybody is as bad as everybody else. Not everybody is as bad as possible. But everybody is bad enough to be damned to hell. And everybody is incapable of meeting God’s standard. What is God’s standard? To be as morally perfect as God is and perfectly obedience to His law. If you are not as perfect as God and you’ve ever broken His law, you’re subject to eternal death.
Universal death indicates universal sin nature. Universal sin nature implies sinning. Death implies a sinful nature; sinful nature implies sinning. Somewhere down the road in the past, somebody brought this in to the human stream. And we now know who it was. It was that Adam and his wife, Eve. You say, “Ah, I wish they hadn’t done that.” You want to know something? If they hadn’t, you would have. So would I.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that with all of that reality about who we are, God forgives sinners? That’s the glory of the gospel. The glory of the gospel is: all of this is true about us, and this is exactly who we are, and this is exactly what we deserve, eternal punishment. But the fact of the matter is, God has placed our iniquity on Christ. A great reality. He bore our sins in His own body. He was made sin for us. So, God punished Him in our place. That is the glory of the gospel, isn’t it? If you come to God and ask Him with a truly penitent heart, believing in Jesus as your substitute, ask God to forgive your sin, He’ll hear that prayer and answer it. Amen.