The Real Problem You Face
While society looks to DNA or abuse or social conditions as causes for bad behavior, the Bible gives a completely different explanation. Why is the world so messed up? Why do people hurt themselves and others? How can an evil tendency become so ingrained in us that we cannot seem to get rid of it no matter how hard we try? It is all because at the beginning of human history a change came over our race that marked us with sin.
Read Genesis 2 and enjoy the picture of human beings who knew the delight of living in untroubled communion with God and nature. Linger over it, because it does not last for long. By the next chapter, we see how Adam and Eve chose to violate the one restriction God had placed upon them. As a result, God decreed that they and their descendants would struggle with sin and its consequences as a captured bird struggles in a net. “Because one person [Adam] disobeyed God, many people became sinners” (Romans 5:19).
Sometimes we will hear someone say, “I believe human beings are basically good.” Don’t you believe it. A scan of the headlines should be enough to disabuse a person of this notion. Think of rape. Think of torture. Think of terrorism. In fact, think of your own troublesome sins. Paul had a realistic outlook on humanity:
“No one is good—
not even one.
No one has real understanding;
no one is seeking God.
All have turned away from God;
all have gone wrong.”
Human nature after Adam and Eve includes a bent toward wickedness that we can never straighten out on our own.
When God formed a special nation on earth—the Hebrews—to advance His plan of redemption, He gave them tools for dealing with their sin problem. First, He gave them rules to live by, collectively known as the law. We find the law preserved still today in the first five books of the Bible. Second, he gave them guidelines for burning sacrifices on an altar as a symbolic means of expressing repentance and receiving forgiveness. But of course the deaths of lambs and goats could not really eliminate guilt; something more was needed.
Enter the Lamb. “He is Jesus Christ, the one who pleases God completely. He is the sacrifice for our sins. He takes away not only our sins but the sins of all the world” (1 John 2:1-2). Since we were unable to defeat sin on our own, God became one of us in the form of Jesus and took our sins upon Himself, paying the penalty for them on the cross.
The forgiveness available in Christ does not, however, automatically go into effect. We must each individually climb off the throne of our lives and invite Christ to take His rightful place there. If you have never done this, you must do so if you ever want to be free of sin and be accepted by God. All it takes is a sincere prayer of confession and commitment to God. (For more information on becoming a Christian, go to: www.KnowGodPersonally.org).
Once we are believers in Jesus Christ, God does a remarkable thing: He accepts Jesus Christ’s righteousness as our righteousness. “We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins” (Romans 3:22). That is how we can experience God’s offer of forgiveness.
But of course, in practice we are not as righteous as Jesus. We sin. Usually it is like entering a revolving door: we first entertain the idea of sinning. This is the point of temptation. At this point we can choose to enter into the sin or to keep going around in the revolving door until we exit. All too often we choose to enter. This is where individual sins and sin habits start. “Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires” (James 1:14).
Despite our failures, however, we can work at bringing our behavior into line with our position before God. “Dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete purity” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
In this we have one great advantage: we are not at the mercy of sin like we were before our salvation. Why? Because “the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin” (Romans 8:2). To repeat: the power of sin over us is broken. It is a tiger with its teeth and claws removed.
At the end of the American Civil War, some African Americans kept on living as slaves. In some cases, they had not heard about the Emancipation Proclamation, because at that time news spread slowly. In other, still sadder cases, they had heard about the ending of slavery, but they would not believe it at first. They were so used to the slavery system that they could not imagine themselves as free.
That’s similar to our position. We can be free from sin through the power of Christ if we will believe it—and will act on our belief.