Recognizing Sin

Dear Brethren,

It is most important that we understand the serious nature of coming out of sin – pictured by this First Day of Unleavened Bread.  The ancient Israelites were delivered from Egyptian bondage which is also a picture of our being delivered from our bondage to sin.  Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, has set us at liberty.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage [to sin].”  (Galatians 5:1)

Since we do not wish to return to the yoke of bondage it is necessary that we be able to recognize what sin is so that we might overcome sin.  We know the usual definitions of sin, “missing the mark” and “transgression of the law.”  Using those definitions, however, we run into a strange dichotomy when we contrast between how we would judge ourselves as opposed to what Jesus Christ says of our church groups in these last days.

Visiting a number of the larger surviving church groups, we find the brethren assured that they are in excellent spiritual standing before God.  They speak proudly of the work they are doing and the numbers they are generating.  They examine themselves and subsequently take Passover being assured that they stand in good stead to do so.  At the same time, Jesus Christ looks at the spiritual condition of the church brethren and says:

“I will spue thee out of my mouth because you say that you are rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and you do not recognize that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”  (Revelation 3:16-17)

How can we rectify the two varying estimations – on one hand the brethren believe they are doing great and have everything going for them, while on the other hand Jesus Christ finds them a wretched lot?  Could it be that today’s church groups are not being taught what true Christianity is from a Godly perspective and as a result they are unable to recognize how much they miss the mark?

All the brethren gave themselves very high marks for how well they keep the Ten Commandments this year:

  • No one bowed before a graven image or cursed using God’s name.
  • No one missed church services without a good reason all year.
  • No one forgot to send their folks a card for their anniversary.
  • No one killed anybody this year.
  • No one took another man’s wife.
  • No one robbed any banks or trains.
  • No one lied to a judge.
  • No one tried to beat his neighbor out of his property or animals.

Granted that is a simplistic examination but the question remains, “Do we judge ourselves as God does, or, are we missing the mark.”  There are warnings in the Scriptures that speak of the brethren not being prepared at the return of Christ, and missing out on the Kingdom of God.  There is the story of the man who had not on a wedding garment. He was bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  There is the story of the foolish virgins, who lacked oil, and the bridegroom came; and the door was shut to them.  God is serious!

Who is teaching the brethren how to recognize the weightier matters of the law in their lives, judgment, mercy and faith, so that they do not sin through neglect?  Let’s pick only two verses and ask ourselves how God would judge us on how well we are following His lead.  Here are a few Christian principles listed for our scrutiny, so that we might recognize sin.  God tells us to:

“…Loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke… to deal thy bread to the hungry, and to bring the poor that are cast out to thy house… to cover the naked; and not to hide thyself from thine own flesh.”  (Isaiah 58:6-7)

Let’s judge ourselves on how well we keep these Eight Directives of God.

  • Loose the bands of wickedness -> We cannot go along with abuse or mistreatment of any of the brethren.  We all know stories of brethren who have been cast aside from the fellowship of the saints, not because of sin or heresy, but for political reasons.  They just did not fit in to the changing agenda from some headquarters somewhere.  Did we come to their rescue – or did we stick with the powers that be.
  • Undo the heavy burdens -> Sometimes brethren come to the point where they are unable emotionally, physically, financially to keep up with what is considered to be the norm.  Were we there to help them over the hump – or did we just let them sink – saying to ourselves – I’m not in charge – it is not my problem.  God says that when He shows us a situation – it does become our responsibility.
  • Let the oppressed go free -> How often have we seen brethren in hopeless, helpless situations?  Did we step in and try to ease the pain and encourage them to hold on.  Did we pray with them for deliverance?  Did we put it all on the line for those who were hopelessly in bondage to their circumstances – or were we busy somewhere else?
  • Break every yoke -> This is speaking of those who would enslave us to sinful practices. When the Church went into apostasy, those who stood up and refused the efforts of the usurpers of true doctrine were called trouble makers.  They were belittled, demeaned and disfellowshipped by those who are church leaders today.  They practice a substitute Christianity which puts a yoke of bondage on the brethren.  They teach that pure religion is a spectator pastime where all you have to do is show up.  Jesus, on the other hand, tells us to get heavily involved in the practice of our faith – even if it kills you – and it might do just that.
  • Deal thy bread to the hungry -> Do we close our eyes to those in need?  Not the physically hungry – there are not many of those today – but the many who are spiritually hungry.  We weren’t called just to be fed – but to feed others.  We have been called for a purpose – and that object is to live a life that will impact others in a positive way.  God is using us – individually – even now.  Does the manner in which we live our lives encourage others to turn to righteousness?

“They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.”  (Daniel 12:3)

  • Bring the poor that are cast out to thy house -> Do we go to our brethren to gain them again. Reconciliation is for the sake of healing the breach.  Jesus’ desire is that His people be one.  If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.  None are to be cast aside and forgotten.
  • Clothe the naked -> If we want to let ourselves off real easy – we say, “That hardly ever comes up these days.”  “The Church organization takes care of it.”  “Government programs are designed to mitigate almost every one of these things.”  “Nobody’s naked, nobody’s hungry.”  Again, this is speaking spiritually of those who are not wearing the white raiment of righteousness.  As we saw in Daniel, the wise turn many to righteousness – they are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  It is a scary thing to get involved with others to so great an extent.  Have we ever been bold enough to convert the sinner from the error of his way?  (James 5:20)

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness.”  (Galatians 6:1)

When someone is headed for the pit – and we cheer him on – we sin.  The love of God does not dwell in us.

“Whoso hath this world's good, and sees his brother have need [especially spiritual need], and shuts up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him?”  (1 John 3:17)

  • Hide not thyself from thine own flesh -> A close Godly family relationship is the very foundation of society.  Family concerns and needs come before organizational activities.  Even in the narrowest of sense – church brethren are coming short of being this kind of example to their community of brethren.  Do we honor the parents that God gave us?  Do we make it possible for our children to honor their parents?  Is there proper respect in the home?  God is a Family – we are brothers and sisters to Jesus Christ.

Brethren, God gives us many instructions on how to live Christian lives of service.  God wants us to recognize when we miss the mark on the things a Christian should be doing.  When we stand before Jesus Christ – and we will – this is what we want to hear Him say:

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”  (Matthew 25:21)

Sermon:  "Recognizing Sin"