Master Christian Maturity with a Sober Assessment of Your Own Sinfulness

Master Christian Maturity with a Sober Assessment of Your Own Sinfulness

A key facet of mastering Christian maturity is a sober assessment of just how sinful we tend to be, not for the purposes of condemnation, but rather for the purposes of cultivating a spirit of humility, peace, and gratitude...

Tags: sin, maturity, sermon on the mount, Jesus, Christian maturity

Have you ever heard someone tell you that they don't sin?

Worse... does that person actually believe it?

I was recently with someone who truly has the perspective that he does not sin on a regular basis.

I was struck by the utter lack of maturity (and arrogance) in such a perspective... and a lack of understanding the whole of the Gospel story.

As Romans 3:10 says, "...there is no one righteous, not even one."

1 John 1:8 adds, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."

So today, I want to encourage us to seek a proper and sober understanding of our own sinfulness in the spirit of fostering Christian maturity and spiritual growth.

A Sin Checklist

Let's start with the man I described above.

The foundation for his self-righteous beliefs are the 10 commandments and the golden rule. Specifically, he believes he is without sin because he obeys these commandments.

Here is his perspective:

1. You shall have no other gods before Me... CHECK!
He does not worship any pagan gods.

2. You shall not make idols... CHECK!
There are no shrines or golden calves to worship in his house.

3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain... CHECK!
He (mostly) doesn't swear.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy... CHECK!
Mass every, er... most Sundays!

5. Honor your father and your mother... CHECK!
He always shows them respect and love in the best way he knows how.

6. You shall not murder... CHECK!
Not even close!

7. You shall not commit adultery... CHECK!
He has been faithful in marriage for a few decades by now!

8. You shall not steal... CHECK!
He is particularly disgusted by theft and protects his own stuff rigorously!

9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor... CHECK!
He's never had to bear witness against a neighbor, but certainly would tell the truth if it ever happened.

10. You shall not covet... CHECK!
He very much likes his own stuff (although he does talk a lot about what other have).

GOLDEN RULE: Love your neighbor as yourself... CHECK!
He is generally very cordial to others in front of them.

So that's it!

From the list above, you can tell that my friend is doing pretty well by the "letter of the law" standard offered by the 10 commandments and the golden rule.

A Right Perspective

But there's a problem with this man's perspective. In fact, his perspective of being sinless reveals how little he truly understands the Gospel story.

In brief, this man doesn't realize that his THOUGHTS alone are sinful.

While the Old Testament does speak to the sin that is rooted in our hearts (i.e., our attitudes), Jesus makes this crystal clear in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5).

You see, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes it clear that specific attitudes that precede the outward actions described by the 10 commandments are sinful in and of themselves.

Jesus labels our anger as "murder." He calls our lust for others outside of marriage "adultery."

How often do we think angry thoughts about our spouse when he/she asks us to do something we don't want to do? Or leaves his/her clothes lying around the house?

How about the drivers who cut us off on the freeway or don't use their turn signals?

How often do we have lustful thoughts when faced with pictures, advertisements, and/or commercials with seductive overtones?

How often do we fantasize about the selfish life we could lead by walking away from core responsibilities and commitments we made years ago?

In answering these few questions alone, we realize the depth of sin in your life by Jesus' definition, even when you avoid situations of overt murder and adultery. And this is only 2 of the 10 commandments! We didn't even tackle our tendencies to create idols that we worship in place of God. Or how about the way we speak about others behind their backs?

So what are we to do?

Indeed, it seems hopeless when we rely on ourselves to defeat sin!

The Sufficiency of Christ

The good news is that we don't have to rely on ourselves!

Our sins are forgiven - past, present, and future - when we claim Jesus as our Savior.

This means despite the depth of sin in our hearts and the deluge of sinful thoughts in our minds each day, Christ's perfection will be presented in the place of what we deserve on Judgment Day.

Instead of relying on ourselves to defeat sin, we can rely on Jesus.

Overall, here's how the mature perspective of our own sinfulness works in God's great design:
1. We recognize the depth of our own sinfulness
2. We humble ourselves and realize we cannot ever make ourselves holy enough for God
3. We turn to Jesus to represent us and rest in His perfect sacrifice
4. We work continuously not to sin as a grateful response for Jesus' great gift

Step 4 is a big one. Although our human nature is to sin, we continuously work towards a life with less and less sin through a process called sanctification. Our motivation for doing so is NOT as a ticket to heaven, but rather a response of gratitude for Jesus' sacrifice for us.

With this framework, the mature Christian grasps the proper placement of his/her pervasive sin, need for Christ, and response to Christ's gift.


We have considered our own ability to grow in spiritual maturity with an accurate perspective of our own sinfulness. We have reviewed how sinful each of us actually tends to be, despite our avoiding overt sins like murder and adultery. Our sin is rooted deep within our thoughts.

Despite our sin, we have the gift of Jesus to be sinless on our behalf. When we recognize our own sinfulness, we have no choice but to submit to Jesus as our Savior. Ultimately, our humble posture creates a strong desire to pursue righteousness in gratitude for His gift to us.

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