Editorial: April 2010
There are only two kinds of men; the righteous who believe themselves sinners, and the rest, sinners who believe themselves righteous," Blaise Pascal said in the 17th century.
Paul declared, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom.3:23). All of us sinned in Adam when he sinned. "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins" (Eccl.7:20). "They are all alike corrupt, there is none that does good, no, not one" (Psa.14:3). Everyone has gone astray from right living and become tainted in his nature; without exception, all are workers of evil. "We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners." Sinful acts have their origin in a corrupt heart. According to God, man is desperately corrupt and human depravity is total (Gen.6:5; Isa. 29:13; Jer.17:9).
We are not simply born into a world of sin, we are born with a propensity toward sin. "The wicked go astray from the womb, they err from their birth, speaking lies" (Psa.58:3). Jeremy Taylor remarked: "A man is first startled by sin; then it becomes pleasing, then easy, then delightful, then frequent, then habitual, then confirmed. The man is impenitent, then obstinate and then he is damned."
Sin is both personal and social, individual and collective. The effects of sin are moral and spiritual bondage, guilt, death and hell. "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full grown brings forth death" (Jas.1:14-15). God sends trials to bring out the best in us (Gen.22:1), but Satan sends temptations to bring out the worst in us. Temptations to sin arise from our very nature.
The most sacred sins will also be exposed one day. " .all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (Heb.4:13). " . be sure your sin will find you out" (Num.32:23). Judgement for sin is inevitable. "The wages of sin is death" (Rom.6:23).
"Our sense of sin is in proportion to our nearness to God." Martin Luther said: "Sin is essentially a departure from God." "Sins are like circles in the water when a stone is thrown into it; one produces another. When anger was in Cain's heart, murder was not far off." "One reason sin flourishes is that it is treated like a cream puff, instead of a rattlesnake."
"Sin is not only an act of wrongdoing, but a state of alienation from God. It signifies the rupture of a personal relationship with God, a betrayal of the trust He places in us." Christ's definition of sin penetrates far deeper than any list of sins, to our inner desire, motivations and secret thoughts.
The essence of sin is unbelief or hardness of heart. The chief manifestations of sin are pride, sensuality and fear. Other significant aspects of sin are self-pity, selfishness, jealousy and greed. "One who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin" (Jas.4:17). Haughty look, a proud heart, and the lamp of the wicked are sin" (Pro. 21:4). "The devising of folly is sin" (Pro.24:9). "Whatever is not from faith is sin" (Rom.4:23).
Sin takes you farther than you ever wanted to go. It will keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay. It will cost you more than you ever wanted to pay. Satan baits the hook with your favourite kind of worm or fills the trap with what you desire most.
All human sin seems so much worse in its consequences than in its intentions. That is why Erwin R. Lutzer said: "We sin on the instalment plan. The bills come in later. But come they will, for sin pays handsomely, relentlessly." "We are too Christian really to enjoy sinning, and too fond of sinning really to enjoy Christianity. Most of us know perfectly well what we ought to do; our trouble is that we do not want to do it."
Apostle Paul says: "If I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me ..; the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practise" (Rom.7:16-19). It is always easy to find faults in others. The ancient philosopher Seneca (4BC-65AD) said: "Other men's sins are before our eyes; our own behind our backs." "How horrible our sins look when they are committed by someone else." However, "anybody who has once been horrified by the dreadfulness of his own sin that nailed Jesus to the cross will no longer be horrified by even the rankest sins of a brother." The Word of God exhorts us: "Encourage one another daily, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Heb.3:13).
"Christ's death on the cross included a sacrifice for all our sins-past, present and future. Every sin that you will ever commit has already been paid for. All of our sins were future, when Christ died two thousand years ago. There is no sin that you will ever commit that has not already been included in Christ's death."
"He that falls into sin is a man; that grieves at it is a saint; that boasts of it is a devil." As Romans 5:15-20 teaches us, grace abounds beyond sin. Grace is never a licence to sin; rather, it is the power to say 'no' to sin. Adam's offence brought condemnation and death, while the free gift of God's grace brings justification and life. Adam hid from God; in Christ, we have free access to God. Grace of God met the demands of Law when Christ died, and then supply what Law could not provide- salvation from sin.
"He who has not felt what sin is in the Old Testament knows little what grace is in the New. He who has not trembled in Moses, and wept in David, and wondered in Isaiah, will rejoice little in Matthew, rest little in John. He who has not suffered under the law will scarcely hear the glad sound of the Gospel. He who has not been awakened under the mountain will be little delighted with the cross."
"The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport and backbiting; the pleasure of power, of hatred." "The safest road to hell is the gradual one- the gentle slope, soft under foot, without sudden turnings, without signposts." "The sins of the bedroom are not the only ones. The sins of the board room should be just as much a matter of concern."
Trials, tests and temptations are part of the package with salvation in Christ. You cannot escape them. When you understand their purpose, you realise that you do not want to escape them. Their purpose is not to destroy you, but only to make you like Jesus, to make you spiritually strong. The purpose is perfection of Christian character in His children. He wants His children to be mature, and maturity is developed only in the laboratory of life. Testing of faith produces endurance, so that you may be perfect, complete, lacking nothing (Jas.1:2-4). We are exhorted to rejoice when distressed by various trials. To gain the full benefit of the trial, we should endure it. No trial is without purpose. It is the very thing you need to become what He wants you to become. Faith is not seen to be faith until it is tested. No temptation is more than we can take. There is always a way of escape.
We should not be swift to speak and complain when trials come. Instead, we should be swift to hear the Word, trust it and obey it. God works out His will in us when we are patient, not when we are angry.
God put Joseph through thirteen years of testing that He might make a prime minister out of him. Peter spent years in the school of testing to be changed from sand to rock. Paul went through many tests, and each one helped to mature his character. It takes faith on our part to trust God during the tests.
We must not be double-minded. Double-minded people are not stable during trials. Their emotions and decisions waver. Sometimes they trust God; other times they doubt God. Faith in God during trials will lead to stability. "Blessed is the man who endures temptation" (Jas.1:12).
Paul tells Timothy that "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Tim.3:12). In fact, Paul wanted to experience the fellowship of Jesus' sufferings (Phil. 3:7-11). He had plenty of legal righteousness, but lacked the true righteousness that God demands and which He alone can give. It is one thing to be religious enough to get admitted into a church, and quite another to be righteous enough to get into heaven. Salvation is not knowing about Christ, but knowing Him and experiencing the resurrection power. Added to these blessings is the privilege of suffering for Christ. "All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Rom.8:28).
Human nature declares that the way of transgressors is hard, that sin has no final say in human heart and that the soul of man has no rest except in God. The longing for better things grow in the hearts of men and women; the cry is for forgiveness, renewal and for a fresh awakening to the blessedness of spiritual life. The darkest hour precedes the dawn.
Unfortunately, many preachers are nowadays reluctant to speak about sin in the lives of the listeners since they think that it may be offensive. They are eager to speak only those things which are pleasing to the itching ears. It is popular to call sin by more acceptable names, thus trivialising sin's harmfulness to us. It is only proper that the deceitfulness of sin is brought clearly to the listeners so that they can know about the message of salvation. Let us learn to call a spade a spade, like Jeremiah who unceasingly denounced the false religious practices, wrong social behaviour and foolish government actions that characterised the nation.
Sin cannot be overcome through human ingenuity or effort. The solution to the problem lies in what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. The penalty for sin is death, judgement and hell. "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezek.18:4). But the Gospel is that God has chosen to pay this penalty Himself in the sacrificial death of His Son Jesus Christ (Jn.3:16-17, Acts 20:28). Through His atoning death on the cross, Christ set mankind free by taking the retribution upon Himself. He suffered the agony and shame that we deserve because of our sin. The sinner is justified in the sight of God in that Christ's righteousness is imputed to those who believe. It represents the sanctification of the sinner by virtue of his being grafted into the body of Christ through faith. The death and resurrection of Christ also accomplish the redemption of the sinner, because he has been brought back from slavery of sin into the new life of freedom. The sinner is enabled through regeneration by the Spirit to achieve victory over sin in daily life.
Sinners have an advocate with the Father. Christ is the propitiation for our sins. Instead of sin being a life-style, a habitual pattern, it happens on occasions "in ignorance" when you take your eyes off Jesus. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn.1:9). If you are a child of God, you will not habitually indulge in sin. Instead, you will practise righteousness and live according to what God has laid down in His Word. "If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" (Heb.10:26). It is not penance that God wants, but repentance. If there is anything in your life that is causing Him pain, confess and forsake it. Thank Him that you are truly forgiven and freed to practise righteousness.
"Let us, therefore, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness" (1 Tim.6:11). In the words of John Wesley, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him, for He will abundantly pardon."