How do we deal with sin? This is a big question and plagues each of us in our lives. The understanding of a proper answer, based in scripture, is so important to our mental health and relationship with God. Teleios just completed a survey on two Instagram sites frequented by adolescents and millennials one evangelical and one Catholic. We asked participants about handling sin in their life. Click here for the full results.
We had 516 participants of whom 61% were less than 18 and 32% between 19 and 30. Two-thirds indicated they were evangelical and almost 50% Catholic.
How did respondents handle sin? Most commonly,
- 90% ask for forgiveness
- 45% indicated they would recognize the sin and be obedient
- 37% would ask for absolution from a priest
- 47% would feel guilty
Further, 54% recognized that sin did not block our prayers with Christ although almost 2/3 recognized it could negatively affect how we pray.
How does a Christian handle the problem of continual sin which often produces guilt? Although controversial, here are some tips from scripture and what is not in scripture:
Unpardonable sin – This important passage is in Matthew 12:31-32. These verses are often misunderstood and Christians apply them to themselves.
- Remember, you must interpret the gospels through Jewish eyes! In this passage Christ was teaching the Pharisees, the Jewish leaders. They had the witness from the Holy Spirit, descending upon Christ at His baptism (Matthew 3), which indicated He was the promised king bringing salvation prophesized in the Old Testament (Isaiah 59:20-21; 2 Samuel 7:12-16).
- The Pharisees rejected the testimony of the Holy Spirit and so rejected the message of the kingdom and the gospel. Of course, this was unpardonable (rejecting the gospel).
- For true Christians, we have not rejected the gospel but are saved through faith in Christ. Accordingly. the passage does not apply to Christians.
Recurrent sin or a “bad” sin – The epistles indicate the following:
- We are forgiven (Romans 3:23-26; Colossians 2:13) – We do not need to ask for forgiveness because Christ covers our sins by our faith. Some view 1 John 1:9 as saying we should ask for forgiveness; if so, it’s the only such passage in the epistles. Although controversial, I understand this passage presents a foundation for the fellowship among believers through our salvation in Christ before discussing in chapters 2 to 4 how a believer acts and believes.
- Nonetheless, we should recognize our sin before our great Father and change (please see next point), but forgiveness is not in view.
- Obey – This is the predominant response to sin for Christians in the epistles: is simply to obey (Romans 6:12-16; 12:1-2). We are to be God’s worthy servant! Importantly, we love God and others by obeying Him (1 John 5:1-3).
- Hate sin – God hates sin as it is contrary to His righteousness (Hebrews 1:9). Sin ultimately hurts us. Part of maturity as a person of God is understanding the ill effects if sin and to hate it as God does (Proverbs 8:13).
- Defeat sin – and we are to destroy it in our lives. We can do this for two amazing reasons:
- What not to do – There is no need to feel guilty, kick yourself, and act defeated. Instead get up on your feet and obey the word of God! Otherwise, get over it and get busy allowing God to use your good service.
These mental disciplines, are critical to a healthy mental mindset which God has graciously given us through our forgiveness in Christ and as a helmet of a secure salvation which protects us throughout our lives (Ephesians 6:17). We do have a great and gracious Savior.
Next week we will look at the differences in response by age to the above questions, seeking more specifics of our life with Christ. Please join us then.