Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Rom 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
Rom 1:20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Rom 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
It has always been fallen man’s tendency to reduce sin to acts that they can either commit or not commit. It makes us believe that we can stop sinning by our own power and so the struggle not to sin isn’t all that difficult. Probably this is why so many over-emphasize the 10 Commandments when it comes to the pursuit of sanctification. Reducing the bulk of being “good” to a list of ten certainly makes it easier to convince oneself that he is winning the battle against sin.
Now to be sure, the 10 Commandments in their proper context can be useful for a Christian but I think there are better passages in the Bible that lays out to us the true nature of sin and so gives us a better idea of how to identify it in our lives and so guard against it and also point us in the right direction as to what true godliness is.
I think a proof that there is merit to all this is in the fact that there are Christians that think they have quit sinning or can go long stretches without sinning. As you talk to them you begin to see that what they have done is to lower the bar of what a sin actually is to the point that anyone with a little human effort can stop doing certain overt acts. So if sins are acts I commit with my body but not necessarily thoughts I think or things I should have done but didn’t then it is much easier to convince myself that I have been pretty good from one day to the next.
There are many Scriptures that refute the idea that sin can be reduced in this way and the above passage in Romans 1 is a good example. If we assume that the wrath of God is directed at man’s sinfulness as it clearly says then the things listed must be considered sinful; namely, suppressing the truth, and especially in vs. 21, not honoring God as we should and not being as thankful as we should.
These things speak to a mindset, a way of life and not just overt acts that we commit now and then. In other words, sin isn’t just acts we commit but acts and thoughts and motives that we omit from our life; sins of omission as well as commission. Now I guess it is possible that I am such an awful sinner that the whole concept of being sinless for even a short time is just beyond my ability to comprehend. But I am willing to bet that every descendent of Adam is just as unable to stop sinning and fully honor the Lord as they should.
So sin is not honoring God in every moment of everyday as he deserves. To have stopped from sinning we must always do everything for the absolute right reason and pride never enter into the picture. It is to be so motivated by our love for God that we always do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reason. Being thankful is pretty much the same thing. We always know that all that we have comes from God and is therefore to be used for him. So we never take credit for what we have or have done and are therefore properly humbled. Giving God his due and being thankful means that I give proper honor to his Word and always obey it, always know that it is right and never argue with it because that would not be honoring God as the only true Wisdom.
While in our hearts we might agree with all this, we all know that it is impossible to live it out moment by moment, day after day, year and after year. For instance, it is not enough to not murder someone but we are to work out love for them by our words and actions. So while I have never broken the commandment to not murder; I continually am unable to work out perfect, godly love towards anyone.
I think this is important because it keeps me focused on my heart and not just on what I do with my body or my speech. And it reminds me how sinful I still am and how much I need the Holy Spirit working in me to do God’s will and not my own. It also makes me realize how much I need the ministry of the Word of God in my life and why we all need to be under the ministry of the Word of God in the local church. Because we are so prone to sin we need the constant reminders and instruction of the Word of God; otherwise what does the Spirit have to work with?
To dismiss the need of constant Bible study just shows how easy it is to be full of ourselves and not give the Lord the honor he is due. At the end of the day sin is thinking I know better than God or living as if I believe that even if in my heart I know it is not true.