Pound Lane Free Church

Am I really a sinner?

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Very often a person's first response to the gospel is 'but I'm not a sinner!'. To answer this, let's first look at what God means by 'a sinner' and then at the question of whether or not anyone can truthfully say that they are not a sinner, let's also look at "How serious is my sin?" and finally ask the question "Is there an answer to my sin?" - All we ask is that once you start reading, you keep going until you get to the end!

What does God mean by 'a sinner'?

Well a sinner is someone who has sinned, so the starting point must be what constitutes sin? Probably, we would all accept that to murder someone, or to rape someone is sinful, and we ould be right (Exod 20:13 and many other passages clearly state that any such action is sin.) However sin has a much broader definition than this, the 10 commandments given by God list together with murder other actions such as stealing (Exod 20:15), and adultery (Exod 20:14), and actions that some might consider acceptable such as to lie (Exod 20:16), or to dishonour our parents (Exod 20:12). So whereas we see our actions in a very subjective way, each viewing some actions as acceptable and others as not; God sees all actions in black and white - they are either right or wrong (sinful). Therefore to have told one lie is to have sinned and therefore to be a sinner - in fact Jesus spoke of the devil himself as being a murderer, a liar, and 'the father of lies' (John 8:44).

We can also sin in actions that we fail to take. We would all surely agree that to stand by and watch a child drown rather than to reach out a hand to save it is a sinful act, but the Bible lists even an omission such as failing to pray for someone who needs our prayer and has asked for it as sinful (1 Sam 12:23).

So much for our actions (and lack of them), but even then we've only considered one small aspect of sinning. The Jewish leaders of Jesus' day had a clear, but wrong, limited definition of sin, and to refute this, Jesus, using several examples showed that we sin in thought as well as action - for example, He stated that since murder and anger towards another person have the same root, both bring us under judgement because they are both sinful (Matt 5 21-22). The 10 commandments list both the act of murder as a sin, and also the thought of coveting someone else's possessions (Exod 20:17).

Most especially, and probably where we see the greatest difference between God's view of our sin and our view is in our relationship (or lack of it) with God. Whilst the 10 commandments cover our relationships with one another, they start not with our actions, or thoughts, but with our nature and our relationship with God. He must have first place in our love and worship (Exod 20:3), we must not make anything or anyone, other than God, an object of worship (Exod 20:4). His Name must never be misused (Exod 20:7), His day must be treated as a holy day (Exod 20:8). When Jesus was asked to state which was the most important commandment, His reply was to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." He then added that the second greatest was to "Love your neighbour as yourself." (Matt 22:37-39). So the greatest sin is to not love the Lord God with all of your heart, soul and mind, in other words to live in God's world without right reference to Him - to be in a state of rebellion against God and we're all guilty of that.

So to have failed in any one of the above on just a single occasion would make you a sinner (James 2:10-11). The reality is, of course, that every one of us has failed on many of the above, many times over, especially in not loving and honouring God as we should.

Have I sinned?

If you have read the previous section and accept that what is written there is correctly based in the verses quoted (and there are literally hundreds of other verses that could have been used), then clearly every human being without exception who has ever lived is a sinner. This is clearly taught in the Bible. Verses such as Rom 3:10, Rom 3:23, Isa 53:6 make it clear that there are no exceptions.

How serious is my sin?

Whilst some sins are clearly worse than others in their physical effect on our life, and on others, and indeed in God's sight (John 19:11, James 3:1) and whilst it is worse to sin without restraint than to try to live a good life (Rev 20:12-13), nevertheless, we have a totally inadequate view of the seriousness of a single sin. The problem is that we measure good and bad against human standards - we say "I admit that I'm not as good as X, but at least I'm not as bad as Y". God measures us against His perfect standards, and against them even our best appears filthy! (Isa 64:6). As Rom 3:23 puts it "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". The point is that just one sin makes you legally guilty before God and deserving of eternal punishment (Rom 5:16, James 2:10-11). We can perhaps best answer the question of 'How serious is my sin?' by itemising some of the consequences of committing just one sin:

If I managed to keep every other point of God's Law for the whole of my life, I would still fail! (James 2:10-11)

It will mean that God must judge me for failure (Eccl 12:14)

It will be enough to prevent me ever getting to heaven and to ensure that I go to hell for ever (Rom 5:16)

To stop here would be a terrible thing, and yet you must get to here if you are ever to get further. The bottom line is this - whoever you are, like me, you are a sinner, and as a sinner you will one day stand before God to face His judgement, and His judgement on your life will be that you have failed, and that your eternal future will be in hell, unless . . . .

Is there an answer to my sin?

YES! An answer that is at once so simple that a child can grasp it, so great that no-one need be excluded from it, so available that no-one is refused it and yet so humbling that most refuse it! If it were to climb a mountain, people would queue for the chance. If it was to pass an exam the course would be packed. If it were to do good deeds people would be fighting for the opportunity. What it actually is, is to be honest about yourself and grateful to God for what He has done for you - It is to admit that you are a sinner and that you are helpless to do anything about it and to throw yourself on God's mercy. To see that God has Himself done everything necessary to save you in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and to take His gift of salvation, and in gratitude to seek, in His strength, to live the rest of your life to His glory. This is all explained under "Am I really a Christian?".

Referenced verses

Exodus 20:13

You shall not murder. [ESV]

Exodus 20:15

You shall not steal. [ESV]

Exodus 20:14

You shall not commit adultery. [ESV]

Exodus 20:16

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. [ESV]

Exodus 20:12

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. [ESV]

John 8:44

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. [ESV]

1 Samuel 12:23

Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. [ESV]

Matthew 5:21-22

You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. [ESV]

Exodus 20:17

You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's. [ESV]

Exodus 20:3

You shall have no other gods before me [ESV]

Exodus 20:4

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. [ESV]

Exodus 20:7

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. [ESV]

Exodus 20:8

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. [ESV]

Matthew 22:37-39

And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [ESV]

Romans 3:10

as it is written:

"None is righteous, no, not one; [ESV]

Romans 3:23

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, [ESV]

Isaiah 53:6

All we like sheep have gone astray;
   we have turned every one to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all. [ESV]

John 19:11

Jesus answered him, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin." [ESV]

James 3:1

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. [ESV]

Revelation 20:12-13

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. [ESV]

Isaiah 64:6

We have all become like one who is unclean,
   and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
   and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. [ESV]

Romans 5:16

And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. [ESV]

James 2:10-11

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. [ESV]

Ecclesiastes 12:14

For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. [ESV]