When Eve took of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and gave to her husband, the human race fell and sin and death entered the world. As Romans 5:12 explains it: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
There are three basic ways we can look at the effect of sin entering the world. The solution that God provides speaks to each one of these facets. First, Adam was our representative and therefore when he sinned, we were all counted guilty in him and therefore we were born sinners. We are not speaking here of our propensity to sin, but the fact that we already were guilty at conception. Adam’s decision was counted as if it had been our own. Romans 5 explains this when it says that sin is not imputed when there is no law and yet the people between Adam and Moses died even though there was no law for them to violate. No sin was imputed to them and yet they died. They, and all of us, were guilty of Adam’s sin.
Second, we inherit a sin nature. Our hearts are evil at the core. The Bible says that every imagination of the thoughts of our hearts are only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). Man’s heart is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21). The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). There is none righteous, none who understands, none who seeks for God. All have turned aside (Romans 3:10-18).
Third, we also commit sins either by doing what is forbidden by God or by omitting what he commands. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
So what is God’s solution to these three facets of our sin problem? One of the things we usually do is focus on the confession aspect of particular sins. Confession of identified sins is important, but there are also some dangers if we don’t face the entirety of the problem I outlined above. For example, at the end of our day we may list a few specific sins and confess them to God. We may even list 10-15 specific sins. We may have been upset with a store clerk, frustrated with a waitress, impatient with traffic, angry with our spouse, excessively demanding of our children, etc. We may list all of these and confess them to God with the biblical knowledge that if we confess our sins God is faithful to forgive them.
The problem comes in if we think that we have now cleared the deck of today’s sins. We found fifteen sins and confessed them. We don’t realize that underneath and along side these were countless more. During how many minutes of the day did we come short of loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength? During which hours of the day did we fall short of loving our neighbor as much as we love ourselves? In how many ways did we fail to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness? In what ways may we have been impatient, worried, lusted, coveted, or been insensitive to someone elses needs? Is it possible to recognize all of these and list them? I don’t think so.
So one possibility is that we trivialize our sinfulness by listing a few sins we can remember. We don’t mean to do this, but we do. We end up thinking pretty good thoughts about ourselves, because, after all, our sin problem is manageable. On the other hand, if we do recognize the almost limitless number of ways we have sinned in any given day and the impossibility of listing them all, we may be driven to despair over our wretched lack of achievement when it comes to behaving in a godly way.