Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Sin

“The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian who lives beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is.

Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of men. And so it also does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this.

In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a Christian brother I can dare to be a sinner.”

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

 

Other quotes by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the Church

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Death

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Praying For One Another

What’s Your Excuse?

In my last post, I discussed how I have been examining myself, and finding that I don’t just sin “accidentally” but deliberately .  Now I’m looking at some of the ways I excuse my sins.

SINS OF COMMISSION

  1.  Everybody does it
  2.  It’s really not so bad
  3.  It’s just how I am
  4.  It’s impossible to avoid
  5.  I was provoked

SINS OF OMISSION

  1.  I’m too busy
  2.  I got tired
  3.  I can’t do everything
  4.  It’s not my gift, someone else can do it better
  5.  It’s somebody else’s responsibility
  6.  It makes me uncomfortable
  7.  I’m too old (this one might go with too tired!)

Okay, I know there is validity in some of our excuses.  We can’t do everything, and we certainly should concentrate on those thing we can do best.  We will all have a tendency to certain sins because of our own personality/upbringing/experiences.  However, we need to ask ourselves, are we doing something?  Are we trying to lean away from our sinful tendencies, or do we just accept them? Are we avoiding situations that cause us to sin?  Are we taking some initiative in the process of sanctification, or are we just drifting along?

The apostle Paul put it well:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13″

No, this doesn’t mean that we save ourselves through our works, but it does mean that we have a responsibility to work with God to grow mature in our faith.  So I would like to challenge our readers:  Examine yourself — make your own list of excuses–then make a realistic plan to do better.  Don’t try to improve in every area at once, just pick one.  If you’re like me, you’ll have plenty of choices.  NO MORE EXCUSES!

For more on examining your conscience, see these posts:

Examination of Conscience

Practicing Piety

False Piety #2

Choosing to Sin

Our small group has been reading and discussing the book, Outrageous Grace, by Grace Fabian Outrageous Grace by Grace L. Fabian–Book Review.  One of the study questions at our last meeting was:

” In what ways do you think Christians are guilty of reading and studying God’s Word, but not applying it to their own lives and obeying it?  Are we guilty of saying/singing that we love Him, but still hesitating to obey Him?”

Well, of course the answer is yes.  We are all sinners, and although we may struggle to do what’s right, we often give in to our “default” position which is sin.  We all know this.  Somehow, though, this time the question struck me even harder or more personally than usual.  I thought, it’s not so different from saying, “I know that exercise is good for me.  It’s not someone else’s opinion, I truly BELIEVE that I will be healthier if I exercise;  and yet for most of my life  I have CHOSEN not to do it.

I can believe in God, know His Word, and still consciously and deliberately choose to sin.  It’s not always just an accident or something I do when I stop thinking clearly.  Sinning is sometimes a choice that I make.

For example, I know the Bible tells us to “go and make disciples.”  Yet, I excuse myself by saying I’m an introvert, and evangelism isn’t my gift.  I’ll just “choose” to serve in another way.  I know that the Bible says we should not take God’s name in vain — and yet, I watch TV shows and read books that do just that.  I tell myself that bad language is simply so pervasive that it can’t be completely avoided these days and after all, I’m not the one saying those bad words, right?  (Sorry, this is known as vicarious sinning).  I know the Bible says that we should respect the civil authorities God has placed over us, and yet I complain and speak badly about them.  I could go on and on, and I’m sure you can make your own list if you think about it for even a minute or two.

I don’t have an answer for any of this, it’s more of an observation–an observation that is making me examine myself and realize that I come up wanting.  I’ve taken God’s grace for granted, and treated it like a get our of jail free card that I can use indiscriminately.  I say along with Paul,

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Romans 7:24″

If believe in God, then I should practice true obedience to His Word, just as I say every week in the confession.  I can’t stop sinning, but I can identify and work at those areas where I deliberately sin.  I’m going to try to take that seriously;  I’m going to pray about it;  and I’m going to stop making excuses and chip away at those attractive sins I don’t want to give up.  I believe that with God’s help, I can become a healthier Christian.

For more posts on sin, follow these links:

What is Sin?

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges–Book Review

Sin Boldly?

Martin Luther –Relax a Little!

“Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.”
Martin Luther

Servanthood Required

“Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:43-45

In our Bible Study this week, somebody mentioned a time when she often missed church because on the weekends, she had to care for her mother who had developed Alzheimer’s.  She said it was a time when she learned to become a servant to another person, someone who often wasn’t very nice to her.

I respect this lady for her devotion to her mother during a difficult time.  I’m sure it was made easier because she was able to remember times when her mother had cared for her lovingly, times before her brain became affected by disease.  Often in our daily life, we are all called to be servants to people who seem rude or mean, and we find it hard to love them and excuse them, because we don’t see a reason for their behavior.  They don’t have a faulty brain.

It’s good at those times to remember that all of us are afflicted by the same disease which sometimes causes us to act out in ways that appear selfish and incomprehensible.  That disease is called SIN.  I’m not saying we submit to abuse from another, but we can give them the benefit of the doubt.  Sometimes people act badly when they’re tired, they’ve had a bad day, feel out of control or somebody just “pushed their buttons.”  Sometimes they act badly because they’ve learned bad behavior from others, or feel insecure, or have had to deal with trauma in the past.  There are a million reasons.  They don’t excuse sin, but they help to explain it.  It is a kind of brain affliction and we all suffer from it to one degree or another, and sometimes we all need to be forgiven.

Sometimes we decide to avoid people who irritate us, annoy us, don’t appreciate us.  That’s not the best solution.  Getting to know another sinner (remember that’s someone just like you), may lead you to see their good qualities;  it may allow you to influence them in a positive way;  you may come to love them, even if you don’t always like them.  It may even lead them to give you a second chance on the days you need it!

In the verses above, Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms that servanthood is required.  We should probably start practicing today.

For more on being a servant, view these posts:

The Willing Servant

Being a Servant

Get Ready to Get Dirty

 

Martin Luther on Sin

“The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands.”

Martin Luther

For more posts on sin, follow these links:

What is Sin?

Saint and Sinner? Really?

How Do We Know Our Sins are Forgiven?

12 Steps for Sinners

Sin Has Consequences

What is Sin?

I’ve heard sin described in different ways.  Obviously, whenever we disobey one of God’s laws, we sin. Sin has been called “missing the mark.”  The literal meaning of the Latin word for sin is “curved in on itself.” So sin is being self-centered, considering only our own wants and needs.  In a recent sermon, my husband described sin as our “condition.”  That’s a bit different, but I liked it.  Because of the original sin that we’re born with, sin is simply our condition, no different from any other physical disease or abnormality we deal with.

For example, I have slightly high blood sugar.  That is my “condition.”  Last year I took a Prevent Diabetes class, hoping to control it.  For an entire year I learned about what I could do.  I lost weight, added exercise to my daily routine and began to eat healthier foods.  I was convinced that my hard work would have the results I wanted — lower blood sugar!  Unfortunately my recent tests revealed that my blood sugar levels remained the same.  My efforts did have some effects — it is certainly better for me to weigh less, exercise and eat a healthier diet–but they couldn’t change my underlying condition.  It is evidently hereditary and I can only hope to hold it in check.  I’ll never get rid of it.

The same is true of sin.  It’s part of our DNA.  Sinners are simply what we are.  We can study the Bible, pray and attend worship services.  We can do good deeds and serve others.  All of these things will make us healthier spiritually, and maybe even physically…. but, will they change our condition?  No.  We’ll still be sinners, no matter how hard we try.  We just can’t be saved on our own, and we can’t look down on other sinners, because we’re all in the same fix.

So, what is the solution?  Well, admit our sin and our helplessness to change it.  Give thanks that we have a Savior and so we don’t have to take care of the “sin condition” on our own.  Then in thanks and gratitude, do those healthy, spiritual things that will lessen the effects of our sinful natures;  things that will help us and help others.

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:21-15

For further discussion on sin, you can go to these posts:

Freedom from Tyranny + Freedom from Sin

Saints and Sinners

Saint and Sinner? Really?