Since the postmodern age began a few decades ago, we like to think of “sin” as an antiquated word. Irrelevant . . . obsolete . . . inconsequential. Nothing could be further from the truth. And I don’t mean “truth” in the postmodern definition of truth. I mean truth as in “absolute truth”–the kind that never changes and comes from the Bible. And the absolute truth of the Bible states truth like this: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Those words are the words of Jesus Christ, the One and Only Son of God. And it was sin that sent Him to the Cross–not His sin, but ours. OURS.
Sin is what brings down judgment on individuals and nations. How many Old Testament prophets came into the picture to tell the Hebrew people and nation to turn from their sins or face impending judgment if they didn’t–and how many times did it happen? Even pagan cities received notice–for example, Ninevah, which was spared when the people of the city repented after the prophet Jonah was sent to warn them. Other cities, such as Sodom and Gomorrah, were completely destroyed because the sin in those cities was so great and not even ten righteous (repentant) people could be found within those cities (Gen. 18-19).
Eugene Peterson has written an excellent Introduction to the Prophets (introducing the sixteen writing prophets in the Old Testament–starting with Isaiah and ending with Malachi–in The Message Bible and can be found at ebookbrowse.com) and I recommend that you take a few moments to read it. You can open the document below in a new window making it larger and easier to read by clicking on the “up arrow” box in the upper right hand corner:
Here’s an excerpt from the text above:
“The prophets purge our imaginations of this world’s assumptions on how life is lived and what counts in life. Over and over again, God the Holy Spirit uses these prophets to separate his people from the cultures in which they live, putting them back on the path of simple faith and obedience and worship in defiance of all that the world admires and regards. Prophets train us in discerning the difference between the ways of the world and the ways of the gospel, keeping us present to the Presence of God.”
He goes on to state that prophets were not easygoing nor were they popular. They were not celebrities and were “decidedly uncongenial to the temperaments and dispositions of the people with whom they lived.” They weren’t “particularly sensitive to our feelings” and had “modest relationship skills.”
“The hard-rock reality” he continues in his description, “is that prophets don’t fit into our way of life,” which is an understatement to say the least here in America.
The last quote from the inserted text that I want to be sure you read are the last three paragraphs:
“One of the bad habits that we pick up early in our lives is separating things and people into secular and sacred. We assume that the secular is what we are more or less in charge of: our jobs, our time, our entertainment, our government, our social relations. The sacred is what God has charge of: worship and the Bible, heaven and hell, church and prayers. We then contrive to set aside a sacred place for God, designed, we say, to honor God but really intended to keep God in his place, leaving us free to have the final say about everything else that goes on.
“Prophets will have none of this. They contend that everything, absolutely everything, takes place on sacred ground. God has something to say about every aspect of our lives: The way we feel and act in the so-called privacy of our hearts and homes, the way we make our money and the way we spend it, the politics we embrace, the wars we fight, the catastrophes we endure, the people we hurt and the people we help. Nothing is hidden from the scrutiny of God, nothing is exempt from the rule of God, nothing escapes the purposes of God. Holy, holy, holy.
“Prophets make it impossible to evade God or make detours around God. Prophets insist on receiving God in every nook and cranny of life. For a prophet, God is more real than the next-door neighbor.”
We all need to read the prophets, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah, on a regular basis to keep our lives in perspective especially with regard to sin and it’s consequences. I had to learn a very hard lesson in my life when it came to sin when I landed in Houston back in September 2008 and that lesson was this: Sin has very deadly consequences, and if we truly belong to Jesus, He will get our attention one way or the other when we have veered off track. The choice is still ours to make (we can ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit in our lives and suffer the consequences or we can humble ourselves, repent, turn from our sin and walk with Him once again). I chose to humble myself before Him, repent of the sin that had a stranglehold on my life for so very many years, and follow after Him in all areas of my life once again. That is not to say that I didn’t reap what I had sown all of those years–I did when I lost my job in Houston. However, during this very long time of unemployment God has set me aside for a time to learn what it means to truly follow after Jesus (and, no, I’m not perfect at it nor do I claim to be but my whole focus in life has shifted to Him and away from me and the things of this world that so entice us to sin in so many and various ways). There were clearly other issues in my life that needed attention during this time, too, which He has graciously pointed out over the course of the past three years and of which I’ve written about in previous blog posts.
I have been accused of being harsh and condemning in some of my blog posts. Almost always when I talk about specific sins that are so prevalent in many of our church cultures here in America I include my own flaws. Granted, not every sin I’ve discussed has been a particular weakness of mine. However, sin is what brings down people and nations, and our nation is reeling from decades of pervasive sin that is being allowed right in the church at large and is being ignored and we are suffering the consequences in devastating ways as individuals and as a nation. Church discipline, the likes as described in the book of Acts and other portions in the New Testament, is practically nonexistent in our churches today. A lot of pastors are more worried about “church growth” or being “sensitive to the culture” then they are about preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and living according to Biblical principles and standards, and it infects the people in their churches, and sin runs rampant in the corridors and among the people who claim Jesus Christ as their Savior. Again, this is not a “blanket” statement against all churches or Christians as excellent, Bible-believing churches do exist, but I’m afraid their numbers are quickly decreasing as the culture continues to invade churches everywhere.
If I sound harsh it is only because I have experienced in my own life the horror of the results from unrepentant sin and the devastation it can cause. My clarion call to those who profess to be Christian in this nation is that God does, indeed, take sin very seriously . . . so seriously that it cost His Son His life on the cross to pay for that sin debt. And it’s only by repentance and accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord over our lives and turning from that sin that we become new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-20). And that is the only way. Read those verses with me:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
“Be reconciled to God.” We cannot be reconciled to God if we continue in sin without any remorse for it, turning from it, or a refusal to see it for what it is in our lives. We only deceive ourselves if we do that. And that separates us from God.
I can think of no better verse to end this post with then the compelling invitation found in Isaiah 1:18:
“Come now, let us reason together,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.”
Photo credit here