We all want to be successful, to live a happy and productive life. But too often we miss the mark — sin — and reap unhappiness. This article will help identify the pitfalls of sin and show how they can be avoided.
What does "sin" mean to you? Just another biblical term thrown around by a theologian? A catch-all phrase to describe anything you might consider bad? Whether you realize it or not, sin can have a big effect on your life. It can trip you up and cause pain and suffering. It can keep you from really enjoying life — from being successful and having the good things you want. Believe it or not, the Creator has provided a manual to show the right way to live and how to avoid sin. In this manual — the Bible — sin is described as the "transgression of the law" (I John 3:4). Just as valid as the law of gravity, there are other physical and spiritual laws that affect our lives. Laws put into effect and sustained by an Almighty God for our good. Laws intended to guide us in the way that brings the right result.
When we break these laws (sin), we don't get the right result. Instead, trouble and pain come our way. Athletes are familiar with the excruciating, stabbing pains of "shin splints." But worse than this, the vast majority of mankind is suffering from "sin splints." As if to show man how to avoid suffering from "sin splints," the Creator inspired different words in the original Hebrew and Greek texts to emphasize the various facets of sin and the different ways sin hurts us. "Sin" in English may mean anything from mistakes to errors or failure — or even "fun." But "sin" in the Bible is clearly defined, once we understand the inspired Hebrew and Greek words and how they apply to us today. As we saw in the last article in the July GN ("What Is Sin?"), society is set up to appeal to the negative factor in our nature — and we yield too often! That is, we "miss the mark" (Hebrew word khata). We saw that vanity often involved in personal appearance, bragging of children, and general senseless frivolity is amal — that is, "nothingness and vanity" (sin)! We saw that modern art and music is often greatly "twisted" — bent, wrested and perverted from its right use — avon. We found that "sneakiness," "treachery" (Hebrew ma'al) included word-breaking, disloyalty, petty thieving, etc. We saw how clearly, how unmistakably the Bible pictures, brands and condemns sin.
Know Your Enemy
These two articles are intended to help you personally to locate, spot and pinpoint the sin in your life — and root it out. Your enemy — sin — has a real target: you. "... Its desire is for you, but you must master it" (Gen. 4:7, RSV). If you do not "master" sin now — while you have the chance — you may end up a reprobate: a person who "cannot cease from sin"! (II Pet. 2:13-15.) Sin, of course, is not a person or personality. Sin is a force, a power. Sin pulls you down, makes you want to go the wrong way, which makes you want to give up, quit. In short, sin is what robs us of the blessings and good things the Creator intended for us. To win this battle against sin you must clearly see what sin is. You must know your enemy to defeat him.
Before we give the answer to sin, let's discover a few more facets and kinds of sin — both national and personal — which God identifies in the Bible. Last time we mentioned only sins which were "not necessarily intentional." But the Bible does talk about intentional sin — since all human beings and nations do sin intentionally, sometime or other in life. The Hebrew zimmah means "meditated wickedness," "a plan for evil," especially with sins of unchastity, incest, rape. Many such sinners (people plotting crime, sexual criminals) roam our streets today. We don't call them sinners; we call them homicidal maniacs, psychopaths. By what law enforcement officers call the "bleeding hearts," these criminals are labeled "unfortunate" or "misunderstood." The ugly episode of the concubine is termed zimmah (King James "lewdness") in Judges 20:6: "... For they have committed lewdness and folly in Israel." The Western world is filled with sexual looseness and lewdness — for which we will be punished! (Read Jeremiah 13, especially verse 27 where "lewdness" is zimmah.) Our national lewdness will mean our very destruction! (See how frequently the word "lewdness" — zimmah in Hebrew — is used through the middle chapters of Ezekiel.)
A Worldwide Sin
God is going to intervene soon — because of sin — and shake this earth! All nations, and probably all individuals too, are guilty of revolt, rebellion. "To break away from," "to change allegiance," " to fall away,'? "apostatize," " rebel" is the definition of the Hebrew pasha' - another word translated "sin" in the King James translation. God says our teachers have committed pasha' in Isaiah 43:27: "Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me." Furthermore, Jeremiah shows that the priests and pastors have also rebelled: "The priests said not, Where is the Lord? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed [revolted, pasha'] against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit" (Jer. 2:8). The leaders, teachers and educators of this world have rebelled! And rebellion never goes unpunished (see Provo 17:11). Make sure that rebellion is not a part of your personal life!
Sin Is Personal
Sin is not only national and worldwide, it is individual and personal. Can you control your rashness, your temper? The sin of going astray is serious, once requiring the blood of a sin offering (see Lev. 4:13-14 and Numbers 15:27-29). You must be constantly on guard against this sin of piercing, or breaking through the limits of self-control and decency. This sin of going astray through ignorance or temperamental rashness is called shagag in Hebrew, and requires the blood of Jesus Christ to wash a person clean. Even David fell victim to this sin: "Before I was afflicted I went astray [shagag]: but now have I kept thy word" (Ps. 119:67). David also overcame, as the phrase "now have I kept thy word" shows.
A related word, shagah, means "to stray," "swerve," "meander"; that is, either mentally or morally. Does this ancient word have a modern application? Most assuredly. Notice Proverbs 20:1: "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." In Isaiah 28:7, shagah clearly refers to going astray by too much alcohol. Sad to say, some of you readers also get carried away by too much alcohol. This is gluttony. The Bible demands self-control and moderation (true "temperance") in all things (Gal. 5:23; Phil. 4:5). Do you "get carried away" eating? Some of you reading this article are overweight; you need to change — stop getting carried away. Another very common sin included under shagah is just exactly what the word says: mind wandering. An uncontrolled, wandering mind (even without the help of alcohol) produces forgetfulness and absentmindedness. Do you often forget when you should remember? Some forgetting of course is innocent. But forgetting can also be a sin. Sometimes we forget because we want to forget — to remember is unpleasant. Stop forgetting! If you have to, carry a notebook or three-by-five cards with you at all times. Jot down things you must remember: important appointments, vocabulary words, a grocery list, daily duties, etc. Make it a habit to check your card or notebook every day. Moreover, too many of us allow our minds to wander in uncontrolled daydreaming. Possibly a little daydreaming is all right. But you should realize that daydreaming can become wasteful, destructive and therefore sinful. Are you letting your children get into this ugly habit? If you punish them by "isolation," or by sitting them in a corner with nothing to do, you may be encouraging this negagive trait. If you allow them to stay awake, lying in bed for long periods of time, they will pick up this wrong habit. Letting the mind just "flit off" into a never-never land of make believe and dreams is a vicious, mind and character-destroying sin. However, don't confuse daydreaming with using your God-given imagination constructively — creative thinking. Occupy your mind with something constructive.
Falsity and Sham
How open and honest are you? Openness, innocence and straightforwardness are earmarks of conversion. The direct opposite qualities — treachery, slipperiness, deceit and sham (Hebrew bagad) — are earmarks of carnality and sin. Bagad — "act treacherously, faithlessly" (as in marriage, with property or rights, in contracts or in any general way) — includes the idea of slippery dealing — what we sometimes call double dealing. Bagad is often translated "perverseness." Business today is filled with double dealers, slippery salesmen, deceitful advertisements, sales "pitches," and falsified claims for phony products. God condemns slippery, crooked business in Proverbs 11:3, 6. And what of you? Do you once in a while — as wives — use just a little deceit to convince your husband? And you husbands, do you once in a while exaggerate to impress the men at the office, the wife, the family? Stretching the facts is a form of deceit and sham — slipperiness. And all deceit, all slipperiness is sin.
The New Testament Speaks
Just as there are differences in Hebrew synonyms for sin, so also the New Testament shows various aspects of sin by using different words. Interestingly enough, the most common word for "sin" in the New Testament is hamartia, meaning about the same as Hebrew khata — "miss the mark." The English word "sin" translates hamartia in the great Bible definition of sin, I John 3:4. It was this sin that "entered the world" with Adam. See Romans 5. Many of us are too talkative. We pass on information often in the form of unconfirmed, rotten rumors. This type of gossip is condemned by the Bible. Titus 2:7-8 shows what we ought to practice: "In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech [not gossip and senseless talk], that cannot be condemned .... " The same verse shows that people in general will set the opposite example in their speech: "... that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you." This "evil thing" is phaulos meaning "evil," "bad," or "worthless" thing, something without basis. Isn't that exactly what gossip is? It is easy to speak senseless things and to gossip. If we allow ourselves to fall into this easy trap of backyard or water-cooler scuttlebutt, we are guilty of sin. Check yourself next time you pass on information. Gossip is phaulos — evil, worthless talk.
Now we're ready for the attack. Actually, if you read these two articles on sin, and if you got the point, you are already well on your way to changing! You see, the first step in conquering sin is to see sin. You must know your enemy. You must pray, study the Bible, examine your own self and strive to see your sins. If you do not see them, how can you fight them? Paul said he would not have known (understood) sin, unless the law revealed what it was (Rom. 7:7). If you do not think you have any sins, or have not seen a new sin for a long time, you may be self-righteous. Ask God to show you how you look to Him — and He will do it!
Sin, of course, is not a person or personality. Sin is a force, a power. Sin pulls you down, makes you want to go the wrong way, which makes you want to give up, quit. In short, sin is what robs us of the blessings and good things the Creator intended.
That's the first step. But there are two more steps.
The Second Step
Here is a simple-sounding, but difficult-to-perform point. Pay close attention. You may be missing this vital key. "Hate the evil, and love the good... " (Amos 5:15). The Bible commands you to hate — to loathe — your sins. There is one great reason that sin is difficult to hate — the human mind seems to love sin. "... We all had our conversation [conduct] in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others" (Eph. 2:3). Here is the point: lusts are pleasant, appealing, strongly pulling desires — desires which are illegal. The human mind loves its lusts. It hates God's way — hates to give up its lusts. Can you see this terrible tendency in yourself? Can you realize your mind wants its way — not God's? If so, you can overcome. But how? It is simple. God hates sin. Notice Proverbs 6:16: "These six things doth the Lord hate; yea, seven are an abomination unto him." Read the rest of the verses of chapter 6 for yourself. When you really hate sin, as God does, you will begin to overcome. Ask for God's mind — ask for help to hate sin. Another aid in the direction of hating sin is something you can do for yourself. Did you realize the entire Old Testament history is a chronicle of the results of sin? Read, meditate, think deeply on the sufferings and failures of Old Testament men and women who sinned. Meditate on the results of your personal sins. Picture yourself locked out of God's Kingdom — thrust into oblivion. Think about eternal failure, about death. Your sins will kill you if you do not change! Receiving God's own help through His Holy Spirit, meditating on the results of your sins, will make you an overcomer.
The Third Step
Repent! II Corinthians 7:10 shows that there are two kinds of sorrow: one worldly, one godly. Worldly sorrow is what Saul demonstrated in I Samuel 15, when he begged Samuel to pardon his sin and pray for him. Reading Saul's words would make you think he was really repentant. But the fruits showed otherwise. Godly sorrow — which Saul did not have — does work a change — repentance! How can you have godly sorrow? You must become more concerned about God and His Work than yourself. You must draw so close to God that you really care what God thinks and feels about you. Make no mistake: your sins do affect God your Father. God is not an insensitive monster, but a kind, loving and deeply interested Parent — a Parent who grieves over His errant children. If you understand God's parenthood, if you are this close to God, you will be able to truly repent toward God when you sin. You will be ashamed of yourself, for what you have done to God personally, to God's love, to God's ways, to His outstretched helping hand. Yes, godly sorrow — sorrow strong enough to make you change — is sorrow to God, not just sorrow for "having messed yourself up." Worldly sorrow is sorrow all right — maybe to the point of bitter tears — but it is sorrow for having failed yourself. You are sorry because you have not lived up to the "image" you have of yourself. You are sorry because this mistake does not exalt you. It tarnishes your picture — it spoils your self-esteem, it lowers you in your own mind. That is selfish, worldly sorrow.
For Failure Take This
If you are trying to overcome, but not succeeding, then try this. Analyze the reason you are trying to overcome. Is it purely selfish, in the same way as worldly sorrow described above? Do you want to overcome so that you may put yourself forward? So that you will rise in the eyes of others? So that you will be advanced? So that you may "get ahead"? So that your position will be raised? If so, your motive for overcoming is selfish. We just naturally want to "get ahead" (walking "after the flesh"). The godly mind (walking "after the Spirit," Romans 8) wants to serve others. Analyze yourself — honestly now. For what reason do you want to get rid of sin? If it is just for yourself, and not for God, you probably are not overcoming. Change your motive for overcoming, pray for the desire to serve others. When you really have a desire to serve others, you will realize why you need to overcome. You will have an unselfish goal for changing. Seeing other peoples' sufferings and needs will give you a desire to change for their sakes, to help them. You will begin to overcome.
The New Building
As you begin to overcome, it will help you to strive for a new habit. Let's put it this way: "Be not overcome of [the habit of] evil, but overcome evil with [the habit of] good" (Rom. 12:21). Sin is hard to root out because it is customary, usual, pleasant, easy, habitual. Build a new habit. Make yourself do the opposite of sin. Make yourself practice the right way. To pick a simple example as an illustration, take smiling. Suppose you are a "frowny" person, can't make yourself smile. Well, then, once you find a good reason for smiling — and you do actually smile once — then make yourself smile again. Smile several times in succession. Instead of practicing your old habit of constantly frowning, search for reasons, excuses, opportunities to smile. Smile at yourself. Smile at others. Smile just because it's a good feeling to do differently than your old sinful way. Smile, smile, SMILE! Pretty soon, smiling will be easy. Work at, build the habit of righteousness. (Connect this with Hebrews 5:14 — note the word "exercised.")
Will You Cease?
The answer to sin is... STOP! "Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God" (I Pet. 4:1, 2). Our earnest prayer for you is that you too will cease from sin!