Something Christians are quick to point out is the sin in the world. It seems the older we are, the worse the world has become. Since Adam and Eve, the world hasn’t been without sin. In fact, we know the sin situation was so bad at one time that the Lord covered the world in a massive flood wiping out every man, woman, and child except for Noah and his family.

Another thing I’ve noticed about Christians is that we tend to point out the world’s sin and think it’s somehow separate from our sin, like the Pharisee in Luke.

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.

Luke 18:11 (NIV)

Although Christians are saved, it doesn’t mean that our sins weren’t part of the sin problem that nailed Jesus to the cross, does it? Certainly, we have repented and are forgiven for our sins, but what does scripture tell us about sin and human nature?

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23 (NIV)

1 John 1:9 confirms that although we are saved and have been forgiven of our sins, we still sin. 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 (NIV)

Otherwise, if we never sinned again, we would not need to confess. 2 Chronicles 7:14 also confirms that the “saved” still sin.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

Therefore, when we pray before the Lord, we accept our responsibility for the sin in the world. We are all the reason Jesus had to die. We are all the reason why the earth will be cleansed by fire. Like the Pharisee who pointed out how bad other people were and, in turn, was pointing out how good he was, we who are saved are no better than those who are not in the eyes of God. 

Except for Jesus. When God looks upon us, he sees his Son and sees us covered in his blood. It’s Jesus who makes us righteous. Jesus, who makes us clean, and Jesus, who makes us holy. 

We see evidence of corporate confession of sin throughout the Bible. Ezra 9 gives us a great example of it. 

After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness” (emphasis added).

Ezra 9:1-2 (NIV)

The focus in these two verses is on the sin of the Israelites. Specifically, those who intermarried with the races around them contrary to God’s decrees that they should remain pure. Before Ezra prays, he gives us this insight into his mental state. After tearing his tunic and cloak, Ezra sat on the ground until the evening sacrifice.

Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God (emphasis added).

Ezra 9:5 (NIV)

Ezra didn’t sit on the ground until the evening sacrifice, lamenting the sin of “those people.” No, he accepted his part in “their” sin. Ezra didn’t see himself as any better than the 113 men (Ezra 10:18-43) who had intermarried with foreign women. This is reflected in Ezra’s prayer.

I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens (emphasis added).

Ezra 9:6 (NIV)

Ezra only uses the first person to describe how he feels. In the rest of the prayer (Ezra 9:7-15), Ezra accepts his role in what has happened and pleads for everyone. Ezra’s name wasn’t listed with the men who had been unfaithful to the Lord in this matter. Thus, he could have said “they” and “them” in his prayer, but he didn’t. 

2 Chronicles 7:14 tells us to do four things. 

  1. Humble ourselves.
  2. Pray.
  3. Seek God.
  4. Turn from our wicked ways.

Humbling ourselves is the first thing we must do. Why? Well, is it pride or humility that points out the evils that others do while claiming righteousness? It’s pride, and we demonstrate self-righteousness whenever we point our fingers at the world. It’s only after we’ve humbled ourselves that we can then pray and seek God. Note that turning from our wicked ways doesn’t come before praying or seeking God. It comes after we humble ourselves, pray, and seek God because only God can help us to see our wicked ways and turn from them. 

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

After we have done those four things in 2 Chronicles 7:14, we are promised that God will do two things; forgive our sins and heal the land. Please note that it doesn’t say that God will forgive the land’s sins. Those sins of those who do not humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from their wicked ways. It does, however, promise us that God will heal the land. 

In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and gives us this insight.

That you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (emphasis added).

Matthew 5:45 (NIV)

We must stop looking at the world and seeing only sin. This is how the Pharisees saw the world, but it wasn’t how Jesus saw it. If we want to be like Jesus, we need to ask him to open our eyes to see as he did. 

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (emphasis added).

Matthew 9:36 (NIV)

Jesus loved them. How did Jesus tell his disciples to respond to the world?

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Matthew 9:37-38 (NIV)

Jesus told them they needed to ask God for help and then go out into the harvest field (the world). This is why Matthew 10 starts with Jesus sending the apostles to minister.

As long as we see the world with adversarial eyes, we will never be as effective as we want to be in bringing the Lost to Christ.