If you go into a jewellers shop and you want a diamond ring, the jeweller lays a black velvet cloth on the counter. Then the diamond ring is placed right in the middle of that black cloth. Against the black background the diamond sparkles in all its beauty. Similarly, we cannot see the wonder and wealth of God’s love until we see it against the backdrop of our sin.
Nicky Gumbel, 30 DAYS: A Practical Introduction to Reading the Bible, 2006, Alpha Publications, p.55
Many years ago there was a famous correspondence in The Times newspaper under the subject “What is wrong with the world today?” The best letter of all was also the shortest, and read: “Dear Sir, I am. Yours faithfully, G. K. Chesterton.” — What is wrong with the world today? We are; human beings! “I am,” said Chesterton! As the old adage goes, ‘The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart’. SIN.
Pastor Tony Evans says: The law isn’t made for law-abiding citizens. If you’re going the speed limit, that police officer on the side of the road isn’t going to pull you over, congratulate you, and write you a thank you ticket! His concern is the guy behind you doing seventy-five in a fifty limit. His radar does not reward, it condemns, because that what the law does. So if you are trying to live your Christian life and achieve spiritual victory by keeping a set of rules, you are going to feel condemned. If you are trying to find spiritual power in a list of do’s and don’ts, you are going to be sorely disappointed. The law has no power to help you obey. All it does it give you the boundaries and the penalties for overstepping those boundaries. – BUT if you let the Holy Spirit take over your life, He will free you from the law. He will give you the power to produce spiritual fruit and please God because you want to, not because you are afraid God will point His radar at you and pull you over.
Tony Evans, Time To Get Serious, p.261.
If we didn’t have the Old Testament ‘Law’ and the New Testament ‘teachings’, if we didn’t have the Bible, would we ever know what sin is? Granted, there would be times when we might have to guess but, overall, the answer is still… Yes, we would know what sin is. ‘Phrases such as ‘it isn’t fair’ or ‘it serves him right’… Where does our sense of justice come from? John Stott said, “Human beings are moral beings by reason of our creation in the image of God. Every human being knows the difference between right and wrong.” We know what sin is even without the Bible, and so why then was the Law given?
- The law was given to show God’s perfect standard.
- The law was given so that God’s chosen people might seek to glorify Him, and in this way be a testimony and a witness to a pagan world.
- The law was given so that God’s chosen people might seek to be holy, set apart and obedient… so they might be in a right relationship with God.
- But the law – or keeping the law – was never given as a means of earning salvation (it’s worth remembering that the law was given to Moses after the people of Israel had already been redeemed/saved from Egypt).
- And the law was never intended to commend a man before God: not commend him, but to condemn him… to show Man that he is incapable of fully keeping the law.
- And so God (through the law) also provided atonement for sins by way of sacrifice – a foretaste of what Jesus would one day accomplish once and for all time, on the cross. Jesus himself said he didn’t come to abolish the Law but to fulfil it… that’s because nobody else, other than Jesus could ever fully keep/fully-fill the Law.
- And so the Law is, ultimately, evangelical; in that it shows that Man is incapable of fully keeping it and so it points us to our need for salvation: our need for a Saviour: Christ.
You can take a magnifying glass and concentrate the rays of the sun into such a sharp point of intensity that it burns things. Imagine, then, a massive moral magnifying glass through which passes, not the sun’s rays, but God’s righteous anger at all the wrongdoing in our lives; at the selfishness and the hatred, at the lies and dishonesty, at the deceit and most of all the way we have ignored and misused God in the world. Picture all of God’s anger focused and coming down through a massive moral magnifying glass with a terrible intensity until it hits one man in one point of history with such agony, that he cries out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ That is how God saves us from the coming wrath. That’s how he saves us from hell through the cross for heaven. – Sin must be paid for; either at the cross or you pay for it yourself, but it must be paid for!
Source: Rico Tice, Man To Man… About God, p.72
What the Bible means by sin: ‘This experiment was shot in a space station and shown on a TV documentary. – One of the astronauts was floating at rest inside the space vehicle, wearing just a T-shirt and shorts. When he stretched out his hand, he was a metre from the wall. He was then commanded to move himself to the wall. Being in a weightless condition, he had full freedom to move. He moved, spun, jack-knifed etc. but every time he was able to stretch out his hand, he was still exactly a metre from the wall! The TV commentary explained: “We all have a physical centre of gravity. He can spin freely around his centre of gravity, but he cannot move it! If we left him there, he would eventually die, still a metre from the wall of the space station. One of the others must reach out and pull him to safety.”
This is a perfect illustration of sin. We appear to have freewill to do what we like. Every day we make freewill choices and decisions. But spiritually, the Bible says we are in the most terrible form of bondage. We are all, by nature, slaves to selfishness, self-centredness and pride. I am in bondage to my own spiritual centre of gravity. This is what the Bible means by sin. I want to run my own life, with myself as the controlling centre of my world. I cannot save myself, but if I remain in this condition I will die, spiritually, and without hope. Another person from outside myself must step in and bring me to safety. This is what Jesus has done for us by his life, death and resurrection!’
Source: Christianity Explained, 2010, The Good Book Company, New Malden, Surrey, p.58
If you were high above the earth and looked down on one man standing on a mountain top and another standing in a valley, they would look to you as if they were standing side by side. You would be so high that the small matter of a mountain would be irrelevant. God is so high that when He sees us in relation to sin, we are all standing on level ground. Our God is holy, totally separate from sin. He can’t even stand to look at it (Habakkuk 1:13). God is so holy that He is as offended by an evil thought as He is by murder. While there are differences in the consequences of sin, there is no difference in the essence of sin.
Source: Tony Evans, Time To Get Serious, 1995, Illinois: Crossway Books, p.18
Do you know how a worm gets inside an apple? Maybe you think the worm burrows in from the outside. No, scientists have discovered that the worm comes from inside. But how does he get in there? Simple! An insect lays an egg in the apple blossom. Sometime later, the worm hatches right in the heart of the apple and then it eats his way out. Sin is a bit like that: it is already in our hearts before we are even born; sin is passed on in our genes, from mother to child right the way back to Adam and Eve.
The can be no conversion without conviction: A little while ago I was witnessing to a friend who is not a Christian. The problem was he was not convicted of the seriousness of his sin. (Only the Holy Spirit can do that work in him.) I asked my friend, “If you popped you clogs tonight and you stood before the pearly gates and God said, ‘why should I let you in my heaven,’ what are you going to say?” His response was that ‘I shouldn’t worry; he is not such a bad guy; God will let him in to heaven. And if God didn’t let someone like him in, well then he wouldn’t want to be there anywhere!’ But my friend is missing the point: If we can get in to heaven without Jesus, then why did Jesus come; why the rescue mission if we don’t need saving? God knows that our sin is serious, that’s why He did something about it; that’s why Jesus came and why He died.
How quickly would we want to leave the room if every action we had ever done was displayed on a screen, followed by a written list of every thought we had ever entertained? Deep down, we all feel ashamed and embarrassed by our sin. We don’t want people to find us out. – It is said that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the British physician and author (creator of Sherlock Holmes), once played a practical joke on a dozen friends; all of them well-known public figures. He sent each of the men an anonymous telegram that simply said, “Flee at once. All is discovered.” Twenty-four later every one of them had left the country. – Virtually all of us have something in our lives, which we are ashamed of; something we would not want everyone to know about.
Nicky Gumbel, Alpha Questions of Life, 2007 edition, Eastbourne: Kingsway Communications, p.162/3.
Sin contaminated the world like a virus infects a computer and brings disorder and chaos.
Imagine your life were recorded on video, on a DVD (what a horrible thought): If we were to replay a video recording of your life – all your thoughts, and words and actions (or lack of them) – over the last 24 hours, and we projected it onto a big screen for everyone to see, how would you feel? What are the things you would be ashamed of? What are the things that you wouldn’t want others to see? Of course, Christ sees everything, and that’s why we need daily forgiveness and to be more than just sorry; we need to repent, to turn away from wrongdoing and change direction.
1 Peter 3:18 tells us, “Christ died for sins once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” – Martin Luther explained it like this: “Our most merciful Father…sent his only Son into the world and laid upon him…the sins of all men saying: Be thou Peter that denier – Paul that persecutor, blasphemer and cruel oppressor – David that adulterer – that sinner which did eat the apple in Paradise – that thief which hanged upon the cross – and briefly be thou the person which hath committed the sins of all men; see therefore that thou pay and satisfy for them. Here now comes the law and saith: I find him a sinner…therefore let him die upon the cross. And so he setteth upon him and killeth him. By this means the whole world is purged and cleansed from all sins.”
Vaughan Roberts makes the following point in how sinful people should approach God: “When England won the world cup back in 1966 Bobby Moore had the privilege of receiving the trophy from the Queen in front of the home crowd. Afterwards, he was asked what it felt like. ‘It was terrifying,’ he replied. ‘When I approached her I realized that the Queen was wearing some beautiful white gloves. I looked at my hands and they were covered in mud, and I thought, “How can I shake hands with her like this? I will make her gloves dirty.” If he was worried about approaching the Queen with his muddy hands, how much more should we when we approach God? God does not just have white hands; He is perfectly clean all over. He is the Holy God. And we don’t just have dirty hands; we are dirty deep within because of what the Bible calls our ‘sin’; we have disobeyed God’s commandments. That is why the people of Israel were sent into exile away from His presence.”
Vaughan Roberts: Missing The Point? , p.20-21, also Turning Points , p.47-48
SIN is like saying Shove off God, I’m in charge, No to your rules.
Paul wrote: ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us’ (2 Corinthians 5:21). On the cross Jesus, in a sense, became the most sinful man the world has ever seen, as the sins of millions and millions of believers in every age, were poured into His body. That’s why, as He was dying, Jesus cried out, ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:26). The only time in the whole of eternity when God the Father was separated from His Son! – Like oil and water, sin and holiness just don’t mix: God had to turn away and be separated from Jesus as Jesus took our sin upon himself.
(An illustration from the Alpha Course): Imagine a scale against a wall that measured goodness, kindness and honesty. At the top are the best people who have ever lived and at the bottom the worst. Who would you put at the bottom? Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, or your boss, maybe! Who would you put at the top: Florence Nightingale, Nelson Mandela, or possibly Mother Teresa? And whereabouts would you put yourself – somewhere in between? The thing is no-one – no matter how good a life they live – can ever be good enough to live up to God’s standard, which is the ceiling; 100%. God’s standard is perfection and on that scale we all fall short. No one can ever be good enough; no-one can be perfect, not even Mother Teresa even though she lived an exceptional good life. Romans 3:23 puts it like this: ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. In other words, no one qualifies because none of us are perfect. We all fall short, some more than others, of course!
Nicky Gumbel, recorded Alpha talks (DVD), session 3
The Bible says, all have sinned (Romans 3:23): It might not be apparent for the first few months of life but soon enough the first signs of sin begin to appear. Interesting that the letter ‘I’ is always at the centre of sin and ‘I’, by my fallen nature, am self-centred: I am most interested in self… I try not to be, but I constantly fail. We all do! When we look at a group photo whose face do we search for first… our own! Not that doing so is sinful in itself, but it shows who it is we are most interested in!
Children, even infants, don’t need to be taught how to sin: it comes naturally to them… throwing temper tantrums because they can’t get their own way, hitting other toddlers in the playgroup, claiming something as ‘mine’ and not sharing! Mild stuff, granted, compared to what we might generally consider sin but nevertheless sin, all sin, is rebellion against God’s perfect standard. When God says, ‘love your neighbour as yourself’, and we don’t, we sin. And if we only ever sinned once in our entire life then, by default, we’re not innocent, not 100%, and God, who is absolute pure 100% holy cannot be where sin is! It’s like trying to mix oil and water… impossible!
Sin is a bit like when toxic waste is spilled into a river: Years ago people thought nothing of polluting streams and rivers with chemical waste and rubbish. It just seemed so unimportant; nothing really to worry about! But today we know that just two or three parts in a million of certain chemicals can seriously damage people’s health, even kill them! Sin is like the pollution in streams: even tiny amounts are deadly because it spreads like a virus. And sin also spreads and passes from one generation to the next. We are all sinful… we are born that way. Sin is something we’ve inherited; it’s been passed on in our genes from one generation to the next right the way back to Adam and Eve!
The words of the Anglican Confession state: “Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we [that is ALL of us] have sinned against you and against our fellow men, in thought and word and deed, through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault…” All have sinned. There is no-one righteous, not even one. We can never fully keep the law, the word of God, because it is impossible for us not to sin! Certainly we try not to sin, and for a while we might succeed, but inevitably we end up sinning again, because it’s in our nature to sin!
Like the fable of the scorpion that asked a frog to carry him across the river because he couldn’t swim? ‘How do I know you won’t sting me?’ the frog asked. ‘Because if I do then we’ll both drown,’ he replied. So the scorpion hopped on the frog’s back and the frog climbed into the water. Half way across the river the scorpion stung him and as they were both drowning the frog cried: “You promised you wouldn’t sting me. Now we will both die. Why did you do it?” The scorpion replied, “I couldn’t not do it: it’s in my nature to sting!”
Mark Batterson writes: “It’s the sins of omission – what you would have, could have, and should have done – that break the heart of your heavenly Father. How do I know this? Because I am an earthly father! I love it when my kids don’t do something wrong, but I love it even more when they do something right.”
Mark Batterson, Going All In, 2013, Michigan USA, Zondervan, p.41
Legalising sin does not make it right.