I feel the need to repeat some statements about sin. Even among believers, a common claim is that if something is ingrained or natural, it can’t be sin. But we live in corrupt flesh, in a corrupt world, being hounded by forces of evil. Put a free will into a package like that, and you have a veritable soup stock for sin. It’s our default condition.
But as believers we are not doomed to sin, but dead to sin (Rom. 6:11). We have reconciled with God (2 Cor. 5:18-21), meaning we try to please Him and stop doing whatever grieves him (Eph. 4:30). And we must not forget the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 5:5, 17), who gradually transforms us into the image of Jesus (Rom. 8:29) and washes us from former sinful ways (1 Cor. 6:11). Note in the verses preceding that last reference some of the sins people have been cleansed of, meaning they WERE this but are NOW that:
Do you not understand that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be fooled! The promiscuous, the idolaters, the adulterers, the homosexuals and homosexual prostitutes, the thieves, the greedy, the drunkards, the trash talkers, the extortioners— these will not inherit the kingdom of God.NOTE: the TNIV says “practicing homosexuals” without grammatical warrant, as if to try and imply that it’s only sin if you practice it. But Jesus said in Mark 7:21 that from within come evil thoughts, and in Rom. 7:23 Paul said that sin is a law at work within us (see also James 4:1); sin begins in the mind (James 1:13-15). And for those who still insist that God is okay with homosexuality, or that He only meant it was sin if not practiced faithfully and lovingly, please see Responding to Pro-Gay Theology and Rom. 1:26-27, where same-sex intimacy is called “unnatural”. And if we won’t excuse things like gluttony or alcoholism, genetic though they may be for some, then we have no right to excuse sexual perversion.
This is the Bible, the Word of God, not of me. Sin is whatever God decides it is, and if we can’t trust Him to be just and fair and compassionate, such things do not exist. It is God who judges us, not our own hearts (1 Cor. 4:3-5). And notice there that He will judge our motives; how then can anyone say that God only calls something sin if we actually practice it? Motives are to be judged, which means thoughts are to be judged.
And remember the indwelling Holy Spirit? Are there “rooms in the attic” you don’t want Him to enter? Do you keep a stash of mental porn in a cardboard box up there, or maybe dreams of power and riches? Wherever the Christian mind goes, so also goes the Spirit of God. If you think you can hide your thoughts from Him, you are only fooling yourself. We are to take our very thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5), not let them run free.
These things have to be repeated and emphasized because there is an absolute drought in the Christian community today— a drought of the knowledge of God and hatred of sin. We don’t even know what sin is anymore, and refuse to say so even if we are personally convicted about a sin, for fear of offending someone. Our teachers, instead of instructing and guiding, merely facilitate a dialectic process which never thinks in terms of right and wrong but only concensus. They are the blind guides Jesus talked about, and are like the clouds without rain that Jude mentioned.
The backslidden or spiritually immature don’t need to feel good about sin, but to learn to hate it as God does. They don’t need to be told that their personal acceptance of a sin is okay for now, but that they are in rebellion against God and are hurting Him. Too many believers, when making up their own definition of sin, only think in terms of what may hurt other people, but what about God? What about the indwelling Holy Spirit? These people need teachers who know the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15) and aren’t ashamed of it or afraid of being disliked. They need shepherds who can tell sheep from wolves, and beat off the wolves while nurturing the sheep. The good shepherd must do both.
And I’m not just talking about teachers in a more formal setting, but experienced believers in all walks of life who are in a position to help other less spiritually mature believers along. We’re all teachers to some extent; we’re all ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20) and witnesses to the risen Lord (Acts 1:8, 1 Cor. 15:15). Therefore we all have a responsibility to study the Word and find out what God has defined as sin, so we don’t lead others astray. No, we can’t all be experts and we’re not all on the same page. But when you don’t know something, don’t just leave it there; go and find the answer.
This is not a game or a vacation, it’s an epic battle for souls. We have an active Adversary who is looking for victims (1 Peter 5:8), and one of his most successful tactics is what we might call “the love bomb”. People, especially Christians, don’t want to be called “unloving”, and every little disagreement is seen as unloving. This makes it all but impossible to proselytise or even to offer an opinion that might possibly offend. We are gagged and tied by this tactic! But love is not genuine if it never applies to God; we cannot say we love Him if we do what He says is wrong, or fail to do what He says is right. Love for God must trump all other loves (Mt. 10:37).
Don’t let the devil define sin, or love, or gentleness; he has no clue what any of those things mean (John 8:44). Get your definitions from God.