The Bad News of Your Sin
One of the problems with the internet and the intrusive power of social media is the constant onslaught of bad news. We no longer carry the hardships of just our personal life, but we are daily greeted by every bad thing that happens around the world. Wars are fought before us in real time; battle scenes, with their destruction and gore, instantly become videos on our Twitter feeds. It’s hard to avoid the darkness of the culture around us, the anger of people, and the constant telling and retelling of hard things that are out of our control. I think we carry a burden of fear and dread unlike what has ever been carried before, because we are exposed to more sad things than people have ever been before. It wears on us. It is exhausting and disheartening. It makes us feel small, the victims of things we now carry but have no ability to change. In fact, I recently told my wife, Luella, that I was tired of all the bad news and I wanted to watch something mindless that would give my weary brain a break.
However, there is one kind of bad news that you and I often work to deny but that we desperately need to face. Facing this news is a matter of life and death, even though it is the worst news ever. Willingness to open your heart to this deeply bad news will set your life on a gloriously new trajectory that literally has no end. This is bad news that you and I need to hear. Without this news we will fail to understand ourselves, our relationships, and the world we live in. Most importantly we will fail to understand the deep need we have for what the person and work of Jesus can offer us.
We need to hear, understand, and accept the bad news of our sin. I find David’s description of sin, in his heartfelt confession in Psalm 51, to be very helpful. Here he describes sin with three words: transgression, iniquity, and sin. Transgression is a willing stepping over of God’s boundaries. It is like parking in the noparking zone even though I’ve seen the sign. It is a pattern of choosing what you want to do even though it violates what God has commanded you to do. Sadly, apart from divine rescue, this spirit of rebellion lurks in all of our hearts. The word iniquity pictures moral uncleanness. Think of water that has alien chemicals in it that will hurt you if not purified. Iniquity tells me that sin is not just a behavioral problem, something that I do, but more foundationally it is a heart problem; it is something that I am. My deepest problem, apart from God’s grace, is not just that I do sinful things but that I am a sinner. Because sin is part of my nature, I cannot escape it on my own. I can run from situations and people, but I cannot run from myself. The rhetorical question of Jeremiah is helpful here:
Can the Ethiopian change his skin
or the leopard his spots?
Then also you can do good
who are accustomed to evil. (Jer. 13:23)
The Ethiopian is dark-skinned by nature, and like any human being, he has no ability to change his skin color. If he dyed his skin, a new layer of skin would grow in his natural color. The leopard is spotted, and even if you shaved that leopard clean, its spots would grow back. So it is with sin. Since it is a matter of our nature, we have no ability to escape it and, therefore, no ability on our own to live a consistently good life in the eyes of God.
Willingness to open your heart to this deeply bad news will set your life on a gloriously new trajectory that literally has no end.
The word sin is meant to picture our inability. Sin renders us lame and weak, constantly falling below God’s holy, wise, and loving standard. Imagine spending a hundred years with a bow in your hand, trying to hit a target, and every time you launch an arrow, it falls short. Despite your best intentions and efforts, nothing changes; your arrows always fall short. So it is with sin. Sin makes it impossible for us to live up to the standard of who the Creator designed us to be and what he designed us to do. These three words—transgression, iniquity, and sin—powerfully depict our need for the rescuing, forgiving, accepting, transforming, empowering, and delivering grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. They should cause us to give up on our own righteousness, to let go of our dreams of self-reformation, and to cry out for help. These words should drive us to a state of spiritual hopelessness that causes us to abandon hope in our efforts and throw ourselves in hope on the Savior.
Let Your Sin Compel You
But we have a problem. One of the most serious aspects of sin is that it is deceitful. Sin blinds. I have no problem seeing and being concerned about the sin of others, but I can be blind to my own sin and a bit offended when someone calls me out. It is vital to admit that because sin still lives inside of us, none of us have a completely accurate view of ourselves. We like to think that no one knows us better than we know ourselves, but the blinding power of sin means that simply is not true. But it’s also vital to understand that sin carries with it a double blindness; not only am I often blind to my sin, but I am often blind to my blindness. I look at myself like I’m looking in carnival mirrors, where I see myself but with significant distortions. I need help to see myself accurately, to grieve, and to seek and celebrate God’s redeeming grace.
Corporate worship, the regular gathering of God’s people, holds up a huge mirror week after week. It is the world’s most accurate mirror, one that doesn’t simply give us an accurate view of our physical appearance but that has the power to reveal and expose the true thoughts, desires, and condition of our hearts. What is this mirror? It is the word of God. The Scripture read, sung, and expounded functions, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, as a mirror, enabling us to see ourselves as we really are, so that we will seek the grace that we deeply need. Because of remaining sin, we need this heart-exposing ministry again and again. I am thankful that week after week, God has used the corporate gathering for worship as an instrument of accurate spiritual sightedness in my life.
Why do I need this regular flow of bad news? Because without it, the good news of the righteous life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus would neither interest me nor seem important to me. It is the crushing bad news of sin that causes me to long for the gloriously good news of all that Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for me. It makes me cling to his grace because I know I have no other hope in this life and in the one to come. And it makes me want to extend that same grace to those around me who likewise have no hope without it.
This Sunday once again stand before God’s mirror. Let it break through your blindness, let it expose your need, and let it cause you to throw yourself once again into the healing, forgiving, and restoring arms of your Savior.
This article is adapted from Sunday Matters: 52 Devotionals to Prepare Your Heart for Church by Paul David Tripp.
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