As we went around to do spiritual surveys on the college campus, it was amazing to see the openness of the young people between the ages of 18-22. These students were hungry for answers, however, many were very confused about what they believed. When asked what they believe happens to us after we die, some would share that they believed in heaven and hell whereas others mentioned reincarnation. One student bravely shared, “I don’t know.” What shocked me is that most of these students are from the “Bible Belt” of America and they do not know the answer to the most foundational questions in life. Who is God? Who am I? What is the gospel? This led me to think deeper on why is it important that we teach young people about sin?

In an effort to make sure that we did not teach too much judgment like some legalistic churches who had gone before, many parents and grandparents avoided the topic of the weight of sin. Most of these students and many young people today genuinely believe that they are “good people.” When asked about heaven, one student said, “I believe God will see that I have a good heart and have done more good than bad so He will hopefully let me in.” This young person truly hoped that their good would be more than their bad. She believed that she had a good heart. However, God tells us that our hearts are sinful.

  • Proverbs 20:9 says, “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?’”
  • Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
  • Matthew 15:19 says, “ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”

If all that the church is teaching from the pulpit is love and grace without conviction and repentance, we miss the fullness of the gospel. God made Jesus who was sinless to be sin for us so we could have the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

If you are wondering a good place to start in teaching your children or young people in your community, try going through Ephesians 2:1-7. God created us but we all have sinned just like Adam and Eve in the beginning. Our sins lead to death. We were hopeless, but the Lord had a plan to come and save us from our sin.

Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to walk when you conformed to the ways of this world and of the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit who is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”

You might ask, “What is sin?” Then elaborate asking if they have ever done anything wrong or that they regret? You could give examples like saying something mean to a sibling or cheating or lying. We have all walked in disobedience and chosen our own way instead of God’s best.

Ephesians 2:4-5, “All of us also lived among them at one time, fulfilling the cravings of our flesh and indulging its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature children of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved!”

Then take time to explain that we were under punishment for our sins because God is holy and we cannot be in the presence of a holy God. However, Jesus came to save us and pay the debt for every one of our sins. We have a sinful nature, so we were born into a sinful world where people do evil things, where sickness, death, and brokenness exist. But God has great love for us even in our sin and sent Jesus to die for us so we can go from being dead in our sin and hopeless, to having life and eternal salvation in heaven with God. This comes by grace, a gift, we could not earn it. We just have to receive it.

Ephesians 2:6-7, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might display the surpassing riches of His grace, demonstrated by His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

God is kind to send Jesus to us because we were not deserving of it. We now have good standing with the Lord because of Jesus. However, we still struggle with sin and live in a broken world. But we have the victory of Christ when we accept His sacrifice on our own behalf.

The Danger of Works Based Faith

There is a great danger in the way that people want to say, “your truth is your truth” or “all roads lead to heaven.” It is scary to know that these students with who I spoke believed that they had good hearts and hoped to be let into heaven one day when they could have full confidence in the gospel. The danger of works-based faith is that sin is still not dealt with. Sure someone might do good deeds or spend his life in service, but if he never deals with his own sin, he still is headed for hell. This might sound super harsh, but when we realize what we have done and how it is God’s grace that we are even breathing and living right now, we have an appreciation for the opportunity of salvation.

Let’s think of “good deeds” like band-aids. Let’s say a person has a terminal illness (sin) that can occasionally be seen. The person decides that he looks healthy and seems mostly fine so he is going to cover himself in “good deed” band-aids. Sure we can see his band-aids, he might even have enough to cover his entire body, but that does not fix the greater issue happening inside of him. Will the band-aids be enough to save his life? Our good deeds might show up, however, they will never be the antidote for sin in our lives. They will only be temporary badges that cannot usher us into the presence of a Holy God in heaven. Now let’s say Jesus, Our Great Physician, might say something like, I am so sorry but you have a terminal problem that these band-aids cannot fix. Although they might appear to be helpful, they do not correct the sin inside. If you put your faith in Me, I will do surgery on your sinful heart and give you a new life. Jesus makes this offer to all of us eternally. Only He can save us from the impending death. (John 3:16-17)

1 John 1:8-9 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

A Greater Understanding of God’s Love

When we share the truth in love, we can also teach the fact that we are sinners in need of a Savior. This is God’s redemption for us. He does not need our works, Jesus had the finished work on the cross. He did the work for us. It is a humbling place to be, but in recognizing and teaching the next generations to understand sin, we can all come to a greater understanding of our salvation in Christ. This will lead us to live in the abundant and wonderful love that the Lord has given to us by Jesus. As we prepare for Easter coming up, may it remind us of our sins and encourage us of the hope we have, because He who promised is faithful. (Hebrews 10:23)

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Emma DanzeyEmma Danzey’s mission in life stems from Ephesians 3:20-21, inspiring young women to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. She is wife to Drew and they have been married for over a year. Drew and Emma serve with Upstate CRU college ministry in South Carolina. Emma is an avid writer for Salem Web Network and provides articles on the Bible, life questions, and on the Christian lifestyle. Her article on Interracial Marriage was the number 1 viewed article on Crosswalk for the year 2021. All the glory to the Lord! She has the joy of being the host of Her Many Hats podcast where she explores the many roles that women play while serving One God.

Emma enjoys singing/songwriting, fitness classes, trying new recipes, home makeover shows, and drinking tea! During her ministry career, Emma recorded two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, ran the Refined Magazine, and served in music education for early childhood. Currently, she is in the editing stages of her first published book on singleness. Emma also had the privilege of being a national spokesperson for Mukti Mission based out of India. Mukti has been working to restore shattered lives in India for over 120 years. You can view her articles through her blog at and check out Her Many Hats podcast on Instagram @her_many_hats.