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“What’s One Little Sin?”

Never underestimate the consequence of sin . . . or your need for God’s grace.

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point,
he has become guilty of all.” – James 2:10.

Now, what do we do with this verse? Is it saying that if we commit one sin, then we have committed all sins? Is it saying that all sins are equal before God?  Well, the answer is yes and no. Let’s look at both.

  • No – because not all sin results in the same earthly consequence. If I murder my brother, or if I just hate him to the point of saying hateful things, both are sin. Jesus calls hatred murder. But if I only hurt my brother with words, He’s not dead. Not all sin has the same earthly consequence.
  • Yes – because ultimately our sins are not only against our fellow man. All sins are ultimately against God, who gave us the whole law. “Against You, You only, I have sinned . . .” (Ps 51:4).

The common denominator for all sins is that they are all basically actions done independently from God. It is impossible for a man to predict the ultimate harmful consequence(s) of an action that is done independently from God, no matter how big or small the action.

In 1999, Lockheed Martin, the huge aerospace firm, wrote a contract and missed a small detail. They misplaced a comma in an inflation-adjusted formula that was written into the contract. That mistake cost Lockheed Martin $70 million dollars.  One little, misplaced comma cost $70 million dollars!

Like that comma, even the “smallest” sin can have far-reaching repercussions.  And if our sins are ultimately against God Himself, then we can know that even the “smallest” sin against an infinite God has infinite consequence. Or as John Piper puts it, “ . . . in that sense every sin is infinitely heinous.”

Now, what are we to do with this sobering reality? If you are inclined to works and keeping score, you could beat yourself up . . . all the time.  But I believe God intends a different response. As we come to recognize the gravity of the sin that is in us, the frequency of our independent actions and the inestimable consequence thereof, I believe God would have us develop a profound sense of gratitude for His amazing grace and a constant recognition of our need for that grace!

“. . . but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Rom 5:20-21

“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” – 2 Cor. 12:9


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The Significance of the Resurrection – Part 2

Man made new – the death of the old man.
Lesson 58 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.

– 1 Corinthians 15:17

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

– Romans 6:4-7

…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

– Colossians 2:12

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

– 2 Corinthians 5:17

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we considered what the Apostle Paul wrote about the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19. In this lesson we will continue our study of the resurrection, starting with one verse from that passage. From verse 17 above, we read that if Christ was not raised from the dead, then we are still in our sins. Let’s dig deeper at this precise place.

Recall from Lesson 18 that sin has infected every person since Adam. Now some people have the idea they can rid themselves of sin by living a good life, by becoming an increasingly better person. This is not what the Bible teaches. According to the Bible, the only way to deal with sin is to judge it and put it to death (Romans 8:13), and that is what Jesus accomplished by His death on the cross.

Now notice from Romans 6:5-6 above, that in some sense, when Jesus was crucified, you (your old self) were crucified with Him. As you think about this concept, it may be helpful to keep in mind that because God is not limited by time and space, what God accomplishes in time and space is not limited by the ordinary constraints of time and space. Hence, in some way, though you might not fully grasp it now, Jesus took you with Him to the cross, even though you had not yet been born.

Also, it is important to note that when the Bible uses the term old self (or old man), it is referring to who you were before trusting Jesus to pay for your sin and reconcile you to God. In other words, “old self” refers to who you were as a person under the penalty and the power of sin. So as we carefully read verses 6 and 7, we see that your old self was crucified together with Christ so that “your body of sin might be done away with,” so that you “should no longer be a slave to sin,” but rather be “freed from sin.” God deals with sin by taking you (your old self) to the grave. And continuing with verse 7, “He who has died is freed from sin.” It is a good thing to be freed from the power of sin, but it is not good if we remain dead in a grave. That is why the resurrection is so important! Continue reading


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The Wrath of God Poured Out on Jesus for You

The incredible meaning of propitiation.
Lesson 55 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.

– Romans 3:25

Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

– Hebrews 2:17

…and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

– 1 John 2:2

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

– 1 John 4:10

At the cross Jesus took our sin upon Himself. He paid the penalty for our sin. He became our substitute. At the cross God’s justice was satisfied, and His love fulfilled. Then Jesus said, “It is accomplished.” And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.

– The HOPE, Chapter 10

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we considered that Jesus’ work on the cross resolved a dilemma of divine proportions: it fulfilled God’s love for man and, at the same time, satisfied His righteous justice in regard to sin. There is something more that was satisfied by Jesus on the cross – God’s anger at sin and its destructive effect on this world.

Have you ever heard or read of something so evil that it turns your stomach? Many people respond to these kinds of stories by saying, “If God is so good, then how can He allow such a thing to take place?” When people say this, it is an indication that there are some truths of which they are not aware.

Regarding sin and its effect in the world, God has more anger than we can understand. But there is a reason that God doesn’t just pour out His anger and judge this sinful world immediately. We can know this reason from 2 Peter 3:9-10 , “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”

From this verse we see what will someday happen to this world and all of its works–it will all be burnt up. Ultimately, God isn’t trying to preserve or rescue this sin infected world; He is creating a new one (Revelation 21:1). But as much as God is angered by sin in this world, this verse also tells us Jesus is not slow about His promise (to return and to judge the world), but He is patient because He wishes that none should perish. In other words, as intense as His anger is over sin, His love for people is even more intense.

Though His judgment of this world may not be immediate, it is imminent and inevitable.1 And it will be terrible. This brings us back to the point of today’s lesson. Continue reading


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The Greatest Miracle of All

Forgiveness of sin – the miracle of all miracles.
Lesson 49 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” But there were some of the scribes sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your pallet and walk?’ But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins–He said to the paralytic–“I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.”

– Mark 2:5–11

But of all the things that Jesus did, the thing that seemed to anger them the most was when He told people their sins were forgiven. For only God has the authority to forgive sin.

By claiming to do what only God could do, Jesus was in fact claiming to be God, an act that, according to Hebrew law, was punishable by death.

– The HOPE, Chapter 9

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

When it comes to the subject of miracles, the documentation of the miracles of Jesus is in a class by itself. There are, however, others in history who have (or have been said to have) performed miracles. This not only includes other characters in the Bible, but also the founders of other religions.

But there is one miracle that no other person in the Bible and no other founder of a major world religion can claim: the forgiveness of sin. Jesus actually told people their sins were forgiven (Matthew 9:2,Mark 2:5, Luke 5:20, Luke 7:47). The basis for the forgiveness that He offered is what Jesus would ultimately accomplish by His death and miraculous resurrection.

Most of the Hebrew religious leaders were infuriated that Jesus would say “Your sins are forgiven” for only God can forgive sin. By claiming that He had the authority to forgive sin, Jesus was in fact claiming to be God. He knew it – and so did they. And because these religious leaders didn’t believe that Jesus was God, they considered His words as blasphemy: speaking evil of or against God, or making the claim to be God.1Blasphemy was an offense punishable by death in the Old Testament (Leviticus 24:16).  Continue reading


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How Could Jesus Be Born Without Sin?

How sin is transmitted
Lesson 42 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…

— Romans 5:12

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.

— Genesis 3:15

God’s plan was unfolding. But who could have ever imagined it would happen like this? From the ancient promises of God, one might have considered that to overcome sin, the Deliverer would be without sin, just as God is without sin. But who would have expected that the Deliverer, promised by God throughout the ages, would be God Himself in human form?

— The HOPE, Chapter 8

And through Adam, sin would be passed down from generation to generation, infecting all humankind to this very day.

— The HOPE, Chapter 3

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we said that we would revisit the issue of a holy God putting on flesh. How could a sinless God enter this sin infected world as a human and yet remain sinless? First, let’s deal with why this is important, and then we’ll deal with how it is possible.

As we see from the Chapter 8 HOPE excerpt above, in order for the Deliverer to free mankind from sin, He would need to be sinless Himself. This line from The HOPE summarizes the truth of a key theological doctrine. The Deliverer had to fulfill the Law in order to be the mediator and reconciler between God and man. In order to fulfill the Law, He had to be without sin.

Many verses in the Bible state that the Deliverer was without sin (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5). But how is this possible? Repeatedly in our study of The HOPE we have read about the sin that has infected all mankind (see Chapter 3, Lesson 18). And from Romans 5:12 above we read that “just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” How then could the Deliverer be born of a human and not be infected with sin? Let’s consider two possibilities.

First, we must acknowledge that if God can do whatever He pleases, then He could certainly have miraculously protected Jesus from being polluted by sin while He was inside Mary’s womb.1

Second, we must consider carefully Romans 5:12. Notice that the verse says that “through one man sin entered the world” and so death spread to “all men.” The verse does not say through “one man and one woman” sin entered the world. Sin entered the world through Adam, not through Eve. It was Adam, not Eve, who passed sin on to their descendants.2 Perhaps this is why in Genesis 3:15, God promises that the One who will bruise (literally “crush”) Satan on the head will be One who comes from the seed of woman, not from the seed of man. Continue reading


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The Law – God’s Mirror

A mirror can reveal a dirty face, but can’t clean the face.
Lesson 38 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

…by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

– Romans 3:20

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the last two lessons we considered the Law that God gave to the Hebrew people. God promised that if the Hebrew people obeyed the Law they would be blessed, but if they disobeyed the Law they would be punished. We also saw that God, knowing the Hebrew people would not be able to fully and consistently keep the Law, provided a way to cover their sin through the offering of sacrifices.

But there is yet another important aspect of the Law we must consider. Many people have the idea that the Law was given as a means for man to be right with God. But the Bible is clear (Romans 3:20) that no person can gain right standing (be justified) with God by keeping the Law. Think about it. If we could keep the Law perfectly (although we can’t), we would still be infected with the sin which was passed down to every person through Adam (see Lesson 18). Sin separates man from God. Even if you had never sinned, the sin in you would still separate you from God.

As we study the Bible, we learn that the Law is like a mirror – for both God and man. In the Law we see a true reflection of God’s character. That reflection reveals that God is holy and righteous. But in the Law, we also see a true image of ourselves. Our inability to keep the Law reveals our inadequacy, for the Law clearly reveals that we do not measure up to God’s standard of holiness and righteousness. Something in us prevents us from measuring up, and according to Romans 3:20, that something is sin.

A mirror can be helpful to show you if your face needs washing. But it cannot be used to wash your face. No one in their right mind would take a mirror and rub it on their face to remove dirt. That requires a cleansing agent such as soap. So it is with the Law. The Law reveals sin, but it is not a cleansing agent. It cannot cleanse us from sin, but it can show us our need to be cleansed. It can create a sense of need for the promised Deliverer, the only One who can take away sin! Continue reading


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A Covering for Sin

The sacrifices covered sin, but did not take it away.
Lesson 37 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it.

– Exodus 25:9

And each day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement, and you shall purify the altar when you make atonement for it; and you shall anoint it to consecrate it.

– Exodus 29:36

And I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory. And I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me. And I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God.

– Exodus 29:43–45

Now God knew that because of the sin that had infected humankind, the people would not be able to keep these laws. So God told Moses how to build a sacred place where His presence would dwell among them, and the people could bring animals to be slain as offerings for sin. The blood of the animals would be as a covering so that God would not look upon their sin. But while these sacrifices covered sin, they did not take away the sin.

– The HOPE, Chapter 7

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

When God gave the Hebrew people the Law, He knew that, because of the sin that had infected humankind (Lesson 18), they would not be able to keep the Law. It might appear to have been a cruel thing for God to give the Hebrew people a standard He knew they could not live up to. But let’s look a little deeper. Man’s greatest need is to have a healthy relationship with God. Because the Law represents the character of God, man cannot side–step the Law and be right with God. The Law represents who God is. Just as God is holy, righteous and good…so also is the Law (Romans 7:16). Man must be rightly related to the Law if he is to be rightly related with God.

Being full of grace, mercy, and wisdom, God provided the Hebrew people with a way to maintain their right relationship with Him even though they would inevitably break the Law. As it is said in The HOPE, So God told Moses how to build a sacred place where His presence would dwell among them, and the people could bring animals to be slain as offerings for sin. The blood of the animals would be as a covering so that God would not look upon their sin. God’s instructions for this sacred place of sacrifice, known as the tabernacle, are detailed in Exodus 25-27. God’s instructions for the offerings to be given there are detailed in Exodus 29-30.

In Exodus 29:36 we read that this offering was for “atonement.”1 The word “atonement” comes from the Hebrew word “kaphar”2 which literally means “to cover.” (This was the same word that was used when God told Noah to “cover” the ark with pitch.) When offerings were said to be an atonement for sin, they were in a sense “covering” the sin. Now it would be foolish to think that God, the One who sees and knows all things, is blind to sin, as if He could not see through an offering. It would be more accurate to say that God honored the offering by choosing not to look upon the sin or judge the sin…at least for a period of time. Continue reading