The dictionary defines sin as "an offense against religious or moral law," and I know a lot of people would agree, just as I'm sure if you asked ten different denominations for a definition of sin, you would get ten different answers. We may all be Christians, but we sure do like to disagree.
Theologian George Knights says, "If we are going to understand how people are being saved, we need to understand what they are being saved from." An inadequate understanding of sin will, of course, lead us to an inadequate understanding of salvation.
So what is sin? Genesis Chapter 3 describes the first sin as disobedience on the part of Adam and Eve, when they ate from the one tree in the garden God had told them not to eat from. Genesis 3:7 describes what happens next, Adam and Eve felt guilty. "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves." So there you have it, the first case of salvation by works!
Then it all comes apart, Adam and Eve had broken their relationship with God. "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden." Genesis 3:8. This led to a broken relationship with each other, a pattern the world has seen endlessly perpetuated. Look around. You won't need to look far to see it.
Sin affects everything about how we relate to God:
Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! For the Lord has spoken: 'I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.' Ah, sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Isaiah 1:2-4
Woe to them, because they have strayed from me! Destruction to them, because they have rebelled against me! I long to redeem them but they speak lies against me. Hosea 7:13Sin is us saying God is not God. It is us saying to God, "You're not the boss of me."
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law. Romans 8:7
For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does - comes not from the Father but from the world. 1 John 2:16Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard describes it like this, "Sin is: in despair not wanting to be oneself before God . . . Faith is: that the self in being itself and wanting to be itself is grounded transparently in God." This sin description sounds like Adam and Eve hiding from God in the garden. They wanted to hide who they had become.
In his book The Reason for God, Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Timothy Keller writes, "Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to becomes oneself, to get an identity, apart from him."
This means when I find my identity in my marriage or in my children, or in anything that isn't God, I will always crash and burn. Ask me sometime how that worked out for me when my son left for college. I had found my identity in being Caleb and Rebecca's mom and when change came, life wasn't so great.
So what now? What fixes sin? Timothy Keller writes, "Sin is not simply doing bad things, it is putting good things in the place of God. So the only solution is not simply to change our behavior, but to reorient and center the entire heart and life on God."
As Augustine said, if there is a God who created you, then the deepest chambers of your soul simply cannot be filled up by anything less. That is how great the human soul is. If Jesus is the Creator-Lord, then by definition nothing could satisfy you like he can even if you are successful. Even the most successful careers and families cannot give the significance, security, and affirmation that the author of glory and love can. Timothy KellerLike salmon swimming upstream to their place of birth, we have a deep unchangeable desire to find God.
Everybody has to live for something. Whatever that something is becomes 'Lord of your life,' whether you think of it that way or not. Jesus is the only Lord who, if you receive him, will fulfill you completely, and, if you fail him, will forgive you eternally. Timothy KellerIn the fiction work The Shack by William P. Young, Jesus says: “I don't want to be first among a list of values; I want to be at the center of everything. When I live in you, then together we can live through everything that happens to you. Rather than a pyramid, I want to be the center of a mobile, where everything in your life - your family, friends, occupation, thoughts, activities - is connected to me but moves with the wind, in and out and back and forth, in an incredible dance of being.”
Who is the center of your mobile?