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Sin is NOT the CORE Problem For Unbelievers

Alarming but true, avoiding sin would make no difference in the life of an unbeliever. Sin is not the core problem. The core problem for unbelievers is a need for new life. Spiritual life.

Before I get started let me point out that I did not say that sin is not a problem. It most certainly is. Sin caused death to all humans. Even once we are saved from sin, it is still harmful and should be avoided.

But today I want to show you that the core problem for unbelievers is that they are dead. They are spiritually dead. And what they need is new life. This life cannot be acquired by avoiding sins.

I want you to imagine for a moment we have a friend who had a problem with all types of sin. One day this friend is drunk driving and flies off a cliff at 80 miles an hour and dies. Now imagine there we are at his graveside, and somebody starts yelling to him “repent’. They yell at his dead body ‘stop drinking and driving’.

You would probably look at your friend like he’s crazy. You might even tap him on the shoulder and say “Hey, Don’t you realize this guy is dead?“. We would all realize how silly he must look asking this guy to avoid sin. Today I want you to see that this is the same problem we are dealing with spiritually.

Every Christian is born dead in Adam. We could walk around living near-perfect lives and completely avoid nearly every imaginable sin, but that would make absolutely no difference in our eternal salvation.

Now I know right out of the gate some of you are going to quote the scriptures that say ‘repent and believe’. Unfortunately, that phrase has been taken wildly out of context and has created a very distorted version of the gospel.

I want you to think about the audience that was being told to ‘repent and believe’. These were law-loving Jewish people who were well known for being very clean on the outside. If you told them to repent from outward sin they would be standing beside you cheering you on. They would not argue a single word. On the outside, these guys were sparkling clean. But if we pay attention to the Scriptures, we realize that their problem was inward. Inwardly they were rotten to the core.

So when we read these verses calling them to repent and believe we need to recognize what they need to repent from. If we paid attention we realize they were actually told what they need to repent from. Simply read the last two words of that phrase. AND BELIEVE.

It would’ve been a waste of time to tell people to avoid outward sin as a means of salvation. The gospel message is not ‘avoid outward sin and believe in Jesus’ for salvation. The gospel message is ‘repent’, or ‘turn away’ from your belief system so that you can be made right with God through the law. In other words, there is no type of human performance that is going to give us eternal life. And as long as we continue to believe that the problem will remain the same. The Jews, and all of humanity, will remain spiritually dead until they repent from unbelief.

So we are getting it wrong as we run around screaming on megaphones telling people to stop outward sin so that they can accomplish part of what needs to be done for salvation. In fact, good luck trying to get an unbeliever to view sin differently. The only way you’re going to get someone to avoid sinning is by getting them to believe in Jesus and receive eternal life as the Holy Spirit comes to live in and through them.

Think about what was lost in the garden where this all began. Yes, sin was the initial cause of spiritual deadness. But once sin entered the world the solution was no longer to avoid it. It was a lot like the drunk driver example. Everyone is now born spiritually dead. What we all need is His life. And you can leave the most honest and sin-free life, But unless you receive a new spiritual life your problem will never be solved.

I want you to think about the question Nicodemus had for Jesus in Matthew 19:16-22. He wanted to know how he could receive eternal life. Jesus did not make a single mention about avoiding outward sin. Jesus told him he needed to be “born again”. Of course, Nicodemus was confused about how he could be born a second time. But Jesus was referring to a second birth that was spiritual. And the second birth is eternal (never-ending). By the way, this should completely destroy any argument that someone can lose salvation. If something is eternal, you can’t have one moment and not the next.

Jesus said that he came that we might have ‘life’. Anyone living then would have thought that was silly. But Jesus was teaching us that we are already spiritually dead, and he has come to rescue us. And of course, we discover in the Scriptures that there is only one way to receive this life, and it sure was not by committing fewer sins. So why in the world is that our gospel message to unbelievers? It’s ridiculous.

I’m not saying that there’s not a place for a message to encourage good godly behavior. They most certainly is. But it is futile to be sharing that message to an unbeliever. All that does is push people away from God. Now I’m not saying that the gospel message does not include a discussion about sin and how it caused spiritual death. That absolutely is part of the gospel message, and I have not suggested differently. But the solution is not for them to stop sinning. And for trying to save people with that message we have completely missed the gospel of grace.

If I had to summarize what the gospel should look like when presenting it to unbelievers it would look something like this:

  • God is perfect and without sin.
  • God created humans in His image.
  • God never stripped us of our free will. We have always been free to choose good or evil.
  • Instead of trusting God, Adam and Eve wanted to know for themselves the difference between good and evil and they broke the one and only rule and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
  • The single sin resulted in spiritual death for all of humanity. Much like people inherit traits from their dad, grandfather, great grandfather etc. all humans are born of Adam.
  • God’s heart is that every human being would be rescued from that mistake. Unlike flawed religious teaching, God surprisingly gave us a very simple escape. He sent his son Jesus to die on the cross as payment for all the sins of the world. There is no sin, big or small, that he did not take away. But we are still left with the problem of needing to be born again. To receive spiritual life. And God only asked you to do one thing to receive it. And the shocker is that it requires no human effort on your part. All God is asking you to do is to believe Him. Trust that Jesus died on the cross and had the power to remove your sins, and then rose from the dead to give you new life. If you believe that in your heart God swears he will give you eternal life and you will never perish.

It’s amazing how many people celebrate water baptism and don’t even realize what it symbolizes. When we are dunked underwater, that is a picture of the old man dying, but when we are lifted up from the water it’s a picture of us being resurrected to new life with Christ.

So circling back to where we started. Christians no doubt should live out their identity in Christ and walk in the spirit as they avoid the Temptations of the evil one. But if our heart is for those that are Hellbound we need to help them solve the core problem. There are plenty of atheists that live much cleaner and sinless lives than some questions. But that’s not going to solve their problem. And if your heart is to solve their problem let them know the solution is simply to believe.

Only belief can give them new spiritual life.

God Bless!

Author: Mike Cynar

Mike Cynar was raised in a church setting where he frequently noticed that many attendees would eventually drift away. The church labeled these individuals as ‘back sliders’ or ‘fake Christians’ just looking for ‘fire insurance’. However, Mike realized the issue was rarely with these individuals but instead with the church’s message itself. The teachings heavily emphasized behavior improvement and one’s flaws, with only a fleeting mention of one’s identity in Christ. It felt as though every sermon was tailored to the church of Corinth, who as we know or committing sins that even unbelievers don’t partake in. This trend was noticeable not just in one denomination, but across Baptist, Catholic, Pentecostal, and many other churches. Upon understanding the true essence of the gospel – that our righteousness comes from Jesus’ actions, not our own – Mike was inspired to liberate believers from lifeless sermons and reconnect them with the genuine teachings of Jesus. He believes that one can nurture a vibrant and growing bond with Jesus, unhindered by rigid religious practices. And thus, “Jesus Without Religion” was born.

It turns out that it is grace that leads to repentance. And if our heart is to get others to walk in the Spirit and live a godly life, then the best approach is not a beat down sermon, but rather to remind other that it is only when we understand our true identity in Christ that we will live it out. Yes, it’s true, if you’re convinced that God thinks you’re a dirty sinner, you will ultimately continue a lifestyle that mirrors that view, but if you truly believe that even on your worst day, you are called holy, sanctified, justified, and will be presented blameless in the end, well, it turns out this is the secret to living out on the outside what has been worked in to the inside.

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