No matter where you are in relation to Jesus, “sin” is an ugly word. Just saying the word causes problems, so let’s get on the same page before moving forward. In the weeks to come we’ll break this down into much smaller pieces. Today is about defining our terms—and our solution.
People define sin any number of ways, even within Christianity, and tend to subject it to their own ideology rather than the other way around. We like to name particular sins and highlight them—especially if they bear no resemblance to ours. We would much rather confess other people’s sins than confess our own.
We also often like to draw the line at “Well, I thought about it but I didn’t actually do it,” or “Hey, at least I’m not hurting anyone else.” But look at Jesus’ “but I say to you”s in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21–48)—or just read the entire sermon in chapters 5–7. It’s pretty clear that Jesus doesn’t draw a line anywhere. All sin is condemned by God.
I would define it this way, then: Sin is the inability to respond to God. In every form. Totally expressed or barely conceived. Period. Any sins we commit are the result of sin we already have within us. I did not become rebellious; I was born rebellious. And that still gives me no excuse.
At the same time, each of us is a victim of the sin around us—not just in vague, general ways but in specific, often lousy, and sometimes truly horrific ways. Sin is both within us and around us, and it’s that “around us” that we pick up on and adopt as our own—or respond to by taking judgment out of God’s hands and into our own; or by reveling in our victim status, because at least it gives us some kind of identity.
That’s why I need Jesus. The gospel is not about tolerance of sin, or condemnation of sin—and it’s certainly not about wiping out my own personal enemies. It’s about victory over sin—starting with me. With you. It’s a victory we have to receive from Jesus, before we can live it out.
So when we talk about laying down your sin, it’s not just, “Hey you, stop doing things God says are wrong.” That’s part of the package, to be sure, but it’s only a part. It’s also laying down the sin you want to openly express but don’t. It’s laying down the sin that has been expressed upon you, by others—even the sin that hasn’t been expressed but you know is there. It’s saying Jesus died for all of it, and beginning to live in that truth. Otherwise, perhaps we should just stop wasting our time even pretending to follow Jesus.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:20–21)
Because of the hardness of our hearts, we will never totally be immune from the sin around us, or within us. However, we no longer need to be slaves to it, or victims of it. Jesus calls us to a different life. Let’s start living it. Today.
Lay It Down Today
In past weeks, you reflected on your “life passage,” as well as questions including, “What’s the one thing that most needs transforming in my life—that God wants me to lay down right now?” Let’s take that further today.
Identify someone you can share openly about your “one thing” with, and commit to getting with him or her on a weekly basis for the duration of this study—and maybe beyond. If you’re working through this with a small group, you’ll get the opportunity to find a partner there—but you can start thinking about whom you want to get with right now. Otherwise, find a friend you can share with, and who cares enough to keep you accountable—someone who won’t let you off the hook but won’t judge you either. If you truly don’t know who to turn to, ask God for guidance, and let him lead you to someone, even if you don’t know that person well yet. May God bless and grow your spiritual friendship as you pursue it together.