We all sin. It is an inevitable fact of life. Whether it is intentional or unintentional, our words and actions have the power to hurt people. They also have the power to create distance between us and God. If we want to have a fulfilling personal relationship with our Father, we must give up the inclination to sin. But how?
First step is to recognize that no matter how “big” or “small”, God sees all sin as equal. From blasphemy to murder to theft to lies, all sin leads to destruction. We will not be able to use the excuse, “But I only sinned a little.” God is just, always, and that means He is fair in His judgements. He will judge us and our entire life by how we lived and loved, according to the teachings of Jesus. Did we take up our own cross and follow after Jesus? Or did we follow for a little while, and then become complacent in our salvation? Did we allow the adversary to lead us astray? We must be ever vigilant and self-aware to ensure that we are righteous and Godly people, because every little thought, word, and deed counts. But we should always keep in mind God’s mercy.
Second, we must know what is sinful if we are to avoid sinning. When we read the Gospel of Matthew (Chapters 5-7), Jesus speaks at great length about how we should behave. The Sermon on the Mount covers a wide range of topics which elaborate on how we are to behave if we are to call ourselves a child of God. Jesus says we are to be poor in spirit (submissive to the Will of God), gentle, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, the salt of the Earth and the light of the world. We should thirst and hunger for righteousness – we should fill our soul more than we fill our bellies. Jesus goes on to speak about the Ten Commandments, but he elaborates on them, saying that even if we commit those sins in our heart, we are still guilty of them – for out of the heart comes sin, som if our heart is filled with sin, we have already committed those sins.
Third, now that we understand that sin is whatever separates us from God, and we know what to avoid, how do we receive eternal life? God promises that if we follow Jesus, we will live forever. Our bodies will die, but we will be resurrected into a new, perfect Earth, where Jesus (love) is the ruler, a ruler we will all love and adore. But we must repent. If we do not repent, which literally means to “turn away” from our sins, we will be condemned by God. We must recognize and fully stop the sins that separate us. Then, we must be baptized, since Jesus was baptized, we are to follow in his footsteps.
Jesus tell us the formula for salvation in Mark 16:16 – “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”
Belief (FIRST!) + baptism = salvation.
The Apostle, Peter, in the Book of Acts, also delivers the message of salvation (Acts 2:36-39).
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him [Jesus] both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”
Baptism is the outward expression of your inward faith. When we are baptized, we are symbolically washed clean of our sin by the blood and sacrifice of Jesus. This DOES NOT mean that we are, now, free to live as we see fit, under our own judgement. See, we are imperfect creatures, and we need a perfect savior to lead us to God. Some do not traverse this path, but those who do find peace, joy, and protection from the things which only serve to separate us from our Father. Again, we must ever-vigilant and always self-aware in order to be equipped to fight the temptation to sin – because temptation is everywhere. Peter says in one of his letters:
1 Peter 5:8 – “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
The world and those who seek to do you harm are hungry. Be aware, be strong, be smart. But, above all, be faithful, as God is always faithful to us.