All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
– Romans 3:23-24, NIV
‘Sin’ is a word many people struggle with a great deal. I found myself discussing its meaning at length last week with a non-Christian friend who has been seeking spiritual meaning in life and has been put off Christianity because of this idea of sin. Modern western culture has become so politically correct that it is considered wrong to call any behaviour ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ unless it actually breaks the law. The idea of ‘truth’ has become so subjective in society that it seems there is little left to lean on or to base our decisions on, except perhaps the Bible – and even that can be difficult to interpret in places.
And yet we know that when we think, speak or behave in a way that is not compatible with what God wants, this is ‘sin’. Turning away from God. Doing or saying things that go against His will. Behaving in a way that makes Him sad. None of us are sinless – by Christ’s blood we have been freed from bondage to sin and eternal punishment for it – but we still face regular temptation, just as Jesus did, and (unlike Jesus) we often fail and let God down, and have to come to Him again and again in repentance and receive His forgiveness. What a picture for us when we consider what it means to love our enemies and to forgive one another: just to consider our own wrongdoing and the number of times that God has forgiven us.
Sin happens when we proritise other things above God’s will, above our love for Him. Prioritising our own image and reputation above Him can lead to deception and vanity. Considering ourselves to be more important than others can lead to carelessness and selfishness. Thinking of retaliation and revenge as more important than peace can lead to anger, resentment and violence. Prioritising personal vindication over love and grace can lead to unhealthy arguments and disharmony. The list goes on. So what are those idols in our lives, those things that at certain times we consider more important than God and His will, that lead us to let Him down and act in a way that displeases Him? May we surrender those idols to God, and give Him our attitudes, our idolatry, our wrong priorities.
I am laid low in the dust; preserve my life according to Your word. I gave an account of my ways and You answered me; teach me your decrees. Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditate on Your wonderful deeds. My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to Your word. Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me and teach me Your law.
– Psalm 119:25-29, NIV
Sin is perhaps one of the things that is spoken of least between Christians, especially in churches. People are ashamed of other people knowing about their wrongdoing, in case they lose respect or become disliked by friends and family in Christ. For many, this sense of fear and shame leads to hiding it also from God, even though He knows every part of our lives. Sometimes it can seem easier to avoid talking to Him about it than to talk to Him about it and have to repent and give up whatever it is. This is especially the case for habitual sin, the things we do on a regular basis that let God down, that we know are wrong but continue to do anyway. Let us consider – what do we prioritise? Our sin, or our God? May we surrender our sin to Him and talk openly with Him about it. May we allow Him to challenge and convict us, and allow Him to help us get through it. May we acknowledge that He is able – that He is stronger and more powerful than we are, and that He can equip us to change and to be free from our habitual sin. May we surrender it to Him and allow Him to lead us and transform us.
Many people, whenever ‘sin’ is mentioned, immediately think back to an experience of the past, perhaps something long ago, that still fills them with a sense of guilt and shame. May we surrender the sins of our past into the hands of God, and allow Him to cleanse and free us. May we pray about those things, acknowledging them before God and acknowledging the hold that they have had over us, and lift them up to Him in prayer. May we repent, and resolve not to repeat whatever it was that we are so ashamed of, and accept God’s grace. May we surrender it all to Him and allow Him to free us from the traps of guilt that may have held us captive.
Others, whenever ‘sin’ is mentioned, immediately think of people who have sinned against them. May we surrender to God the people who have harmed us, the people who annoy or frustrate us, the people against whom we may be holding grudges or resentment. May we leave these in the hands of God – not in the hope that He will smite or punish them, but in recognition that He loves them and has a plan for them. May we surrender these sins to God, and allow Him to show us His love for those people, helping us to love them too. May we pray for those who have hurt and harmed us, and resolve to treat them with love and grace just as God has treated us with His love and grace. May we refuse to hold their sin against them, even if they offer no apology and even if they continue to hurt us. May we surrender them to God and choose to love them as He does.
In terms of sinful behaviour, we are instructed to “put to death whatever belongs to [our] earthly nature” (Colossians 3:5, NIV). We cannot do this in our own strength – we need His help and His guidance. So may we give ourselves wholeheartedly into God’s hands. May we allow His mercy to wash over us, and let His peace cleanse us. May we let His grace lead us forward in purity and love, as we surrender our sin into His hands and choose to follow Him and to love Him with all that we are.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.
– Isaiah 40:28-31, NIV
God, my forgiving Lord,
I thank You again for Your grace, that You freely pour over me again and again.
I give You my heart, and ask that You would cleanse me.
I give You my sin, and I surrender to You those things that at times I consider more important than You.
Please shape me, teach me, lead me, help me.
I need You – alone I cannot please You.
I surrender to You the areas of my life where I fail You the most.
Please help me. I know You can.
I surrender my relationships with those who have sinned against me.
Please help me to see them as You do, and to love as You love, unconditionally – even though it’s hard.
I give You my heart – please heal me and lead me in Your ways.
I love You, Lord. Help me to love You more.