We recently discussed the topic of sin in the Men's Group I have breakfast with every Thursday morning. I found our discussion helpful, and so I wanted to write about this same topic this morning. First, what is sin? It's a big word, and the traditional description of sin is "missing the mark". But I prefer the Pastor Keller (Reason for God) definition of sin as not simply doing bad things, it is putting good things in place of God. Think about it, God gives us good things in this world, things like food, sex, work, and others, etc. But sin is when we take these good things and put them in place of God. Sin is seeking to become one-self, and to get an identity apart from Him.
OK, I hope everybody gets two points on sin that are foundational for the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ: We are all sinners, and that Jesus came as the world's Savior to pay the price for our sins: death on the Cross. But does this mean that our sins deserve to be punished with the Death Penalty? Sure, Osama Bin Laden deserves the death penalty. Yes, Hitler and Stalin, but why should my sins deserve the just punishment of death? Yeah, maybe my sins deserve 2 or 3 years in prison, but DEATH? C'mon, the death penalty should only be given to those who have murdered, or done realllly bad things. But not me, right?
So I wrestled with this issue a few years ago, and I decided to start by looking at the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20). Yes, I have honored my father and mother, I don't steal much, I've never murdered, and those commands on coveting other people's property are kind of slippery, so I felt ok looking at my sinfulness looking at most of the 10 Commandments. But then I started looking at the portion of the Commandments that dealt with God – No, I don't always Honor the Sabbath, and no, sometimes I take the Lord's name in vain. And the First Commandment of Honoring the Lord our God, and having no other gods beside Him, was the one that stuck with me. What was I putting in place of God? Yes, I am prideful, and being logical is very important to me. And being able to spend my time doing what I want is very important to me. But was I putting these in place of God? I think this is what Pastor Keller was getting at with his definition of sin as taking "good things and putting them in place of God".
But do I really deserve to be put to death for not honoring God? So I did some Bible work to look up the punishments that ought to be given to someone who violates the 10 Commandments. And I discovered that for any violation of a single Commandment, the Death Penalty should be given. Here is my breakdown:
Those who draw others away from God – Deut. 13:6-9
3rd: Taking Lord's Name in Vain: Lev. 24:10-14;
5th: Honor your Parents: strike your parents, punish with death – Exod. 21:15; curse parents, death penalty Ex. 21:17, Lev 20:9; Those who are disobedient to their parents: Deut. 21:18-21, Rom. 1:30-32;
6th: Murder: Intentional – Ex. 21:12-14; Numb. 35:9-28; Deut. 19:4-13; cause miscarriage Ex. 21:22-25;
7th : Adultery punished with death – Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22-24; rape Deut 22:25; incest – Lev. 20:11, 12, 14, 17, 19-21; Deut. 27: 20-23; Lev. 20:11, 14; Homosexuality – Exod. 22:19, Lev. 18:22-3, 20:13, :15-16; Prostitution Gen. 38:24, Deut 22:21-26, Lev. 19:29, 21:9; Bestiality Ex. 22:19, Lev. 18:23, Deut. 27:21.
8th: Thou shall not steal – restitution plus interest Ex. 22:1-4, Lev. 6:4-5; if can't pay back what was stolen, thief is sold into slavery – Ex. 22:1; kidnapper of a person – death, Ex. 21:16, Deut. 24:7; Death for all thieves, Zech. 5:4; Thieves will not inherit the kingdom of God – 1 Cor. 6:9-10;
9th: Thou shall not bear false witness: whatever was intended to be done to victim of false witness, should be done to liar – Deut. 19:15-21; Death – Zech. 5:4; Rev. 21:8, death for lying to Church, Holy Spirit (Ananias and Sapphira): Acts 5;
10th: Thou shall not covet – Deserves death - Rom. 1:28-32.
And so, by checking into the punishments for sinning against the 10 Commandments, I discovered I did not deserve 2 or 3 years of jail time for my sins, no, instead I deserved death. You cannot flagrantly disobey and dishonor the God, Maker of the Universe without there being a consequence. This is what makes God a holy God, who deserves to be feared. And so, this list helped me better understand what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote that the wages of sin was death (Romans 6:23). And of course, this helped me understand the debt that was owed when Jesus took the punishment that was owed for my sins, when He died on the Cross. He died to save me from the punishment that my sins deserved. My sins are paid for, I don't need to feel guilty about what I have done. And the extra bonus is this – Jesus' death and resurrection also provides us with the freedom so that we don't have to keep on sinning. Praise God for His plan and the giving of Jesus as a sacrifice in my place!
I hope this post was helpful for you in better understanding what sin means and deserves. But enough of this theological stuff. Go Vikings against those stinking Packers playing on Sunday night. And my favorite Halloween candy? Reese's Peanut Butter cups – what's yours? /s/Tom