“Woe to the world for temptations to sin” (Matthew 18:7a, ESV)
I recently listened to a sermon series on 1 Corinthians 7 regarding marriage. In one of the messages Pastor Alistair Begg made the observation that “the culture is corrupt and the church is confused”. This comment could be made about many other issues besides marriage, perhaps most relevantly the issue of sin.
I have been helped by my study of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book, “Truth Unchanged, Unchanging”, especially as it looks at the culture’s view on sin. Dr. Lloyd-Jones calls the cultural view of sin the cult of self-expression. He states,
The view of religion based upon this cult of self-expression is thoroughly positive. Rather than defensive, its methods are offensive in character. Instead of resisting the attack of religion, it assails religion & all its adherents. It declares that the view of sin taught by the church based upon the Bible is not only inaccurate but perverted, and that when the Bible pleads with man to refrain from certain acts for his soul’s sake, this book is indeed his greatest enemy. They therefore insist for the abolition of the word ‘sin’. They insist on the rightness of the natural & instinctive. The advocates of this doctrine do not hesitate to follow this logic right to the end and to assert that the man who still believes in sin in the old way, and tires to discipline & control his life, is a pervert, a psychopath who is not only sinning against himself and his own true nature, but also against humanity at large.
Lloyd-Jones wrote this in 1951 and its relevance for today cannot be overstated.
The fallacy of the cult of self-expression can be shown by contrasting it with God’s view of sin—the only view which matters—as expressed in Scripture. Jesus Christ was outspoken in His teachings on sin (Matthew 18:8, 9). The gospel answer to this modern cult is not a doctrine of repression, but rather a call to the realization of the true nature of self. The recognition of sin is truly the crux of the whole matter. Sin & sins have introduced a complexity into the life of man who was created in the image of God.
Dead in Our Sins—But God…
Lloyd-Jones speaks of how the cult of self-expression recklessly ignores the ultimate destiny of the individual, because it disregards God’s view of us which is of infinite consequence. That God’s view matters is made abundantly clear in the Bible. Indeed, to teach that is the whole purpose of the Bible. The Bible teaches that we are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). Man cannot rehabilitate his true self. He cannot find God.
Man can lose his soul, but he can never find it again. He can destroy it but he cannot recreate it anew. And were it not for one thing, man would inevitably go to the eternal fire of hell. Thanks to God for that one thing: “The Son of Man has come to seek & save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus left the glory of heaven and lived and died and rose again in order to save. He has borne the punishment we deserved because of sin and for marring the image of God upon us.
For those who recognize their position of utter desperation and submit themselves to Jesus, He gives them a new nature and fills them with the power that will enable them to express this new and true self even as He expressed it. The world reduces man to the level of beast, offends the Holy Judge, and leads to eternal death. The Bible calls upon us to give up the pleasures of sin and to find our true selves in Jesus Christ.
Surrender to Christ
Scripture reminds us that we must see Jesus for who He truly is; not the Jesus we have created in our minds. Revelation 4 & 5 contain the truths about Jesus many of us would like to suppress—that He is coming to judge and to reign as King. He is perfectly holy and judges the hearts of men. We must seek to examine ourselves before Him, as all will stand before Him to be judged one day (Hebrews 9:27). Even committed followers of the Lord Jesus will give an account for their lives—not to be judged for their sin (that was dealt with at Calvary for the believer), but to be judged for their works unto the Lord as a result of His saving work in their lives.
Revelation 4 gives a wonderful picture of the true worship of Christ. According to Scripture, true worship is responding rightly to God (Revelation 4:8, 11). We are to do this continually with constant recognition of who Jesus is and what He came to do. Nothing should rival Christ in our lives. If we are to worship Him properly, we will surrender all authority to Him as the Lord of our lives. In fact, if we are truly saved, Christ is our life. What does this look like? Our lives will be characterized by obedience—not just on Sunday, but in every aspect of our lives. If the angels feel the need to continually declare the holiness of God, how much more should we who have sinned and have been purchased by His blood declare it as well?
Listen to A.W. Tozer: “It is possible to become an expert in Bible doctrine and not have spiritual illumination, with the result that a veil remains over the mind, preventing it from apprehending the truth in its spiritual & saving essence. Is God real to you? Is your Christian experience a set of definitions, a list of orthodox doctrines, or a living relationship with God? Is your heart hungering & thirsting after personal holiness and surrendered obedience to Christ?”
I must continually ask myself these penetrating questions: Do I have a proper view of sin? What in my life competes for that position that belongs only to Christ?
Yours in Christ,