Course introduction by Colleen Donahue
Do you ever wonder, "How did I get into the mess that I'm in?" Or maybe you've just watched the evening news and wonder, "How did our country start out so good and now have become so dangerous?" Men seem bent on destroying this planet and each other. The Bible - God's word to man - gives us the diagnosis of the human problem while at the same time giving us the cure. The diagnosis is SIN. It is the root problem for all life's problems. It may be your own sin or that of others but sin is behind all that we face in life.
The definition of sin may surprise you. Many of us feel we are not sinners because we don't drink to excess, we don't cheat on our wife (or husband), we don't steal things and we don't kill other people (at least physically). The Bible gives us quite a different definition of sin. In Romans 3:23 it says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Sin is failing to give God his rightful place in our life and therefore we withhold from Him the honor He is due. SIN is living independently from God. It is being absorbed with OUR life until we virtually have no relationship with Him. It's easy to remember this in the actual word SIN --
The problem of sin is a universal one. In Romans 3:23 it says that ALL have sinned. Isaiah 53:6 describes sin as rebellion against God. It says, "We ALL like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way." (There's that word "all" again). Isaiah is saying we have each turned to living our own way which is not God's way. The definition for rebellion is to refuse to accept some authority. Gradually individual rebellion may become organized opposition to that authority. Isaiah goes on to say in chapter 53, verse 6, "....and the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us ALL." (There's that word "all" again - used twice in this verse).
Iniquity is from the Hebrew word "avon" and means rebellion plus all the evil consequences of rebellion including the punishment. This is what was laid onto Jesus. The apostle James puts the definition of sin in a most practical way. He says, "Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it!" James 4:17 NLT So, if God is prompting you to give some of your money to the poor and you decide you can't because it's for something else you want - that is sin.
If God is speaking to you about bringing your family to church on Sunday but you want to rest and watch football on television - that is sin. If you know your neighbor has a need you could easily supply but you decide to withhold your help so you don't have to get involved - that is sin. I think you get the picture.
God speaks to us (even before we ever make a commitment to Him) through our conscience. As we act on what our conscience is telling us that voice grows ever clearer in our life. But, every time we disregard it, it starts to fade into the distance until we find we can't hear it anymore. Maybe you have just heard about some heinous crime on TV and thought, "How could he do such a thing?" The answer is because he has ignored God speaking through his conscience for so long that he no longer hears God speak.
Looking at sin the way the Bible does, makes it easier to understand how you and I -- the "good" people that we are -- fall into the category of ALL. We are each part of the "all that have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." It is sin -- our knowing what is right to do and not doing it -- that has caused the great divide between God and man.
God made man so he could have a relationship with us. Instead, we have "thumbed our noses" at God and basically let Him know we don't need Him. Living life independent of God means that we don't trust Him enough to do what is best for us and so we strive to get what we want on our own. Living life independent of God does not necessary mean living life without God. Even those who claim to know God, have made a commitment to Him, and go to church may still be walking in sin. There are many good church people who live their life quite fine on their own with just a little help from God when they need Him. They are absorbed with themselves and their service for God quite apart from what God might even want.
Throw out your old definitions of sin. If you are absorbed wholly with your own interests, and rarely consult God (because you are doing fine on your own), you are probably walking in sin. If you know in your head and heart what is right to do and then you aren't doing it - your are walking in sin.
Our overeating is not just a tendency to indulge a little. It's gluttony - a love of food - it's sin. Our caustic remarks to a colleague are not just a slip of the tongue. Words express what is in our hearts and expose us for the sin within. Our stinginess in giving to someone less fortunate because that money is set apart for our vacation is sin if God has spoken to us about giving it. Our drinking to excess is not due to the "disease of alcoholism". It's due to our wanting to drink and liking it so much that we won't stop despite the consequences. It's sin.
It's not the actual overeating that's the problem. It's deciding that we are going to eat what we want, when we want it no matter how much our conscience is saying, "it's time to stop I'm full!" The overeating is just the symptom of our independence from God. If you ask the Holy Spirit to expose what is sin in your life He will do so gladly. That's one of his roles in your life. "And when he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convince the world (you and I) of its sin...." John 16:8A NLT The question will be, do we want to know? You will if you long for freedom from the bondage of sin and a renewed relationship with God.
If the Holy Spirit shows you something then call your action for what it is -- sin. Calling our actions by their rightful name means that we stand on the threshold of being set free. We all know how sin can grip our lives in such a way that we feel we can never be free from it. Romans 6:16b says that we are slaves to the one whom we obey. So if food calls my name and I answer that call and eat beyond what I need, then I have become a slave to food. Whatever it is in our lives that we can't seem to get victory over that is the place we are bound by sin. We can't stop thinking of it because we have become a slave to whatever it is. And sadly, those of us controlled by the sinful nature cannot ever please God (Romans 8:8).
The apostle Paul expresses it so well in his great letter to the Romans (chapters 7 & 8). He says that he really had the desire to do the right thing. But -- he continually found that he couldn't carry it out! Paul says, "When I want to do good, evil is right there with me." Romans 7:21 This made him feel frustration upon frustration until he cried out, "Oh what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Romans 7:24 NLTAre you at this place? Is there some sin that you have become a slave to and there seems no way out? If you are at this point in life then rejoice for your salvation is near.
Paul asked his question in frustration and then answered it in the next verse. He had found the answer to WHO could free him from the sin that was consuming his life. "Thank God, he says, the answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 7:25
God, who knows everything, knew that man would choose to act independent from Him. He had given man the earth to rule and it was always his plan that He and man would walk together in it as a partnership of love and friendship. But, He also anticipated that sin would divide Him from his children. Therefore, when the time was right, God sent his own son Jesus to the world to fulfill a plan that He and Jesus had devised before the foundation of the world. This plan would:
A. Make it possible for any man or woman wanting to get free from the power of sin to do so.
B. It would make it possible to start life over with a new, clean slate.
C. It would even allow us to be reunited with our Creator as though we had never sinned!
This plan is truly amazing. What is this plan? It's called "the cross" or "Calvary" and refers to the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us in the
No "religion" (man's efforts to find and appease God) has a remedy for man's sin. It is found only in Jesus. God hasn't provided many different solutions to man's problems. He's provided just one all sufficient solution. To receive that solution we must make our way to the cross. Through the sacrifice of Jesus an exchange took place that unlocks all the treasures of God's provision. Derek Prince, pastor and Bible teacher, wrote, " All the evil due, by justice, to come to us came on Jesus, so that all the good due to Jesus, earned by His sinless obedience, might be made available to us."
The fact that a man died, rose from the dead and is still alive today is the most important single event in human history. The cross as God's plan for our redemption is what these studies are about. To many, the cross seems weak and foolish but in actuality it is the power of God to deal with man's problems - to deal with your problems -- and to deal with my problems. (See 1 Corinthians 1:23-24)We can have all kinds of good intentions, listen to nice sermons, and read all the self-help books on our problems but without the cross to deal with our root problem of sin we are powerless and there is no significant results.
In Part 1 of these studies we'll look at the heart of the Christian message. We'll study the plan made in eternity - Christ's death and resurrection. We'll start the studies one week before Jesus actually dies and walk with Him through those last days. The cross is like a doorway that allows us to enter into "real life".
In Part 2 of the studies we'll focus on God's plan of restoration for man and how we can appropriate it for our own lives. Part 2 is called "It is finished" which are the words Jesus spoke before his moment of death. What Jesus has done and its effect upon us are perfect, complete and forever. Nothing can be taken from it or added. It remains for us to study and to answer for ourselves the question, "What was finished?"
If you are tired of living in slavery to yourself and those around you, tired of sin controlling your life and tired of a defeated life then ask God to
open your eyes and see the truth of what happened at