Sin is falling short of the glory of God. We sin when we do not do what God wants us to do, or when we do what He does not want us to do. The word sin in Greek is hamartia, and it means “to go apart from a mark.” If you were to shoot an arrow at a target, and you missed the bull’s-eye, you would be missing the mark. The mark of God is perfection–total perfection. Anything that falls short of His perfection and holiness is sin.
There are two other words which refer to specific kinds of sins. The first is iniquity. Iniquity means to be twisted or crookedness. It is a perverseness, a twisted desire to do something contrary to an established norm. If Jesus Christ is our standard, then repeated conduct deviating from His example, would be iniquity. The second word is transgression. Transgression means the deliberate breaking of a known law or standard. You know what God wants you to do at a particular point, but you deliberately go against His will. Iniquity bends and distorts God’s will for our lives. Transgression deliberately cuts across it and breaks it.
There is one final definition of sin. The apostle Paul said that “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). In other words, when in doubt, don’t. There are many areas where we have to ask ourselves if what we are doing is right or wrong. To one person something may be all right, while to someone else, it might not be.
For example, if someone is a long distance runner, eating a piece of cake the night before a race could be a good idea. He is getting some extra carbohydrates into his body–a process called carbohydrate loading–and that is a smart thing for a highly trained athlete to do before a long race. On the other hand, if the man is a diabetic, he has no business eating that cake. Eating it could result in great harm to him. So there are different nutritional standards for different people, and this is true in spiritual service as well.
If someone is going to the mission field, he may have to give up material things because it will be necessary for him to live in a poorer culture, and many possessions would hurt his relationship with the people he wants to reach. On the other hand, if a person is a business executive, then he has to function among his fellow executives. If he lives in a grass hut and wears overalls, then he will neither be able to have a proper relationship with his colleagues nor be able to share his faith with them.
To the one man, living in an expensive home might be sin; to the other it might be a sin not to. It depends on the circumstance, because God has a special plan for each of us. Therefore, the standard for the undefined areas of our life is faith itself. “Whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
We should copy Jesus and not necessarily one another. The Bible says, “There is none who does good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:3). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3). But in Jesus Christ there is perfection. It is only in Christ that we can hit the mark. Jesus is the only sinless man, and there will never be another.
When we trust in Christ, we take His sinlessness upon ourselves. That is the only way we can enter into heaven–without any sin. The Bible says, “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7). As we are walking with Jesus, whatever sins we commit by our contact with the world are being continuously forgiven by the blood of Jesus as we confess them.