God, the creator of all, has laid down the rules by which human beings are to live in order to be happy, fulfilled and pleasing to God. Sin is rebellion against God and his rules.
Romans 2 verses 14,15 points out the fact that even those who do not know God or any of his word are able by nature to do what is right, because of their conscience, which God gives us showing us what is right and what is wrong. Unfortunately for many people they have ignored their consciences and pleased themselves for so long that they have difficulty in discerning what is right and wrong.
When we become Christians it may be hard at first discerning what is right and what is wrong. If you have any doubt whether something is a sin or not, then don’t do it, especially if it will result in someone having less faith because of your actions. (This is taught in Romans 14.) You should not try to get as close as possible to sin without actually sinning; you should try to be as close to God as possible, and you will be far away from sin!
The most important tool that God has given us to know whether something is sin or not is His Word. In John 14:15 Jesus says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”. In the Bible we can read what Jesus commandments are. The simplest summary is: love God and love your neighbour. When you do that, you will obey God and not be a captive of sin.
Yet there are many situations where it is not immediately clear how God’s commandments apply to our situation. We can learn from our church how Christians in history have understood what it means to obey God. But we also have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has many roles – teaching, leading us to understand the truth, remember things that we have learned etc. But the one I want to highlight is conviction. John 16:8 “When He (The Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement”.
When we sin the Holy Spirit will make us feel uncomfortable about what we have done (conviction), as a result we should rush to confess, and ask for God’s forgiveness. If someone else is involved we may need to confess to them, and ask for their forgiveness too, or as in the case of stealing or breaking something belonging to someone else we may need to replace it. The Holy Spirit constantly guides us so that we can be cleansed of sin. If we refuse to listen to his prompting, then gradually he will be silent, and we will cease to grow and be strong because you have ignored God speaking to us.
Sometimes people may feel guilty about something, and they are not sure what they have done. When this happens we must pray and ask God to show us our sin so that we can deal with it. If nothing comes to light, then it is possible that the devil is giving you a false sense of guilt which can also cause us not to grow in our spiritual lives. 1 John 1:9 tells us if we confess our sin, God will forgive us and cleanse us, so if we keep feeling guilty about something but God doesn’t show us anything, or you keep remembering something you have done in the past, and confessed, but still don’t feel happy, remember this verse. Once we have confessed sin, God forgives and cleanses, it is forgotten.