Our Bible study group just started a study of Romans, one of my favorite Bible books. If you are familiar with Romans, then you are well aware that the first chapters talk about how sinful human beings are. On reading these first chapters I began to recognize that our culture, like much of first century culture, is saturated with sin. The worst part was that I recognized that I have allowed my own life to be influenced far too much by the sin that is everywhere around us, especially in the television programs and movies that I watch.
If we have a high view of how holy God is we recognize just how sinful we are. In English we have a way of describing the degrees of intensity of a certain attribute or characteristic when we describe people. For example, we may say one person is fast, a second person is faster and a third person is fastest. We may say one person is good, a second person is better and a third person is best. In Greek, the original language of the New Testament, the intensity of an attribute or characteristic may be communicated by use of the same word one time, two times or three times in a row. For example, Jesus would occasionally say, “Truly, Truly, I say to you” when he was about to say something important.
The Bible says that God is Holy, Holy, Holy indicating that his holiness is to the ultimate possible degree. The Bible never says God is love, love, love; or mercy, mercy, mercy; or just, just, just. It only says he is Holy, Holy, Holy.
As I began to think about the topic of sin more deeply, I began to wonder whether Christians really hate sin. We preach against it and we strive to avoid it (at least publicly), but do we really hate sin? In our efforts to “build bridges” to the world around us in the name of influencing the world for good, we have to realize that those bridges allow two-way traffic. We can influence others for good as we relate to them in our everyday lives, but they can also influence us – and obviously have. This is not necessarily a bad thing, we just need to be aware that in relationships with others, influence is a two-way street.
If you have been negatively impacted by sin, welcome to the human race. We all struggle with sin, even Christians. Yet we serve a God who has called us to be holy as he is holy. God cannot tolerate sin. His righteousness and justice requires Him to eternally banish sinful people from His presence. There is a place of eternal punishment and condemnation (in spite of what some pop-Christian books say) that is reserved for those who reject God and decide to follow their own sinful desires. It is our sin that separates us from God. We all deserve eternal condemnation because we are all sinners.
At this point, someone might ask, “If God is so good, why did he allow evil and suffering to exist?” That is a good question. If there were no evil, would we really be free? If there were no evil, would we be forced into a relationship with God against our will? If there were no evil, would there be good? If there is good, there must be evil. If there is good and evil, there must be an eternal, transcendent moral absolute. If there is an eternal, transcendent moral absolute, there must be a God. The shadows prove the sunshine.
Even evil glorifies God. God’s righteousness and justice are revealed by their contrast to evil. We see this in our own lives as parents. Our children recognize that they are justly punished when they disobey us. That’s what I mean when I say that the shadows prove the sunshine. We recognize what is good and beneficial because we see the things that are bad. Sometimes we even have to do something that is bad to bring about a good outcome. We see this when we are faced with two bad choices. For example, doctors may treat a person with a bone fracture. They may be forced into breaking a bone to set it properly. Breaking a bone is bad, but allowing it to heal incorrectly thereby negatively impacting the person’s ability to walk is worse. The best choice in that situation is to do something bad (break the bone) to bring about a good outcome.
Thankfully God has provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him. God sent his son to do what we couldn’t do. He lived the life we should have lived, he died the death we should have died, he buried our sins in his death, and he was raised so we could share in a new life like his. When we receive Him, a unique transaction occurs. The righteousness of Christ is imputed to us and our sins are laid on Him. Jesus is the only way to salvation. We can choose to reject Him or receive Him. God wants all of us to be saved, but he won’t save you against your will. As C.S. Lewis said, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.”
Since we are surrounded by so much sin and evil, what can we do to live to the high calling of Christ Jesus? What can we do to avoid sin’s negative consequences? Here are a few suggestions of things I have tried with some success:
- Avoid situations that we know will tempt us to sin
- At the moment a sinful thought begins, replace the thought with an appropriate prayer
- When confronted with negative TV, radio or websites, leave the situation and go read your Bible
- Replace bad words with some other word – for example yell “ah” when you hit your thumb with a hammer!
- Remember that your children want to be just like you
- Remember that what you do influences both the time and eternity of those around you
- Avoid friends who have a bad influence on us because “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33)
As Christians we are called to be different. We are called to live lives that are consistent with what we teach and preach. I am curious what suggestions you might offer as we all strive to live to the high calling of Christ Jesus. If you have good suggestions to offer, please add them in the comment box below.