Summary: It is very simple, when we fail to obey everything Jesus taught we are sinning; when we continue to sin we are living a sinful lifestyle; when we live a sinful lifestyle we are lost and going to hell.
Blinded By Ignorance
People do not seem to enjoy hearing sermons about sin; perhaps that is why we seldom take the time to really preach on the definition of sin. We leave people with an unclear perspective on sin in their lives. As a result, people consider sinning to be something others say is wrong; or sin might be doing what the law says is wrong; or perhaps it is just stuff the church says is wrong. In fact, things have gotten so bad that Christian even question if there is such a thing as sin. This situation is deplorable, and it is the preachers and teachers fault. While it is true that society, family, community, and the federal government establishes standards and regulations we are expected to follow, these are not necessarily scriptural definitions of sin. Violating these rules of man is frowned upon, and can result in our being punished; but this is not the same thing as standing guilty before God. Perhaps people do not like to hear sermons about sin but that is not justification for a preacher or a teacher to ignore teaching the truth about sin.
The truth is that we are guilty of leaving people ignorant when it comes to really understanding what sin is all about. Sin is not established through man’s law or societies standards; sin can only be defined by God. From a scriptural perspective, sin (hamartanó ) means "to miss the mark," which means to fail in meeting the standard established by God and taught by Jesus. By this definition, apart from Jesus, we are all failures … we are all sinners. (Romans 3:23) We can neither escape the reality of sin nor can we ignore the condemnation of sin; for it is because of sin that we are voluntarily choosing to spend eternity in hell. Isaiah wrote: But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. (Isaiah 59:2) Paul wrote: … Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, … (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). It is very clear that sin is our failure to obey everything Jesus taught (Matthew 28:16-20); and, we fail to obey everything Jesus taught because we are not truly convinced that we must follow everything Jesus taught; and, we are not fully convinced about the teachings of Jesus because we are ignorant when it comes to scripture. Ignorance, however, is no excuse.
Just because we are all sinners does not mean our ignorance is a situation that is acceptable to God. It is written, "Why do you call me, "Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46) "If you love me, you will obey what I command....” (John 14:15-21) "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22). In his sermon on Mars Hill, Paul made it clear that God no longer overlooks man’s ignorance because God sent Jesus in the world that we might escape from our ignorance. James made it clear that there is no excuse for ignorance: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” We live a sinful lifestyle because we lack scriptural wisdom and it is this lack of spiritual wisdom that separates us from God. We lack spiritual wisdom because we have a tendency to let the society we live in define sin for us, and because we are fooled into believing the local legal system can define sin. Even with the best of intentions, we also fail when we look to our parents, friends, or church traditions for a definition of sin. We continue to fail because we look for the definition of sin in the world and we are ignorant when it comes to the teachings of Jesus.
Man Cannot Define Sin
Man has always done a lousy job of defining sin. For example, when tax collectors and sinners came to eat with Jesus and His disciples the Pharisees saw this and they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” (Matthew 9:10-11) In their corrupt mines they considered it a sin for someone to associate with non-church people. There was also a time when a sinful woman, probably a prostitute, washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, and anointed them with perfume. Now when the Pharisee, who had invited Jesus to dine with him, saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39) The Pharisee, much like so called religious people today, was real good at defining sin for other people. But, just because these church men of authority were quick to define sin it did that make them correct. The fact is that man does not define sin.