I believe that a misunderstanding of sin and righteousness may be one of the most critical misunderstandings that a Christian can have.
There are basically two levels of sins, sins to death and sins not to death. The sins to death are the sins that required stoning under the law. For instance, sex of any kind outside of marriage is a sin to death. The distortions of the proper use of sex can become more outlandish, but any sex outside of marriage is worthy of death in Gods accounting. A follower of Christ will run from any situation that puts them in danger of getting involved with sex outside of marriage. The Holy Spirit will lead him or her to avoid any temptation, and it is very important that a follower of Christ never argue with the Holy Spirit.
If we go into the original language, we find four different basic concepts for sin. All sin is missing the target. Any time, we do anything that God has not led us to do, that is sin. Any time we don't do something that God has led us to do, that is sin. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word [literally, utterance] of God." God speaks. God leads. When He speaks, if we will listen, His faith comes to us. "Our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." Faith gives us access to grace and grace causes us to stand in righteousness. "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me." Grace does the works. Humans are incapable of righteousness since righteousness consists of God leading, giving His free gift of faith, which gives access to His grace by which He does His works through us. This is the only thing that is righteousness. Everything else is sin.
(some caveats about hearing God's Voice)
As far as sin goes, there appears to be a huge distinction between slipping across the line, stepping across the line, and thinking it's cute or funny to step across the line. Here is how sin works: we are drawn away by our fleshly lusts (connected to demonic activity to be sure), while, at the same time, God is leading us. We do have a will. Everyone has a will. You can direct your will to follow Christ or to follow your own flesh. This is an ongoing, moment-by-moment, inner. A person may slip across the line. Perhaps they suddenly become angry because they let emotion, their body, take control of them for a moment, but they are truly sorry and confess before their Heavenly Father. They may be tempted to covet and slip into envy against someone who has more than they do, but then they confess their fault to God and ask for forgiveness based on the blood of Jesus. Stepping across the line is different. They are aware that they are sinning against God. Perhaps they first slip across the line. Maybe King David first saw Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop and just slipped across the line into an evil thought. But after that, he willfully sinned and repeatedly sinned. God did forgive him, but there were serious consequences. Then there are the people who sin repeatedly and think that somehow they are cute or cool for doing so. These are Christians who do this. When they come before Christ, what will Christ say to them?
There is a difference between righteousness, holiness, and redemption. All three are part of salvation. Righteousness is the opposite of sin. We have been saved to righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Holiness is the opposite of the fleshly sinful nature. Redemption is the opposite of slavery to sin. Righteousness consists of God leading and us yielding. It is a free gift that comes by grace through faith. There is no time when we are tempted beyond what we can bear. Jesus has given us power over sin. There is no excuse at any time for unrighteousness. Christ in us always does righteousness, and righteousness is complete and perfect whenever we yield to Christ.
Holiness and redemption, however, are progressive and necessarily incomplete at present. Holiness is a change in what we are. Holiness constitutes a transfiguration that we are going through, providing that we walk in righteousness. Holiness is the state of being dead to our fleshly nature and of having Christ fully formed in us. Redemption is the freedom from sin, death, the power of the devil, the influence of the present evil age, and the influence of our own sinful flesh. This redemption comes as we die to our fleshly nature and as Christ is fully formed in us.
So, we do have a fleshly sinful nature that pulls at us to bring us into sin. We are no longer in the position of having only the sinful nature as is the case with unbelievers. A person who has been born again has two natures: a fleshly nature and a Christ nature. These two cannot be reconciled. They are in a war to the death of one or the other. An unbeliever, on the other hand, has only the fleshly nature. God speaks to them from outside of themselves. If they come to God, through Jesus Christ, they can be born again. But an unbeliever has no Christ nature. As a result, the unbeliever can try to do good and they can do what may be perceived to be good, but since they are not connected to Jesus so that the process of righteousness (by grace through faith) can work, they can never do true righteousness. At best, they can only be hypocrites, appearing to be good when they are not. They can only be self-righteous, but they cannot show forth the righteousness of Christ.
Just to clarify, righteousness is in the moment. It takes but a moment for God to lead and do His work through you. It is a moment by moment experience. In the middle of doing a number of righteous acts that are truly led by God and truly performed by God through you, you have the capability of having the most outlandish fleshly and sinful thought and actually entertain that thought, thus stepping across the line into sin. To entertain a fleshly thought is willful sin. To be holy is to be like Jesus--to have His likeness. To be redeemed is to be set free from slavery to sin, worldly influence, the influence of the fleshly nature, and the influence of demons. So, while righteousness is in the moment, holiness and redemption are progressive and permanent changes (not that you can't go backwards and re-crucify Christ in your flesh).
As already stated, no born again person ever needs to sin. In reality, it seems that we all do sin. We do things that God never told us to do. We don't do things that God told us to do. We try to do things that God told us to do by our own effort rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to perform the work. That's why the Bible, Gods revelation, says that if we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father Who intercedes for us. The Apostle, John, tells us that the Spiritual Man cannot sin and does not sin. (1 Jn. 3:4-11) The Spiritual Man is, of course, Christ in you. Christ cannot sin. On the other hand, your fleshly nature, and mine, cannot do anything right.
If a person is truly sorry for his or her bondage to any sin, that doesn't deliver them. Every person is in bondage to some sin, I suppose. It may be the sin of lying. For a follower of Christ, one who has made a commitment to follow Christ, Paul explained this strange situation in the book of Romans using his own sin of covetousness to define what is happening. He told how the law was of no help in freeing him; in fact, it made things worse. In other words, when we try to repent with a rationalized repentance that is trying to use God's law as a guide and then trying to be righteous by self-effort (self-righteous), that just makes things worse. It's like trying not to think of banana cream pie. The more we try, the more we think about it. Then, Paul says the most amazing thing:
"16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent to the law that it is good. 17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not do: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me."
See the distinction that Paul makes between the flesh and the Christ in you. The real you is the Christ in you. Paul doesn't consider the sin that lives in him (his fleshly nature) to be him. He is the Spiritual Man, the Christ within. He has a fleshly nature but he IS the fleshly nature. This is a matter of identity, of knowing who you are. Henceforth know we no man after the flesh. We know them after the Spirit, the Christ Who lives in them since they have been born again. And that is also how we know ourselves.
You may be drawn to do something that God has told you not to do. It doesnt matter what it is, whether lying, cheating, stealing, disobedience to authority, gossiping, shacking up, or homosexuality. When we are tempted, we are drawn away by our own flesh. If you are born again, this fleshly nature is not the real you. You must not know yourself after the flesh. You must realize that you have died and you are dead to the flesh. There are patterns that are built into the church that God has provided for the purpose of setting a person free. These are things like the office of the elder, the laying on of hands, prayer, and prophecy. These are very powerful. However, if a person loves his or her sin and is hiding it or making excuses for it, then it is impossible for that person to be set free from the tendency to sin until that person turns his or her will to hear God's voice to the exclusion of all other voices.
It has become popular to say that certain sins are not sins. The story goes that the sin is genetic and that people are just born that way. Another lie that is told along with that lie is that there is no way to change it--the person cannot possibly be any different from what they are. These are gross lies from Satan. First, ALL sin is genetic and Jesus is the cure. That is what salvation is about. All sin is genetic. There are no exceptions. Drunkeness, for instance, is not a special sin. Neither is drug use, or any other sin. All are genetic and Jesus is the only cure. Homosexuality is not a special sin that is exempted. It is one of the deadly sins, yes, but it is no different than any other sin in the sense that it is genetic. All sin is genetic. The Scripture says, "In sin did my mother conceive me." That doesn't mean the mother was sinning, but that sin was there in you and in me at fertilization. The Scripture says that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children to the third and fourth generations. Genetics bears this out. Many, many homosexuals have been set free from this sin just as Christ-followers have been set free from other sins. It is a lie to say that Jesus cannot set them free. Homosexuals are set free from their sin of homosexual desires all the time. Many who are not set free from the evil of their homosexual desires are given power by the Holy Spirit to keep themselves from yielding to their homosexual desires. Just like any other sinner, they must love Jesus more than they love their sin.
It is wrong to say that sin is not sin. It is wrong to tell the sinner that no harm will come to them as a result of their sin. It is wrong to wish a sinner well in their sin. It's not wrong to help a person who is in sin. Often, helping others is the very way that we have opportunity to minister Christ who can bring them up out of their sin. 2 John 1:9-11 says: "Whoever transgresses, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Mature Son. If anyone comes to you, and does not bring this doctrine, don't receive him into your house, neither say to him God speed [may God grant you success]: For he who says to him God speed [that is, be well or thrive] comes Into fellowship with his evil deeds." When you say, "May God grant you success." to someone in their sin, you are saying that God approves of something when God does not approve. If you do that, then you have fellowship in those evil deeds that she is doing. You would be taking part in those evil deeds. That is all that Satan wants you to do. Rather, you might say, "I'll pray that God gives you wisdom." If you don't declare that sin is sin and that Jesus can deliver your friend from sin, then you are on the side of sin. Then, Satan motivates your friend and probably some other people to put the pressure on you to obey Satan in this matter. This is how Satan sets up a test, hoping that you will stumble.
Last updated: Mar, 2013
Toons & Vids
The Cross of Christ
The Fear of the Lord
Foundations of the Gospel
Grace, What Is It?
Be Baptised in / Filled with the Holy Spirit
What Are the Limitations?
Spiritual Gifts Are Necessary
Suffering for Christ
Thankfulness and Gratitude
Walking in the Spirit
Answer to Critic
Appeal to Possibility
Argument to the Future
Love Between a Man and Woman
Righteousness & Holiness
Proof by Atheism
Scriptures About Marriage
The Reason for Rejecting Truth
Witness on the Internet
Flaky Human Reasoning
How Do You Know?
The Real Purpose of the Church
The Real Purpose of Life
From Glory to Glory
REAL Faith--What it IS & IS NOT
REAL Love--What it IS & IS NOT
How to be Led by God
How to Witness
Wisdom: Righteousness & Reality
Holiness & Mind/Soul
Redemption: Free From Sin
Stories Versus Revelation
Circular Reasoning-Who is Guilty?
How Can We Know Anything?
Mind Designed to Relate to God
Answers for the Confused
Fossil Record Says: "Creation"
Avoid These Pitfalls
Public School's Religion
Public School Failures
How can we know anything about anything?
That's the real question