“What the World Thinks of Sin”
Walker Family Discipleship #2
Ephesians 2:1-10 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:1-10 ESV) http://www.esvbible.org/Ephesians+2/
Ephesians 4:17-24 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
(Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV)
In my last devotion/letter to you I mentioned some theological systems (Calvinism, Lutherism, Arminianism, Baptist) and brought up that everyone has a theology. I specifically brought up (only briefly) the differences between Arminian and Calvinistic theology in regards to man’s free will vs. God’s sovereignty. Arminian theology emphasizes man’s choice in salvation while Calvinism emphasizes God’s sovereignty. Today, and for the next few lessons, I want to go deeper into that subject by studying the doctrine of sin and showing how our understanding of what the Bible says about sin (hamartiology) affects our soteriology (doctrine of salvation). Today I will focus on what our culture, the realm of lost man, thinks about sin.
Our culture does not necessarily believe in the concept of sin anymore, which makes evangelism all the more difficult. People do not like being called sinners! Most folks DO, however, recognize that they are not perfect- “Hey, nobody’s perfect!” is a standard excuse. We also tend to say things like, “I made a mistake,” when confessing what is really an inexcusable sin. A mistake is when you miscalculate a math problem or turn left when you should have turned right as you drive through a new city but a sin is when you choose to do wrong and you know what you are doing is wrong (an expanded and more precise definition of sin will follow). Our culture says it is not wrong unless you get caught, then you can claim, “It’s a mistake!”
Our culture does have some sins it likes to prosecute. Adultery is OK, just don’t get caught; homosexuality is OK, gay pride and all that. But DO NOT DARE say homosexual behaviour is wrong; that is intolerant, homophobic and is one of the worst sins you can commit in our society! Isaiah was right when he said (Isaiah 5:20) “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” DO NOT DARE say that Mohammed is a False Prophet or that Jesus is the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14:6). DO NOT DARE bring your faith into the public sphere and be the salt of the earth or the light of the world Matt.5:13-14; religion is OK in the eyes of the world, as long as it stays private and dares not accuse anyone else of being wrong.
Much of our culture is now openly atheistic and believes in evolution. If man is in fact the result of blind chance and the laws of nature that accidentally produced a thinking being with an idea of justice and right vs. wrong, then there can be no such thing as sin for there is no God who is holy and just. Sins are merely social constructs that are convenient for maintaining order. Heaven can be achieved on earth through politics, science, and education. At the core of atheism and evolution however, is the law of the jungle: Might makes Right, Survival of the Fittest. This produces situational ethics where the ends justify the means. If God is non-existent then literally anything goes! The more gentle form of this idea is Pragmatism: if it works for you, it must be good.
Probably the majority of our culture is deistic or theologically liberal: there is a God out there somewhere whose job it is to take all good people of whatever faith to heaven when they die. If there is a hell it is reserved for only the very worst of people…and even the Hitlers of the world may get a second chance. These folks view God as a cosmic Santa Clause and all religions are basically the same and all people are fundamentally good. Every religion is just a different road up the mountain to God. Sin is no real big deal in this system. The idea of salvation is to be as good as you can (while secretly comparing yourself to others so that in your own mind you come out as being better than most). In this mindset sin is equated with morality alone. God essentially winks at our sins, pats us on the back and tells us “That’s OK; just try harder next time.” In this system the liberal hermeneutic is governed by Love, not God’s holiness and sovereignty. God’s love trumps his holiness so there is no real punishment for our sins. Jesus’ death is a heroic tragedy and an example for us all but there is no need of a substitutionary atonement where Jesus dies in our place to pay the penalty for our sins to appease the righteous wrath of a Holy God.
The consequences of sin in this life are considered unfortunate, corporate/community problems that can be solved. People who wreck their lives by sin just need a “helping hand”, therapy, or some government program. It is considered rude and judgmental to point out that a person’s moral failures, i.e., sins, have brought about the bad circumstances that produce their suffering. Therefore, when the Church points to the many problems that come from sex outside of marriage (for example) like abortions, STDs, unwed mothers, poverty, lower education, crime, etc., and identifies the basic behavior as sinful, the world doesn’t want to hear it.
Self-esteem is the new mantra in schools and culture and claiming that certain actions are sinful is considered to be damaging to self-esteem. The direction of the legal system towards “Hate Crimes” is a direct challenge to free speech and the free exercise of religion because it will become illegal to label anyone as sinners and so on.
The bottom line is that we Christians must have a biblical view of sin and be aware of the cultural attacks against that biblical view of sin. We must understand hamartiology for our own sanctification and for our own understanding of our salvation, so that we can properly proclaim the gospel to a sin sick and condemned world. We must understand sin for our worship to be biblical, for our discipleship to be thorough, and for our mission to preach the gospel to be biblical. In any area of biblical theology we must be able to spot the sinful counterfeit and zoom in on the truth, being able to defend the gospel and answer the questions of those around us.
Next we will examine the Bible’s definition of sin and man’s condition.