Recognizing Our Sin

by Dennis Stackhouse

How important is it for a Christian individual to recognize sin in their lives?  It is of extreme importance because without that recognition a person will never take the necessary steps to remove the sin and get their life moving in a righteous direction once more.  With that in mind, let's notice a few Biblical examples of this dynamic at work.

When King Saul was confronted by the prophet Samuel regarding his disobedience, he said, "I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the Lord and your words" (I Samuel 15:24).  Although changes were not forthcoming in Saul's life, he did recognize his sinfulness. 

One we are very familiar with involves King David and his adulterous sin with Bathsheba, and the subsequent murder of her husband.  The prophet Nathan was sent by God to point out his sinful behavior.  David responded to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord" (II Samuel 12:13).  Those six simple words uncover his recognition and the agony David was feeling in his soul.  In Psalms 51:1-3 we read this: "Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.  For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me."  Here again is a very acute awareness of sin; no denials, no excuses, just a contrite heart looking for God's mercy.

We have similar statements made in the New Testament.  Think about the tax collector in our Lord's parable recorded in Luke 18:9-14.  This man's inner soul is bared to us "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner'" (Luke 18:13).  This man was in such deep despair over his sin that he couldn't even lift his eyes toward God.  He felt absolutely unworthy to stand in the presence of holiness.  All he sought was mercy from the One who is anxious to give it.  Add to this the statement of the apostle Paul recorded for us, "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all" (I Timothy 1:15). When Paul reflected on his pre-Christian life, especially as it involved his persecution of the church, he felt as though he was the worst sinner that had ever lived.  This is nothing less than a soul-wrenching recognition of sinfulness.

Thinking specifically about those who are Christians, this recognition of sin should lead to contrition and repentance, seeking God's forgiveness.  John, writing to a Christian audience, put it very well, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).  The recognition of sin in our lives is critical, but it doesn't stop there.  We must take the necessary steps to return to God by forsaking the sin and seeking His mercy to cleanse those sins.  May God bless us as we seek to live for Him and be a light to this crooked and perverse generation.