Is sin just doing bad things?
...and if so, can I get into heaven by simply doing enough good things?
If your understanding of sin is narrow, then your understanding of God’s law, His grace, and your love towards others will also be narrow.
God’s definition of sin is broad:
- Everything that is not from faith is sin’ (Romans 14:23)
- Turning away from God through unbelief is sin (Hebrews 3:12)
- Not doing what you know is right is sin (James 4:17)
- Doing wrong without knowing is sin (Leviticus 5:17)
- Breaking God’s commandments is sin (1 John 3:4)
Therefore, it seems our human nature can produce only one thing naturally. Sin!
Beyond 'right' and 'wrong'
Based on God's definition, sin is much more than a list of do’s and don'ts.
Since everything that is not from faith is sin, every action and attitude that we do without faith in God’s promises is sin.
Therefore, we cannot view sin as merely the bad things we do. Why? Because it can lead us to think that things are OK between us and God if we avoid 'bad' things (e.g. murder), but we do other 'good' things (e.g. reading our Bible). Let's explore that a little further...
An impossible idea
Some people think keeping the 10 commandements is enough to get into heaven. Is that true?
Well, the Rich Young Ruler thought he had kept all the commandments of God. But Jesus said it wasn't enough because he did not care for the poor according to his financial ability.
He had a narrow view of sin, thinking he could DO good enough things to inherit eternal life. But Jesus said the only way to be saved by the law is to keep the law perfectly—every moment of every day for your entire life.
But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law’ (Galatians 3:10).
If you’re going to try and earn righteousness, you have to follow all the laws without making even one mistake for your whole life. It's impossible!
Christ in our place
So, if we can never be 'good enough' for God, is there any hope for us??
Yes! When we put our trust in Jesus, we are declared righteous in God’s presence as a gift of God’s grace. This is the good news! This is radical.
Since we have broken God’s law, there is no way our good deeds could offset our bad deeds. ‘For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die’ (Gal 2:21). Only Jesus can save us and He did that by taking the punishment for sin that we deserved on Himself.
Jesus gives us new life
When we turn from our sins and accept Jesus as our Lord, He comes into our life and we are born again.
The Bible calls this the new birth. ‘When we believed, we were sealed with the Holy Spirit‘ (Ephesians 1:13). This seal is the sign that tell us we are God’s children, we are empowered and we will inherit what God promised us through faith.
We need to be born again, because when we were born into this world, we were born spiritually dead; this is the result of Adam’s fall. People who are not born again may keep a set of external religious rules like going to church, but their hearts may be far from God. They have an outward form of religion, but they have not changed on the inside, because they are not born again.
Following Jesus is not following a set of narrow laws. It is having a relationship with Him, trusting what he did on the cross and allowing Him to guide us in our actions.
Accepting God’s Grace
Only when you understand how high God’s standard of law is, can you appreciate the sacrifice of Christ. Only when you understand grace, can you demonstrate the same kind of grace and love, kindness and gentleness to others.
If you have not received Jesus as your Savior and the Lord of your life, then turn to God and repent of your sins. Acknowledge that you fall short of His standard and accept the new life He offers through Jesus.