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Sin is simply any thought or action which breaks the law of God. For many people it is common to associate sin with extremes of evilness, however it should actually be thought of as anything we do which falls short of perfection. Sin is not just about doing something which is hurtful or depraved, it is also about not doing something which is good and holy.
Is it sinful?
In many situations we try to excuse our behaviour, often convincing ourselves that what we have done is not actually sinful. However there is a simple test which we can apply to any circumstance to help us choose the right thing to do.
We should always imagine ourselves standing before God, being asked to explain our behaviour to Him.
How shall we answer the heavenly Judge when he calls us to account? Let us contemplate that Judge, not as our own unaided intellect conceives of him, but as he is portrayed to us in the Bible, with a brightness which obscures the stars, a strength which melts the mountains, an anger which shakes the earth, a wisdom which takes the wise in their own craftiness, a purity before which all things become impure, a righteousness to which not even angels are equal. Let Him, I say, sit in judgment on the actions of men, and who will feel secure in standing before His throne?
Thus then must we raise our eyes that we may learn to tremble instead of vainly exulting. It is easy, indeed, when the comparison is made among men, for every one to plume himself on some quality which others ought not to despise; but when we rise to God, that confidence instantly falls and dies away.
Therefore, lest we deceive ourselves by vain confidence, let us recollect that even though we deem ourselves equal or superior to other men, this is nothing to God, by whose judgment the decision must be given.
Those who do not turn their thoughts to this scene may be able for the moment calmly and complacently to rear up a righteousness for themselves; but this the judgment of God will immediately overthrow, just as great wealth amassed in a dream vanishes the moment we awake.
Those who, as in the presence of God, inquire seriously into the true standard of righteousness, will certainly find that all the works of men, if estimated by their own worth, are nothing but vileness and pollution, that what is commonly deemed justice is with God mere iniquity; what is deemed integrity is pollution; what deemed glory is ignominy. (John Calvin)
We are not perfect, and we are not capable of pleasing God through our own works; but God still loves us and will forgive us if we ask Him to. The reason that Christians try to tell people of their sin is not to make them fear, it is to show them that they need the mercy which God so freely offers.
“We are commanded to beseech and entreat you to accept the offer and turn; to tell you what preparation is made by Christ; what mercy stays for you; what patience waits on you, how certainly and unspeakable happy you may be if you will.
We have indeed a message of wrath and death; yea, of a twofold wrath and death; but neither of them is our principal message. We must tell you of the wrath that is on you already, and the death that you are born under for the breach of the law of works. But this is only to show you the need of mercy, and to provoke you to esteem the grace of the Redeemer.
Our telling you of your misery is not to make you miserable, but to drive you out to seek for mercy. It is you who have brought this death on yourselves. We tell you also of another death, one even remediless, and much greater torment that will fall on those who will not be converted. This is the last and saddest part of our message. We are first to offer you mercy, if you will turn.” (Richard Baxter)
The great beauty of Christianity is that God tells us that He does not want payment for our sins, He offers free forgiveness; all that we must do is accept.