Sin Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Sin

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Sin is blameworthy disturbance of the way God wants things to be, i.e. disturbance of the justice, fulfillment, harmony, and delight among God, all humanity, and all creation. Sin is culpable vandalism of shalom.

In Scripture

Original Sin "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. [ ]Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves" (Gen. 3:6-7).

Wisdom in the Psalms "Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers . . . ." (Ps. 1:1).

Prayer of Confession "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment" (Ps. 51:1-4).

Things that Defile a Person "And [Jesus] said, `It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.'" (Mark 7:20-23).

Exposing Deeds "All who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed" (John 3:20).

Wrath of God Revealed "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them" (Rom. 1:18-19).

We All Have Sinned "Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:23-24).

We Are All Sinners "Just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous" (Rom. 5:19).

Wages of Sin "The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).

Sowing "If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit you will reap eternal life from the Spirit" (Gal. 6:8).

Earthly Things "Put to death whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry)" (Col. 3:5).

God Is Faithful "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9).

An Advocate "If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2).

Points to Ponder

In many Protestant churches today, it seems that our sins do not exist. The topic rarely surfaces. Preachers may make much of God's grace and mercy, but congregants don't know what these things are for. To learn about human wrongdoing, congregants have to watch TV or go to the movies. People in Hollywood usually don't go to church, so they haven't yet learned to ignore the topic of human wrongdoing like so many churches do. For the church to speak of grace without speaking about sin is to trivialize the cross of Jesus Christ — to skate past all the struggling by good people down the ages to accept, forgive, and rehabilitate sinners, including themselves — and therefore to cheapen the grace of God that always comes to us with blood on it. What had we thought the ripping and writhing on Golgotha were all about?

At the outset of the New Testament, four gospels describe the pains God has taken to defeat sin and its wages. The very shape of the gospels tells us how much these pains matter. The gospels, after all, are shaped as passion narratives with long introductions. Accordingly, Christians have often measured sin, in part, by the passion needed to atone for it. The ripping and writhing of death on a cross, the bizarre metaphysical maneuver of using death to defeat death, the extraordinary centering of the Christian religion on the degrading and killing of its God — these things tell us that human brokenness is desperately difficult to fix, even for God; that it is the longest-running of all emergencies; and that while annoyances, regrets, and miseries trouble us in all the old familiar ways, none of them matters as much as sin.

Breaking Shalom Like other evils, human sin breaks shalom and, at least for that reason, grieves God. But unlike other evils, sin perverts what is specially and highly human about us. Sin distorts our character, a central feature of our very humanity. Sin corrupts powerful human capacities — thought, emotion, speech, and act — so that they become centers of attack upon God and others, or else centers of defection or of neglect. It's bad enough if we sin against others involuntarily, by boorish insensitivity to their feelings, for example, or by an alienating form of complacency. We may not want these character flaws; in fact we may not even know that we have them. But if our victims know that we have hurt them deliberately, their attitude toward us is not merely rueful, as it normally would be if we harmed them by accident. Their attitude is not just sorrowful, as it normally is when nature catches people in its great machinery. Instead our victims face us indignantly. They know we have violated them with something deeply and peculiarly personal. We have willingly hurt them. We have done it on purpose.

Where its treatment of sin is concerned, the Bible shows us an array of images in both testaments: sin is the missing of a target, a wandering from the path, a straying from the fold. Sin is a hard heart and a stiff neck. It's both the overstepping of a line and also the failure to reach it — that is, it's both transgression and shortcoming. Sin is a beast crouching at the door. In sin people attack or evade or neglect their divine calling. These and other images suggest deviance: one of the most centrally biblical things you can say about sin is that even when it is familiar, sin is never normal. Sin is disruption of created shalom and then resistance to divine restoration of it.

God Wants Shalom It's marvelous to know, then, that God wants shalom and will pay any price to get it back. Human sin is stubborn, but not as stubborn as the grace of God and not half so persistent, not half so ready to suffer to win its way.

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.