“Today I have not gossiped, yelled, been greedy, selfish or self indulgent. I have not whined, grumbled, used profanity, or eaten any chocolate. I am going to get out of bed now Lord and I will need A LOT MORE HELP to get me through the rest of the day.” Folks, this little “joke,” which a friend recently posted on Facebook, actually contains some very important truth. It reflects the fact that it is difficult for any of us to avoid sinning when we encounter various temptations each day.
One of my Roman Catholic friends says that when she went to confession as a child, she would sometimes have to “make things up,” because she could not identify any sins she had committed. Martin Luther, on the other hand, did not have that problem. Each evening at bedtime, he went through the ten commandments, confessing his violations He found that he broke nine of the commands every day. The only commandment he did not disobey on a daily basis was the fourth one, to keep the Sabbath day holy. Luther said he only broke that on Sunday’s. Now, folks I don’t think this means that Lutherans sin more than Roman Catholics, Baptists or anyone else. Rather, I think it reveals that Luther had a much better understanding of what sin involves than my friend did.
In Matthew 6, the Lord Jesus tells us that the prohibition against murder (the sixth commandment) does not only apply to taking another life. To hate another person, to be angry at someone (without just cause), to call someone a “fool” or an “idiot” can all constitute murder. Committing adultery (a violation of the seventh commandment) includes other things besides an immoral physical relationship. Jesus says, Matthew 6:28, “Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
The point Jesus is making is that sin is not just about actions, but also about attitudes. In this sense, sin is like an iceberg. Most of our sin is not on top of the water, but underneath the surface where other people cannot see it. The state of Minnesota does not have laws against greed, selfishness, lust, envy and pride, but these are still sins, sins that can destroy our souls, sins which deserve God’s judgment, sins for which we desperately need His forgiveness.
Friends, if I were to sit down and make a list of sins of which I was guilty it would be pretty long one. In fact, I suspect it would be longer than a similar list I might have composed ten years ago? Why? Am I worse person than I was back in 2007? Am I committing more sins than I did before? I don’t think so. In fact, I am pretty confident I am sinning less. Yet, my awareness of what sin is and sensitivity to how it is found in my life have both grown over the past decade. I don’t sin more, but I recognize my sins more. I have a greater realization of how pride and selfishness pervade my life. And I suspect every single day I am guilty of exhibiting both those sinful attitudes in some way.
Do I feel bad about all this sin in my life? Certainly! Should I beat myself up for being such a rotten person? No, that would be foolish. Instead, I rejoice in God’s amazing grace that forgives all those sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. I rejoice that as a Christian, it is not my record, but the perfect righteousness of Jesus which is counted as my own. I rejoice that, through the Holy Spirit, I am able to resist many temptations each day. And I rejoice that the Lord promises to one day, by His grace, the list of the sins I am committing will be empty.
Rev. Dan Erickson
Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church