Published September 23, 2010
Gen. 3:1-6, 16-19, 24; Rom.s 5:12-14
Family Bible Study Lesson, Oct 3
Sin is a big deal
In the eyes of many Christians, sin is “no big deal.” In fact, some pastors actually avoid the term “sin.” When Joel Osteen – pastor of America’s largest church – was asked by Larry King whether the term was an important word in his ministry, Osteen responded, “I don’t use it.”
While most of our churches still do speak of sin as a “big deal,” our actions often contradict our words. Consider, for example, how church discipline has virtually disappeared from most congregations. Another example is our willingness to tolerate or soften certain transgressions, seen in such phrases as “ministerially speaking” and the newly coined synonym “theological leverage.” These phrases would not have arisen if the majority of pastors and congregations took sin seriously.
Clearly, today’s Christians have failed to do so. In the face of this trend, why maintain that sin is, in fact, a big deal? Before discussing that issue, we must first address a different question: “What is sin?”
What is sin?
According to 1 John 3:4, “Sin is lawlessness.” Wayne Grudem expands upon this definition, writing, “Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature.” Grudem’s wording is helpful because it emphasizes that sin is not limited to physical actions.
Sin can be internal, occurring in our thoughts. For instance, in Matthew 5:27-28 Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
There remains a danger, however, in limiting sin to evil committed in our actions or thoughts. We are often guilty of sins of omission – that is, failures to do what we ought to do. James 4:17 says, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” These sins include failing to share the Gospel with our neighbors, to remember those in prison, to help those in need, and to do anything else the Bible commands us to do.
Why is sin wrong?
Sin is abhorrent because it violates God’s moral law. This law is our standard of right and wrong, of good and evil. A particular action is “right” if it corresponds to this law and “wrong” if it violates it.
Here we might find helpful Plato’s Euthyphro, where Socrates proposes enigmatically that God did not create this law, nor is he subordinate to it. In that dialogue, this paradox – known as “Euthyphro’s Dilemma” – is resolved when one comes to understand that God is the moral law. Morality is an expression of his nature. For this reason, “God necessarily and eternally hates sin.
“It is, in essence, the contradiction of the excellence of His moral character. It contradicts His holiness, and He must hate it.” Hence, sin is wrong because it violates God himself.
In our society, many think morality is relative or subjective. These “moral relativists” see morality as a matter of personal taste. Accordingly, values may be “wrong” for one person or society but “right” for another.
The fatal flaw of moral relativism is that it is impracticable. In other words, no one can live it consistently. At some point, relativists end up claiming that some values – for example, fairness or equality – are objective. So the moral relativists are frequently their own victims, resorting to words like “should” or “ought.” And when they do, they reveal that they believe in objective morality.
This inescapable pattern of thought caused a young C.S. Lewis eventually to question his atheism. He explained, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”
Lewis continued, “If there were no light in the universe and therefore no creature with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.” In other words, Lewis realized terms like evil and wrong are meaningless unless there exists some absolute moral law. Furthermore, an obligatory moral law must have a moral lawgiver. Thus, if we want to call anything “wrong,” then we must believe in God.
Is speaking about sin necessary?
We have a tendency to see ourselves as better than we really are. (For proof of our optimism, ask any man if he is an “above average” driver.) Therefore, articulating a proper view of sin to non-believers is not only useful, but essential.
Unbelievers must have an accurate view of sin before they can comprehend the Gospel; otherwise, they become confused or offended. Richard Baxter claimed, “A man on the gallows will be glad of a pardon; but a stander by, that thinks he is innocent, would not regard it, but take it for an accusation.”
In other words, men who think they are good will be offended when we present the Gospel. People who think they are healthy will not go to a physician. Once convinced of our infirmity, however, we run to the doctor. Consequently, we must spend the majority of our evangelistic efforts attempting to convince the lost of their infirmity before they will seek the Great Physician.
In conclusion, sin remains a “big deal” to God. When we sin, we are not breaking a mere law; instead, we are violating God. It is like slapping Him in the face.
What, then, should we do if we have sinned? Acts 3:19-20 provides the answer: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
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