This is difficult to address. I’m not a finger-pointer. I’m too aware of my own sins to be concerned with the sins of others, whatever they may be. As a pregnant teen, I had too many people talking about my sexuality and condemning me for it. As a daughter, mother, wife, sister, and friend, I’ve made too many mistakes to point fingers. I don’t make assumptions about others.
Therefore, I’m uncomfortable wading in where God shows no timidity, and that is in the area of naming and defining sins. Why does he name these sins? Why make lists? Because we honestly have no idea that we’re sinning most of the time. Our sins are often engaged in with no comprehension of our abject brokenness or of what God has forbidden. That’s incredibly important, because we must deal with our sins in order to be in a right relationship with God.
“Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15 NLT).
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 NLT).
I don’t know about you, but I want life everlasting, rather than death. To have that, my sins must be addressed. Thankfully, God loved the world and all the people in it so much that he gave his own Son so that whoever of us believes in him need not perish in our sins but can have everlasting life. All we need do is turn from our sins and embrace Jesus in faith and trust.
See also Ephesians 2:1-10 and Colossians 2:6-23.
“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins” (Romans 3:23-24 NLT).
We are now in the age of grace that is available in Jesus Christ. In ancient history, however, God was in the process of revealing himself to everyone associated with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the ones he had chosen to comprise Jesus’s family tree. All the neighboring nations witnessed this as they watched God’s interactions with Abraham’s family.
God is holy. Our sinfulness, therefore, is our main human problem. During that time in history, God made lists of sins, emphasizing the sinfulness of certain actions, because all the world was pagan, each tribe governing themselves according to their own instincts. No one knew their behavior was displeasing to God. Sin hurts or harms us and others, sometimes irreparably, and so, God addressed sin and told them what was sinful.
According to the ancient historian Herodotus, sin habits were spread tribally at that time, as one tribe conquered another. A tribe’s own unique sins, such as pederasty or incest, that had never been practiced in the surrounding cultures, became commonplace once that tribe had conquered its neighbors. Herodotus specifically noted this in tribes conquered by the ancient Greeks. Yes, sin is often learned behavior. Our broken human natures grab it up, because sin entices us.
God knew this. Clearly. And so, he made precise lists of what exactly comprised sin, so that his people could discern and know how to deal with their behavior. Otherwise, they didn’t know they were sinning. That may sound ridiculous if we’ve grown up aware of the Bible’s definitions of sin, but if we haven’t, it’s a relief to see those lists. We then recognize why our consciences have been troubled. We then can confess and be relieved as God washes us clean with his forgiveness of any and all of our sins.
Unfortunately, just like us, God’s people then often adopted the sins of the surrounding cultures anyway, feeling comfortable right where they were. Therefore, these lists seem necessary again as we likewise struggle. Our culture embraces many types of behavior that God’s Word calls sinful.
Here are a few of the Old Testament lists of various types of sins:
Those lists were given to Israel as they left Egypt, where they had resided for four hundred years. Why? Because a majority of the practices of the ancient Egyptians were considered to be sinful by God, as was also the case among all of the tribes in Canaan, where he was sending them. That being the case, God gave them a clear-cut way to determine right from wrong when they lived among those who didn’t worship him. Muslims, Jews, and Christians still refer to these definitions.
At the same time, God also provided rituals that involved sacrifice as well as prayers for forgiveness, so that every sinner could turn to God and receive the forgiveness offered. “In fact, according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified with blood. For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22 NLT).
So, grace was there, but it became more apparent when Jesus came to make the final sacrifice, the only perfect sacrifice, the offering of his own lifeblood to pay for all our sins. After Christ lived, died, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven again, even the defining of sin took a new form.
In the New Testament, which was written after Jesus came, each list of sins contains an immediate description of God’s grace and forgiveness for those sins, no matter what sin is described. New Testament sin lists are wrapped in grace. Also, the sins are listed all together with no differentiation. For instance, we may have “murder” and “gossip” in the same list of sins.
A sin is a sin. We can be forgiven for all of them. God makes this clear.
Here’s one example. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, a short list of a variety of sins is given—a sin is a sin, and then God immediately states this concerning all of those sins, “Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11 NLT).
In the New Testament, God makes it easy for us to know what we’re doing that’s making us miserable and guilt filled—the sin is named, and he also makes the solution immediately known, plain and simple: Call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who paid for our sins with his own blood. And then the Spirit will transform us and cause us to grow in holiness.
Here are some of those New Testament sin lists:
Many of us are listening to the voice of our culture, like people always have, rather than listening to the voice of the eternal God. Then, comfy with these norms, we remain in our sins, rather than turning and being reconciled to God. Because God is merciful, he tells us what behaviors, actions, and attitudes are sinful, so that we can turn from them and be forgiven. That’s why I’ve provided links to his own words. I don’t offer my own opinion.
I’ve committed sins on every one of those lists. So have we all. None of us have any right to judge others for their specific sins. When it comes to defining sins, I’m going to stick with God’s definitions and allow his words to speak to me. Read what he says. Talk to him about it.
He’s the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe, the only One with the right to define sins. As such, he helps us to overcome our broken selves and provides a way of escape through Jesus Christ his Son.
God is the Creator and the Sustainer of the universe, the only One with the right to define sins. As such, he helps us overcome our broken selves and provides a way of escape through Jesus Christ his Son. Click To Tweet
Did you realize that accepting God’s grace and forgiveness for your sins was this simple?
Did you know that you could receive forgiveness for absolutely every sin you’ve ever committed or even wanted to commit?
Do you see cultural viewpoints creeping into your own heart?
Do you recognize the creeping spread of sin in every culture, including ours?
The comment string below is available, if you want to talk about this. Please demonstrate the kindness and mercy of Christ with your words.
Great message her, Melinda!
There is a ton of valuable wisdom in this message. Sharing. 🙂
Thanks, Melissa, and thanks for stopping by! Share away!
I’m trying to figure out how to share this post with my kids. But since they’re not reading it I’m guessing the Lord has this message for me. Your wisdom warms my heart. Pinning and sharing.
Thanks, Deborah! The Lord will get these truths to those who need to hear them, in his own time and his own way. May the Lord’s words bless and encourage you! God bless you, sister!
Melinda, this is so well done. Thank you for taking the time to gather these lists, undergird them with sound reasoning and faith and shine the light of Christ back through it all. We need God to be clear with us about our sin, otherwise, we would deceive ourselves every time. And unless we truly recognize the magnitude, scale and vast grip of sin in our lives, we don’t really understand the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice for us. How desperate we are for Jesus! When God makes clear His holiness and our sinfulness, only then can we see our need for a Savior. Thank you for sharing this piece through both the truth and grace of God’s unchanging Word.
Melissa, as I look around, I see our culture falling increasingly away from a Biblical understanding of everything you just described. This leaves many of us in bondage to the sins that seize hold of us so strongly, sins of all types. We struggle under the weight of our guilt and the damage of our sins, and yet, with an awareness of God’s truth, we are assured of God’s help and his Spirit to free us from our sinful habits and yearnings. We are all sinners, and as you stated, sin’s power grips us and holds on tight. Unless we realize the power of sin, we cannot fully grasp what Jesus has done for us in freeing us from sin’s grip, and in healing us with his Holy Spirit. O, that we would return to Jesus and God’s Word!
Hey Melinda – yeah, sin is not a fun topic to blog on, for sure! But in a day and age when culture seems to be saying that we are NOT sinners in need of salvation, where “everyone is a winner”, and that we’re all good, it’s important to grapple with what sin is, and why, in fact, we need to be saved. So thank you for tackling this subject – it is needed because, even though many like to think higher of ourselves, we are ALL sinners. I am one of the worst. So yeah, I totally get it.
Paul calls himself the chief of sinners, and in doing so, he sets us such a great example in how to talk about sin. You did the same here. When we’re aware of how thoroughly the desire and propensity to sin inhabits every one of us, and openly admit that, we wipe away so many obstacles to the Christian message. Everyone watching us knows we’re just as sinful as they are, but if we pretend we’re not, that we’re better somehow, or holy through our own efforts, why would anyone care about our religion? We’re just sick people with a glorious Great Physician Savior. We haven’t been humble. We’ve judged and distanced ourselves from people who are struggling. Sometimes we’ve been outright unkind. We’re not nice people. Our culture’s slide is, therefore, no surprise. We are largely to blame.
Wonderful post, Melinda!
Thanks, Gail! Praise the Lord!
Thank you for tackling this subject of sin, Melinda. Sometimes Christians and the church are guilty of softening not only the gospel message, which clearly deals with our sin, but also the foundations of our faith. If sin and sinners didn’t exist, we wouldn’t need a Savior. If we never messed up, we wouldn’t need God. So why we shy away from talking about it doesn’t make much sense. I love your approach here to give the sin lists throughout God’s Word while calling yourself a sinner. Because so am I and so are we all! I like the thought from many pastors and teachers of the Word encouraging us to own our sin. Because owning it is the first step toward repentance and then the grace we so desperately need.
Thank you so much for commenting, Karen. I appreciate how you write about this topic as well. You always tell it straight. I think that owning our sins and being real about it opens the door for others to realize they’re not alone and to drop their guard, being real, too. We’re all in the same boat, sinners in need of Christ, and he has made himself and his forgiveness totally free and available to us. In prison ministry when we dealt with past sins and confession, those lists of sins were such a relief to the women. So many felt guilty and seeing that God named the sin and made forgiveness available freely in Christ opened the door of their hearts. In forgiveness, we can be clean. Jesus is beautiful. He did all the work on behalf of us all and offers forgiveness to us. Confessing my own sins as I share these words about sin follows in the steps of the Scripture writers, especially Paul, the chief of sinners. Praise God for his beautiful Son and all he has done for us that we can be forgiven and beloved.
So easy to let culture define right and wrong especially when they accept me in my sin. Constant communion with God so that He can guide, correct, and encourage is so necessary.
You touched on something so important, Brittany. The church has so often failed in openness and kindness. We often act like we’re not a mess ourselves, like we have it all together, yet we don’t. Our facade makes us unapproachable, and prohibits others from hearing the gospel. Many of our current cultural situations wouldn’t have happened if Christians has only been kind. You, however, make a difference. You demonstrate such kindness and openness in your writing. I’m glad to know you, sister.
Yes, God defines sin, not us. I really like this: “it’s a relief to see those lists. We then recognize why our consciences have been troubled.” God gave us consciences that are uncomfortable with sin and sinful living. We just need the softening of our hearts to recognize it. Sometimes that’s reading flat out about our sins. Sometimes it’s hearing a heart-wrenching story that opens our eyes. But salvation comes only through recognizing our sinfulness. This is a message of hope, not despair – a message of grace, not condemnation.
Isn’t it wonderful how the Lord works in our hearts to soften them and to convict us of sin! We would never repent if the Lord didn’t do that inner work of softening, drawing to him, and convicting. So thankful for the way he uses his Word and life events to draw us to him!
Sin is not a fun topic to write about, but it is a needed one. You did a great job detailing sin and God’s wonderful grace that covers it. It’s interesting to me that we can sin and not know it. The more we give our affections to this world and less to the word, we can easily grow comfortable with our sin. Oh how we need the Lord!
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Marcie! It’s such an important topic, and we often want to smooth it over, yet it’s an important point of interaction between us and the Lord. Our sin cost Jesus his life that we might be forgiven. He rose that we might be justified, our forgiveness secure. Our daily interactions must include discussion of our sin and his forgiveness. We definitely can’t ignore this reality of living in a broken world as broken people.
Great point – my sins MUST be addressed one way or another. I cannot ignore this truth.
I love the method God provided for addressing our sins – Himself.
May I ask who did the painting of Jesus on the cross? It’s almost an exact duplicate of a drawing I did 12 years ago from a vision I had. I’m not upset, it’s a beautiful painting. I’m just a bit flabbergasted that we had the exact same vision!
Brittany, I’ve had this photo saved in my files for so long that I don’t even remember the source. It IS a beautiful painting. I don’t know if you can decipher the artist’s name in paint in the lower left corner, but that’s all the help I can give in locating the painter.