Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
The sin question
Dear Father Paul: I am a 48-year-old man. When I was a teenager, I walked the aisle at a little country church and received Christ as my savior. For a time, I lived a godly life. But now, decades later, I am living a life that is anything but Christian. You name a sin, and I’ve done it. I haven’t been to church or picked up a Bible in years and years. My dad died young and I have come to dread and fear death. I am wracked with guilt and am convinced that I will spend eternity in hell. Any words from you would be deeply appreciated.
— No Name
Dear No Name: It may be little comfort, but you are not alone! Based on my many years of ministry, I can confidently observe that multitudes of people in America today are exactly where you are spiritually. Maybe they have not lived a life of deep sin such as you describe, but, like you, they once knew the Lord and walked closely with him, but now have totally abandoned God and his church.
Your problem, as you yourself say, is simply called “sin.” And sin is sadly more pervasive today than ever. To be blunt, I couldn’t even begin to count the number of people I’ve met, talked to or have known over the years whose story is very similar to yours. “I once was a Christian, but I haven’t read the Bible or been to church in years,” they often say.
Part of the problem is with the church itself. Lots and lots (not all, but lots and lots) of preachers don’t preach much on sin any more.
The preachers who do still preach on sin are being honest to their calling, but often wind up losing a lot of parishioners and pastoring tiny churches. That’s because people today simply don’t want to hear sermons on sin. Sadly, “Feel Good Messages” are far more popular and more likely to fill church pews. But the truth is that preachers who never discuss sin … its ultimate consequences and its simple remedy … do their congregations no favors. As a matter of fact, a pastor who soft pedals sin does great harm that can result, for some, in an eternity spent in hell! Preachers, in my view, should preach on both God’s eventual justice to the unrepentant sinner … and his mercy and forgiveness to the sinner who seeks God.
Sin, quite simply, is anything we do, or fail to do, that violates Gods laws and/or commandments. People ask me, “Are there some sins that are worse than others?” Yes indeed. But all sins have the potential of separating us from God. Not separating us from God’s love mind you. Indeed, God still loves us even when we sin, but sin (not dealt with) erects a deep chasm between a sinner and God.
That’s exactly where you are today No Name. You are much like the “Prodigal Son” in the parable Jesus tells in the Gospel of Luke 15:11-24. I strongly urge you to read this beautiful story about an estranged son (that’s you) who comes to his senses, returns to his father and is lovingly restored to the family. The “Good News” is that restoration to God’s family is yours for the asking!
The story in Luke tells you, and anyone else in your spiritual condition, exactly what you must do (by example) to be forgiven by God and have your relationship to him restored. A brief, three verse passage, in I John chapter one, verses 8 – 10 (New Living Translation) is even more powerful. It says: “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to Him (emphasis mine) he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” Like me, you will probably need to do this almost every day.
So here’s my advice. Tonight, when you lay your head on your pillow, and when its just you and God, do what the Bible says to do in I John. If you are really serious, and really mean it, you will wake up tomorrow, a new (and forgiven) man. Welcome back to the family of God.
Do you have a question or a comment? Email me at email@example.com
Father Paul Massey is pastor emeritus at Church of the Holy Cross in Fayetteville, Georgia. Visit www.holycrosschurch.wordpress.com for information, directions and service times.