In upcoming posts, I will share portions of the current book I am writing. Change the World is the fourth book in the Equipping the Saints series and deals with concepts related to evangelism, mission and ministry.
Sin can be thought of as the bad news behind the good news. The Good News of salvation in Christ is, indeed, great news and yet, our understanding and appreciation of this message are enhanced by a deeper understanding of that from which we are being saved – sin. It often seems that people assume we are being saved from hell, not realizing that being saved from hell requires being saved from sin. Consequently, in this opening chapter, we will consider various aspects of sin, including certain theories that have influenced Christian thought.
In The God They Never Knew, George Otis, Jr. states, “In order to effectively deal with an enemy, it is of utmost importance to be thoroughly and accurately briefed on the qualities and characteristics of the foe. That sin is the deadliest of all foes need hardly be debated. With the defeat and elimination of sin, the cessation of war, crime and cruelty would necessarily follow. As long as sin remains an elusive, undefined phantom it is no surprise that its victories over humanity continue to escalate.”
The Essence of Sin and Acts of Sin
The first distinction I would like to make is the difference between the essence of sin and acts of sin. Though it is possible to get sidetracked by verbiage and mere ideas, our goal is to arrive at an understanding that effects our practical approach toward life.
Simply stated, the essence of sin involves having an internal, ultimate purpose for living that is based on anything short of honoring God and His design for life on earth. This internal, ultimate purpose is what Scripture most often refers to as the heart. Consequently, in reference to sin and evil Jesus made a statement such as, “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Mt.12:34). Interestingly, this was spoken to Jewish men who, being very religious, did not have a right heart. It is important to recognize that this is not the only option for human beings as Jesus went on to say, “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil” (Mt.12:35). Prior to this He had said, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit” (Mt.12:33). Such statements are significant for gaining an understanding of the heart and for understanding the nature of sin as a moral issue. The purpose of one’s heart is not simply something we are given, it is something we establish for ourselves. There are a large number of factors that play into the process of forming one’s heart. The establishment of one’s internal, ultimate purpose (heart) can take place carelessly, without significant thought, based on emotional responses and preferences or by way of an intellectual process leading to a clearly defined commitment (good or bad).
Acts of sin are the external manifestations of the internal, ultimate purpose referred to above. Making the distinction between the internal and external aspects of sin is important for a number of reasons. It is often assumed that external actions like going to church or engaging in other religious activity are virtuous, however, they are not virtuous if one’s ultimate purpose of life is not properly set. An interesting statement in Scripture that encompasses this idea is “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 1:15-16). At the very least, this passage alludes to the relationship between one’s supreme internal commitment and the virtue or vice of the outward action.
 The God They Never Knew, The Tragedy of Religion Without Relationship