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What kind of sinner are you?


In order to understand the Bible, Christianity, and even your own nature for that matter, it is necessary to understand what it means to be a sinner. God’s Word declares, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The Hebrew word for sin in the Old Testament is khata, and the Greek word for sin in the New Testament is hamartia. It means “to miss the mark,” such as when an archer fails to hit the bullseye. Every time we miss the mark of living up to God’s holy and perfect standard, we sin.

But sin is more than just the wrong things we think, say and do. Sin is actually a deep-seated aspect of our human nature that we inherited from our parents. After King David committed adultery with Bathsheba he wrote, “Surely I have been a sinner from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).

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Evil desires flow from our sinful nature leading us to disobey God with our thoughts, words and actions. The first sin ever committed was Lucifer’s rebellion in Heaven, and the first sin committed by human beings occurred when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. The first usage of the word sin in the Bible is in reference to Cain and Abel. 

“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.’ Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out to the field.’ And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4:6-7).

Cain’s sin was vicious and premeditated. But not all sin is deliberately planned out. We often commit what I would call “hasty” sins. In the spur of the moment, we allow our thoughts, words or behavior to deviate from God’s will for our life. For example, Peter denied the Lord not just once, but three times. He was caught off guard each time he denied Christ, even though he had claimed he would never do such a thing (see Matthew 26:31-35).

Do you find yourself giving into one particular sin over and over again? What is your greatest area of weakness? And even more importantly, what kind of sinner are you? That is to say, do you tend to be a deliberate sinner, or are you someone who typically tries not to sin? When Potiphar’s wife urged Joseph to come to bed with her, he resisted the temptation and said, “How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:7). Joseph was carefully guarding his heart and his close relationship with God.   

Are you a deliberate sinner, or a reluctant sinner? Do you feel any shame when you sin against God? Do you strongly desire to please the Lord with your thoughts, words and actions? A young woman who came to know Christ said, “In the past I was a sinner running after sin and eagerly pursuing it, but now that I am saved, I run away from sin and seek to avoid it.” Which direction are you heading today? Toward sin, or away from it?

The Apostle Paul described the Holy Spirit’s supernatural work of repentance in a believer's heart. “Your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done” (2 Corinthians 7:9-11).

So, what kind of sinner are you? Are you alarmed and ashamed because of your sin, or callous and unconcerned about your sin? Do you experience a righteous indignation when you sin, or are you oblivious to the depravity of your wicked behavior? Ananias and Sapphira were indifferent to their bad behavior when they lied to the Holy Spirit in Acts 5, and it cost them their lives (vv. 1-11) What about you? Do you long to stop sinning? Do you desire to live every moment for Christ?

Even the Apostle Paul found himself struggling with the desires of his sinful nature as he went about his apostolic duties. He wrote, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do" (Romans 7:15). Are you a reluctant sinner like Paul? As a devoted follower of Christ there will still be times when you lapse into sin, even if only for 20 seconds or a couple minutes. Every Christian can relate to the ongoing struggle with sin that we all face after being saved, redeemed, forgiven, justified and born again.

I encourage you to confess your sins to Christ today and to pray this simple prayer: “Wash me Jesus with your precious blood.” The blood that washes our sins away also frees us to live for Christ. Everyone who has been born again has "been set free from sin and become a slave to righteousness” (Romans 6:18). 

Always remember: “You are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you” (Romans 8:9). And this explains why as a believer in Jesus and a committed follower of Christ, you are a reluctant sinner who does not want to give into temptation. 

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska. 

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