Yesterday at Sycamore View, we began a new sermon series that will lead us up to Easter Sunday. The title of the series is Sin Exposed, and the purpose of the series is to engage the Word of God in order to generate meaningful discussions about the gospel and sin.
Here is the beginning place for this discussion. The first mention of “sin” in the New Testament is not about how sin ruins us, but about how Jesus came to ruin sin. God spoke to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “She (Mary) will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” The New Testament begins with a declaration that Jesus came to confront, take on, and to dismantle sin. This is good news!
Now, I realize that the moment we begin to talk about sin, thoughts are triggered in multiple directions.
Some were raised that you could beat the sin out of people, and we’ve had parents and preachers try. So, when conversations begin in the church with the topic of “sin,” some are reminded of having a person in authority (parent, preacher, teacher, etc.) tell them week after week about how bad they are because of their sin, and that God is really ticked at them, so they better keep in line, or else. The primary image of God was a judge who was angry. He was a judge who held court more than Judge Judy, and the main results were: 1) we have many people who made decisions to engage in conversion moments not to say “yes” to Jesus, but to say “no” to hell. We have people in our churches who have made decisions to not go to hell, yet they’ve never surrendered their lives to Jesus. And 2) there are a lot of people in our churches who have been spiritually battered. There are wounds that have yet to be healed.
Similarly, in some circles, people want to talk about sin a lot, yet it is to name sins for other people, not to deal with their own sin. They want preachers to preach about sin so they can tap others on their shoulders and say, “Were you listening to that!?!?!” And it’s not because they have a desire to be transformed within their own heart and mind into the likeness of their Creator.
On the other hand, some circles have chosen to skip over sin and go straight for grace, and only grace. So, we call “sin” struggles, or slip-ups, or we kind of missed the mark a little.
So, here is why we are in this study:
- If we are interested in taking Jesus seriously, we must take sin seriously too.
- Grace only makes sense when sin makes sense. To talk about sin doesn’t mean we talk about grace less; it means we have a greater understanding of the kind of new life that grace calls us to. In fact, like Paul, we may end up talking even more about grace, but because we see it for what it is.
- Abandoning the language of sin isn’t going to make sin go away. It puts life into greater perspective in order for us to pursue the things in life that are really true.
Throughout this series, we are going to see how the Bible speaks to individuals about their sin, but we will also see that the Bible also presents sin as communal and systematic. It is both private and public. Ultimately, sin desires to erode the heart of an individual, and the heart of every community.
What strikes me about my time as a leader in a church is that there are too many people who have chosen to live with the guilt of their sin instead of engaging in the hard work of new life. We settle for status quo instead of pursuing the life that really is new.
Barbara Brown Taylor tells the following story:
A Lebanese Presbyterian threw a theological temper tantrum during his first semester in college. “All you Americans care about is justification!” He howled. “You love sinning and being forgiven, sinning and being forgiven, but no one seems to want off the hamster wheel. Have you ever heard of sanctification? Is anyone interested in learning to sin a little less?”
Sin isn’t a set of behaviors to be avoided.
Sin is not barely missing the mark.
Sin is also more than violating rules.
Sin is violating a relationship.
Yet, the good news is that God knows this. And because the Bible goes to great extreme to tell us that God is slow to become angry, and He is full of compassion, we know He has graciously responded to the powers of darkness by providing a way for humanity to be repaired. What Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection is that He has destroyed the stronghold of the enemy, and through Him, we can be ushered into freedom.
The next few weeks leading up to Easter is about the good news of new life that is provided to us by Jesus. So, bring friends. Not friends who are already deeply connected to other churches. But friends who need to know about the amazing love of God that keeps breaking into the world.
Posted on Monday, February 15, 2016
by Justin Ardrey