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This topic is adapted from the PursueGod Video YouTube channel.

While most would say sin is something to avoid, there are a lot of different ideas about it. Sometimes it can be difficult to know how seriously we should take our sin, especially the less significant sins. Because all sins – big and small – separate us from God, we need to take our sin seriously. God does too; that’s why Jesus died for our sins, and that’s why the a foundation of pursuing God is following Jesus.

[Related: Who is Jesus?]

What Is Sin?

We sin when we choose our own path instead of God’s. This choice happens when we trust or act on our own opinions or feelings instead of God’s truth as revealed in the Bible. We can make these choices in a wide variety of situations in life, and the Bible also explains some of the results of sin, or choosing our own path. In Galatians, Paul lists some of the results of sin.

Galatians 5:19-21 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness…

Most of us would probably have to admit that we have done some of these things. But in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus clarifies what qualifies as sin as he references two of the Ten Commandments, taking his audience’s understanding of sin and raising the standard even higher.

Matthew 5:22-28 You have heard that our ancestors were told, “You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.” But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment!…You have heard the commandment that says, “You must not commit adultery.” But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

According to Jesus, sin begins long before our thoughts lead to actions. Even in our thinking, we can still choose our own path over God’s, and we have all sinned more than we realize. Paul supports this idea in Romans 3:23 where he says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Jesus’s words show that when we measure ourselves against the world’s standards, we still fall short of God’s standards.

What Is God’s Standard?

God’s standard is that we are perfect. Jesus said, “But you are to be perfect, even as your father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). God’s standard is not the human definition of perfect; his standard requires us to be perfect in the same way that God is perfect.

God’s standard is so high because he is perfectly holy, and nothing less can enter his presence. If we are less than perfect, we cannot connect with God or be with him in heaven.

[Related: Why Is the Path to Heaven so Narrow?]

Therefore, God’s standard and the world’s standard are vastly different. We may not be “that bad” by the world’s standard, but we do not measure up to God’s standard.

The prophet Isaiah witnessed this contrast between his sin and God’s perfect holiness through a vision of God in heaven. Isaiah said, “…I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple” (Isaiah 6:1). Angels attending him were proclaiming, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord…” (Isaiah 6:2). Watching this scene heightens Isaiah’s awareness of his sinful state: “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King…” (Isaiah 6:5). Even Isaiah, a prophet, could not be in heaven with God on his own merits.

The smallest amount of sin is unable to dwell in the presence of God’s perfect holiness. If God allows your small amount of sin – an angry thought or selfish decision – into heaven, that would be unjust and unloving, an action which would contradict God’s holiness. As part of his perfection, God deals with all sin, whether big or small, justly.

[Related: Why Jesus Died]

What Is the Solution?

Sin creates an insurmountable gap between us and God, and the situation is far more serious than worldly standards would suggest. Fortunately, God has a merciful way to deal with our sin justly. After living a perfect life of servanthood, Jesus’s criminal’s death on the cross was not for his sins, but for ours. Because of this sacrifice, we may enter the presence of God if we will follow Jesus Christ.

Written content for this topic by Amanda Walker.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. What does “trusting Jesus” mean, and why is it the first idea we hear when we learn about pursuing God?
  4. What is an example of a way in which you chose your own path instead of God’s in your life? What was the outcome?
  5. Where do you encounter the world’s standard of “good enough?” What is the best response to it as a Christian?
  6. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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