What is Sin?

But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul ~Proverbs 8:36

We don't hear much about sin today. We don't have a very good idea in our culture of what sin really even is. The thing in our common vernacular that is most often called sinful is chocolate. We have lost, as a common understanding, the very meaning of the word sin. 

I wonder how our culture today and its values and its morals would be viewed by someone from an earlier time. I also wonder how we today would respond to a message from say 100 years ago. As it turns out, we can find out at least on a small scale. I have been greatly blessed to come into a bit of a family inheritance: a Bible. As it turns out, my great, great, great grand father, H. C. Galbraith, was a preacher in the late 1800's. I have just received Reverend Galbraith's Bible and it is an amazing treasure. It comes complete with his handwritten sermon outlines and notes from the 1890's. 

In one of his sermon outlines based on the passage from Proverbs above, here is what Reverend Galbraith had to say about sin:   
Sin is any violation of God's Law or any neglect of duty or neglect to obey what God has commanded or led us to do. It separates man from God for God can have no fellowship with sin. Every impure word, act, association, or neglect of duty drives God further from us. He who commits sin wrongs his own soul by dwarfing its development and weakening its power for good thus defeating the design of God in its creation.
The greatest wrong is the loss of the soul. It is a terrible thing to barter the soul for a few days sensual pleasure. Thomas Payne recanted his infidelity when he was brought to face death. Hume, Bolingbroke, Voltaire, and others left a testimony that it was not safe to trifle with your soul's eternal welfare. Each of us asks in his heart "whose religion would you have me accept now Father? I am dying."   
From the perspective of a culture that seems so intent on denying the very existence of sin, it is striking to me how Reverend Galbraith went so much farther in defining sin than even our churches tend to do today. Most of those that regularly attend a Bible believing church would probably be comfortable with the definition of sin as being any violation of God's Law, but he - rightly - didn't stop there. Reverend Galbraith went on to define sin as being any neglect of duty or neglect to obey what God has personally commanded or led us to do.

In our rush to omit and to erase what we consider to be the little sins from what our society defines as right and wrong -- in our haste to justify those small things in our lives that we know, deep down, violate the will of God -- in these things we must recall that all the world's death, all the world's pain, all the world's anguish and suffering throughout history are the result of deception and one man's willful disobedience. One bite of fruit caused man to be separated from God and introduced death into God's perfect creation (for more on this see our post The Crafty Beast).

"Every impure word, act, association, or neglect of duty drives God further from us. He who commits sin wrongs his own soul by dwarfing its development and weakening its power for good thus defeating the design of God in its creation."

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~Romans 6:23

Compelled to Preserve

Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man [Jesus] is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” ~John 11:47-48

There were many reasons that the religious leaders of his day did not believe that Jesus was God's promised Messiah. In these verses we get a small and often overlooked clue - fear. The Pharisees and priests felt compelled to preserve what they had. It seemed that the surest way to keep the temple intact and to keep the nation of Israel safe was to maintain the status-quo and endure the Roman occupation. If the people were to name Jesus King of Israel instead of accepting Roman authority, then the Roman army was sure to come and put an end to such an insurrection.

When considered in human terms, with only earthly means and might, the fear of the Jewish leaders was absolutely valid. From their perspective there was no stopping the Roman army.  After all, Rome was the strongest force on earth. Isn't it ironic that the Jewish religious leaders left faith entirely out of their evaluation and out of fear chose the weaker side believing it to be the strongest? Their fear blinded them into choosing a human nation over God incarnate. In vain they put their trust in the things of the earth because in 70 A.D. their fears were realized. The Roman army did attack, the temple was destroyed, and the nation of Israel did cease to exist for nearly 2,000 years.

This is a poignant message for me. I find that I too am tempted to forget faith and to put my trust in the world. Like King Asa, I have put my trust in doctors (2 Chronicles 16:12), I have felt secure when my finances were safely stored up in a bank (Matthew 6:19), and I have trusted in my own abilities (Isaiah 9:9-12). Lately I have come to learn that God can take any of these, or my very life away in an instant, and that I am much much more secure when I put my faith and trust in God.

The Pharisees and priests were caught up in the routine and concerns of their normal lives. They were dealing with the very real and dangerous business of the Roman occupation of their lands as well as all of the mundane everyday distractions that this world provides. Then, suddenly, Jesus burst onto the scene, disrupted their routine, and forced them to face a choice. They were forced to chose between reviving and changing a faith that had grown legalistic and impersonal, or believing what their eyes could see and their mind could imagine; the forces threatening them at that time.  

Jesus - our promised Messiah, our Savior, God Himself - has come and is calling you to trust Him and to allow Him to be King over your life. Like the Pharisees before us, each of us faces a choice to either heed His call or to instead place our faith in the material world. Where do you choose to place your trust?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. ~Proverbs 3:5-6

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