Question:

Something that I was told recently really makes sense to me, and I really want your input. When I used to repent of my sins, I would repent for the sin, such as masturbating, lust, lying, or whatever it was. I felt like I was talking to a wall because I knew that tomorrow or during the week I would commit the same mistakes. But I heard and feel that God doesn't care about particular sins. He is saddened by the fact that your relationship with Jesus wasn't enough to fulfill you when you were doing those bad things. So the sin is actually turning away from Jesus in that particular time because you are searching for something else to fulfill you. This was brought to my attention from a friend, and it really hit when he said that. What do you think?

Answer:

It sounds nice, but it doesn't match what is in the Bible. "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4). God's definition of sin is acting without authority (lawlessness). It is true that we have tendency to rate sins. We think that some sins are worse than others; therefore, we are startled when we find that God lumps various sins together, such as found in Revelation 21:8, "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

Yes, our sins grieve God. For example, while discussing sins Paul stated, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30). That is because God doesn't want anyone lost (II Peter 3:9). So we we should cause God sorrow by returning to corruption.

Too often we miss the reason God gave us laws. "And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day" (Deuteronomy 6:24). Laws tell us what is right or wrong so that we don't have to guess and find out the hard way. God tells us in advance what works and what fails. The laws are there to keep us safe.

I think that what bothers me about your friend's statement is that it views obedience from a selfish point of view. It expresses that everyone is looking for fulfilling their own desires and that there is a competition be God's offer of fulfillment and Satan's.

The motivation for not sinning is love: ""Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" 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.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets"" (Matthew 22:36-40). Notice that there is no love for self expressed here. The entirety of the law is summed up in a love for God and a love for our fellow man. "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him" (John 14:21). Therefore, a failure to keep God's law is an indication that we lack enough love.

When you pray for forgiveness, you state that even during that prayer you know you are going to repeat the same errors. It is here that the problem lies. When we approach God we should first have repented of our sins. "Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you" (Acts 8:22). Repentance means a changing of our ways. Sometimes people want forgiveness without really wanting to change. "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:10-11). The Corinthians were just sorry they did something wrong, they were motivated to make some drastic and dramatic changes in their lives.

Now, none of this is a guarantee that we might not slip again, but the real starting point is a serious change in our behavior. If I repent of telling lies, then I'm not planning to tell lies again tomorrow. I'm focused on telling the truth. If I slip, I'm going to look hard at why I fell back into old habits and make more changes because I'm determined not to go on lying.

But Satan is always looking to defeat us and one trick he uses is to discourage us. If he can convince us that "you can't do it," then he knows he has us. One way to cause people to get discouraged is to encourage them to fight sins with things that don't work. "Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations -- "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle," which all concern things which perish with the using -- according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh" (Colossians 2:20-23). I've had people tell me that they fasted or done this or that and then wonder why they are still slipping into sins. The answer is because they are making up ways to battle sins instead of looking into God's word to see what needs to be done.

You can see this in the temptation of Eve. God had said, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17). But when Satan approached Eve and asked her, she said, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die'" (Genesis 3:2-3). Notice that Eve added something that God didn't say. What do you think happened when she finally picked the fruit and found out nothing happened. "Well, nothing happened when I touched it, so perhaps nothing will happen when I eat it." Going beyond what God said doesn't necessarily make things safer.

Another trick is to get people to label things as sin which aren't sinful. I've lost track of how many people think they have sinned because they were tempted. Temptation is not a sin, yet many will label a temptation as "lust." Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, but we are also told that Jesus did not sin. You cannot control temptation because it is Satan who is putting you in situations where you must make a choice between doing right or giving in to a sin to fulfill a desire. You can't stop Satan from doing this to you. "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man" (I Corinthians 10:13).

On the same track, some people call their natural desire for sex a sin. That is a part of your body's functions. It is in the same class as hunger and thirst. The fact that it is there means your body is working correctly. Its existence isn't a sin. First comes a temptation to fulfill that desire in a way that violates God's law. Second comes an acceptance of breaking God's law and planning on how it can be done. Third comes the actual breaking of the law. "Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 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. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:13-15). Neither the natural desires nor the temptation is sin. It is when a person decides to break God's law because he wants what is being offered more than he wants to obey God that sin enters the picture. Because once a person decides to sin, the only thing he is lacking is an opportunity to actually do it.

But if Satan can get you to call your hunger, your thirst, or your sexual desire sinful, you are going to be constantly fighting your own body and eventually you are going to become discouraged. Then Satan can offer you something that truly is sinful and you will be too tired to resist. Don't fall for this trick!