“What is the matter with the world?” Martyn Lloyd-Jones asked. “Why . . . war and all this unhappiness and turmoil and discord amongst men? . . . There is only one answer to these questions—sin. Nothing else; it is just sin.”
Addiction provides a picture of all sin patterns. At first, the happiness it causes seems to outweigh the misery. But eventually the periods of misery increase while the periods of happiness fade. This is called the law of diminishing returns. Life is promised; death is delivered. Every drug, alcohol, and pornography addict is living proof that the next high is less satisfying than the last.
If insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results, sin not only leads to insanity—it is insanity. Regardless of your drug of choice—materialism, cocaine, pornography, power, anger, slander—the nature of any sin is saying, “This time will be different.” Yet it just keeps killing us—in the name of happiness.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones shares these helpful definitions of sin, and why we must avoid it, in his book Life in Christ in 1 John:
What is sin?
Why must we not sin?
First John 3:21 says, “If our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” Without the convicting work of the Holy Spirit (see John 16:8), there’s no hope for any of us to turn to God—and without repentance and forgiveness, there’s no restoration to relationship with our joyful God.
Though those of us who have accepted Christ are forgiven of our past sins, including some we don’t remember, we are called upon to confess our sins as we become aware of them: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
It may seem confusing that we must continue to confess recent sins in order to experience new and fresh forgiveness. But while we have a settled once-and-for-all forgiveness in Christ, we also have a current ongoing relationship with Him that is hampered by unconfessed sin.
Scripture says, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13). Confession means agreeing with God that we have sinned against him.
Charles Spurgeon said, “It does not spoil your happiness . . . to confess your sin. The unhappiness is in not making the confession.”
While true conversion begins with admitting we’re wrong, it doesn’t end there. It involves repentance. Repentance is more than reciting well-calculated words with a view toward minimizing our losses. Repentance, when it is genuine, is in fact not accompanied by calculation at all. It is utterly vulnerable, and demonstrates this by a radical change in behavior, a new humility, and a willingness to accept God’s discipline.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9). Sin requires a radical solution—salvation in Christ, which transforms our nature and dramatically affects our capacity to embrace greater happiness in God. Our justification by faith in Christ satisfies the demands of God’s holiness by exchanging our sins for Christ’s righteousness (see Romans 3:21-26).
God grants believers new natures that free us from sin’s bondage. Now we can draw upon God’s power to overcome evil. Because our hearts are changed when we become new people in Christ, we want a better way. “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 8:9).
Once believers are born again, we cannot continue to sin as a lifestyle because of our new natures (see 1 John 3:9). Sin is still present in our lives (see Romans 6:11-14; 1 John 1:8–2:2), but we have supernatural power to overcome it since we’ve died to sin (see Romans 6:6-9). God’s Holy Spirit indwells us and helps us obey Him (see 2 Timothy 1:14).
The result? With the Holy Spirit’s help, we’re free to reject sin and its misery, and embrace righteousness, with its true and lasting happiness.
Browse more resources on the topic of happiness, and see Randy’s related books, including Happiness and Does God Want Us to Be Happy?
Photo by Nathan McBride on Unsplash
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.