Christianity 201

July 19, 2012

A Study on Sin

After a longer post yesterday, I was looking for something shorter today, but then remembered having this in my files and wanting to share it sooner than later.

Blogger Jeff Mikels wrote this following the arrest of a local pastor, so while it deals with the sin problem as faced by all of us, he wrote in within the context of sin impacting church leaders.  As always, you are strongly encouraged to read C201 posts at their source; this is a great encouragement to the writers and you may find other articles on their blogs you would enjoy.  Here’s the link to where this appeared as Reflections on Sin.

This past week, a number of stories came out in my local newspaper reporting on and analyzing the arrest of a local pastor. He has been accused of placing and monitoring video equipment in the female bathrooms at the church. If you haven’t read the articles, don’t worry about not knowing the details. I’m not going to address the specifics of that story, but it has burdened my heart so much that I feel a need to reflect here in my semi-public space what these moral failures reveal about God, humanity, and the state of the church.

The story is all too common

Including this story, a total of three significant church leaders have been arrested for sexual misconduct of some kind in Lafayette in just the past three years. People are well aware of these stories happening all over the place. These stories happen in the Catholic Church. They happen in Protestant churches. They happen in small towns and in large cities. They happen with local pastors and national figures. The stories are all too common especially when we consider that the Bible says this about those who would be leaders in a church.

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect.1 Timothy 3:2-4

and also

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.James 3:1

As an individual and as a pastor, I am sickened when I hear that another leader has failed in this way not only because behavior like this is clearly prohibited in the Bible but also because these failures are easily preventable. I literally feel it in my gut when I think about some church leader violating God’s Word and the trust of the people.

At the same time, I admit that I’m freaked out by it. As one pastor after another falls to this and to other temptations, I seriously begin to worry about myself. What can I possibly do to prevent falling prey to the same temptations? Am I prone to falling in the same way? Am I prone to falling in a different way? Is it from a prideful heart that I want to judge other leaders who do fall to those temptations?

It shouldn’t be common among us at all

The sad reality is that sin happens, no one is immune, every one needs grace, but the wonderful promise of the Bible is that living a life of integrity is not only a calling but also a privilege, a gift for all believers.

Consider these two verses from 1 John:

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.1 John 1:5-10

There are three things to note here. First of all, no one has the right to claim to be without sin. Those who do are fooling themselves. Secondly, all sin, regardless of what it is, can be and will be forgiven for anyone who will confess those sins. Thirdly, and this is the most relevant part for our conversation, those who walk in the light are they who enjoy both fellowship with people and cleansing from sin.

John is writing to make sure that everyone knows that no one is perfect. However, he clearly says that God’s work is more than forgiveness. God’s work is purification. In other words, God is at work to gradually eliminate sin from your life, and those who walk in the light are the ones who receive that gradual purification.

Going a little deeper, John says in chapter 3:

All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.1 John 3:3-10

Even though we can’t say we are free from sin, we can’t claim to belong to God if we continue in sin. Periodic sins are to be expected, but habitual sin, particularly the kind of sin that reveals an unloving heart, is proof of the devil’s work in that person. Therefore, if some pastor, church leader, or in fact any other human being has a habitual sin that displays an unloving heart (as almost all sexual sin does), John would conclude that the devil had been at work in him.

That’s scary.

The bottom line is that even though sin is everywhere, those who claim to be followers of Jesus (regardless of position in the church!) are expected to live lives of love and purity, and if you claim to be a follower of Jesus yet have any habitual sin in your life, you need to get it under control or you will be just as guilty in God’s eyes as anyone who’s ever been arrested for any of these sins.

So why does it happen?

I can’t tell you specifically why any sin ever happens, but the Bible leads us to understand how any sin develops in a person’s life. It comes from the heart.

For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come‚—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.Mark 7:21-22


When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. — James 1:13-15

Sin crouches in the soul, in the heart waiting to come out at an opportune time, and there’s one thing that lets sin stay there, under the surface of our lives until it gets an opportunity. What is that one thing? Darkness.

Remember what John said in chapter 1 verse 7?

if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.

The antidote to the problem of the heart, to the problem of sin, and even to relationship problems is walking in the light! Therefore, I conclude that if someone has a sin problem or a relationship problem, it’s because of walking in darkness, but if we want to walk in the light, it requires not only that I myself live in an environment of light (especially the relationships I maintain), but it also requires that I allow the light to shine on me. The antidote to sin is to let the light shine on me and to walk with others who likewise let the light shine on them.

If that’s the case, then there are two simple reasons why people fall into sin. They keep their hearts in the dark, and they keep their friends in the dark.

Let me explore those thoughts with you for a moment.

A darkened heart

Simply put, a darkened heart means that a person has gone for a long time without meditating on the Word of God. David would say in the Psalms:

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. — Psalm 119:11

and he would also say:

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.Psalm 119:105

A heart that is not filled with the Word of God is a darkened heart. Now, that doesn’t mean I think pastor Bob or any of these other leaders were not reading their Bible. I’m sure they were actually spending a great deal of time in the Bible, but it’s one thing to read, and it’s quite a different thing to absorb it. Two more passages are relevant to this:

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.James 1:23-24

and this:

But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.Matthew 7:26-27

When sin comes to the surface, it’s because the penetrating light of God’s Word wasn’t allowed to shine where the sin was hiding. Those who block a part of their heart from the light of God’s Word are creating a sin incubator inside themselves.

Darkened friendships

The Bible speaks of two different kind of “darkened” friendships–friends who choose lives of darkness and friends I choose to keep in the dark.

Regarding the first group of “friends” the Bible teaches that people who hang out with wicked people will themselves fall into destruction:

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither‚ whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.Psalm 1:1-6

In our world today, this can happen outside the context of “friendships” and in the context of entertainment. With technology, it is possible today to enjoy the “company of mockers” while being completely alone. The values of the world can seep into a person’s life simply by osmosis. If a person is hanging out with wicked people, watching wicked shows, or otherwise regularly soaking in a godless culture, that person will be corrupted by it.

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm. — Proverbs 13:20


Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”1 Corinthians 15:33

However, a person can have the greatest, most godly friends in the world, but still have darkened friendships by simply choosing to deceive, lie, or otherwise keep them in the dark. A person can have darkened friendships by simply never opening up and confessing to them his sins, temptations, and struggles. By avoiding the vulnerability of confession, he never reaches the point of growth that is supposed to come when godly people are with each other.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.Proverbs 27:17


Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.James 5:16

Therefore, we can say that a great deal of sin is simply the result of a darkened heart living with darkened relationships. What then, shall we do to move from darkness into light?

Moving from darkness to light

Paul gives the people of Ephesus a severe challenge in his letter to them:

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person‚–such a person is an idolater‚–has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible‚ and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live‚–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.Ephesians 5:1-16

Paul attacks sexual immorality, impurity, and greed (three things rampant in our culture even among church leaders), but he attacks them from the standpoint of light and darkness. He tells us that those who belong to God are “children of light” and should work to “expose” the darkness wherever it may be found. In other words, Paul’s charge to followers of Jesus is that they live in the light.

So before we ever address the specific questions raised by any specific scandal, I want to turn the questions to you and to me. Let’s ask these self-evaluating questions:

  1. Is there any area of my heart where the light of the Word of God is not currently shining? Is there any area where I am knowingly avoiding the light of God’s Word?
  2. Are there any regular relationships I maintain (with people, Internet, or other media) where there is no light?
  3. Is there any area of my heart that is in the dark from other people? That is, for each attitude, behavior, temptation, and thought that’s true of me, is there at least one person who knows me well enough to know about it and to call me on it when they see it?

If you have darkness in your heart or darkness in your relationships, you are likely to fall to temptation. Deal with it now before it’s too late!

~Jeff Mikels

There are two additional (shorter) parts to this.  You need to click the link and scroll to the bottom to read

  • Some questions for times of scandal
  • Final thoughts

Jeff’s writing was previously featured here in February, with two Q&A posts:  Part One and Part Two.


  1. 1 John 1:3
    “3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that
    you also may have fellowship with us.”

    in chapter 1, John was directing the message to those fake Christians.
    those fake Christians claim to be without sin.
    because according to them, man was not born with sin
    and that sin does not exists

    1 John 1:7
    “7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light,
    we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus,
    his Son, purifies us from all sin. ”

    sin is taken cared of by the blood of Jesus. in the greek, “Purifies”
    is in continuos tense. means, everytime we sin, by lying or murder
    the blood of Jesus cleanses us of all sin, because we are in the light.

    let me establish one thing. I am against sin and sinning.

    1 John 1:9
    “9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and
    will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness ”

    again, chapter 1 is directed to the unbelievers. those whom John was inviting
    to have fellowship (1 John 1:3), those who claim to be without sin (1 John 1:8)

    this verse is not for Genuine believers. Genuine believers walks in the light
    and their fellowship is with God and Jesus and the blood of Jesus CLEANSES them
    of all sin.

    in the new covenant, all our sins are forgiven. there is no condition for forgiveness.
    forgiveness is not conditional.

    1 John 2:1
    “1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin.
    But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ,
    the Righteous One.”

    see how chapter 2 begins with “my children”

    this is for the believers. stating that in case we sin (which we will) we have an
    advocate (a defense lawyer for us).

    the Advocate is totally opposite of the devil, the accuser of the bretheren.

    so, if we want sin to master us, dominate us…

    Romans 6:14
    “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”
    “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”

    we cannot walk in darkness and light at the same time. either we are in the light
    or we are in darkness.
    under the light or darkness, we will and still sin. but for genuine believers who
    are in the light, the blood of Jesus cleanses them of all sin.

    “the righteous shall by faith shall live”

    it simply means, when a man who is righteous by faith, sins, he continues to
    put his faith in Jesus, that Jesus is his righteousness.

    that is the gospel.. God’s righteousness and not man’s sinfulness

    “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the
    salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile

    For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness
    that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written:
    “The righteous will live by faith.” ”
    – Romans 1:16-17

    if that pastor who fell into sin is not an under cover agent pretending to be christian
    then I must say, he is cleansed of all sin.
    if he is that undercover pretending to be a christian, then 1 john 1:9 is for him.

    long comment sorry :)

    – grace and peace

    Comment by savedbygrace — July 20, 2012 @ 2:11 am | Reply

    • I wish you had made your last paragraph the first paragraph, as I had to read all the way through to see what in particular you were addressing.

      For the true believer, I believe confession and repentance needs to be an ongoing process, or Paul would not have given us the “Let us a man examine himself…lest he drink of the cup unworthily” passage.

      I wonder if a high-profile person is caught in sin, is their first reaction genuine sorrow over their sin, or sorrow over getting caught?

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — July 20, 2012 @ 9:00 am | Reply

      • so sorry to make you read all the verses. 1 john 1:9 has to be taken in context.
        but thank you for taking time to read them :)

        @”For the true believer, I believe confession and repentance needs to be an ongoing process”
        why do you believe confession is an ongoing process?
        is it because believers are not completely forgiven?

        @”Paul would not have given us the “Let us a man examine himself…
        lest he drink of the cup unworthily” passage.”
        does examining oneself means confessing of sins?
        or does it mean ‘make sure you are not as if you are attending a party?’

        why do we need to examine ourselves?
        – check out the book of Leviticus – isn’t the lamb is the one examined?
        – the offerer who brought the lamb obviously has sin.
        – if the offering is perfect, without blemish, then the offerer is considered innocent.
        – the innocence of the lamb is transferred to the offerer and the sin transferred to the lamb

        our acceptance is based on the sacrifice of Jesus, the lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.
        our forgiveness is based on the sacrifice of Jesus.. amen.

        so …

        “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner …”
        – 1 Corinthians 11:27

        the unworthy is the manner. the unworthy is not the person.
        we are unworthy by default but made worthy by the blood of the lamb.

        the priest examines the sacrifice. not the offerer who brought the sacrifice.

        we partake the communion not in remembrance of our sins, but in remembrance of Jesus. amen

        @”For the true believer, I believe confession and repentance needs to be an ongoing process”
        what do you think happens if we do not confess our sins? do we go to hell?
        what happens if we die tonight without confessing sins? do we go to hell?

        @”I wonder if a high-profile person is caught in sin, is their first reaction genuine
        sorrow over their sin, or sorrow over getting caught?”

        how about when an average christian told a ‘lie’?
        we know lying is sin. are we genuinely in sorrow over a lie we told?

        what about doubt? it is sin right? (Romans 14:23)
        what about not doing the good supposed to be done? it is sin right? (James 4:17)
        what about fear? what about worry? what about unbelief?

        we confessed the ‘big sins’ but the ‘small sins’ we ignore.

        I don’t think God categorizes sin.

        so the question remains. do we honestly confess every sin? every minute? every day?

        Comment by savedbygrace — July 20, 2012 @ 11:43 am

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