Monday, August 24, 2015

"Big" Sins and "Little" Sins

Isn’t it great when a good sermon convicts us sin and causes us to repent? Acts 19 tells the story of people who felt conviction, not because of a sermon they heard but because of a demonstration of God’s power. In Ephesus, God was performing extraordinary miracles of healing and demonic deliverance through Paul. Having watched him in action, some false exorcists unsuccessfully tried to cast a demon out of a man, with disastrous results. The people of the city immediately saw the difference between real power and false. They also saw felt convicted of their own sin of witchcraft, which was so pervasive in Ephesus that when they lit a fire to destroy their books and other paraphernalia, the value of it was estimated at fifty thousand pieces of silver.

Immediately after this powerful scene of conviction, we see an equal and opposite reaction—people who are indignant because their spiritual practices are threatened by the power of Jesus, who sets people free. Demetrius the silversmith and idol-maker instigates a violent riot against the apostles who are upsetting his business of spiritual slavery.

Whenever we hear about sin we might have many reactions—but on the two opposite poles are conviction and repentance on one hand and indignant rebellion on the other. Those who abandoned their witchcraft tools demonstrate conviction and repentance. Indignant people shout out their own justifications.

Too often we feel like we convicted of “big sins,” or we may gang up on the “big sins” in other people’s lives, yet feel no conviction for the “little sins” in our own hearts. Recently, I read an article entitled, “Nine Sins Christians are Okay With,” in which blogger Frank Powell tackles this tough reality. He writes:

I was in an engineering class the first time I watched the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Even though I wasn’t alive when it happened, I caught a glimpse of the horror thousands must have felt as the events unfolded.
And, the first question everyone wanted to know was, “What happened?”
After months of investigation, here’s what the Rogers Commission (the group commissioned to investigate the explosion) discovered: an o-ring seal in the right solid rocket booster failed at take-off. I won’t bore you with the details, but an o-ring is a small device relative to the size of a space shuttle. Very small.
It wasn’t something huge, like a puncture in the rocket booster or a hole in the cabin, that caused this disaster. It was a small, seemingly insignificant, o-ring failure.
I think there’s a lesson here for the church. What if the big sins, you know the ones you try hardest to avoid, aren’t the greatest threat to your joy and the church’s mission?
Maybe it’s the sins lying underneath, the ones considered normal or acceptable, the ones going undetected, that are affecting the church the most[i].

Now, most Christians would list witchcraft as one of the “major sins.” We have our lists of “major sins”…you know, the ones that we say will keep people out of heaven. Revelation 21:8[ii] says, “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Or 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, which says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.[iii] We like to label these as “major sins” that we say will keep even professing Christians out of heaven. We do this because it makes us feel good about ourselves, because we think our sins are minor.

But are they minor? In his article, Frank Powell lists such sins as the kind of fear that stifles faith; an apathetic approach to God; gluttony; worry that is the byproduct of bearing a weight that only God can bear; flattery; being too comfortable; consumerism; and lying. We don’t seem to think these will keep us out of heaven—but we say that the “big ones” will. Never mind the fact that Jesus forgives all our sins. We seem to think these lists are just full of the “big sins,” but if we look closer we find cowardice and lying, coveting and reviling (which means speaking about someone in an insulting way). It’s just a good thing that none of us “good Christians” have done any of these things, isn’t it? Otherwise, we might never get to Heaven!

Perhaps the Word of God can shed some light on the difference between “big” and “little” sins. James 2:10 says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” 1 John 3:15 gives an example of this principle: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” 1 Samuel 15:23 (NLT) says, “Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.” You see, to God all sin is the same. And all people are the same. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There’s no such thing as some who are more righteous than others, just as there is no such thing as “little” sins or “big” sins. All sin is alike, which means we all need the forgiveness of Jesus.

1 John 1:8-10 gives us hope: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all (emphasis mine) unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” Just as the sorcerers of Ephesus confessed their witchcraft, we also need to say, “My rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft or any other sin you can imagine. My stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.” Indignant justification won’t gain us anything. Only humility before God and repentance will release you from your sin. Only even more humility and repentance will take away your self-righteousness and make you free at last.

[ii] Unless otherwise noted, all scriptures are taken from the NASB.
[iii] Galatians 5:19-21 gives a similar list.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love your post and its quite entertaiing. I was concerned about little sins too and i found this video on Youtube and its makes me a believer that there's no little sin!