Sin is Sin … Or is It?

When I was a child, I grew up in a religious structure that told me there were two kinds of sin:

1. Venial Sin: A relatively slight sin that that does not entail damnation of the soul. For example, gossip, (unless intended to bully someone to death,) is a venial sin, as is greed (but not theft), laziness, etc.

2. Mortal Sin: A mortal sin is a gravely sinful act, which can lead to damnation if a person does not repent of the sin before death. A sin is considered to be ‘mortal’ when its quality is such that it leads to a separation of that person from God's saving grace.

Sin, according to the Bible, is sin, and we all have it. We are born in sin and our human nature without Christ is damned:

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There is no distinction between Venial and Mortal sin in that Verse. Sin is sin, and it means death before God.

However, the Bible uses a term that describes sin as presumptuous as found in Psalm 19:13:

New American Standard:

Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.

New Living Translation

Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.

These two translations use the adjectives presumptuous and deliberate. I want to take a moment to look at what presumptuous sin looks like.

The word presumptuous is defined as: A person or their behavior failing to observe the limits of what is permitted or appropriate.

Let’s be clear. It is a willful choice to go beyond the limit. It is a sinful act with full knowledge that it is wrong where you acknowledge the limit, but you are convinced that the right path is to sin and then ask forgiveness afterward.

That’s how I think presumptuous sin works, with willful and knowledgeable acts of defiance. The Psalmist is asking God to keep him from committing such sins. Today, our definition of sin is covered by God’s Grace, and we rarely think about presumptuous sin, because His Forgiveness is always present. However, I’m not saying that God’s Forgiveness and Grace isn’t sufficient to cover any presumptuous sin, but the Psalmist did call it out by name and was concerned that he would commit them. I love the honesty of the Psalms because they reveal the cries from the heart and are so relatable.

I have wondered how many times I have willfully disobeyed God. It’s almost like ignoring a low tire. You figure you will get around to fixing it someday, but usually it gets fixed when you discover it went flat overnight. Presumptuous sin is like that … it sneaks up on you when you least expect it and you find yourself committing sin willfully.

This prompted me to analyze my propensity for presumptuous sins. Lust, for example, is always equated sexually, but lust can be a presumptuous sin for lots of things. Power, control, wealth, status, recognition … the list goes on and on. Lust is a condition of the heart. It is oriented in a selfish defiance of logic, reason, and desire to obtain something that may not belong to you, but you desire to have.

That could speak to many things in our lives, and as Americans, we have been schooled in the art of lust by our culture that reminds us that we can achieve anything if we position our goals for achievement. Plus, our marketing tells us that we are not successful unless we have certain status or things to prove our wealth or position.

Now, I know there is a fine line between ambition and lust, but I think the difference lies in the motive. Ambition is the achievement to be the best at what you do for the cause of a better world. Lust is the achievement of something that is the fulfillment of a personal gratification. A presumptuous sin uses our emotions and our lustful gratification to draw us toward a willful act of rebellion against God and against others. As the Scripture says:

1 Samuel 15:23 Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.

Presumptuous sins then are more personal, and harder to control. They are often hidden behind the lines of our lives. We all have known Christian leaders who have fallen because the hidden sins of permission have come into the light. They are no different than any of us who have allowed the presumptuous sins to override our better judgment and spiritual commitment to God.

The Psalmist was right in bringing it before the Lord to ask for help in guiding him away from deliberate and willful desires.

The fight between the Spirit and the flesh is a lifelong battle. The first line of defense is to be fully aware that presumptuous sin exists and is real. Then we must acknowledge, as the Psalmist did, that our help comes from God. God knows how weak and fragile we are as it concerns sin, and He has offered Himself as a Solution to our weakness. God is the most Hopeful part of my fight against the sinful desires that will only destroy me. God has given Himself to help us in our immunity against our presumptuous sins.

Keeping Life Honest and Truthful … Larry Kutzler

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