At the risk of sounding overly simplistic let me say this: all of humanity has only one problem. It is sin.
The problem of sin is that it separates us from God and brings death. The greatest loss in our world, the most serious danger we face, is the loss of our relationship with God and the danger of falling under God’s wrath, and this is all because of sin.
D.A. Carson, a widely recognized N.T. scholar commented a few years ago that the most frustrating part of doing evangelism on university campuses is that most students (get this) have no idea of sin. “They know how to sin well enough, but they have no idea of what constitutes sin.”
Why is that? Why are most university campuses full of students who have no clue about sin or what it is? Why have they never heard about it? Worse, why is it that those students that DO know what sin is are unwilling or unable to explain it to those that don’t? Why do university professors and academic scholars avoid any serious consideration of sin and its consequences? Sin is not religious, it is, in fact, the opposite. God is not religious either. Religion, (which comes from the Latin “religio”) is the practice of rejoining with God. Sin is the practice of separation from God. The way universities of higher learning allow and even celebrate sin, one would wish they knew what they were doing. But that is part of how sin works! Sin deceives and ultimately destroys those who practice it.
So, what is sin? Where can you find a true definition of sin? The Bible is the best source. There are words that go with sin to describe its properties and character: disobedience, evil, wickedness, debauchery, criminal, rebellion, guilt, trespass, unclean, impure, defiled, unholy, unrighteous, ungodly, faithless, heartless, ruthless, insolent, arrogant, malicious, etc. But the main word that most describes sin is this: idolatry. It is the replacement of God with another god or with no god at all but self.
This week’s readings took us through Hosea and the first few chapters of Isaiah, we finished with the Assyrian devastation of Israel and the death of Ahaz, a wicked king of Judah.
2 Kings 17 gives us a theological analysis of what happened to Israel and why.
What is sin and what was Israel’s greatest sin? All disobedience to God is sin, but idolatry is always on the front burner for Israel and Judah. Nothing seems to have the kind of degrading impact as idolatry.
Know this: whatever replaces God is an idol. Even atheism worships the ideology of progressive evolution and human potential. The atheist replaces worship of God with worship of self and human heroes. They turn their eyes from the creator to the creation and exalt that which is made over God who made it.
Romans 1:18-32 describes clearly where this exchange of God for a lie will take you. God’s wrath that is poured out is not so much lightning bolts from heaven, but simply God allowing those who reject Him to taste more and more the fruit of the seeds they themselves are sowing. Three times Paul says that God gave them over. Each time the depths of darkness and deception grow and the resulting condition of man falls further and further from the glory and image of God. Sin brings death and disintegration of all life. Ephesians 2:1-3 describe all who are in sin as dead. We may be walking around, but what animates our being, our decisions and our behaviors is an evil spirit at work in the sons of disobedience.
Wednesday evening I spoke at the Rossville Church of Christ in their summer series. They are doing studies on the life of Christ in John’s gospel and my text was John 11 where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. After studying through that chapter and praying for God to help me find a message He would have me share, my thoughts fell on the words of Jesus in verse 40 where Jesus tells Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you would see the glory of God?”
If you believe, you will see… what? The glory of God! If that is true, what do you see if you don’t believe? Deception. The only way to see God’s glory is to believe. But believing opens your eyes to also see the terrible nature of sin and what it is doing to all who do not believe.
Unbelievers see neither the wonders of God’s glory nor the horrors of sin. Their minds are blinded from the only source of life and so they drink from the fountain of death.
There’s a church sign up the road from here that says: Life is short, death is sure, sin is the cause, Christ is the cure. Those short lines say a lot.
God sent His prophets to Israel and Judah to turn the eyes of their hearts back to faith in Him and away from the darkness of sin, but they would not listen. They loved sin. They ran after other gods. They rejected their only hope, their deliverer, the true and living God. They were plunged into sin, darkness and death.
God finally sent His Son. Surely God’s people would respect God’s Son! But they didn’t believe and therefore they could not see Him. But for those who did and who do believe, our eyes are opened and our sins revealed for what they are. We discover our condition and are disgusted and horrified by it! This is the first step toward freedom from sin. Broken and contrite hearts that realize how impoverished we are in spirit, mourn over this, meekly submit to God, hunger and thirst for right, discover mercy and show it, receive the cleansing of Christ and become pure in heart, begin to share the gospel of peace, and find ourselves persecuted by those in unbelief who remain in blindness of sin.
All of humanity has but one problem. It is sin. Do you believe this? Do you see this?
For we who believe in Jesus there is one clear mission: go and make disciples. Jesus told them to baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and to teach them to obey all that He commanded them. What happens when we believe and follow Jesus? We see the true condition of a world lost in sin. We hear the voice of our Savior and Lord, the Son of God who reveals to us God’s glory. He says: go make disciples. If we disobey this, we will also become blind. We won’t see how desperate those in sin are. We will, like Israel, become more like the sinners around us and less like the Savior who died for us. We will incur the wrath of our God. Jesus didn’t give us an option. He told us to make disciples and teach them to obey Him and make disciples. I want to see God’s glory, don’t you? I want a faith that sees and helps others to believe and see. I’ve been praying for three years that we would baptize 100 people in a year. I’ve been asking. Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive.” So I’ve been asking. Now I’m seeing that Jesus didn’t just say to ask, Jesus also said to seek, and you shall find, and then he added, knock and it shall be opened. I’m wanting to move to step two and start seeking those who are lost and to step three and knock on their door. Would you pray for me about this? I want to be an example to this church, not just a talking head. I want to show you, so you can see, not just tell you. I want some of you who believe this to go with me and do this. It’s time for me to take Jesus’ mission to heart and go make disciples. If you want to join me, text me or call me and let’s do it together. Let’s obey Jesus in faith and see God’s glory together.
I don’t want this church to be like Israel. I don’t want my neighbors or this town or Tennessee, or this country or this world to be like Israel. I want to do the only thing that Jesus said to do to change this world and open the eyes of those in darkness, I want to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
Whatever it takes.