But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." Luke 5:24
What is sin? Organized religion has debated this question over the centuries and its approach has spilled over to the world into a legalistic system that mankind uses to find ways to do wrong and 'get away with it'. The foundation of this kind of thinking comes from pagan religions that have developed systems designed to avoid angering their gods along with ritualism designed to gain favor from them. It diminishes personal responsibility since it is hard to change one's behavior, especially if there is no foreseeable personal reward.
In contrast, God works in us to will and to do life His way (Phil. 2:13). Without a change of our will our actions are empty so the Spirit urges us to first receive his desire. Once we want what God wants the corresponding actions are easy. Religion designs rules to bring conformity to those who want to be accepted but God looks at the motivation. David was chosen to be king because of his heart, his love for God. Our fallen nature looks for ritual—a method while the world can't tell the difference since it judges only by appearance.
Guilt is crippling. The ability to receive is hindered through thoughts of unworthiness, wearisome self-effort and endless defeat. Success is measured against history and past failure rules the mind. Jesus broke the pattern of frustration for the paralyzed man who was let down through the roof by declaring, "Friend, your sins are forgiven" (v20). Tradition no longer ruled as the man now believed his condition was not punishment. Immediately Jesus told him to do the impossible—get up! Embracing his freedom from condemnation he did just that while the religious folk were still looking for sin.
Once again: what is sin? It's choosing to withhold your trust from God, the One who has all the answers, always wants your best for you and withholds no good thing. Sin is the ultimate selfishness that believes your way is better than God's way. There may be habits that work against you, that are traditionally categorized as sin but these things do not separate you from God but separate you from the victorious, abundant life God desires you to experience. The failures you entertain or embrace are ammunition for your enemy. In verse 21 the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" The good news is that he has already done that.
When you allow God to change you freedom from a crippling lifestyle is yours. Close your ears to the legalists, who point you to failure, and walk in the Spirit who does remarkable things.
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