We have all heard about sin. But what is sin? Sin is literally a missing of the mark. If the mark or target is doing what God wants you to do, sin, or missing the mark, is doing something contrary to what God wants you to do.
1 John 3:4 “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” When God gives you a command and you don’t do it, you have committed a sin. Consider the command of love. Matthew 22:37-39 “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” If you do not obey the command to love God or the command to love your neighbor, you have committed a sin. In a similar way, if you commit an unrighteous act, you sin. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” Living like any of these unrighteous individuals makes you a sinner.
Jesus takes sin one step further. Matt 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” You do not have to actually commit a sinful action to sin. If you have the thought in your heart to commit an unrighteous action, you have committed the sin in your heart before God.
In the first century, some people believed they could eat anything and it would be all right. Others believed that certain foods were unclean and therefore believed that they could only eat vegetables (Romans 14:2). The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 14:23 “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin.” From this you should understand that if you doubt whether an action is right or wrong and you go ahead and do it, you have sinned. For example, if you doubt if it is all right to work on Sunday but you do it anyway, you have sinned. You need to follow your conscience; anytime you violate your conscience, you have sinned.
James describes another type of sin in James 4:17 “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Suppose you see that your brother has a need and you have the ability to help him but you don’t; this is sin. 1 John 3:17 “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” There are many good things that you have the ability to do. There are many principles taught in the Bible. It could be praying for someone, giving of your possessions to one who has a need, spending time with someone who is lonely or depressed, sharing God’s word with those who do not know it, lending a helping hand, giving a word of encouragement, meeting with the saints, giving glory to God, and on and on the list could go. When you have the ability to do good and don’t do the good, it is sin. This is sometimes referred to as the sin of omission.
One problem with sin is that sin separates you from God. Isaiah 59:1-2 “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” God is just, and He cannot accept you if you are unjust. Another problem with sin is that it leads to spiritual death. James 1:14-15 “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” With spiritual death comes eternal punishment.
There are many ways that you can miss the mark and sin before God. 1 John 1:8 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. James 3:2a “For we all stumble in many things.” Where is your heart? Do you want to be acceptable to your God? I encourage you to seek to please God in all things. Whenever you discover that you have missed the mark, confess your sin, repent of your sin, and once again seek to please God. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”