Monday, February 24, 2020

Sin and Death

The relationship between sin and death is a difficult one for us to decipher. We know that we are sinners, and we know that we are condemned to die and that only by the grace of God are we given the chance to live again. But is all sin death? Does all sin condemn us?

It doesn't seem so.

Now, I know - that's probably different from the vast amount of preaching that you've heard over a lifetime. And it's true, God does call us to be holy as He is holy, to be perfect as He is perfect. We're not supposed to sin. And yet, we do. And God knows that we will.

It's difficult to get into some of this because what we don't want to do is to create a belief system whereby sin is not troublesome, where we're not bothered by being fallen human beings. We don't want to establish any understanding that would suggest that God is not heartbroken by our sin; He is. We should be, too. But we have to put sin in its true perspective here.

James helps us out with that. He says, in his opening chapter, that it is sin "fully grown" that leads to death.

In other words, it's not sin itself that leads to death, but the attitude that we take toward sin that does.

It's about whether or not our sin grieves us. Does it prompt us to change our behavior or reorient our heart? Does it lead us back to God because we become keenly aware of how far we've fallen away? Sin can, and should be, redemptive. Again, I know that's weird to say, but it's true.

What is sin? Sin is believing that we know better than God. It is believing that we are God. It is believing that God's wisdom doesn't matter, that it doesn't impact our real lives. It's believing that God is out of touch, that He doesn't know what He's talking about. It's believing that we are the masters of our own fate, that we control our own lives. Sin is about losing our connection with God by the choices that we make, consciously or unconsciously, and if losing this connection makes us realize that we've lost it, then our sin can lead us back to God. Thus, it can be redemptive.

The sin that leads to death is the one that doesn't lead us back to God. We think we got away with it. We think, perhaps, that we even profited somehow from it. That we had something to gain and we gained it from our sin. It's the idea that we weren't called to account, so it doesn't really matter, so we feed into our sinful nature and nurture it. We let it grow. And when it grows fully and matures into its own beast, that's when it leads to death.

The narrative in Genesis 3 - and the trajectory of mankind as we know it - could have been entirely different if, after eating the fruit, Adam and Eve were looking for God as fervently as He was looking for them. If, instead of diving into the bushes, they ran into the open and called out to Him.

This is important because we are a people prone to beating ourselves up over our failures, even if they were simply mistakes. We vow that we're never going to do that again, and then here we are, doing it. We vow that we're going to be better persons, then something happens and we realize we're really not. At least, we're not who we want to be. And we condemn ourselves. We condemn ourselves so that God doesn't have to, maybe so that He can't. I don't know. But we spend our whole live convinced of our own unworthiness because that one time, we sinned and isn't sin the end of everything we've ever hoped for?

It could be. But it could also be the beginning.

It all depends on whether you let your sin draw you back to God or you nurture it until it's fully grown. Sin can lead to death, sure, but it can also lead to life.

Are you diving into the bushes or running into the open? 

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