Taking Sin Seriously

In his book Studying Sin Seriously, Wendell Winkler speaks to the results of sin – its decisiveness, its deceptiveness, its disgracefulness and destructiveness. Sin is a topic we should, in fact, take seriously, and, in this lesson,w e are going to look at the basic nature of sin and what it does to us as Christians.

The Nature of Sin

In I John 3:4, sin is equated with lawlessness. It is a violation of God’s law when we set our will over that of God’s. James 4:17 also categorizes sin as omitting God’s will from our actions – the distinction we sometimes make between sins of omissions and sins of commissions. These omission sins are illustrated throughout Matthew 25, first with the parable of the foolish virgin, then with the parable of the unprofitable servant, and finally with the picture of judgment. The punished individuals in all of these are those who fail to do what they know they should.

Finally, Romans 14:19-23 defines sin as a violation of conscience (as illustrated by eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols.) A feeling of guilt is a good indication of sin, but a calloused conscience is not an indicator of sin’s absence in our lives. There is a danger that we can grow so used to a sinful activity that we no longer notice its presence.

Our Attitude Toward Sin

Proverbs 14:9 warns us against mocking sin – minimizing it in our minds. Additionally, we may be fond of specific sinful activities. We may addicted to the pleasures sin can temporarily bring us. We get caught up in the here and now, missing the larger picture. II Corinthians 5:17 states that we become something new when we become Christians, and that involves putting away our love with sin.

We cannot afford to tolerate our own sinning or minimizing our actions. We can label sin whatever we want, but that does not change the actions we are involved in. Also, unlike Felix in Acts 24, we should address sin immediately in our lives. Repentance should not be low on our list of priorities when it is needed.

How Can We Overcome Sin?

Spending time with our Bibles helps fill our minds with defense against worldly bombardment, and, the more time we spend on God’s word, the less time we have to engage in sin. Also, James 4:8 encourages us to have an active prayer life. We can use prayer to draw near to God and to obtain forgiveness for the times we do fail.

In I Corinthians 11:28, Paul encourages us to examine ourselves. This is in context of the Lord’s Supper, but it has broader implications. We know ourselves better than anyone, and we are capable of seeing things in our lives that none but God may know about. Likewise, being aware of the company we keep can be a form of prevention.

Finally, just keeping ourselves busy with the Lord’s work will reduce our opportunities to sin – both physical work and spiritual work. A sincere conviction in living each day as if it were our last will help us keep our focus. How do we want God to assess our lives: as living for ourselves or as living for Him?


God takes sin very seriously in the scriptures, and, if we are to avoid it in our own lives, we too must see it for what it is – a terrible force that separates us from our God when we choose to engage in it. Fortunately, even when we do sin, God’s grace and mercy allows us to return to Him and be forgiven, starting over with a clean record and a clean conscience.

lesson by Nate Mishler