Sin is Present, Now What?

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. ~ John 14:15

Our goal in life is to be pleasing to God (2 Cor 5:9).

  • Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:1-17. Both Cain and Abel brought an offering to God. Cain’s offering was not acceptable to the Lord. Abel’s offering was accepted. Cain did not understand that his problem was with God and with an insufficient offering, but instead got angry with Abel.  Ultimately Cain killed Abel. The sin of jealousy and bitterness led to murder.  Breaking the brotherly relationship horizontally and his relationship with God vertically.
  • The public incestual relationship in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13. There was sin in the church, and it was widely known. The church was not addressing this sin and it was affecting church unity. Paul rebuked the church for not handling this sin.

We please God by restoring broken relationships, Christ’s church functions best when there is unity in the body. This unity comes about by handling sin issues promptly when they arise.

Sin is an affront to our great God.  It is thinking and acting in a way contrary to God’s Word. It destroys our relationship with God. Yet God provided a way to restore our relationship. He gave us Jesus Christ as our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24) and our intercessor (Hebrews 7:25). We can seek forgiveness of our sins directly to God through Christ our mediator.  In the sections below I use the phrase “God through Christ”. This is what I mean by that phrase.

We must understand we are talking about sin as defined in the Bible.  Christian Liberty allows us to have differences of opinion about non-essential doctrinal issues. We need to be sure we are dealing with sin and not a difference of opinion in preferential matters.  This means we approach the issue at least in two ways:

  1. We must define the action of concern in Biblical terms.
  2. We must realize our sinful brokenness and proceed with caution and grace, so we do not make matters worse. The best way to do this is to go humbly asking questions to clarify what we think may be matters of sin.

The Bible describes four cases where sin is involved.

In each case a person must act to stop the sin and restore broken relationships through Biblical forgiveness. We will look at these in detail.  For each case we will answer the “5 W + 1 H” questions: who, what, when, where, why and how.

1. When you Sin Against God only – 1 John 1:9

1 John 1:9 (NASB) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Who – you, and God through Christ.

What – talk to God, pray

When – as soon as you realize you have sinned

Where – wherever you are

Why – to restore your relationship with your Heavenly Father

How – you seek forgiveness by specifically naming your sin in Biblical terms, repentance (change of direction by renewing your mind), reunion with Christ, and not remembering and dwelling on the sin. We have the great promise that “He is faithful to forgive our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God is faithful. For more help with Biblical forgiveness, see the resources listed below in “For Further Study”.

2. When you sin against another person – Matt 5:23-24

Matthew 5:23 (NASB) “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

Who – you, and God through Christ, and the person you have offended

What – you go to the other person to ask forgiveness, and you talk to God, pray

When – as soon as you realize you have sinned. Note the verse says reconciliation is                             more important than worship. Broken relationships hinder worship.

Where – wherever you are – when you and the other person can be alone to converse

Why – to restore your relationship with the other person, and to restore your relationship with your Heavenly Father

How – You seek forgiveness by specifically naming the sin you have committed and asking for forgiveness from the other person and from God. See #1 for more details.

3. When another person sins against you – Matt 18:15

Matthew 18:15 (NASB) ¶ “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17 “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Who – you, and God through Christ, and the person who offended you

What – you talk to God and pray, then you go to the other person showing his fault

When – as soon as you realize you have been sinned against

Where – wherever you are – when you and the other person can be alone to converse

Why – to restore your relationship with the other person, and to restore your relationship with your Heavenly Father

How – You seek forgiveness by specifically naming the sin the person has committed and allowing them to ask forgiveness. See #1 for more details.

4. When you see another Christian caught up in sin – Gal 6:1

Galatians 6:1 (NASB) ¶ Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself so that you too will not be tempted.

Who – you, and God through Christ, and the person who appears to be overcome in sin

What – you go asking questions to determine the facts that the person is caught up in habitual sin

When – as soon as you suspect there might be an issue.  Note in Genesis how God asked Cain why his countenance was fallen?  That might be a sign of an underlying issue.  Also, one who is regularly missing from church fellowship might be a warning sign. We who are spiritual (that is you) are to be alert for spiritual problems in the church body.

Where – wherever you are – when you and the other person can be alone to converse

Why – to restore the sinner to his/her proper relationship to God and others if they are also involved.  Frequently family members will be impacted by the behavior of the one overcome in sin.

How – You go asking questions to determine the facts that sin is present, and it is habitual (lifestyle) sin that has overcome the person. You are going to restore the person, so sin must be confronted lovingly. Note the warning in the verse – be careful you do not get caught up in the sin rather than restoring the wayward party. Note also that we go in an attitude of gentleness.  Our goal is restoration, not humiliation nor to tear the person down.

Conclusions

Unity in the church body is especially important to God, as we see in Ephesians 4:1-67

Ephesians 4:1 (NASB) ¶ Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 ¶ with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (underline added for emphasis)

This unity is maintained when sin issues are addressed promptly.

“But I tried,” you may say “but the person would not hear me. What do I do now?” First off, remember Romans 14:12.

Romans 14:12 (NASB) So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

You are accountable to God for your actions.  Since you have fulfilled your responsibility to God, you are pleasing to God so there should be a satisfaction to you in that.  Your part has been handled the way God prescribes.  God knows and understands some people are hard to deal with.  He gave us Romans 12:18 as a reminder.

Romans 12:18 (NASB) If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

He further says that the person who will not forgive another will not receive forgiveness from Him.  See what Matthew 6:14-15 says, quoting God immediately after the model Lord’s prayer.

Matthew 6:14 (NASB) “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

In essence, the one who will not forgive now becomes the sinner. He or she falls into God’s hands for justice as we see in Romans 12:17-21 and Hebrews 10:28-31.

Romans 12:17 (NASB) Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Hebrews 10:28 (NASB) Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

We are not to seek revenge or to get back at the person in any way.  We need to step aside and make room for God to work.  This is much wiser because it is only God who knows the heart and can be the perfect sinless judge. Our thinking is not clear due to the curse of sin. Instead, we are to see that the unrepentant sinner is to be ministered to spiritually in his needs.

But you may be asking, “What about me? How do I handle this?”.  Good question.  Start by thinking about our relationship with God.  He seeks us when we sin.  We typically do not run to God.  Yet God stands ready to forgive us when we sin.  We should have this same attitude as Christ.  We should be ready to quickly accept forgiveness if/when it is offered.  Even if not offered, we need to have an attitude of forgiveness.  Further, you have the responsibility to keep the issue between you and the other person and not enlarge the problem. This means you must not gossip, slander, nor become bitter against the other person. As opportunity presents itself, keep trying to restore the relationship.

Seeking and granting forgiveness for sin is not easy or comfortable to do. I believe this is one area we can all grow in (author included). It’s important for God’s glory.

Application Questions

  1. Are you careful to use Biblical definitions for sin in confronting yourself or others (and not personal preferences)?
  2. How is your relationship with God? He knows everything (omniscient) and is everywhere (omnipresent) – you cannot hide from God.
  3. How is your relationship with others, is there an unresolved sin that you caused?
  4. How is your relationship with others, are there others who have sinned against you that need to be lovingly and gently confronted?
  5. As you fellowship with other believers, do you sense that a brother or sister may be overcome in a habitual sin and need help? Do you see fellow believers with fallen countenance (frowns or appear angry or seldom smile)? Do you notice fellow believers who seem to be missing from your fellowship and do you follow up with them?

For Further Study

Rob Green, Forgiveness: Showing Grace When You Have Been Hurt, Faith Resources, 2007, 24 pages, Faith Resources Catalog # 82743

Robert D. Jones, Forgiveness: I Just Can’t Forgive Myself, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co., 5/1/2000, 17 pages, ISBN-10:0875576780

Jay E. Adams, From Forgiven to Forgiving: Learning to Forgive One Another God’s Way, Calvary Press, 1/1/1994, 175 pages, ISBN-13: 978187973129

Timothy S. Lane, Forgiving Others: Joining Wisdom and Love, Net Growth Press, 7/28/2005, 20 pages, ISBN-10:097623081X

Michael HinesMichael Hines
Mike Hines is retired from Purdue University. He is an ACBC Certified counselor in the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries. Mike co-teaches in the Berean Adult Bible Fellowship, is the Treasurer for Faith Community Development Corporation, leads a Point Man Bible Study group, and serves as the initial point of contact for new guests in our Food Pantry/Clothing Closet. Mike has served as Deacon at Faith. Mike has served in the community on the Purdue Employees Federal Credit Union Board of Directors and the United Way Allocations Committee. Mike and his wife, Marilyn, have been members of the Lafayette community since 1969 and a member of Faith since 1978. Mike and Marilyn have two children and four grandchildren.