There are three separate lessons included in this material. Use in the order listed or separately. You are free to make copies and distribute this material.
Sin and the Christian Life
What is this thing called Sin?
To sin is to miss the mark. God’s character is the mark—the goal. His character is Holy, good, perfect, loving, faithful, just, kind, beautiful,etc. He gave us a way to know His character—through His word. He even gave a list of ten rules that show what living in His character look like called the Ten Commandments. They are not a random set of rules He thought it would be fun to make up. The Ten Commandments are reflections of Him. For example—He is the most amazing person/thing. He is better than anything—we cannot imagine how wonderful He really is. So, He shares that with us by telling us to worship no other thing/god because everything is less than Him. He tells us to not lie to others because He is truth. He tells us to be faithful sexually so our spouse because He is faithful. He tells us not to murder anyone because He is the giver of life. You getting the picture?
Have you kept all of the ten commandments perfectly? What does that tell you about your character compared to God’s?
Our best attempts at following these commandments and being like God show that we do not have the character of God. They show we miss the mark of perfection—which is what sin is—missing the mark of who God is. The curved lines above show our attempts that miss the mark (God’s perfection) which is the center of the circles.
Most of us think grace is God saying that it is okay that we have missed the mark. However, God cannot say it is okay because He is perfectly holy and cannot look on that which is not.
o What does 1 Peter 1:15-16 say about God’s standard for us?
o What does Matthew 5:48 say about that standard?
o Have you met these standards? So what is your standing before God?
o Exodus 34:7: What is the consequence of not meeting the standard?
The Bible describes sin throughout its pages as rebelling against God, despising God (because we are not following and loving His character) and defying God. Have you ever told someone what to do and experienced them purposely ignoring you and disobeying you? How did that feel? How do you think God feels when we do that to Him especially since He created us and has given us life on this earth?
So, not only are we not perfect, we are enemies and haters of God. The greatest commandment in the Bible is to “love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37) These reflect God’s character of love. Sin shows that we miss the mark of perfection but also that we do not love God or care about His ways.
Christ lived a perfect, godly life and died an innocent death to pay for the punishment of our sins.
o What does Romans 5:6-11 say about the character of those that Jesus died for?
o What hope do you have in Jesus through the cross?
o What do these passages tell you about your standing before God if you have put your faith in Christ?
With all the bad news of our sin, if we put our faith in the work of Jesus in His life, death and resurrection, the Bible says that we are given a new heart.
o Read Ezekiel 36:25-27
o What does this passage say about the function of our new heart?
o What does God give us besides a new heart that helps us obey?
We now have a heart and Spirit that helps us obey God and become more like Him! Before Sin was our King and now Christ is the king of our heart! We are now dead to sin (as our ruler and love) and alive to God (as our ruler and love)! (Romans 6:11)
Dead to SinAlive to God
You may be thinking to yourself…hmmm I know I still struggle with sin, does that mean I am not a Christian? No, all followers of Jesus still struggle with sin—it is just not their ruler anymore. Because the Holy Spirit is in their hearts, they are able to choose to obey God rather than sin. Sin used to be our path and now God is the path. Our hearts are able to obey God now, but we are a work in process in becoming like God. So, the Holy Spirit reveals our sinful places and helps us grow in becoming more like Jesus in His character (sanctification).
Sin is not the king of your heart anymore, but while on this earth, we still experience it in our lives. An example of this can be seen around the world. In 2003, the United States declared the war was won in Iraq, but there are still troops there and daily people lose their lives in 2010. The government is not killing people—the authority of the kingdom is established. However, people are killed and attacked by rebel forces and suicide bombers. These factions create danger and hardship even though the kingdom seems to be in a better place than with the prior ruler. This is the example of sin in our hearts. There are rebellious factions still there that are waging war against the new kingdom. However, the Holy Spirit King is well aware and more powerful than those factions. He points out places in our hearts where the rebels lay and helps us to fight them and in essence kill them with the forgiveness and power of the gospel. John Owen wrote ‘be killing sin or it will be killing you.’ There is a war in our hearts that we need the power of God to fight. Being reminded of His truth in the gospel and how He sees us now clothed in the righteousness of Christ will help us fight the war.
We are in essence, different than we were before because it bothers us to sin. We, as followers of Christ, do not desire sin over God in the deepest parts of our hearts. Our attitude toward sin becomes different because we have been given a new heart. The most miserable people alive are those who have been changed in Jesus with a new heart yet are trying to live in sin as they did before—it does not feel pleasant.
o What is your response when you have struggled with sin?
o What sins are you struggling with now? Would it help to remember that you are dead to sin and alive to God?
o Did Jesus die for the specific sin you are struggling with now? Is He the victor over it? Are you His?
The next lesson will help you daily walk out how to deal with the struggle of sin in your own life.
Where did sin come from?
What are sin’s consequences?
The first two chapters of the Bible are a beautiful account of creation and fellowship with God and Adam and Eve, and then comes sin! The rest of the Bible deals with all of the consequences of this ugly thing called sin and the need for redemption to restore the relationship of God and man. Let’s look at where it all begins:
Read this chapter and look at the who, when, where, what and how questions as you examine this scripture. Hint: This is a good pattern to follow when examining any scripture.
Who was present?
When and Where did this take place?
What is going on in this passage?
Now, let’s look at the hows…
- How did each person view themselves and God?
- How did each specific person/being stray from the intent of God’s words and truth or add to His truth? Really examine the scripture!
- How did each person interact with others? What do we learn from this?
In the temptation we see these points:
- Satan questioned what God “actually said” in His words
- Satan, the serpent, Twisted what the commands intentions were…questioning God’s integrity and purpose
- Satan Lied about God…and the reality of what would happen after sin—blatant denial of divine pronouncement
- The nature of sin is us taking God off his throne to put ourselves there—we think we are wiser than God
Do you see the world and you, yourself being tempted to question what God actually said or really means in His word? How does that compare to the serpent? Have you added anything to God’s word like Eve?
We all have experienced being confused in a situation and in the end realizing that our assumptions are far from the truth. Satan can use things that people say and false things that we assume and think to deceive us just as he deceived Eve and Adam. Can you think of times where you believed lies that Satan whispered to you above the truth that is found in the gospel and God’s word?
Is there an area of your life right now that you think you are wiser than God? Where do you need to repent and trust Him instead of your own way?
In Genesis 3:6, Eve examined the tree and saw 3 things about it: All sin can be basically categorized into these snares.
We are attempting to aquire, indulge or impress trusting ourselves—not trusting that God is where our need and trust are to be. 1 John 2:16 parallels this truth.
- AQUIRE–seeing that it was good for food
I John 2:16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man
- INDULGE–pleasing to the eye
- the lust of his eyes (I John 2:16)
- IMPRESS–and that it was desirable for wisdom
- and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:16)
- INDULGE–pleasing to the eye
Question: Do you see in your life how all sin comes under the temptations to aquire, indulge and impress?
What are specific areas in your life where you fall into trying to aquire, to indulge and to impress?
The root of this is not trusting God but trusting yourself and what the world says.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes, and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” I John 2:15-17
Spread the Sin and Consequences Around:
There are several areas where sin gives birth to more sin:
When we sin, we bring others into Sin—The serpent to Eve to Adam
When we sin, we may bring others into sin. We may be a gateway to encourage others to sin more.
What was the response of Adam and Eve after they ate of the tree?
Did the act of disobedience bring them what they wanted?
How did they see themselves? How did they see God?
What did they do to try to help the situation?
When Adam and Eve ate from the tree, they felt shame. They experienced things they had never felt before—nakedness, shame, a sense that they needed to hide from the Lord. They saw that they did not measure up, and they knew they had done wrong in His sight. They even tried to remedy it by making coverings for themselves.
When you experience shame and guilt, what are the ways you try to remedy your sin before God? How do you try to make it up?
What is your only true remedy?
Blame—Eve and Adam were the first to play the blame game. When asked and held accountable for disobeying God, Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the Serpent.
- Do you play the blame game and justify your sin by blaming others and making excuses? How? Can you think of a recent experience?
- Do you always have a really good reason for lying or being angry or gossiping or grumbling?
- How do you think God sees those excuses? What is your hope when confronted with sin?
Consequences Of Sin:
To see how severe sin is to God, we must look at the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience.
1. God cursed the serpent by making it slither instead of having legs.
2. God cursed Satan and put a continual war between his seed and people and God’s seed and people. In Genesis 3:15, the first whisper of the gospel comes as a foreshadowing that Jesus—coming from the woman’s offspring will crush Satan and defeat sin and death.
3. God cursed Adam—man and Eve—woman. There are specific curses for each gender and some shared.
- Consequence shared—Literal Death. Before eating from the tree, Adam and Eve were meant to live forever in fellowship with God. They lead us to all share in the consequence of illness and death as a human race.
- Adam—man—work will be hard—toiling in the ground to eat and provide. Work will be a hardship and not the total joy it was meant to be. That joy will only be known in the recreation of the new earth where everything is made perfect and new because of the work of Christ.
- Eve—woman—there will be pain in childbearing—including pregnancy, infertility, childrearing. There will be frustration in male/female relationships. The woman’s desire is to rule over the husband and be in control, but the husband is over the woman—however in the curse, the husband shows passivity which causes a greater rift in the woman wanting to take over.
Question: How do you see the consequences of sin displayed in the world? In your life, specifically?
Through these verses we see why sin is such a huge problem in relating with God. Adam and Eve affected the way we interact with God in an earth-changing way. Through Adam, we are all cursed under sin. Look around at all the pain and consequences of sin in your life and the world. If we were in their place, we would have chosen the same way!
Just as we are all cursed under Adam, those who put their faith in Jesus are given life and fellowship with the Father through Him. Romans 5:12-17
You see the huge need to cling to Christ and trust that God has clothed our shame and nakedness with Christ’s righteousness. We do not need to run, make excuses or hide. We can face our sin to deal with it because of God’s grace through the precious blood of Jesus!
Take some time to thank Him for the Hope He gives you in Jesus!
How Sin affects us as followers of Christ:
Sin begins locally, in one area of our lives, like a cancer and spreads systematically throughout our lives. Hidden and unconfessed sins affect others and us and breed more sin in our lives. This causes greater shame and hiding. Remember when Adam and Eve hid and tried to cover themselves on their own? It creates a greater schism between God and us because when we hide, things are not brought into the light. We feel shame and want to hide more instead of trusting that God will help us and has forgiven us.
Left unchecked, sin spreads even to the lives of others around us…
- The words we speak may validate others to sin
- Our words either corrupt the minds of hearers or bring grace to them (Ephesians 4:29)
- Bad and negative attitudes spread like gangrene
- We are only as holy as those around us are. For example: how you talk, what you watch, what you participate in, how judgemental you are, etc. is usually greatly influenced by the practices and attitudes of those around you.
- Have you ever heard your bad attitude and words come out of your child’s mouth?
Question: Can you think of certain instances in the past/now where your sin has affected others?
- We are in a battle between the Spirit and the Flesh—the flesh continues to grow if unchecked. The Spirit gives us the power to walk with Christ and kill those sinful desires. (Remember—Dead to Sin, Alive to God.)
How do we begin to deal with the sin in our lives as believers?
1) Begin with Self-examination—
Search Me, O God, and know my heart, test me and know my thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139
We have to learn to evaluate our character by His word instead of the culture or even the Christian culture we live in. It is beneficial for growth to pray these scriptures and examine our hearts before God.
Part of the battle is realizing the HUGE battle that is waged in us –the principal of sin still is in us. We have to purposefully pray and be aware of our sins.
They are an affront to God’s holiness; they choke us. When we sin, we despise God (2 Samuel 12:9-10). Read God’s word and examine His character. Remember how sin means missing the mark of God’s character. Compare yourself to God and see where you are far from Him in your heart, attitudes, words and actions.
Included at the end of this lesson is a list of questions to help you examine your heart and identify places where you treasure and worship other things over God.
Question: Do you take time for self-examination? What do you think it would look like?
2) Confession and Repentance—specifically, daily—
The greatest place we find sin is looking where we have treasured other things before Christ. Jesus told his disciples that the greatest commandments are loving Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength first and loving our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:36-40) If these are the greatest commandments to which the Law and Prophets rest, it would seem to be a good place to examine our obedience in these areas daily. Then, we can specifically examine and confess how we have not loved him with our heart, soul, mind and strength and in turn how we have specifically not loved our neighbor.
When we confess and examine things in generalities, we miss the severity of sin. It is important to look at specific sin in our heart because Christ died and was punished for each specific sin and calls us to live in obedience and freedom in specifics. When we simply say “I have a hard time with gossiping,” we make it easier on ourselves. We have to pray to see specific areas to confess and make right. At times we have to confess to others and apologize. We must listen and be obedient.
Repentance means recognizing that we have rejected God himself and His authority over us and coming to Him in sorrow over our sin and turning from it to walk toward Him and obey. Repentance is only through the power of God—it is not being sorry that we got caught or that we feel bad or guilty—but it is about following God away from our sin. Repentance is only through the power of the Cross of Christ.
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…
Psalm 51:6 you desire truth in the inmost parts…
(Background: This passage is David’s brokenness and repentance over his lust and adultery with Bathsheba and the purposeful murder of her husband. He was confronted in sin by Nathan and was brought to repentance. <2 Samuel 11 and 12> It would be helpful to look at this passage in 2 Samuel and examine Psalm 51 to see what godly repentance looks like.)
3) Walking by the Spirit—killing the flesh
“Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” John Owen
Examine the following scriptures. What do they tell you about your sin and walking by the Spirit?
- Romans 8:13
- Colossians 3:5
- Galatians 5:16-26
- 1 Peter 2:9-11
- Romans 12:2
- Romans 6:13,19
4) Preaching the Gospel to ourselves daily— (Romans 3:19-26)
- The gospel empowers us to not sit in the guilt/shame of the sin. Through the perfect life of Christ and his work accomplished on the cross, he has called you to a new identity in his power and purpose.
- One way to remind ourselves of the truth of the gospel is to memorize scripture that is specific to the gospel.
- The gospel reminds us of his grace
- The gospel brings humility that we have done and can do nothing on our own to earn His favor—it is by His grace
- The gospel brings thankfulness to Jesus
- The gospel brings true worship in our hearts
- He does not leave us without hope—the gospel gives us strength and hope
When we have unchecked and unconfessed sin and disobedience, there is a great cost of fellowship with Christ, of joy, of quality of relationships with others. Our relationship with God is not severed if we are in Christ, but the fullness of fellowship is lost for that time. We cannot lose our salvation—if we are in Christ, we are in Christ forever. (Romans 8:31-38)
The mortification (putting to death) of sin brings humility, joy and freedom. Centered in the truth of the gospel, the mortification of sin brings freedom and life. Centered in our own “power” and trying to kill sin on our own brings legalism, guilt and futility.
Where are the places of sin in you? Pray through, confess specifically…This really matters! Take time to confess these openly and outwardly remembering to apply the gospel—your only precious hope. You may do this on your own, but it is important to share and pray through this with a trusted person.
Places of Unbelief
Resources for this lesson: Respectable Sins Jerry Bridges
Recommended Resources for further study:
www.crossroad.fefc.com –“The Curse and Women” and “The Curse and Men” January 2009—sermons by Greg Pinkner
Identifying Your Objects of False Worship (Idols)
Use these questions to help you identify areas of sin where you are hoping in things and relying on things other than Christ for your life. You might want to go through these questions slowly due to the deep nature of these questions.
1) What do you love? Is there something you love more than God or your neighbor?
2) What do you want? What do you desire? What do you crave, long for, wish? Whose desires do you obey?
3) What do you seek? What are your personal goals and expectations? What are your intentions? What are you working for?
4) Where do you bank your hopes? What hope are you working toward or building your life around?
5) What do you fear? Fear is the flip side of desire. For example, if I desire your acceptance, then I fear your rejection.
6) What do you feel like doing? This is a synonym for desire. Sometimes we feel like eating a gallon of ice cream, or staying in bed, or refusing to talk, etc.
7) What do you think you need? In most cases a person’s felt needs picture their idol cravings. Often what we have called necessities are actually deceptive masters that rule our hearts. They control us because they seem plausible. They don’t seem so bad on the surface and it isn’t sin to want them. However, I must not be ruled by the “need” to feel good about myself, to feel loved and accepted, to feel some sense of accomplishment, to have financial security, to experience good health, to live a life that is organized, pain-free, and happy.
8) What are your plans, agendas, strategies, and intentions designed to accomplish? What are you really going after in the situations and relationships of life? What are you really working to get?
9) What makes you tick? What sun does your planet revolve around? Where do you find your garden of delight? What lights up your world? What food sustains your life? What really matters to you? What are you living for?
10)Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, and escape? When you are fearful, discouraged, and upset, where do you run? Do you run to God for comfort and safety or to something else? (to food, to others, to work, to solitude?)
11)What do you trust? Do you functionally rest in the Lord? Do you find your sense of well-being in his presence, and promises? Or do you rest in something or someone else?
12)Whose performance matters to you? This question digs out self-reliance or self-righteousness. It digs out living through another. Do you get depressed when you are wrong or when you fail? Have you pinned your hopes on another person? Are you too dependent on the performance of your husband, wife, children, or friends?
13)Who must you please? Whose opinion counts? From whom do you desire approval or fear rejection? Whose value system do you measure yourself against? In whose eyes are you living?
14)Who are your role models? Who are the people you respect? Who do you want to be like? Who is your “idol?” (In our culture, this word is used for role model.)
15)What do you desperately hope will last in your life? What do you feel needs to always be there? What are you convinced you cannot live without?
16)How do you define success or failure in any particular situation? Are your standards God’s standards? Do you define success as the ability to reach your goals? The respect and approval of others? Is it defined by a certain position or the ability to maintain a certain lifestyle? By affluence? By appearance? By acceptance? By location? By accomplishment?
17)What makes you feel rich, secure and prosperous? What possession, experience, and enjoyment would make you happy? The Bible uses the metaphor of treasure here.
18)What would bring you the greatest pleasure? The greatest misery?
19)Whose political power would make everything better for you? Don’t just think in a national sense. Think about the workplace and the church. Whose agenda would you like to see succeed and why?
20)Whose victory and success would make your life happy? How do you define victory and success?
21)What do you see as your rights? To what do you feel entitled? What do you feel is your right to expect, seek, require, or demand?
22)In what situations do you feel pressured or tense? When do you feel confident or relaxed? When you are pressured, where do you turn? When under pressure, what do you think about? What do you fear? What do you seek to escape from? What do you escape to?
23)What do you really want out of life? What payoff are you seeking from the things you do? What is the return you are working for?
24)What do you pray for? The fact that we pray does not necessarily mean we are where we should be spiritually. On the contrary, prayer can be a key revealer of the idols of our hearts. Prayer can reveal patterns of self-centeredness, self-righteousness, materialism, fear of man, etc.
25)What do you think about most often? What preoccupies your thoughts? In the morning, to what does your mind drift instinctively? When you are doing a menial task or driving alone in the car, what captures your mind? What is your mindset?
26)What do you talk about? What occupies your conservations with others? What subjects do you tend to discuss over and over with your friends? The Bible says that it is out of the heart that our mouths speak.
27)How do you spend your time? What are your daily priorities? What things do you invest time in every day?
28)What are your fantasies? What are your night deams? What do you daydream about?
29)What is your belief system? What beliefs do you hold about life, God, yourself, others? What is your worldview? What is the personal “mythology” that structures the way you interpret things? What are your specific beliefs about your present situation? What do you value?
30)What are your idols or false gods? In what do you place your trust or set your hopes? What do you consistently turn to or regularly seek? Where do you take refuge? Who is the savior, judge, controller of your world? Whom do you serve? What voice controls you?
31)In what ways do you live for yourself?
32)In what ways do you live as a slave to the devil? Where are you susceptible to his lies? Where do you give in to his deceit?
33)When do you say, “If only…”? Our “if onlys” actually define our vision of paradise. They picture our biggest fears and greatest disappointments. They can reveal where we tend to envy others. They picture where we wish we could rewrite our life story. They picture where we are dissatisfied and what we crave.
34)What instinctively feels right to you? What are your opinions—those things that you feel are true?
These questions can help you to think more clearly and deeply about why you do the things you do. They can help you get a better idea of which things typically morph from good to “God” in your life. These discoveries are a blessing because they help you see how truly lavish the grace of God is. The good news of the gospel shines brightest against the backdrop of our sin—so don’t be afraid to look at these things. Take time to pray as you work through these questions. Don’t lose sight of your union with Christ and God’s promise to patiently love you and change you.
Questions come from Resource: David Powlison—Dynamics of Biblical Change
Questions 1 and 2 are based on material by Tim Keller—Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NYC, NY