Archives For On Sin

The world is not the way it’s supposed to be. We know it. We’ve always known it. People throughout history have tried to identify exactly what is wrong with the world—lack of information, a few evil people who oppress the innocent, a struggle between the classes, an unfinished evolutionary process—but we have always known that something is off.

In most worldviews, it is inconsistent to believe that something is wrong with the world. In eastern pantheistic religions, for example, where this world is an illusion and everything is all part of “the one,” it simply won’t do to call some things evil and other things good. Hence the yin and the yang. Love and cruelty are both equally part of “the one,” so making distinctions between good and evil is a regression. If the goal is to avoid all distinctions and mindlessly acknowledge that all is one, we have no basis for identifying a problem with the world.

Or consider secularist worldviews. If there is no God, or if He plays no active role in the universe, then there can be no evil. If, as Carl Sagan famously asserted, “the Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” then all we can do is describe what is, not what ought to be. In other words, there can be no evil, and there is no problem with the world as it is. The world is simply what the world is, and that’s all we can ever say about it. Though atheists will often push Christians to answer “the problem of evil” (God is good, God cares about humanity, yet evil exists), the atheist cannot properly claim “the problem of evil” because the recognition of evil requires the existence of a moral standard.

The Christian worldview is the only one that can adequately explain the problem we see in the world. Why does every person find in himself the desire to live in a good, sinless world? Because that is the type of world God created us to live in. Why do we all believe something is wrong with the world? Because ever since man rebelled against God and thereby invited evil into the world, our experience of the world is marred. How can God be both good and caring in light of evil’s existence? Because man brought sin into the world through his rebellion, and God is actively fighting against evil.

In the next four posts, I want to explore the reality of sin. (Depressing, I know, but don’t worry—the end of the story is pretty amazing.) Sin is our great enemy in the world. You could say that we battle against the evil people or forces in the world, but they are evil because of sin. Or perhaps we battle against ourselves, but again, this is the result of sin (though we are not passive in entertaining sin). Or you could argue that our enemy is Satan, but while that is true, he is evil because of sin.

Here’s how a Puritan named Ralph Venning put it 1669 (in a book entitled Sin, Plague of Plagues, and re-titled The Sinfulness of Sin):

“In general, sin is the worst of evils, the evil of evil, and indeed the only evil. Nothing is so evil as sin; nothing is evil but sin…No evil is displeasing to God or destructive to man but the evil of sin. Sin is worse than affliction, than death, than Devil, than Hell. Affliction is not so afflictive, death is not so deadly, the Devil not so devilish, Hell not so hellish as sin is.”

Sin is awful. But I don’t think that we are all that convinced of how bad sin really is. Proverbs 8:13 says, “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil.” Can you say that you hate sin? If you’re not sure, stick around for the next few posts.

Free, Yet Still Imprisoned

Mark Beuving —  February 23, 2012 — 2 Comments

A Christian is a person who has been set free. “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1). Whereas we were enslaved to sin—its pull, its deteriorating influence, its consequences—we have been liberated. Romans 6 powerfully proclaims that through sharing in the death of Christ, we have died to the power of sin. Sin can no longer control us.

Yet how many Christians do you know who live as though they are free? I would answer, “Some, but not many.” How is it that Paul can proclaim us free from sin, yet most of us live as though we were enslaved? We are free, yet we still live as though sin is our master.

Tim Chester states it graphically:

“We’re like a freed slave who still jumps at his old master’s voice. We’re like a man with a healed leg who still limps out of habit. We’re like a former prisoner who still wakes at prison hours.” (You Can Change, 49)

If we are still being bullied by sin, can we really claim to be free? That’s the beauty of Romans 6. Paul informs us that we are free from sin, then calls us to live as though that were true. He calls us to present our members to God as instruments of righteousness. So the gospel first sets us free, then calls us to live as free.

Paul seems to be suggesting that we don’t realize what has happened to us in the gospel. For those of us who are united to Christ by faith, there is a huge difference between who we were and who we are. Tragically, many Christians still view themselves in terms of who they were. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul lists everything we used to be. If we’re honest with ourselves, we resonate with part(s) of this list. But then Paul turns the whole thing on its head:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Yes, you used to be a sinful person. BUT—you were washed, sanctified, justified in the name of Jesus! Do you have any idea who you are? You’re not defined by your sin. You shouldn’t identify yourself based on the sins you struggle with. You are a child of God, and as such you have been cleansed of your sin.

Paul is so clear on this point: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). That’s who you are. You’re not a prisoner to sin. You’re not even you. You’re a new creation. Who you are is fundamentally different than who you were.

So back to Paul’s point in Romans 6—you have been set free from the power of sin, so live as though you were free. Don’t keep offering yourself up to sin as though you were its slave, offer yourself up to God as His slave.

How do you do this? Well, it’s impossible—for the old you. For the you without the Spirit of God. Paul’s instruction on how to put sin to death in our lives is as simple as it is mysterious: “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13).