Is it a sin if you sin while dreaming?
Questions Listed Under Sin
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To give a definitive answer to your question that covers every case, we would have to know exactly what is happening when a person dreams, and we don't. There are several accounts in Scripture in which a dreamer receives a special revelation from God. But Scripture is silent on why human beings commonly dream when we sleep. Science also has yet to find a satisfactory explanation.
Some take the position that we can't really sin in our dreams, because to be a "sin" an action must involve a conscious choice. That isn't Scriptural, however. We often sin without choosing to (Romans 7:15) or even being aware of it (Psalm 19:12).
The Lutheran Confessions mention sins committed in sleep (Smalcald Articles III, 3:28) as results of the hereditary sinful nature within each one of us. The point being made in the context is exactly the important one.To receive God's full, free forgiveness, it is not necessary that we name all our sins or even that we understand them. God's forgiveness for all our sins is a free gift, received through faith in Jesus Christ.
Is our conscience a helpful or reliable guide for our course of action in matters not determined by the Bible? How do we know whether a specific action is right or wrong when the Bible is silent?
Conscience is not a guide or norm. Conscience does not tell us what to do. It responds to what we have done or plan to do by either excusing or condemning us. Our conscience may use different norms: Scripture, standards of society, faulty religious training,etc. If conscience is using a faulty guide, its judgments are not valid. If Scripture does not forbid or command an action (adiaphoron), the matter must be left free. It is not in itself right or wrong.
As a Christian believer, I know all my sins are forgiven through Jesus' merit alone; yet, I continue to sin daily, even consciously. If I keep sinning I have forfeited forgiveness? How do true believers keep from sinning?
Hebrews 10:26 ("deliberately keep on sinning") and 1 John 3:6 ("keeps on sinning . . . continues to sin") speak of a person who claims to be a Christian but then deliberately and continually keeps on sinning. That is, he is not sinning in weakness, but instead he doesn't care if he is doing something against God's will (deliberate) and keeps doing the same thing day after day without any remorse for what he does. These passages are saying that no one who truly loves Christ will be proud of his sinful conduct and will keep on doing a particular sin without caring whether it is a sin against God or not.
Romans 7:19 speaks of what Christians like Paul and each of us don't want to do but then do because the Old Adam/sinful nature in us wages war against the New Man/new person in us (7:23) and at times gets us in weakness to fall into sin. When this happens we confess our sin (1 John 1:8,9), God forgives us for Jesus' sake, and we seek with Jesus' help to avoid that sin when the Old Adam tempts us again. If we fall again in weakness, we flee to the cross again for forgiveness and help to amend our sinful life. We are not proud of our sin and do not have the attitude that we can keep doing that sin without caring that we are sinning.
Every sin is a serious matter. So we never take sin lightly. But it is also true that the blood of Jesus Christ wipes all our sins away. It is that forgiving love of Jesus that leads us in faith to want to do no sin. But as long as we are this side of heaven, our sinful nature will often get us to do the sin we don't want to do (Romans 7). But at the same time the love of Jesus leads us to offer our bodies in service to him and to ask him to help us do that in our lives more each day (Romans 6:1-11).
Are some sins worse than others?
Since God created us to love him perfectly, and to love our neighbor as himself, any failure to love in heart, word, or action is the equivalent of shattering the whole law of God. James tells us that in the second chapter of his epistle, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it" (2:10). Every one of my sins is lawless rebellion against the God who created me to be a perfect reflection of his love in this world. Every failure to live in love is a damnable rejection of his purpose for our lives. In that sense all sin is equally evil. It is all equal evidence that we have a nature within us that is exactly the opposite of what God created us to be.
But for the believer in Christ, there's more to the story. Because we stand forgiven and holy in God's sight through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of his Son, every sin does not instantly make an unbeliever out of us. As we live in repentance that runs each day from the evil of our sin to the cross of our Savior, we find that "the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, purifies us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). Through faith in Christ we stand in God's grace (Romans 5:1-2).
However, if we grow careless about sin we are inviting spiritual disaster. If, when we become aware of sin in our hearts and lives, we continue in that sin and begin to excuse and defend it, then we are in danger of allowing sin to rule in our hearts again just as it did when we were unbelievers. To persist in what we know to be sin, will soon drive the Holy Spirit and faith from our lives. Paul warns us in Romans 8:13, "If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die." In that sense, stubborn and willful sin is more dangerous to our faith than sins of weakness or ignorance from which we run to his cross as soon as we recognize them. That's true even though all sin is by nature damnable in and of itself.
This sounds a bit paradoxical but here is the truth: if we treat sin as the evil it is and run to our Savior's gracious arms, it cannot harm us. Christ has paid for them all! But if we treat sin as harmless and defend and excuse it, then we are giving that sin the power to destroy us all over again.
All of this isn't about categories of sins ("big ones" and "little ones"), as if we could make two lists of different "types" of sins. The difference is the attitude of our hearts toward sin. Are we clinging to our sins or are we clinging to our Savior?
I know that sex before marriage is a sin, but where is this clearly stated in the Bible? When approached with this question previously, the only verses I could recall refer to "sexual immorality" or "adultery." Where is premarital sex defined as adultery and sexual immorality?
Instead of seeking a Bible verse that explicitly says something like, "Sex between two unmarried people is sin," you would do better to approach the whole issue as the Bible does. God establishes marriage and then says to those being joined together in marriage that they are to be intimately united and that they also become one flesh (see Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:5). Thus two things are linked to marriage: union (the intimate joining of a man and a woman as husband and wife) and becoming one flesh (sexual, physical intimacy too). To become one flesh (have sexual union) aside from this marriage bond is never allowed and never spoken of as God-pleasing. It is, however, clearly identified as wrong, as sin (see 1 Corinthians 6:15-18, for example). Any use of the gift of sex aside from the marriage bond is adultery, whether this is premarital or extramarital. God has graciously provided for the sexual desires of men and women to be satisfied only in marriage. To engage in premarital or extramarital sex, before or outside of marriage, is to sin in God's sight. That is precisely the point of Hebrews 13:4, a verse often referred to in this kind of discussion. "Marriage" and the marriage bed (the Greek text only has the word "bed") go together and are to be kept pure. Using the "bed" aside from "marriage" is sin that God will judge.
The counsel given in 1 Corinthians 7:9 makes the same point. If a person has sexual urges and the sex drive (a good gift from God in itself) expresses itself within a person, that person has a God-pleasing remedy identified: to be married and thus obtain the right to be sexually active. Before or outside of marriage, sinful lust is sinful lust. Marriage partners may express the same desires for each other and there is no sin. This kind of "lust" is not sinful. (The Bible word used here is also used for legitimate and proper strong desires, even though the English word usually always carries a negative idea).
I suggest that you sit down with your pastor and seek additional clarifications if you wish more. He may also have resource material in his library that can be helpful to you as you seek to serve others who ask you about these things.
I feel like today I'm being punished for my sins. I feel like everything that should go right goes wrong. So my question is, does God punish us for our sins?
Christ bore all the punishment for our sins, so there is nothing left for us to pay. Read Romans 8 for a statement that our suffering is not a punishment for sin, nor does it separate us from God.
Why then do Christians experience suffering?
There are cases in which suffering is a result of our faith, as when persecution strikes Christians (John 15:19) or when Satan launched attacks on Job (Job 1-2).
There are cases where suffering is caused by specific sins: imprisonment for a crime, sexually transmitted diseases, the effects of alcohol and drug abuse, the shame that follows notorious sins.
Much suffering, however, is the suffering that strikes every person living in a sinful world. We cannot conclude that a person who suffers more is more sinful. We often cannot answer why some specific suffering comes to an individual.
Suffering may make us think about some sin that we have committed in the past, and this may make us feel guilty. But we are to trust God's forgiveness for these sins (1 Timothy 1:15).
If your feelings about this persist, this is something you should discuss with your pastor or a Christian friend to understand why you feel that your experiences are punishment for sins and to get help in applying the gospel to your situation.
As a lifelong Christian I understand that God grants us full pardon for our sins when we repent, but what happens when we repeat the same sins over and over again? I am terrified that I am living a life of unrepented sin, and that I'll end up going to hell. I pray to God for forgiveness, but I keep repeating the same old sins anyway.
To give you specific help, the kind of help you should receive, I would need to know you much better, be able to share a variety of questions and answers with you to help with a diagnosis, and should be able to speak with you in person as I offer answers and counsel. All I can do now is address your concerns in a general way. I invite and encourage you to sit down with your pastor, express to him your questions and concerns, and allow him to address them more suitably.
Not all repeated and persistent sins in the life of a Christian are the result of impenitence. The Apostle Paul, in Romans 7:14-25, describes a lifestyle that is continuously marked by unintended yet real sins stemming from the influence of the sinful nature he had just as we have. This was not from an absence of a repentant lifestyle. Some sins, including some that stem in part from deeply ingrained bad habits and reflect in part personal histories and cultural biases, often grip people strongly. We daily sin much and daily look to our gracious God for forgiveness. The truths of 1 John 1:8-10 apply to us all, even when the Lord grants us the gift of godly repentance. Over the centuries the church has used terms like "sins of weakness" or "sins of ignorance" to indicate that conscious, deliberate, or willful sinning is not what we're talking about here.
And, yes, there are certain kinds of sin that may best be described as occupying a gray area that challenges us to offer a firm definition. Sins like persistent speeding, masturbating against conscience, or sinning against our neighbor by gossiping are normally not done instantaneously or in a moment. They take time, and each event involves a succession of decisions on one's part to continue the activity once begun. Perhaps you are not speaking of sins of weakness, but you may be flirting with a serious and grievous lifestyle of deliberate sin—despite your claim of really being sorry or really wanting to reject and turn from such sins. You may be playing a kind of game with yourself, one flowing from a lack of self-discipline and perhaps a spirit of defeatism or pessimism. Maybe you really do not trust the Holy Spirit to grant you renewal and newness of life along with the free and full forgiveness of sins. You may be trifling with grace. Please note the "perhaps," and "maybe" words here—I cannot diagnose well from this distance. But you must face the issue. Do not neglect to discuss it with a qualified Christian counselor in person.
Ultimately, the important thing is not coming up with improved definitions for sins and possible classifications. These won't change attitudes or behavior patterns. What counts is our growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, growing also in our holy hatred of any and all sin, and our turning from sin and toward Christ continuously as lifestyle. These are gifts of the Holy Spirit through the gospel. Focusing on terminology will not bring that about. Listen to your God-given conscience and even more to your Lord who guides you into newness of heart and life.
Do confessional Lutherans classify sins as mortal and venial as Catholics do? If so, what is the difference and why is it important? Is there a scriptural basis for this classification of sin?
The Catholic church claims that some sins are mortal (that is, damning) by their very nature. That would be all sins that are really bad like murder, stealing a lot of money, etc. The Catholic church says these sins can only be forgiven through the sacrament of confession and the other sacraments of the church. Other sins by their very nature are not considered bad enough to be damning. They are called venial (or, less offensive, excusable).
This is wrong. We confess with Scripture that every sin is by its very nature damning (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23; 1 John 3:15). It does not matter whether the amount of money stolen is small or large, whether the murder attempt succeeds or fails. Every sin of the unbeliever and the impenitent is damning by its very nature, regardless of whether people consider it to be big or small. On the other hand, every sin of the repentent believer is forgiven, whether it is a careless word or a heinous crime (1 John 1:9). This forgiveness depends on repentance and faith in Christ whose blood purifies us from all sin (1 John 2:1-2), but does not depend on confession to a priest. The Catholic view of forgiveness is based on the false premise that there is a greater power of forgiveness in sacramental confession to a priest.
I have a friend who is using the story of Jericho to prove that God condones murder and is therefore imperfect. My friend states that because God told the Israelites to take over the city, he is saying that the murdering of these "innocent" people was okay, and therefore murdering of any sinner is all right. I am unsure what to reply to him. Could you give me some feedback?
In Scripture, "murder" means "unjustly to deprive someone of life." As C. S. Lewis wisely put it, all killing isn't "murder" any more than all sex is adultery.
God is the giver of life, and it is up to God to decide when life will end (Job 1:21). We don't charge God with murder every time a person dies. Usually God carries out his decision to end a life directly. He may, however, carry out that decision through his representatives--for example, the government (Romans 13:1-5).
You might also ask your friend what makes him/her so sure that the inhabitants of Jericho were "innocent." The Bible paints a very different picture of the culture and lifestyle of the inhabitants of the land of Canaan (e.g. Deuteronomy 18:9-12).
At the time of the conquest of that land by Israel, God had decided that the lives of the inhabitants of Jericho should end, and that is God's prerogative. Israel was simply acting as God's representative--as the means that God used to carry out his decision.
In the beginning, in the garden, there was no sin. We all know what happens next. I struggle with why it happened. The LORD created heaven and earth, the garden and Adam and Eve. Why did he allow the serpent into the garden? Did he know we would fall into sin? I know the Bible doesn't address this, but I really wonder...
Invariably, when thinking people read the Bible, certain questions come to mind. Your question is one of them. You have already given the primary response to your own question: "I know the Bible doesn't address this . . . ." Since God has not chosen to satisfy our curiosity, we can only enter the less-than-fully-satisfying world of speculative theology -- or we can train ourselves to be content with the limits God has placed on our understanding of what happened and why. I invite and encourage contentment for you as well as for myself.
We believe and teach that God knows all things perfectly and intuitively (not partially or progressively through study or observation), including what we call future events. So he knew mankind would fall into sin through the fall of Adam and Eve. Yet he allowed this to happen just as he had allowed Satan and the evil angels to rebel and sin against him. Therefore questions like "Why?" come to mind. Here is one way of articulating the question and the kind of answer we can give:
How could God permit sin to enter the world without violating his wisdom?
- We really don’t have a fully satisfying answer. We must be content with the limitations of divine revelation.
- We affirm and confess God’s wisdom (and love) and the entrance of sin against his will at the same time.
- We see the fullest expression of wisdom in God’s plan of salvation centered in and accomplished by Jesus Christ.
- We believe that sin ultimately must serve God’s glory (but not that God wanted sin to enter the world for this purpose).
Please note that in addition to admitting our ignorance, we refrain from making up answers but consciously and deliberately speak of things that we DO know, especially the solution to sin, namely, salvation centered in Jesus Christ.
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