Recently, our church spoke of confession of sin as a continual experience for the Christian. Is it true that the most godly and trusting people sin a little every day?
It all depends on how we think of sin. If sin is mostly an outward violation of the great moral laws of God (see 1 John 3:4), then we may go many days without missing that mark badly enough so that anyone notices. No lying; no stealing; no murder; no adultery or idolatry; remember the Sabbath; honor your parents; and so forth. Some folks, like Paul in Philippians 3:6, have claimed to be blameless with regard to such a checklist.
But there are other biblical descriptions of sin:
Words: “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking” (Prov. 10:19; compare James 3:2).
Thoughts: “The thought of foolishness is sin” (Prov. 24:9, KJV; compare Matt. 5:28).
Unbelief: “Whatever is not from faith is sin “ (Rom. 14:23).
Omission: “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Adding all the good we should have done, but didn’t, doubles our transgressions.
Unrighteousness: “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17).
Failure to love as God loves: Matthew 5:48 elevates the standard for human holiness to God himself, particularly in the area of loving our enemies.
Coming short: Romans 3:23 implies that to fall short of the glory that God intends for us is to sin. Verse 23b, written in the present tense, confirms that all people fall short of God’s glory regularly.
Putting all this together, a composite definition of sin in Scripture might read like this: “Sin is any thought or attitude, any word, deed or habit, any act or failure to act that does not meet the highest standards of God’s Word — either His written Word or His living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Who is sufficient for such perfection? Who can attain it? No wonder Jesus taught us to pray “Forgive us our debts” with the same regularity as we pray for daily bread (Matt. 6:11, 12).
We may also think of sin not so much as what we do but as what we were/are. We were born with a fallen nature; since coming to Christ by faith and receiving His Spirit, we no longer obey that sinful nature. Still, it lurks somewhere in our members and taints all our thoughts, words, and acts so that they do not perfectly reflect the image of God and Christ as we wish they did (compare Rom. 7:17, 23). Sin no longer reigns in the life of the regenerate believer, it still remains. The tear of repentance is always in the eye of those drawing nearer to their God.
The answer to your question can be stretched too far in either direction. Those who say they do not sin every day may not be aware of all the bible’s definitions of sin, or they may be out-of-touch with their own heart and mind.
Those who stress the inevitability of sin in a way that excuses them from it may not have yet found the narrow biblical path of holiness. The Spirit’s work is to sanctify us wholly in Christ, and the only right response to sin is confession and repentance. The task of holiness will never be complete until we come with Him to glory.
— Elder Calvin Burrell