Sin isn’t usually a popular topic, but God can teach us how to handle it and find freedom
On December 19, 1993, I played in the Las Vegas Bowl. At that time, this game kicked off the college football Bowl season.
The game was broadcast live on ESPN. Thousands were in the stands, NFL scouts and coaches were watching, and I played my best college game ever. At the end of the game, I received the defensive MVP award. I was ecstatic.
My agent came into the locker room after the game and told me he talked to a number of NFL scouts during the game who were impressed by my performance.
But what I remember most about that night is how I felt just a few hours later. I woke up in a hotel room, with people passed out everywhere. I had no idea how I got there. There I was sitting in the dark, after one of the greatest nights of my life, with nothing but a deep empty feeling inside me. I remember looking out to the Las Vegas strip and wondering, “Is this it?”
These verses from the book of Psalms describe exactly how I felt:
10 Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness,Psalm 107:10-12 NIV
prisoners suffering in iron chains,
11 because they rebelled against God’s commands
and despised the plans of the Most High.
12 So he subjected them to bitter labor;
they stumbled, and there was no one to help.
Within a year of this experience, a high school friend of mine reached out and reconnected with me. We grabbed a bite to eat and started sharing what we have been up to for the last few years.
As he shared about his life and all that he had gone through, I quickly related and remembered what I had felt a year earlier in Las Vegas. I was inspired by his personal change and his courage to be transparent. I learned that his transformation came because he had studied the Bible and faced truths about his life that he had suppressed.
At the time, I was unaware of what sin was, how sin had impacted me, and the emptiness and hardness I experienced because of my choices. The influence of his friendship led me to start my journey of faith.
We have been set free because of what Christ has done. Because he bled and died our sins have been forgiven. We have been set free because God’s grace is so rich.Ephesians 1:7 NIRV
This scripture spoke to me the first time I read it. I quickly recognized the burden, guilt, and shame I had been carrying around because of my sins. Sin stole my hope, my joy, and my confidence. I wanted to experience this freedom that the Scriptures promised.
What I have come to learn is that sin is a normal part of our human experience (Romans 3:9-10, 23). The question isn’t whether or not we have sin, but how we handle it, how well we understand it, and where we look to find the solution for it.
In this study, we’ll learn what sin is and why we need to talk about it. Seeing our sin actually helps us experience the freedom and forgiveness for which Jesus died.
When we find God’s forgiveness, we can live a life that has both meaning and impact as we share this forgiveness with others.
What is sin?
A good friend once told me that when it comes to sin, awareness is health. As we covered earlier, everyone has sin. Being aware of it is actually a good thing.
Awareness is defined by Merriam-Webster as “knowledge and understanding that something is happening or exists.” It has taken me decades to become aware of and understand what sin is, where sin comes from, how sin impacts me and my relationships and even why God doesn’t like sin.
Here are 5 quick things I think it’s important to understand about sin:
How do we define sin?
The behavior of the self-life is obvious: Sexual immorality, lustful thoughts, pornography, 20 chasing after things instead of God,[a]manipulating others,[b] hatred of those who get in your way, senseless arguments, resentment when others are favored, temper tantrums, angry quarrels, only thinking of yourself, being in love with your own opinions, 21 being envious of the blessings of others, murder, uncontrolled addictions,[c] wild parties, and all other similar behavior. Haven’t I already warned you that those who use their “freedom” for these things will not inherit the kingdom realm of God!Galatians 5:19-21 TPT
This is one of many examples of what the Bible considers sin.
If you’re like me, you may have grown up and lived unaware of this. In fact, I considered many of the things on this list fun before I studied the Bible. Then I learned more and began to understand the impact of these sins and why God feels the way he does about them (more on that below).
This list helps me put a face on what sin is and identify it in my own life.
Where does sin come from?
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.15 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 NIV
Sin starts in the heart. It comes from our own desires, wants, and motives. It’s very easy to blame others or blame our circumstances for our sins, but the Bible teaches that sin comes from inside (Mark 7:20-23). Sin begins with a desire inside of us, and as it grows it causes the disruption and chaos that we can feel and see.
How does hidden sin affect us?
3 When I kept silent about my sin,Psalm 32:3-5 NIRV
my body became weak
because I groaned all day long.
4 Day and night
you punished me.
I became weaker and weaker
as I do in the heat of summer.
5 Then I admitted my sin to you.
I didn’t cover up the wrong I had done.
I said, “I will admit my lawless acts to the Lord.”
And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
When we are “silent” about our sins and choose to hide them, ignore them or deny them, we will get “weaker and weaker.” Sin will steal our emotional, spiritual, and physical strength.
Then, sin will start to hurt our relationships with people around us (Matthew 24:12).
When we admit our sin to God, we can find the forgiveness necessary to rebuild and restart.
Why doesn’t God like sin?
The Lord saw how bad the sins of everyone on earth had become. They only thought about evil things. 6 The Lord was very sad that he had made human beings on the earth. His heart was filled with pain.Genesis 6:5-6 NIRV
God loves us deeply, and sin is a separator of relationships (Isaiah 59:1-2). Sin separates us from God primarily because it causes sadness and emotional and relational pain. Then, sin causes distance in all our relationships.
If you look back over the Bible’s list of sins in Galatians 5:19-21 (above), you’ll notice that each sin has consequences on people around us. God is a relational God; he’s not into flawless performance (Psalm 51:16-17 MSG). I think God doesn’t like sin because of the distance and pain it inflicts on him and other people.
Why should we want to see our sins?
We heard the true teaching from God. Now we tell it to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness.  So if we say that we share in life with God, but we continue living in darkness, we are liars, who don’t follow the truth.  We should live in the light, where God is. If we live in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood sacrifice of Jesus, God’s Son, washes away every sin and makes us clean.
If we say that we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 But if we confess our sins, God will forgive us. We can trust God to do this. He always does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrong things we have done. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we are saying that God is a liar and that we don’t accept his true teaching.1 John 1:5-10 ERV
This scripture says seeing and admitting our sins is a choice. If we decide to “live in the darkness” by not seeing or admitting our sins, a few things will happen:
- We will fool ourselves about the true condition of our relationship with God.
- We will continue to carry the guilt of our sin.
- We will be unable to walk closely with God or have fellowship with other people.
When we decide to see and acknowledge our sins, look at what happens:
- We experience God’s forgiveness.
- God will make us clean from the wrong things we have done.
- We will be able to walk with God and have close fellowship with other people.
Pause and reflect:
- What did you learn about how God feels and sees sin?
- Do you see and feel the same way God does about sin?
- Identify one sin that you think has been impacting your faith and friendships.
- Start to pray and ask God to give you the emotional and internal strength to start to overcome it.
- Study every Scripture in the Bible about that sin and find 3-5 ways that you can start changing it.
- Pick 1-2 friends with whom you can share what you are learning.
How God frees us from sin
Jesus replied, “What I’m about to tell you is true. Everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave has no lasting place in the family. But a son belongs to the family forever. 36 So if the Son of Man sets you free, you will really be free.John 8:34-36 NIRV
I remember being a slave to drugs, alcohol, deceit, fear, impurity, immorality, and so many other sins that got their grip on me early. These sins fed my insecurities, and inadequacies. I felt trapped and couldn’t see a way out of them.
This scripture gave light to my eyes and hope to my heart when I read it. I could be free! No more burdens from my past mistakes. No more pressure and anxieties from my fears of holding onto secrets for most of my life. I remember learning about Jesus and building my faith in him so I could experience this freedom.
Pause and reflect:
- What are some examples in your life of unhealthy patterns or sins you would like to break free from?
- Spend time praying to God and revealing the unhealthy pattern, habit, and sin you were able to identify
- Pick 1-2 friends that you will share with and ask for help from so you both can grow and change
How dealing with sin brings hope
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.1 Timothy 1:15-16 NIV
When I first identified my sins and became comfortable enough to share them with God and my friends, I quickly realized I was not alone or the only one. Sin deceives us into believing that we are the only one sinning or blowing it in life.
This scripture helps me to see that when I embrace my sins, and turn and trust God, he will be immensely patient with me. He can use my weaknesses, failures, and sins to give hope to others that are looking for the same freedom I once searched for and eventually found in my relationship with God.
Pause and reflect:
- How can you use your weaknesses, failures, and sins to relate to and inspire others?
- How confident and secure are you that God can forgive your sins?
- How comfortable are you with talking to God or those closest to you about your sins?
- Start praying for God to use your life to impact specific friends and relationships.
- Identify 1-2 friends that you can share your story and life with.
No matter who we are, or what we have experienced or gone through, we can change and overcome anything.
Here are a few Deep Spirituality articles to help you continue to grow in your journey to believing in God’s love and forgiveness.
- How to Have a Change of Heart, From the Life of King David
- Lessons From Jonah: A Bible Study About Embracing Change
- King Ahab and The Emotions of Change
Bible book to continue to study:
- Study the book of Hebrews to deepen your trust in God’s forgiveness.