Sin is a big deal. Our society is one in which everyone knows the definition of sin, but because it tends to be used in religious circles mostly, it can lose some of its intensity. But even within religious circles, we can shy away from the term and dealing with it. Sometimes it is because we do not know what sin is. Sometimes its because we no longer consider it a big deal. Sometimes we value self-esteem and confidence so much that we cannot call it out. I one time heard a counselor say, “You cannot use the term sin when talking to him. It only pushes him away.” The counselor was attempting to counsel a man who was getting ready to (and ultimately did) leave his wife with no Biblical grounds. In short, he chose to sin. But the counselor was so concerned with this man’s self esteem and considered him so fragile, that even though he was a pastor and “Biblical counselor”, he would not call sin what God called sin.
In the Old Testament, God set up a system of Laws so that we would know what He defines as sin. There was no doubt and little wiggle room in dealing with sin as many carnal sins were rewarded with death. This flies in the face of our societal norms which attempt to punish sin (i.e. breaking the law) with appropriate consequences, often placing people on probation, short, mid and long term prison stays, and only in the most gruesome of situations death. The penalty of death, however, was a very real deterrent, and people often would chose to not break God’s law because they did not want to be stoned to death.
But there is at eternal reality at play here, one with the most weighty of implications. Sin is what separates us from God. God gave us laws to show us how to work out sinning against one another: for example if someone’s ox falls into a hole on your land, you are responsible for the ox – either to replace it or buy it. Sounds familiar, does it not? But what about when we sin directly against God?
“If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?”
– 1 Sam 2.25
The priest Eli proclaimed this to his sons, pleading with them to repent of their sins. God spoke through the prophet Malachi confronting the people on not paying their tithe, and he said this:
“’Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, “How have we robbed You?” In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.'”
– Mal 3.8-10
God cursed the people for not bringing their tithes, and accused them of robbing God. But He promised to meet their needs and pour out blessings on them if they would tithe! (If that doesn’t scare you, you might not be alive!)
If we rob God, if we take his name in vain, if we sin against Him, who is there to intercede for us?
But we learn from David that all sins, whether directly or indirectly, are against God. David, who came to be known as a man after God’s own heart, peeped on a woman taking a bath, took her and had an affair with her, and when he found out that she was pregnant he had her husband murdered so that he could marry her. In order to cover up what he had done, he had a man killed. And in reflecting on that sin, he prayed to God:
Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.
– Ps 51.4
Clearly we know that David sinned against Bathsheba (the woman) and Uriah (her husband, the one whom he had killed). But God’s judgment and law is so clear and so much more important that David knew God was the one who would ultimately and most severely punish his sin. His sin deserved death, and while the baby did die as consequence for the sin, David also deserved death for it. Who would intercede for David?
We know that we now have an intercessor.
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
– 1 John 2.1-2
Jesus died and paid the death penalty for our sins. We all deserve death. But He can and does propitiate for us if we ask Him, if we believe in Him, and if we strive to die to our sins. It is of utmost importance, how we set out to handle our sin. Do you just want to overlook it and compare yourself to others in the world? Tell yourself that you are not as bad as so-and-so? Do you want to build up your self esteem and pretend like sin is a non-issue? Do you want to get caught up in pity and woe and give up on life because you know you can never be good enough? Or do you want to confess your sins, repent of them, and trust in Jesus’ atonement for them? When we stand before God one day, there will never be a verdict of “not guilty” in that final courtroom. We are all guilty. We will either be declared guilty, or Jesus will stand there with us and our verdict will be, “time served” and that by Jesus. Let us find our security and comfort in Jesus. Let us take seriously our sin, and let us cling to Him as our intercessor.