If there is one constant thing that every church and each Christian will have to deal with until Jesus returns it is the ever-present reality of sin. Sin is everywhere – in our hearts, in our world, in our institutions, and in our families. It is on television, the internet, social media, and moves in and out of smartphones. Sin, apparently, is even in our desserts (oh, the decadence of chocolate!). If it takes one to know one, we are all experts on being sinners.
From the Bible’s vantage, sin is serious business. It is both the things we do (1 John 3:4), as well as the things we leave undone (James 4:17). Sin is both the breaking of God’s commands, and the lack of conforming to the teachings of Jesus. Christians throughout the ages have generally understood that the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and Christ’s law of love (Luke 10:27) constitute a brief summary of God’s holy and moral instruction for humanity. This is all based in the character of God, as he is both holy and loving. Sin, then, may be defined as anything in a person which does not express, or is contrary to, the basic character of God.
All sin, whether in actions or inactions, has as its root an attitude and activity of self-centeredness. It is the bent of thinking more about ourselves than of God. And, oh my, the consequences that such an attitude results! Sinful attitudes bring about an obsession with lust (1 John 8:34; Galatians 5:16); a broken relationship with God (Romans 3:23; Galatians 5:17); bondage to Satan (1 Timothy 3:6-7; 2 Timothy 2:26); death (Romans 6:23; 8:6); hardening of the heart (Hebrews 3:13); and deception (1 Corinthians 3:18; James 1:22, 26) just to a name a few.
What all this means is that we are guilty of transgressing basic morality as well as failing to live up being ethically virtuous people on any on-going consistent basis. Well, that sounds like a total Debbie-Downer. Actually, it’s total depravity. Being depraved people does not mean we are never capable of doing good; it just means that sin has profoundly touched everything in our lives, without exception.
The ironic paradox of all this is that experiencing true joy and comfort comes through knowing how great our sin is. We can only live above sin if we are set free from it by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. If a person is to be redeemed from sin, then a provision must be made. Sin has been dealt with once for all through the person and work of Jesus. He is our representative, taking our place with the punishment we deserved (Galatians 4:4-5; Ephesians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:9-15; Hebrews 2:17-18; 1 John 2:1).
Jesus Christ is our ultimate substitute (Romans 5:8); which resulted in our redemption (Galatians 5:13); which resulted in his sacrifice for sin satisfying all justice (Romans 3:25); which resulted in our reconciliation to God (Romans 5:10). Therefore the person who believes in Jesus is forgiven of sin because Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient to deal with all the effects of sin. The Christian is complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10).
The sin issue has been dealt with decisively and definitively in Christ. So, then, gratitude is in order for the church. Christians ought to be the last people on earth that walk around looking like they were baptized in pickle juice. Instead, Christians ought to be the most thankful and gracious people around because they are forgiven people. A lack of joy and celebration betrays a lack of Christianity (Luke 15:25-32).
Sin certainly is awful. It destroys everything it touches and can leave terrible consequences in its wake. But sin does not have the last word. Thus, effective church ministry has at its core a solid teaching of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection which is the decisive blow to sin’s power. Anything less isn’t a church, but a country club of people hob-nobbing over donuts and gossip. The skinny on sin is that it is bad, really bad; but Jesus is good, and overcomes the worst that sin can throw at him. Thank you, Jesus.