Our biggest problem is sin. It is universal. Everyone sins. Sins are different and we sin for different reasons, but we all sin. The issue becomes how we respond to sin in our lives. A few weeks back I celebrated 20 years as a follower of Jesus. I have been in ministry for more than 18 years. In my time as a Youth Pastor and Senior Pastor, I have seen many responses to sin in my life and in the lives of others. The graphic above is a good picture of the truth that sin separates us from God. What we choose to do about sin makes all the difference.
It’s not easy to talk about sin. It’s not a pleasant conversation. Sin is an affront to a perfect, righteous, and holy God. As followers of Jesus we have a responsibility to help one another deal with the sins in our lives. (Galatians 6:1). Over the years I have observed 7 responses people have towards sin in their life. These responses overlap and get messy. They are messy because people are messy. The first two responses don’t consider the reality of the sin or the consequences of sin. The next five acknowledge the reality of the sin but differ in the remedy.
- People embrace their sin. When people are confronted with the reality of their sin, they embrace it. They acknowledge it is sin, yet they continue with little to no regard for the consequences. In Romans 1:21-32 Paul describes the downward spiral when people have no qualms with their sin and even invite others to join in. Sometimes they embrace their sin because they think there is no hope for them. They believe they will never change and so why should they expect for anything different in their lives.
- People deny their sin. This happens when a person denies the reality of their sin. This can take the form of denying their role in it, or denying that it is sin altogether. We live in a culture that seeks to label sin in other ways to give justification. People confronted Jesus in His day for spending time with “sinners.” Jesus replied in Luke 5:30-32 saying that He came not for the well but for the sick. His point was those who believed they had no sin…had no need of a savior. They were in denial of their own sin.
- People fall into self-hatred. For some people when they see the reality of their sin, they acknowledge it is sin, and they become angry with themselves. With this response, a person acknowledges their own sinfulness and then begins to punish himself out of hatred. The thinking is like this, “since I sin, I am a bad person. Since I am a bad person, I should just continue to do bad things.” This leads to further sin and despair. It finds no remedy. Paul addresses this in latter part of 2 Corinthians 7:10 “worldly sorrow leads to death.” The choice to sin more spirals into death.
- People get angry at the truth-teller. This response acknowledges the reality of sin, but responds in anger towards the means of learning about the sin. In some cases, people get angry at the Bible. Few would say they are angry at the Bible, but it comes out in phrases like, “you can’t believe the Bible…you can’t trust the Bible…the Bible is an old book…the Bible isn’t relevant anymore…” A more common response in many churches is to get angry at the pastor or teacher who talked about your sin. In my 18 years of ministry, I have seen this response many times. I have seen people angry with me for simply reading a Bible passage that hit on a sin in their life.
People respond in this manner to deflect their negative emotions on the person who caused the negative emotions. It is an unhealthy response. It is unproductive. Being the target of someone’s anger can be frequent for those in ministry who seek to help people live the abundant life that Jesus offers. Jesus said that would happen. After all, He himself was crucified for proclaiming the truth! Paul reminds Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3-5. He says people will turn from the truth and turn to those who tell them what they want to hear. He then then reminds Timothy to endure suffering in his ministry. If you seek to preach and teach the truth, you will suffer. I have seen it. I have experienced it.
- People blame others for their sin. When people respond in this manner, they do not deny their sin. They do fail to take responsibility for it. Instead, they place the blame with someone else. If it becomes someone else’s fault, then they are off the hook to respond appropriately. They may blame their parents, siblings, their boss, their neighbor, society, or you. This is not a new phenomenon. When sin first entered the world in Genesis 3:12, God confronted Adam about his sin. Adam’s response was “the woman you gave to me did it.” Adam blamed God and he blamed Eve. We have been doing this ever since. If you do not take responsibility, you will not do anything to remedy the situation.
- People seek out self-improvement. This is moving in the right direction, but is dangerous. A person acknowledges their sin. They know they must do something about it. They turn to self-help. This gets closer to a biblical solution. But, it can lead to further sin and bondage. This self-help can look something like this. A person realizes their sin, so they decide to work harder at doing good things to make up for it. They may sweep it under the rug to focus on the better things they are doing now. The danger in this approach is that we can never do enough to bring about forgiveness and restoration with God.
Other times this self-improvement turns into a competition. Instead of dealing with their sin, they begin to look at others. It goes something like this, “yes, I sinned. But at least I’m not as bad as ________” This may make them feel better about their own sin, but it does nothing to deal with their own sin.
On other occasions the self-improvement turns into a person convincing themselves of a lie to deal with sin. It looks something like this, “I’m a sinner…no I’m not…I’m worthy, I’m good, and I’m beautiful.” The Bible says we are not worthy and not beautiful in and of ourselves. When we come to Christ, He transforms us. This kind of self-improvement takes God out of the equation. When someone responds this way, they often try to convince themselves that they are a good person and that they can fix themselves. The Bible says we are sinful people who need a Savior.
This self-improvement response is dangerous since it removes God from the being the solution to our sin problem. It looks good. But it is a subtle danger. In 2 Timothy 3:5, Paul warns Timothy about those who have an appearance of godliness but deny it’s power. This is a dangerous response. It is close to the truth, but it leaves God out of the equation.
- People respond with repentance. When someone responds with repentance, they have acknowledged their sin, there is a change of mind about the sin, and there is a desire to grow and be made whole. The Bible says that we must repent and turn to the Lord. This is when forgiveness comes. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 Paul says there is a godly sorrow which leads to repentance. This happens when someone says, “yes, I sinned. It was sin. I need forgiveness. I don’t want to sin in that way again.” In 1 John 1:9 the Bible says if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That’s healing! That’s how to biblically deal with the reality of sin in your life.
Do you need to repent? Are their sins you need to acknowledge and deal with in a biblical way? The amazing truth is that God loves you even though you are a sinner! The truth is found in Romans 5:8, “God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” You don’t need anything more than the cross of Jesus to prove to you that God loves you. You can embrace the ugly reality of your sin and find healing in Jesus. You don’t need to deny, get angry, blame others, or look to yourself for the answer. You can come to Jesus. The man who took on flesh to die for your sins.