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The essence of sin
- Jacob Ninan
When we try to find a definition for sin from the Bible we usually think of it a ‘transgression of the law' (1Jn.3:4 KJV) or as ‘lawlessness’ or being without law (NASB). Another way to define it is as coming short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23). And we know that the punishment for sin is death (Rom.6:23). This is a big problem for many to understand, how ‘small’ sins like telling a lie or shouting at someone in anger can deserve to be punished with death! This is a problem especially for those who have been brought up in decent families and never committed any of the gross forms of sin that people detest naturally. They cannot understand how a loving God can send them to hell for their ‘small’ sins, and as a result they find the gospel message somewhat unrealistic.
The normal explanation given to such people is that God being an infinitely holy God, even the smallest of sins (according to how man would view them) is seen to be totally intolerable. A common example we use to make this point is how a person who has a great penchant for cleanliness is bothered even about some specks of dust on the floor which ordinary people do not worry about. But we can understand more about sin when we look at Genesis 3.
The forbidden fruit was from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The main thrust of the temptation from Satan was that the fruit would give one this knowledge and in that way make one 'like God' (v.5). Once we have this knowledge within us, we are capable of making our own choices -- apart from God. Even when God tells us something, we can think about it and say, "I don't agree with it!" We feel we are the masters of our own life and destiny. We are independent of God!
Haven't all of us lived like that from the time we were born for different periods of time till we came to know God? When we come face to face with God we realise He is the infinite God and we are only small created beings. Then we come to realise that all our life, till then, we were living as we liked, doing 'our own thing', not bothered much about what God thought about anything. We did not hold ourselves accountable to God, and lived an independent life. This is the essence of sin, and the punishment is that we will be made to be eternally away from God, in hell.
There are some who were trained from early times to do right and to obey God. They turn out to be 'better than others' with an air of self-righteousness about them. They don't consider themselves to be 'independent of God', but their problem is that they depend on their own righteousness to find acceptance from God. And even the best of them cannot say that they have always lived in dependence on God.
Looking at it this way, the essence of sin is a life independent of God. Everyone is guilty of that. Even those who have 'accepted Christ' but live independently of God even afterwards are still continuing in sin, aren't they? True coming to Christ involves submitting to Him too.