Measure sin in a way that engages and magnifies the gospel of grace rather than works-driven-legalistic-performance.
Is it good to take stock of our sin? Should we meditate on it and measure it against God and against the sins of others? Is it right to pay that much attention to sin? I think the answer is both yes and no, depending on how you do it.
Measuring Against God
The kingdom is given to those who are poor in spirit, humble, broken, mourning, and contrite over their sin (Matt. 5:3-5). This only comes from rightly evaluating yourself before the throne of a holy God. Before we find any good in the gospel, we must find the bad (Is. 6:1-7; Is. 66:1-2). God is holy, and we are not. Our sin, measured against his purity, means we are filthy before him (Is. 64:6).
Measuring against God is a good place to start. It makes us realize our need for a Savior who will take all our sin and pay all our guilt (Is. 53:4-6).
Measuring Against Others (Bad Ways)…
…When I Sin More
There are two bad ways to measure our sin against others. One is to see our sin as greater than others in a way that changes how we think God will deal with us. So if I look at a brother and realize that he’s holier than me though he has been a Christian less time than me, I can begin to think things like this: ‘God must be growing tired of me. He must be disappointed. He’s probably ready to give up on me. Look at how this brother’s life is marked by faith in all the ways I’m marked by failure.’
When I think like this, it’s because I’ve forgotten the gospel all together. He doesn’t deal with me as my works deserve, but when I measure myself against others this way, I’m acting as if salvation (and God’s favor) is dependent on my performance. That’s simply not true, and I will be robbed of the hope that only the gospel of free grace can provide.
…When Others Sin More
But there’s another bad way to measure our sin against others. Sometimes, when we compare with others, our performance stacks up favorably for us. We can see our sin as being less than that of a brother or sister…and in fact, that may be accurate.
But if we, even for a second, allow the thought into our mind that our righteous performance began with us, we’ve forgotten the gospel again. If I think that my success in sanctification is somehow due to my strength, I will immediately be tempted to pride and judgmentalism, and I will be robbed of the opportunity to freely and genuinely love my brothers and sisters as God has loved me in the gospel.