What is sin?

For know and recognize this: Every sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Ephesians 5:5

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things — as I warned you before — that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21

No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God,” since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death. James 1:13-15

So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it. James 4:17

Sin is loving anything more than God. It is thinking, speaking, or acting in ways that are against God’s will for us.

What does the word sin mean to you? Whether you’ve sat down and pondered its meaning or haven’t given it a second thought since Sunday school, many of us have a definition of the term that impacts how we live our lives, and ultimately how we see God.

For many people, the Bible is seen as one giant rule book—one whose rules (no matter how seemingly outdated, strange, or unattainable) are meant to be followed. You’re supposed to keep those rules. And if you don’t, you’ve sinned.

In this sense, sin is simply disobedience to one of the Bible’s rules, which come from God.

So, is the Bible mainly a rule book? Well, not really. Of course, the Bible has rules in it. We find God’s law in the Bible and other guidelines for how to live. 

But that’s not the full intent of the Bible. The Bible is first and foremost a story—one that reveals God’s purposes for his people and the whole world. God wants people to love and enjoy him, because he is their only true source of life and joy. God wants people to love one another. And God wants people to use their creativity to discover and recover the beauty of his world.

But how do we fulfill God’s purpose? When we worship God, we recognize and celebrate his goodness and worth; in turn, we are energized and formed in his image. But if we worship (value something or someone more highly) than God, then there are serious consequences. This false worship—this idolatry—changes and corrupts us. Worshipping an idol will form us in its distorted image and we will sin.

Sin is  not just about doing something you’re not supposed to do, or even not doing something you’re supposed to do. It’s also about falling short of the goal of God’s purpose for human beings: (1) to worship and to love God; (2) to love one another; and (3) to fill God’s world with life and creativity.

Spend some time today thinking about the things that keep you from worshipping God. Then, ask God to help you learn to worship him more fully with your life.

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