Iniquity, Trespasses, and Sin

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A week ago my pastor sent out a church-wide email to follow up on some key points from his sermon. I found the points helpful (since I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with his definitions) and thought-provoking. Below is a copy of the email followed by a few thoughts of my own. I hope you find this helpful in your personal walk with Christ.

 

Follow up from Sunday sermon…
Beloved,

Sometimes when I preach I get going and it’s hard to write down everything you want to write down.  I’m actually trying to get better at my pace but the Bible excites me so sometimes I get carried away.  This past Sunday I was talking about the difference between iniquity, transgression and sin and some of you have asked about those descriptions so I thought I’d send them out with a little more unpacking around each one.

As I said on Sunday, when the Bible refers to iniquity, transgression and sin these are not three different words for the same thing.  Each one refers to a specific posture of the heart towards sin.  Here is some more granularity around what was shared on Sunday.

1. iniquity– this refers to a more deeply rooted posture of the heart, has to do with premeditated choice, iniquity continuing in sin without repentance.  Iniquity left unchecked leads to a state of willful sin with no fear of God.  Iniquity is bending or twisting of the law of God in our hearts and heads long before it expresses itself in our hands.

2. transgression– refers to presumptuous sin, the choice to intentionally disobey; willful trespassing.  Examples of this are when we run a stop sign or red light or blatantly disregard an authority.  We didn’t plan on it before hand but in the moment we “just did it.”

3. sin– literally means “to miss the mark,” doing wrong against God or a person, also includes failing to do what you know is right.  Some people refer to sins of commission and sins of omission.  Sins of commission are things that we’ve done that were wrong while sins of omission are not doing the right things we should have done.

Knowing the difference helps inform the way we pray for ourselves and those we love.  It also reminds us to honestly assess what is deep in our hearts.

Thanks for thinking and for asking,

Neil

 

 

This was an interesting distinction for me, especially since the day after this email I read this verse:

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Psalm 32:5 (ESV)

Entering the above definitions helped clarify what David was trying to say. Rewritten it may sound more like this (definitions placed in brackets and bolded):

I acknowedge [the way I had missed the mark] to you, and I did not cover [the way I had willfully twisted the law of God in my heart]; I said, “I will confess my [willful and intentional choices to disobey] to the Lord,” and you forgave [the deeply rooted posture of my heart that causes me to fail in doing what’s right.] 

Looking at the verse in this way, I began to realize how much Christ had forgiven me for on the cross. His sacrifice did not merely cover poor behaviors or inappropriate choices. Rather, he forgave me for posturing my heart towards Him in such a way that I twisted the truth of His law to fit my needs. All of the ways I explained to myself or others that it was okay for me to do a certain behavior or make a specific choice because this was a “special situation” or “extenuating circumstance.” How I rationalized that God’s love excused my willful disobedience, or how I insisted that even though I may have missed the mark, I didn’t miss it by that much. After all, I’m only human. Right?

This type of forgiveness is on a whole different level than merely excusing bad behavior. This forgiveness helps us examine the deep things beneath the flower and the soil that give our dark hearts life and the power to pull it up by the root. It is not enough to modify what we do. We have tried that throughout the years and every time our willpower has failed. This forgiveness gives us the power to do this specifically because it is NOT our power. It comes from God, the One who spoke and created order out of chaos. When Christ forgives, He transforms the entire man, beginning with the nature of the heart and rippling outward into actionable steps that make sense to the new mind and heart. He does not just set our feet in the right direction and hopes we make right choices thereafter. He changes us. He works on us. He directs us.

 

Iniquity, trespasses, and sin. They are not the same thing. But the blood of Christ covers them all and empowers us to live as an authentic testimony to the world of the change forgiveness can bring.

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Beyond Suffering or Sin: Pt. 2

I wanted to follow up on my last post with a few additional thoughts. I’m going to put these in bullet points as much as possible, since I am recovering from a minor knee surgery. I hope these condensed thoughts make sense.

  • People who operate from a perspective of reducing suffering can often be easily identified. Their main argument to justify their behaviors is “It’s not hurting anyone, so what’s wrong with it?” We see this argument in many arenas today, from justifying telling white lies to more controversial topics, like abortion, homosexuality, and legalizing marijuana.
  • Those who use the “It’s not hurting anyone” argument seem to operate from a morality that excuses their behavior as long as they do not negatively impact someone else; however, this conveniently denies the negative impact they are having on themselves.
  • Morality, by definition, is acting in accord with a set of principles that distinguish between right and wrong. To state that the highest moral is to “not hurt anyone” creates a false and flimsy morality. It is false because it relies not on an objective standard of what right and wrong is but on the subjective interpretation of your fellow human being regarding whether or not they were hurt, in some way, by your words or actions. It is flimsy because in order for the morality to stand, the statement “I’m not hurting anyone” must be categorically true. In other words, the moral choice can only be supported if everyone is free from harm. But if even one person is harmed, then this system of thought falls in upon itself.
  • This implosion is the expected conclusion of a morality that begins and ends with a creature that has both good and bad within it. Self-destruction is the natural result of a system at war with itself.
  • This self-destructive nature of man is precisely what the people who are trying to move beyond sin acknowledge. That we are a doomed system and any hope for survival must come from eradicating the darkness within us, rather than redefining the darkness so that majority opinion suggests we are not hurting anyone. Such redefinitions only reinforce the delusion that sin does not exist and allows the self-destructive nature to continue.
  • To eradicate the darkness within us, we must receive help outside of ourselves from a source who: 1) is perfect (it does no good to receive help from another self-destructing being) and 2) can provide more than a modified behavior plan. Rather, this perfect being must literally be able to change our nature to be like their perfect nature and provide a system of living that allows us to make clear, objective choices between right and wrong, so that we do not relapse into darkness while it remains around us in our lives. In other words, a morality that is not about removing suffering but about removing sin. A clear delineation between right and wrong that is both true and strong.
  • This is what Jesus offers any person. Not the freedom from suffering, but the freedom within it. Because He has substituted Himself to take the penalty for your wrongs, so that you do not have to endure it, you receive a new, sinless nature. To protect you against the darkness around you He provides a new way of living to maintain and strengthen this nature, and allows you to be a beacon to others, so that they can go beyond sin as well. Both of these gifts, the new nature and the new morality, allow you to live within suffering freely, no longer a slave to it or to the trap of trying to escape it.
  • Which do you desire? To go beyond suffering or beyond sin?