I was thinking today about sin. I think for most of us, whether Christian or not, we don’t like sin. By that, I mean we don’t like the idea of sin. We don’t like it that there is a word that means what sin means. We don’t like being told that we sin, have sinned, are sinners. Particularly in our age, the idea of sin, we are told, is outdated, it’s oppressive, it’s harmful, hurtful, and abusive.
But God uses the word. He, too, hates sin. But He loves the truth about sin. And, I think, if we thought about it, we would too. Bear with me.
The truth about sin – that is, the reality of sin’s existence, meaning, and purpose – tells us, at least, four glorious truths.
First, the reality of Sin tells us that we were made for glory and goodness. Having some behavior, thoughts, and deeds labeled as sin reminds us that there is good and evil, wrong and right, and we were actually created for good, for glory, for beauty, for righteousness. Being called a sinner reminds me that my purpose is something amazing which I’m transgressing against…when I sin, I am living for something less, something harmful. When I think of MY sin, I should be reminded of why God made me! Not for sin, but for joy and righteousness.
Second, the reality of Sin tells us that we need help. When someone confronts my sin (and the number of people willing and brave enough and love me enough to do that is too, too few) OR when the Lord, by the Holy Spirit, convicts me of sin, what a LOVING thing that is. I NEED this. In my sin, I hurt myself, I hurt others, I run away from God. But when my sin is exposed, the book of Ephesus 5.13-14 says:
13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Anything exposed becomes visible and then, catch this, it “becomes light.” Even our sin, when exposed can become something that shows the truth, that enlightens us and others. God can even turn our sin into something that shows His glorious grace as we expose the sin. My sin can become light in my life with Christ. This is a gracious thing!
Think, too, about Matthew 7.1-5, that famous passage that begins with “Do not judge, lest you be judged,” and discusses logs in your eye and splinters in the eye of others. Of course, Jesus isn’t saying to never confront sin or call something sinful. He’s saying that He alone is the one who ultimately condemns sin and the sinner. What then is our response if we see the sin of another? I mean, think about this for a second, why would God even let you see someone else’s sin? He doesn’t have to! What’s it for? I believe, in the Sermon on the Mount, in context, the radical answer is so that, first, I would be confronted with my own sinful heart (Is my heart or behavior like that? Or are their other hidden sins that I’m not aware of that are sticking out of my eye? Do I SEE the world wrongly, from my own fleshly viewpoint instead of from the worldview of the Bible?), and, only then I might be useful enough to be a compassionate help for the person whose sin I have observed. The sin of another can be clarifying and exposing of sin in my own life…this, too, is gracious! You can hear me preach on this passage here.
Third, the reality of Sin explains why I do what I don’t want to and don’t do what I want to. It explains why I often feel like a slave to thoughts, attitudes, and actions that I loathe. Have you felt this? It’s at least as old as the New Testament. The world, today, might just say that you’re crazy. That you need to loosen up. You need to accept yourself. Maybe you’ve just got a leftover guilt-complex from your fundamentalist upbringing. Don’t be fooled. You and I know that this feeling of guilt and shame is real. It is there for a reason. Because, it is true. Only when we know this truth are we able to be rescued from it. That’s 100% grace! What if God left us in the dark on this?
Fourth, the reality of Sin urges us towards the one who loves us more than we could ever imagine…who happens to be the one who has, for us, conquered Satan, sin, and death. The Holy Spirit, and even sometimes our consciences, convict us of sin. That’s a good and gracious thing! And it’s meant to drive us to Jesus. Psalm 45 says that Grace was on his lips! Grace! He came to us with grace. We are so broken, but he has healing. We are vicious to each other, but he’s tender. We get angry, defensive, and mean at the drop of a hat, but he is patient. Notice what the Gospels say:
And all spoke well of Jesus and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. LUKE 4.22
And the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth, for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. JOHN 1.14, 17
He wasn’t just being nice, saying, “it’s ok, just keep doing whatever you want no matter the damage to your life, your soul, your relationships”…he was bringing the very goodness of God, the word and presence of God to us. He was the very embodiment of the grace of God. The kindness and tender compassion of God. Children ran to him, prostitutes found him to be the safest place they’ve ever known, people wanted to be with him. Men felt comfortable leaning on him like they would a good father. Women met, in Him, perhaps the first man to ever look at them and love them without expecting anything in return. They all found in him the answers to their deepest longings: how can I be right with God? Can I be clean? How can I know peace? How can I have God as my very own?
Even if, on the surface, we hate the idea of sin, that is, the label of sin, I think that if we reflect a little more, we might find our minds changed. On the one hand, we think we’re independent beings, autonomous and self-defined. When we think like that, we just want to be affirmed in all our actions, attitudes, ideas. “Just tell me to be true to myself!” On the other hand, we know we’re wrong. We know we’re not alright. We know we need help. Friends, Jesus is our helper. He came to save, not righteous people, not the fundamentalists, but sinners! That’s us. He’s the friend of sinners. Christ died for our sins! Hallelujah, thank you Jesus!