Thessalonians 1:12 …that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (NKJV)
There’s an old proverb that says “If you ask the wrong question, you will get the wrong answer”. We often ask the wrong question when it comes to sin.
Very often we ask questions “about right and wrong” when what we really want is to find out how much “sin” we can get away with, without it being categorized or pointed out by others as “sin”. First of all, the answer is NONE, and second of all, you’re asking the wrong question. For example, every person who counsels, disciples, teaches or preaches has no doubt been asked questions similar to this:
- A young engaged couple wants to know how much sexual contact they can get away with before marriage and “still not be sinning”.
- A business man asks how many corners he can cut on his taxes and it not be considered cheating.
- A woman wants to know if it’s okay to “share” some “facts” about someone so that we can all pray “more effectively” for them.
- A man wants to know if it is a sin to utter a profanity when you bang your shin, or because he was born with a bad temper and “can’t help it”..
- A teenager asks if her latest behavior is sin if “everyone is doing it” and other people don’t think it’s wrong.
In all these cases, and similar ones, you will get a wrong and ineffective answer because you are asking the WRONG question. In essence, when we ask these sort of “is it wrong if…” questions what we are really saying is “how much can I sin without it really being a sin?” At that point many inquirers become very indignant and insist they are just interested in honestly knowing the answer so they can “do the right thing”… and as my teenager daughter would reply, “yeah, whatever”.
Even if you give the benefit of the doubt concerning the motives of the person asking, it’s still the wrong question. Before we discuss the “right” question, consider this:
If you have to wonder whether something is
right or not, it’s most likely wrong.
You should take that principle to heart and apply it often and generously. The things of God are “light” (2Cor 4.1;1John 1.5). They are not hidden in shadows or fog. What is right is plainly right, and the true seeker of righteousness will have no problem knowing what is right in God’s eyes (James 1.5; Psa 18.28). That statement will reap me about a hundred “what ifs” and a hundred more “hypothetical situation” emails. We go to such amazing lengths to dream up imaginary scenarios where sin really doesn’t seem like sin, because then, we can take the ointment of rationalization and soothe our own personal rash of self indulgence.
When we speak of run-of-the-mill, everyday, day-in-and-day-out Christian living, the Bible is abundantly clear on what is sin and what is not… lust, greed, gossip, selfishness, anger, pride, dishonesty, language, modesty, etc. The mature Christian quits playing the games of rationalization and calls sin for what it is; and if something is NOT clearly and immediately righteous (according to God), then err on the side of holiness.
If something is not clearly and immediately “Godly”,
then don’t stop, don’t pass go, do not collect $200.
If you have to wonder or convince yourself,
it’s probably NOT “good” or “right”.
So what’s the right question? Well, before I share that, we have to discover the right motivation. The motivation for the list of questions above is “how little can I do, and still be a member of the club”? What far close to sin can I get and it not be considered SIN? How much can I indulge my SELF, and still claim Christ? We want to know where the line is:
SIN | Not SIN
What is being asked in the list of questions above is “where is the line that divides ‘sin’ and ‘not-sin’ so I won’t accidentally step over it?” Not only is it the wrong question, it’s a dangerous question. Why do you want to get so close to the line, that one step, one fall, one push will send you over it? I have often shared the following little word-picture with my three kids trying to help them understand the “margin of safety” when it comes to sin…
Picture sin as the edge of a cliff. One foot from the edge, you’re still safe and haven’t “fallen”. But what if a gust of wind suddenly hits you? What is someone who intends you harm runs up and pushes you? What is someone grabs you and tries to jump off the cliff holding on to you? What if you accidentally trip and fall? What if you merely take a small step and slightly lose your balance in the direction of the cliff’s edge? What will happen?
You will fall off the edge of the cliff.
Now, what happens if any of these things occur if you are 50 yards from the edge of the cliff? You may get a scratch, or a small injury, but you haven’t fallen off the cliff. You can get up and keep going.
Even better, what if you are 50 yards away and traveling rapidly in the OPPOSITE direction of the cliff? With every step further from the cliff’s edge, you increase your “margin” for stumbling or bad choices.
I believe this is what Scripture has in mind (emphasis mine):
- 1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
- 1 Corinthians 10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
- 1 Timothy 6:11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.
- 2 Timothy 2:22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
We’re not called to stand and fight our personal temptations. We’re not told by God to bravely exist near the line (the cliff’s edge) and see how long we can keep from stepping over it. We are told to FLEE… turn around, run away, escape, remove yourself… we are to RUN from sin. Sin comes from within, it is a product of SELF. Yes, evil spiritual forces can be a part of tempting you to sin, but they cannot CAUSE you to sin. It’s always a choice. So run, run, run… this is no issue of bravery, it is one of obedience.
Okay, so if the wrong question is “where is the sin dividing line” (so I can make sure I don’t step over it), what is the right question? Thought you’d never ask; here it is:
What can I do to bring the most glory
to Jesus Christ, my Redeemer?
With the right question in mind our list would be something more like this:
- A young engaged couple wants to know specifically what can they do to stay as pure and holy as possible as they near their wedding date in order to honor Jesus on their wedding night.
- A business man asks a Christian accountant to evaluate his accounting practices and help him determine if everything he is doing is above reproach.
- A woman honestly shares only the facts that are edifying to those involved specifically for the reason of glorifying God through intercessory prayer.
- A man strives to remove all reaction and vocabulary from his life that may call into question his total commitment to Jesus Christ.
- A teenager asks for help to find out what the Bible says about a certain behavior, willing to immediately change anything that is not glorifying to God.
If you ask the wrong question, you will get the wrong answer. When you find yourself struggling over “right and wrong” in your life, make sure you are NOT asking “where is the line between right and wrong so I can be sure not to step over it”; and learn to ask “what can I do in this situation to bring the most glory to my Savior who suffered and died so that I might have eternal life with Him”.
See if that doesn’t get you some RIGHT ANSWERS.
Lord God, Help us to see what the right question is. Give us discernment to know when our questions are really just a way to find justification to sin. Teach us to filter all things through the only thing that matters: glorifying Your Son., In His name, Amen.
Contemplation: Do you ever find yourself nit-picking a fine line between sin/not sin? Have you ever had times where you REALLY had to convince yourself that something was “okay”? Do you have any areas of your life where you stay just ‘this side” of sin (lust, envy, gossip, greed, pride”)?
Application: YES, we should study God’s Word in order to know “right from wrong”. When we want to know right from wrong for the sole purpose of glorifying God, then we do well. But let’s be real. It is the natural tendency of our sinful flesh to want to indulge in everything possible just short of “crossing the line”. THIS IS THE MINDSET OF THE BABY CHRISTIAN WHO SHOULD BE EATING “MEAT” BUT IS STILL DRINKING MILK (Heb 5.12). A lot of Christians never get off the milk bottle.
The truth is, there really is no such thing as “just this side of sin”. Wanting to stay “close to the line” exposes a sin in and of itself that needs to be dealt with in your heart. If you find yourself working hard to convince yourself that something you are about to do (or want to do; or have a habit of doing) is “not wrong, REALLY it isn’t; I thought and thought about it; I’m sure it’s not wrong”… then chances are, it surely is wrong.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?