“Excuse me, but could you please tell me… is there a telephone pole sticking out of my eye?”
How often do you hear someone ask that question? Indeed, how often do you yourself ask it? How often should I ask it?
One of the books that I am reading right now is Jerry Bridges’ “Respectable Sins”. In Chapter 2, entitled “The Disappearance of Sin”, the author is discussing the way this word (and its true definition) has been watered down, and almost eradicated from our social conscience. I know for myself, before God took my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh, I was one of the millions of people in our culture who thought sin was an outmoded word with an outdated concept. I wasn’t a sinner. There wasn’t really any such thing as sin. “It’s all relative… good, evil… you know. It all depends on what your perception of right and wrong is.” Right?
Well, no, actually. Quite wrong, really. But that’s the popular excuse of the day that we use to justify ourselves. For the unbeliever, for the person who doesn’t believe in a holy God who is a righteous Judge, well, there’s really no point in condemning yourself with some sort of belief in sin, now is there? But what about the believer? What is our relation with sin? Obviously, if we believe in a holy God and He has opened our eyes to the Truth of His holy Word, then we must certainly believe in sin. If we don’t, we could not ever see our great need for a Savior. It is very much what the Apostle John says in his first epistle, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10)
So, for the believer, we must come to some understanding of our sin, of God’s holiness, and Christ’s necessity. Our sin is unpardonable, God’s holiness is unfathomable. And Christ’s seed is imperishable. And although we, as believers, have been given a new heart and are a new creation in Christ, like it or not we still have a relation to sin. Some Christians would just as soon forget their sin. I may post a snippet of Voddie Bauchum preaching at the True Church Conference here and let him speak to that; he can do so much more powerfully and effectively than I could ever hope to. But for now, I will let what Jerry Bridges writes be the reflection that we shall ponder.
After discussing a study by sociologist Marsha Witten, who analyzed forty-seven taped sermons on the prodigal son by Baptist and Presbyterian ministers with regards to this disappearance of sin, Bridges writes:
Ms. Witten concluded her chapter on the pastors’ treatment of sin with this observation: “In this context, talk about sin appears more to be setting implicit boundaries to separate insiders who are targets for it, than to be articulating theological insights into the depravity of human nature.”
So we see that the entire concept of sin has virtually disappeared from our American culture at large and has been softened even within many of our churches, to accommodate modern sensibilities. indeed, strong biblical words for sin have been excised from our vocabulary. People no longer commit adultery; instead they have an affair. Corporate executives do not steal; they commit fraud.
But what about our conservative, evangelical churches? Has the idea of sin all but disappeared from us also? No, it has not disappeared, but it has, in many instances, been deflected to those outside our circles who commit flagrant sins such as abortion, homosexuality, and murder, or the notorious white-collar crimes of high-level corporate executives. It’s easy for us to condemn those obvious sins while virtually ignoring our own sins of gossip, pride, envy, bitterness, and lust, or even our lack of those gracious qualities that Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23).
A pastor invited the men in his church to join him in a prayer meeting. Rather than praying about the spiritual needs of the church as he expected, all of the men without exception prayed about the sins of the culture, primarily abortion and homosexuality. Finally, the pastor, dismayed over the apparent self-righteousness of the men, closed the prayer meeting with the well-known prayer of the tax collector, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13).
The attitude toward sin reflected in the prayers of those men seems all too prevalent within our conservative, evangelical circles. Of course, this is a broad-brush observation, and there are many happy exceptions. But on the whole, we appear to be more concerned about the sins of society than we are the sins of the saints. In fact, we often indulge in what I call the “respectable” or even “acceptable” sins without any sense of sin. Our gossip or unkind words about a brother or sister in Christ roll off our tongues without any awareness of wrongdoing. We harbor hurts over wrongs long past without any effort to forgive as God has forgiven us. We look down our religious noses at “sinners” in society without any sense of a humble “there but for the grace of God go I” spirit.
Ouch. I love that Jerry Bridges puts the focus back where it should be: on my sin.
Lord, let me never forget that I am the greatest sinner I know. Let me never cheapen the meaning of the gospel or the price my Savior paid — the value of His precious blood — by making light of the memory of my sin. And let me not succumb to the temptation of finding the specks in others’ eyes while this telephone pole protrudes from my own. God, help me see my sin. Help me hate my sin. And Lord, by Your unfathomable mercy and grace, help me overcome so that Your name in my life will be holy. Help me to be holy because You are holy. I have no power to bring this about in myself, so Lord, let Your will be done. In Jesus name, amen.