Sin, according to 1 John 3:4, is any violation of God’s law: “Everyone who does sin also does lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” Any lack of conformity to the perfect moral standard of God is sin.
Now, the central demand of God’s law is this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” And the second is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” So, the epitome of all sin is to violate those two. 1 Corinthians 16:22 says, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed.”
So, the ultimate sin, the summation of sin, is lack of love for God and lack of love for Christ. The carnal mind, according to Romans 8:7, is not subject to the law of God and can’t be. An unregenerate person cannot keep the law of God, and therefore he sins and sins. Our natural hatred of the law is such that even knowing what the law demands does nothing but stir up more disobedience.
Listen to what Paul wrote in Romans 7:7-8:
What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! Rather, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law. For I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, worked out in me coveting of every kind. For apart from the Law sin is dead.
Paul says, “I read about a sin, and the more sins I learned about, the more things my heart desired to commit.”
Now, we live in a culture where this passion is now legitimate. Nowhere is this more visible than in the media world. The media have become the spokespeople for the base sins of man. In the media, sin is not based on absolute moral standards. Instead, it is a question of each person’s own preference. What is sin to me may not be sin to you. The real danger of sin is anything that does damage to your ego. And no sin is as evil as the killjoy attitude of those who think sin is an absolute standard that offends a holy God.
The entire defense of sin reminds me that we live in a culture given over by God to its own evil lusts. People love their sin, and they will go to extreme ends to justify it and rationalize it. As long as they do that, they damn themselves. Because if you don’t define the disease properly, you’re never going to come to the proper cure. You can’t come to salvation unless you understand sin.
Obviously then, this kind of thinking is deadly and damning to those who are deceived. But — and this is what concerns me — Christians are casualties to the culture’s redefinition of human behavior.
Churches which once would not tolerate adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lying, and cheating are very tolerant of it now. Churches that once would confront sin don’t confront it anymore. We’ve all fallen into the psychological game of self-esteem and ego-building. We have allowed the world to redefine God’s moral law and even God’s character, making Him more tolerant of sin.
It’s amazing to me that in a time when the culture is being defined by what’s on popular television shows, churches are trying to adapt to the culture.
We ought to be so irate about this acquiescence that it starts a spiritual revolution. What churches need more than anything else is constant exposure to God’s divine standard. Constant exposure to the Word is the only thing that’s going to keep you sensitive to God’s standard, to true holiness and true purity, week after week as you are assaulted by the world.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 1994, titled “Keeping a Pure Mind.” In addition to serving as the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur is the chancellor of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. You can learn more about TMU at www.masters.edu.
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