I have been thinking alot about sin lately. I hope that statement doesn’t bring about a rash of angry letters or shocked, offended whispers in the corners of the Church building. But it’s true. Over the past month or so, the subject of sin has remained near the forefront of my thoughts. Here’s why – because I know so many people right now who are struggling with sin, and I’m just not sure how to help them. They walk into my office, sit in the chair across from me, and tell stories that twist and turn through various levels of despair and uncertainty, and almost always, the verdict comes back to that one word: s-i-n.
Why, as Christians, do we continue to do things that we know are wrong? Why, as humans, do we continue to follow paths that we know lead to heartache?
I remember when my view of sin was pretty simple. (That was back in the days when my view of everything was pretty simple. Need someone to explain the concept of the Trinity? Ask me. I have the answer. Need someone to explain God’s Sovereignty? Just give me a call. I knew it all!) At that time, in my immaturity, I just assumed that sin was something people needed to be taught to overcome. If the Church would preach hard enough, and people would listen carefully enough, and we would all spend the required number of minutes in Bible Study and prayer every day, sin would never be an issue. At worst, it was like a sort of flying pest, buzzing around in your ears, testing your patience, but powerless to do any real damage to someone wearing “Spiritual Armor”.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t seem so simple anymore. Age and observation have placed more and more things on the list that falls outside of my understanding. And I no longer see sin as a simple problem. On the contrary, I recognize it as THE problem – the one that plunged this entire world into chaos back in Genesis, and the one that eventually led Jesus to pay the ultimate price on the cross, for you and me. One litte sin in Eden, and look where we are now.
Which brings me back to my thoughts of late. What do we do, as the Church, about the problem of sin? We all struggle – even the most “devout” among us. Heck, even Paul admitted frustration and failture. (Romans 7: 7-25). So how do we help people to avoid the pitful of sin? The more I think about it, the more I realize that we can’t – because no matter what we do, people are going to continue to crash, often in spectacular ways.
To that end, I want to call your attention to this excellent article by Steve Brown, one of my favorite writers. He entitles his article, “Teaching Frogs to Fly” – (you have to read the article to understand why). I especially want to highlight this part of his article:
Preachers are supposed to keep people from sinning. I haven’t been very successful so far. There are times when I feel like I’m standing by a cliff where people come to dance. “Be careful,” I warn them. “It’s a long way down and the stop will be quite unpleasant.” They look at me. Sometimes they even thank me. Then they jump. Frankly, I’m tired of it. In fact, I’ve given up standing by this stupid cliff. I’m tired of trying to prevent the unpreventable. I’m tired of talking to people who don’t want to listen. And I’m tired of pointing out the obvious. Just when I determine to leave my position by the cliff, to my horror and surprise…I jump! What’s up with that?
Let me tell you. There is a very human and undeniable proclivity of human beings to sin—to jump off the cliff. We’re drawn to it. No matter who tries to keep us from doing it or how much pain it will cause, we are irresistibly drawn to that cliff. Maybe we want to fly. I don’t know why. But for whatever reason, we do jump, we do get hurt, and if we survive, we then climb back up the cliff and jump again.
Sort of depressing, huh? God calls sinners to follow Him, but if choosing to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior doesn’t end the practice of sin in my life, what is the point? And the simple answer, among those that are more complex and profound, is this one: when I follow Christ I am freed from the ultimate penalty of my sins in the past (i.e death), and I am given the Holy Spirit, which (among other things) enables me to see how to avoid sin in the present. And when I make the wrong decision anyway, God’s Grace is still enough to pick me up off of the ground, put me back on my feet, and send me forward again.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that my sin has no penalty. On the contrary, every sin has consequences, and some of them are severe. But even if you have made a complete wreck of your life by the choices you have made, God promises that, through His Son, the failures of the past do not have to lead to failure in the future. He is a God of renewal and rebirth . . . and Hope.
That’s why, in the article I linked above, Brown came to this conclusion about helping people through sin:
So I’ve repented. Now I just send them to Jesus and try to get out of the way. If you’re struggling with sin and aren’t getting any better, don’t come to me. Instead of coming to me, just run to Jesus. He’ll love you and maybe even make you better.
If someone you love is struggling with sin right now, or if you are in the midst of your own struggle, it’s time to talk to Jesus. Be honest with Him, and receive His Word to you (in Scripture) honestly, too. He is the only one big enough to fight the problem of sin.
If you need help, come and talk to one of the Ministers. We can’t erase sin, but we can point you towards a powerful Savior!