By Dermot Cottuli
What is sin? Is it where we place our interests before others? Is it where self is in the ascendancy and love is the loser? Is it where our ambition, our dream, our vision, our purpose is pursued to the detriment of others? Jesus never said we were to die to sin, but he did say we were to die to self. Is the promotion of self the beginning of all sin? Is this what pride is? When Cain was warned by God that sin crouched at his door wanting to control him, what was he talking about?
Genesis 4:2-7 (NLT)
Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel. When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground.  When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord.  Abel also brought a gift-the best of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift,  but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.  “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected?  You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”
It’s inferred here that Cain didn’t give God his best but rather that which he could get by without. Abel on the other hand gave God the best of the firstborn of his flocks. The issue wasn’t crops versus livestock. The issue was self. Abel placed God before his own interests whereas Cain placed himself before God.
Pride: 1. a high or inordinate opinion of one’s own dignity, importance, merit, or superiority, whether as cherished in the mind or as displayed in bearing, conduct, etc.
It’s interesting to note when looking at the words that describe pride, that we’re talking about words that suggest a comparison has been made. Importance, merit and superiority all reference a scale, a scale formed by comparing ourselves with others. Can I be superior if there is no-one that I can compare myself with? It is the magnification of self importance over the importance of others. This is anti-love.
But what about the person who has a very low self esteem? It could be argued that they are exhibiting pride as well. They have an inordinate opinion of self again, although this time it’s a negative opinion.
When Adam and Eve sinned they placed their own perceived well-being over what God had asked of them – they allowed self to override their love for God. This was the same sin that had Lucifer thrown out of heaven. Placing his own importance before God.
The great question that Christianity answers is, “What do we do with sin?” The whole purpose behind Jesus’ death on the cross was to pay the price for ALL of mankind’s sin. We know intuitively that when we do something wrong there’s a price to pay but unfortunately that price can only be paid once because after it’s paid it’s all over for us, because the penalty for sin is our death. Sounds drastic, but to understand why it’s this way we need to understand the truth behind our creation and God’s nature. We were created perfect in love by a perfect God who’s very essence is love. In God there is no shadow or sin. Sin is the glorification of self, God however IS love. His very nature is love and He created us in His image. Sin is when we place ourselves before God and others. When we do that we break our relationship with God. Picture a glass of crystal clear pure water. When you drop a piece of dirt into it, the whole is effected. You’ve changed it irrevocably.
From the very beginning men and women have sinned; each and everyone of us is guilty of sin, placing self before God and others. What God has done for us is so amazing that it beggars belief. A pure, holy, spotless God, a God who has always loved and has never known sin, who has never allowed self to get in the way of love, became sin for us and then crucified sin once and for all on the cross. Jesus’s death wasn’t a travesty of justice but the payment of the price of all sin for all time. It was the ultimate expression of love, a total dying to self for the good of others. And because God paid the penalty of death for us Himself, we have forgiveness for ALL our sins, both past, present and future. As sin is what keeps us from relationship with God, now that it’s been dealt with we can approach God without fear or shame and be adopted into His family. We are sons and daughters of God and co-heirs with Jesus.
I love 1 John 1:8-9 (NLT)
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
Remember that glass of water, God is able to not only forgive us for throwing dirt into the glass but to also clean the water and bring it back to it’s original pristine state.
How do we put self to death and still remain confident and entrepreneurial? For many the single most powerful drive and motivating force in their lives is self. It’s been said that all ambition is driven by envy of others. What happens when we’re no longer living for self? Is love able to take the place of self in our lives? Can love give us the confidence we need to take risks and try new things? What about self-esteem? Can we have a positive self-esteem that isn’t opposed to the principle of love?
If my self-esteem is internally generated I’m at risk of pride and sin. Why? Because the internal scale that all of us are programmed to use when evaluating our worth is invariably tied in with comparison. We compare our qualities and attributes with others to see whether we are ahead of the pack or behind. If we’re ahead we’ll feel good about ourselves and if we judge ourselves to be behind, we’ll feel bad about ourselves.
There is a better way. When our self esteem, our feelings of worth are based on the love of another for us we avoid the trap of self pride. Obviously for this love to be effective it has to be unconditional. We then gain our sense of self-worth through knowing that we are loved and it’s the love of another that isn’t earned, that can give us a positive self image without having to compare ourselves with others. This type of love is found in its’ purest form in the very nature of God. He is love – agape love – unconditional.
When Jesus said we need to die to self he wasn’t saying we needed to adjust our attitude toward self. He wasn’t saying that we needed to control it, to bring it into order. He was leaving us with no wiggle room with regards to self. What does this mean?
Matthew 10:37-39 (NLT)
“If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.  If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine.  If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
Matthew 16:24-28 (NLT)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?  For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.  And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”
Mark 8:34-38 (NLT)
Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?  Is anything worth more than your soul?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Luke 9:23-27 (NLT)
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.  I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God.”
Luke 14:26-27 (NLT)
“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison-your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.  And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.