What’s the Big Deal about Sin?

by Lon Allison

“Sin is a big deal.” Those riveting words from a devotional reading yesterday really grabbed me. From the first chapters of the Bible until its end, the reality and results of sin are scorched into the pages. Sin is disastrous for us who commit it, to all those around us, to the world at large, and in God’s judgment of it.

I remember watching a movie years ago in which a biological scientist played by Dustin Hoffman realized an unknown virus was about to bring planetary devastation if not stopped. He went to governments and to fellow scientists to sound the alarm. And since the genre of the film was “doomsdayesque”, horrible things happened until they listened and almost miraculously, an anti-virus was developed. Dustin was a doomsday naysayer to be sure. But he was also right.

As we consider this in the light of our witness-life, the application is plain. There is some very very bad news embedded in the good news. The bad news is that sin is a spiritual virus impacting our thoughts, words, and deeds which spreads soul disease throughout our world. We must possess a degree of doomsday naysayer in our witness lives.

In 1 John 1:5-10, the apostle tells his audience (which includes us) a couple of sobering realities about sin. The first is “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” We are lying to ourselves. The evidence of the disease of sin is front and center in us. If I’m honest, I know I’m not the way I’m supposed to be. I let myself down, or play the victim, blaming my behavior on others, or cop an attitude that believes while I’m a bit wicked,  other people are far worse than me.

God summarizes these attitudes as delusional.

Face it, we are a mess. We know it and even more, God knows it.

The second reality is that “if we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar.” Concerning the sin issue, God never beats around the bush. We are sinners and more depraved that we know. He sent a bunch of Dustin Hoffmans (aka prophets and priests) to tell us so. Finally, He came down Himself to add an exclamation point to thousands of years of revelation on the subject. The danger of uncontrolled sin is devastation in this life and the eternal life which awaits us.

If what I’ve written above is true, then I/we have to talk about the disease and its danger when we are talking with others about Jesus. It is loving to do so. In fact, it may be the most loving thing we do in sharing the gospel.

I’ve seen two wrong ways of doing this. First, some of us don’t do it at all. We avoid the sin topic and only speak of God’s love. This is the tact I tended to take for too many years. I was overwhelmed with God’s love for the world and I felt if I just let people know this, that God would bring the sin part to them later. I just wanted them to believe in Christ who loved them all the way to His death.

This can lead to listeners perceiving they are really pretty good and therefore have earned and are worthy of God’s love. Danger follows closely to such attitudes.

The second wrong way of bringing sin into our conversations is to do it with harsh condemnation. Some Christians are just very angry and critical people. They almost enjoy telling people how angry God is about sin. God hates sin; that is true. God judges sin; that is true. But the judgment of God and the love of God meet at a cross, where God’s sinless Son bears the judgment on sinners willingly, because of His love.

So let’s not avoid sin in our witness, nor over-aggrandize it. Let’s compassionately confront people with their sin at the appropriate time, always expressing that it is an “us” thing not just a “you” thing. A person will never know how great grace is, until they perceive how horrendous sin is.

 

Lon Allison (@lonallison) is pastor of teaching and outreach at Wheaton Bible Church in West Chicago, Illinois. Previously, he served as executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.