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Question About Sin


SaintJK
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Hi Everyone,

 

I would like to get your thoughts/opinions on the subject of sin. I’m new to TCPC and couldn’t find anything about sin in the 8 Points.

 

According to a recent discussion that I had with friends on the topic of sin we basically came to the conclusion that there are 2 types of sin. There is habitual sin, as is defined in 1 John 3: 4-9 (Amplified):

 

4 Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God's law by transgression or neglect--being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will).

 

6 No one who abides in Him [who lives and remains [e]in communion with and in obedience to Him--deliberately, knowingly, and [f]habitually] commits (practices) sin. No one who [habitually] sins has either seen or known Him [recognized, perceived, or understood Him, or has had an experiential acquaintance with Him].

 

8 [but] he who commits sin [who practices evildoing] is of the devil [takes his character from the evil one], for the devil has sinned (violated the divine law) from the beginning. The reason the Son of God was made manifest (visible) was to undo (destroy, loosen, and dissolve) the works the devil [has done].

 

9 No one born (begotten) of God [deliberately, knowingly, and [h]habitually] practices sin, for God's nature abides in him [His principle of life, the divine ######, remains permanently within him]; and he cannot practice sinning because he is born (begotten) of God.

 

And there is sin that we do every now and then when we fall or cannot resist temptation. When we sin in this way, we repent and carry on with our relationship with God.

 

In the conversation it was mentioned that habitual sin cuts us off from God, because the above verses clearly state that we cannot practice sinning and be acquainted with God.

 

I would like to get your opinion about this. Does it mean that if someone has any sort of “habit” sin, e.g. smoking, drinking etc. that you first have to stop sinning before you can have a relationship with God? So are all the smokers, drinkers, drug addicts etc. out there who claim to be Christian not actually Christians? What about God’s Grace, i.e. his power to help us overcome sin. How can we access His Grace if we cannot engage Him or have a relationship with Him in the first place because of sin?

 

Grace and Peace,

SaintJK

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As I see it the Divine is always - without reservation - in relationship with us. We were "chosen before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians), and therefore nothing we can do can make the Divine love us more, nothing we can do can make the divine love us less.

 

Yet this can be "hidden" from us.

 

My experience is that many things can hide it. Perhaps the "many things" are unique for each of us. We all have our own path. One thing I try not to do is to seek to determine what in another may or may not obscure the Divines love for them within their own lives.

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that you first have to stop sinning before you can have a relationship with God?

I am not sure where you draw the line on who sins too much and who doesn't sin too much.

 

Romans 3:23 (New International Version)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

 

And who says who is separated and who isn't?

 

27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

 

In The Shack by Wm Young, one of the themes is about being on your own journey. Mack keeps asking questions about what is happening to other people and he is reminded that he is on his own journey with God and others are on their journey.

 

 

Dutch

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Hi, SaintJK:

 

 

[snip]

And there is sin that we do every now and then when we fall or cannot resist temptation. When we sin in this way, we repent and carry on with our relationship with God.

 

In the conversation it was mentioned that habitual sin cuts us off from God, because the above verses clearly state that we cannot practice sinning and be acquainted with God.

 

I would like to get your opinion about this. Does it mean that if someone has any sort of “habit” sin, e.g. smoking, drinking etc. that you first have to stop sinning before you can have a relationship with God? So are all the smokers, drinkers, drug addicts etc. out there who claim to be Christian not actually Christians? What about God’s Grace, i.e. his power to help us overcome sin. How can we access His Grace if we cannot engage Him or have a relationship with Him in the first place because of sin?

 

Grace and Peace,

SaintJK

 

For me. it's like an old devotional story called "Footprints," which you may have run across. Honestly, the story as written is too mawkish for me to quote in full; but nonetheless the basic idea--that God carries us always, and particularly when and where we absolutely cannot walk for ourselves, has become very powerful to me over the last several years.

 

As such, no, I don't think you have to stop altogether an habitual sin to start (or continue) a relationship with God. Yes, there are Scripture verses here and there that seem to indicate that this is the case. There are also passages (particularly in Leviticus) that effectively make it a capital offense to eat pizza with meat (particularly sausage), to wear most articles of clothing made nowadays...you get the idea.

 

And in the I John passage you quoted in your OP...It's difficult to determine the exact sins the author is referring to, but if you read widely around that passsage, in context these sins seem mostly to be a lack of faith, a lack of love, and an active and totally unrepentant regression into the selfishness and shallowness of the wider world. I'm not (and I don't think whomever wrote I John is) talking about "I'm stressed so I'm right back on the Winstons or Lucky Strikes or whatever." Or, "I've come to care a lot for my good female friend Susie Q. and suddenly her legs seem a LOT shapelier to me than they once did." What "John" is talking about is people who just don't care--they take and take with no thought to love or giving. Their world is loveless and, at least in effect, Godless. That's how much of his world was back then, and little if anything has changed.

 

You have to use the brain and the heart God gave you to, as it were, "rightly divide the word of truth." And the Christian archetypes, both in and out of our canonical Scriptures, overwhelmingly point to God being love, and particularly to God being unconditional and ever-present love. And they indicate the primary calling of Christians as to be mirrors of that love to the world.

 

Sin may block communication from OUR end, simply because of our sense of alienation, guilt, fear and frustration. But it is not so from God's end, and for your friends to say so is mistaken. And I think you yourself hit the nail on the head: how can you overcome a sin if you can't count on the One on whom you ultimately rely for help, to help you? It's totally illogical, and per the above I'm not sure it's even that biblical. It's completely backwards to try or even to contemplate. While it's us who must confront (and where possible defeat) sin in our lives, it is the love and power of God whereby we gain the strength. That works whether God is real and personal, or whether (as Paul Tillich would have put it) a "ground of all being" from whence we draw inspiration, or whatever. Again, how do you draw on Source for your struggles if Source is denied you precisely because of your struggles? It makes no sense.

 

I can't speak for your friends, but my experience is when people say God won't interact with you because of sin in your life, at least one of two things is usually going on:

 

1) They don't want to interact on a deep level with you and face the pain of their own struggles. In other words they're either unable to mirror, or they're not serious about mirroring, God's love to you.

2) They have their own struggles with particular sins, real or imagined (and trust me, some of these "sins" are quite imagined) and really feel alienated from God, and unfortunately they're projecting their feelings on to you. In other words they don't feel God really loves them and as such, how are they supposed to love you on His behalf?

 

Both of which make me feel sad, because I've suffered these things with them, and I know how sad and unnecessary such things are. I don't want them for you, and I don't think any God who embraces Christianity as a path to Him would want them for you either.

 

Hang in there.

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My personal views on sin are in the following:

 

Jesus showed us how to assign suffering solely to the body, the lower faculties and the senses so our consciousness can be plunged into the pure consciousness of our Lord. He showed us how to love God in all things so the more purely and simply we love in unity the more thoroughly our deeds will wash away our sins and purify our minds. Jesus meant for us to follow him intelligently and spiritually so not to be manipulated by literal interpretations that lead us away from love. Following Christ consciousness in our own way depends on our love not our superficial actions. It is love that blots out sin and knows no fear so there is nothing else a man can do that is as beneficial as loving everything and everyone. When this happens, it is no longer we who love, but Christ that loves through us, it is no longer our bodies that live, but Christ consciousness that lives within us. This is the discovery of our true selves in Christ consciousness. Jesus died for us and reconciled us to his Father so Christ consciousness could live in us and unify us with God.

 

My simple conclusion is sin means without love. I have found it more enjoyable to be a lover rather than a sinner.

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From a Biblical point of view, sin is the problem. From a gnostic Christian point of view, ignorance is the problem. I believe that people who are ignorant of their own true spiritual identity, who do not know their own spiritual Self, live blindly and thus commit 'sin'. And so the ancient gnostic saying, 'Know they Self'.

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I think that it might be helpful to discuss the difference between sin and evil. But before attempting that, let us examine a similar situation in the secular realm. Governments at every level pass legislation that probits certain actions. We use the word 'crime' to refer to the deliberate breaking of such a law. However, is the commission of a crime the same thing as committing an evil act? Here we come up against just how we might define evil. For the purposes of this discussion let me give a very simple definition:

 

Evil --- any deliberate action or inaction which compromises the physical or psychological integrity of a human being.

 

This, of course, is a narrow definition and we could likely spend a very long time extending it and refining it. Let us leave that at least for the moment. The point that I am sneaking up on here is that 'what is evil is not necessarily a crime' and conversely 'what is a crime is not necessarily evil'. To me this is obvious but let me just attempt an illustration of each statement.

 

First, 'what is evil is not necessarily a crime'. By my definition above, the killing of another human being is to be regarded as an evil act. However, the law does not regard this as a crime if it is done in self defence or in war.

 

Second, 'what is a crime is not necessarily evil'. In Singapore, for example, it is a crime to chew gum. I think most would not quibble about this not being evil according to the above definition.

 

Can we make similar distinctions in the spiritual realm concerning sin and evil? I believe that we can. First, we need a working definition of sin. Let me suggest a very simple definition:

 

Sin --- doing that which is forbidden by a spiritual authority.

 

Once again, we could debate this definition. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of this definition might involve whether or not a spiritual authority, such as a church or a scripture, can actually express the will of a Deity. Setting that aside, we once again are faced with two problems. The point being that 'what is evil is not necessarily a sin' and conversely 'what is a sin is not necessarily evil'.

 

First, 'what is evil is not necessarily a sin'. I think that most would agree that to torture someone is an evil. However, if we just look at Christian scripture, I do not see any specific prohibition that would make torture a sin. A similar argument could be applied to female genital mutilation (circumcision).

 

Second, 'what is a sin is not necessarily evil'. Here, we can get into a very much more controversial debates. It is certainly true that Christian scripture regards homosexual actions as sinful. However, within society at large and within a number of Christian churches in particular, homosexual behaviour is no longer regarded as an evil in and of itself. It is also certainly true that Jewish scripture regards the breaking of the dietary laws as sinful and even an abomination. However, within society at large and within a number of Jewish traditions in particular, the breaking of the dietary laws is no longer regarded as an evil in and of itself.

 

The distinctions made here between crime and evil and also between sin and evil lead us in a real quandry for society at large. The western world has become, and is increasingly becoming, extremely diverse in language, culture and religion. There is also no real way of reversing this. Since different religions cannot agree on what is sin, I do not think that we can rely on religion entirely to inform our moral and ethical behaviour. Since what is regarded as sin has so often in the past led us into framing our laws to determine what is criminal, I think we need a new approach to the problem. We need an approach that avoids the imposition of one set of religious beliefs on society at large --- an approach broadly constructed on a concensus of what is evil and therefore what is criminal. Leave what is regarded as sin to the consciences of those in particular religious traditions.

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JRT

 

However, if we just look at Christian scripture, I do not see any specific prohibition that would make torture a sin

You read the Bible literally, I guess. For starters I would think that the teachings of Jesus as a whole would reveal a concern for the well being of the individual which I think would mean that a follower of Jesus would be against torture.

 

Evil --- any deliberate action or inaction which compromises the physical or psychological integrity of a human being.

 

An understanding of the 5th thru 10th commandments as expressed in the Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession reveals that these 6 limits on human behavior cover at least as much as your definition of evil, I think.

 

See questions 122-148 http://www.opc.org/lc.html

 

Our ideas of evil are egocentric and ever-shifting and should be treated skeptically. We can, I think, talk about harm to an individual or the environment. A good place to start talking about such harm caused by the actions/inactions of individuals or corporate entities is the idea that all such behavior is self idolatry. Narcicissm, Manifest Destiny, Colonialism, murder, theft, assault, Exceptionalism, Paternalism, playing victim, NIMBY, and much else all have their basis in an egocentric self idolatry. My/Our needs are the most important. You are blessed that I am here. The world owes me!

 

I agree that religions have a great responsibility in the development of commonly held moral and ethical values.There are exciting efforts on going. Karen Armstrongs Charter for Compassion, charterforcompassion.org, and the older efforts of Hans Kung are two.

 

In the early 1990s Küng initiated a project called Weltethos (Global Ethic), which is an attempt at describing what the world religions have in common (rather than what separates them) and at drawing up a minimal code of rules of behaviour everyone can accept. His vision of a global ethic was embodied in the document for which he wrote the initial draft, Towards a Global Ethic: An Initial Declaration. This Declaration was signed at the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions by religious and spiritual leaders from around the world. Later Küng's project would culminate into the UN's Dialogue Among Civilizations to which Küng was assigned as one of 19 "eminent persons." Even though it was completed shortly after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 (in September 2001), there was no coverage in the U.S. media, something about which Küng complained.[6][7][8]

 

In March 1991, he gave a talk titled "No Peace Among Nations until Peace Among the Religions" at UCSD's Price Center

Wikipedia

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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If God is omnipresent and exists everywhere, then can anyone be cut off from God? According to 1 Peter 4:6, Jesus still remains with sinners even in the depths of hell:

For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does.
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