What would you think if a person from another church said this about his church, “On the one hand, we suffer from great lethargy, ineffectiveness, and boredom. . . . My own denomination suffers as much from dead orthodoxy as it does from lifeless liberalism. . . ?” We might be inclined to agree with that person depending on the church he was a member of. What would you think if that quote was from someone who was a member of our churches? You and I would probably agree that these are possibilities for our churches if we do not maintain the reformed truth. These descriptions would characterize a church that is departing from the truth, a church that is becoming more apostate. What do these descriptions have in common? I will tell you in one word, “sin.” Do you want to know how there could be problems such as those mentioned above in our churches or in our schools or in our homes? The answer to that question would be because of sin. Make a list of all the problems in our churches, in our schools, in our homes and each item on the list can be shown to be sin on the part of God’s people. Lethargy, ineffectiveness, boredom, dead orthodoxy and lifeless (or even active) liberalism are not symptoms but are sins which are openly and willfully committed. Together let us consider these areas: the definition of sin, an immature understanding of sin, the sovereignty of God-free justification, and the obligation as a young person to fight against sin.
The word “sin” is another example of a word that has many varied meanings. In its noun sense sin can mean: an act which is regarded as a transgression of the divine law and an offense against God, a violation of some religious or moral principle, violation of divine law, a state of transgression against God and His commands, a pity and a shame. In its noun sense, sin also means these combinations: sin-eater, one hired to take upon himself the sins of a deceased person by means of food eaten beside the dead body; sin-money, money brought as an offering in expiation of sin; and sin-wood, mad with sin. In its verb meaning, sin means: to commit sin, to do a sinful act; to offend against some principle or standard; and to do, perform, or perpetrate sinfully. All of these meanings are according to the Oxford English Dictionary. However, these definitions are not adequate for a complete understanding of the word sin.
In order to get the complete picture, I would like to present a lengthy quote in part of pages of 245 and 246 of H. Hoeksema’s Reformed Dogmatics. The Greek term in the Old Testament meant,
“To miss something, in the sense of failure to find …, to miss the mark,” and in the ethical sense of the word, “to miss the aim, the purpose, of our existence, for which God has created us.. ..”
A second term for the Old Testament … meant, “to bend or to curve,” and hence, “to make crooked or distort.” Ethically the verb denotes “to act perversely, as well as to be perverse.. ..”
The noun denotes a state of being evil, morally bad; ..treachery against the living God..; “to transgress;” “rebellion;” “to make a tumult, a commotion, a disturbance;” and “without righteousness” and “without the law.”
On page 257, H. Hoeksema writes this about sin,
“The deepest principle of sin, as manifested in the temptations of the woman by Satan, is the denial and rejection of God as the only Lord, the proud and foolish desire and attempt to be as God. And this deepest principle reveals itself immediately as lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes and pride of life.”
When I read all of these definitions of sin, not one of them gives a meaning or even the sense as being funny. A sinful deed is not something that is to be laughed at. Sin or committing sin is dangerous and should be understood as a matter of life or death. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of God and evil. As a result, they died spiritually. There is nothing funny about that. Sin as a part of our daily life is to be abhorred, not joked about. It is true, sin seems so easy to do and is the hardest thing not to do, but this is no reason for us to laugh at sin. Sin is serious business and the seriousness is found in the fact that sin is sin against Jehovah and as a result has grave consequences – death. “For the wages of sin is death. . . .” Romans 6:23a. Now this brings us to the second part, the part which talks about an immature understanding of sin.
The immature understanding of sin of which we are accused is the fact that we fail to believe that sin is serious business. We fail to believe that sin is sin against the most high majesty of God. For example, I am caught committing a sin or I know I have committed sin and I confess that sin to God. No sooner have I committed that sin then I go and commit the same sin again. Oh, maybe not right away, maybe a couple of hours later, or a day later, or a week. The point is I failed to repent of the sin I confessed to God. I failed to understand that sin is serious business. Even though I knew that the wages of sin is death, yet I still commit the same sins. Why do I fail to take sin seriously? Perhaps the following reasons maybe yours: nothing ever happens to me that is bad as a result of my sin; sin can be committed without the consequence of death; sin is laughable – a joke; I am God’s child and no matter what I do, I am redeemed; I know my sins are already forgiven through Christ’s redemptive work on the cross and, therefore, I can sin all I want; I am not a communicant member and can get away with being disciplined; everyone else is a sinner and who are they to point to my sins; Jesus is a loving saviour who winks at my sin; the greater my sins are the more God gives me His grace; and by sinning I help an unbeliever realize that I am no different than he is. The reasoning behind all of these statements is wrong. These reasons are evil, when understood from the viewpoint that I can live my life in any way that I please because I can get away with sin. Instead of believing that sin is serious business, I make up as many excuses as possible so that I can wiggle out from under the consequence of sin, which is death.
Now these immature understandings of sin are almost identical to those who oppose the doctrine of sovereign grace and of free justification through grace in Christ, You certainly don’t want to be an opponent of sovereign grace or of free justification! God forbid! Let us look at the reformed truths of sovereign grace and free justification, then at our opponent’s logical conclusion to these reformed truths. I quote a lengthy part from H. Hoeksema’s When I Survey, page 328. He writes:
“But God revealed another, an altogether new righteousness possessing which the sinner is justified, so that his sins are blotted out, he is declared worthy of life, and has peace with God. This righteousness is not of man, but of God; it is not of works, but of grace; it is not through the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. . . .
This righteousness is imputed to us, freely, by grace; and we receive it by faith only, and even this is of grace, for it is a gift of God. Our works have no part in this righteousness. Our good works cannot add to it, or render us more perfectly righteous: it is perfect in itself. Nor can our sins render us unworthy of this righteousness: no matter how great or how many our sins may be, in Christ we are unchangeably and perfectly righteous before God. . . . Such is the power of the cross.”
Those who oppose sovereign grace and free justification, take the position that such doctrines make men careless and profane. It is as if you were saying, let us sin that grace may abound. Notice the similarity between these statements by the opposition and the reasons why I do not understand sin as being serious business. They too would agree that this doctrine makes sin laughable, makes men live any way they want to live, makes it appear as though God winks at sin, and makes man carnally secure. The opponents of sovereign grace and free Justification speak, out of ignorance. But we know better than they. Therefore, our sinful reasons for failing to take sin seriously, knowing that these reasons oppose sovereign grace and free justification, are all the more horrible. What shall we do then young people? We must get rid of our sinful reasons and begin to take sin seriously. We must begin to earnestly fight against our sins.
When we understand that Christ bore our sins on the cross, and took our place on the cross, suffered the wrath of God for our sins, and died for us, we will surely hate our sins and seek to fight against our sins. We will not make excuses for sin. We will not laugh at sin, but we will take sin seriously. We will not live careless and profane lives, but we will live as God’s children, the children of His covenant of grace. We will not fall into the errors of lethargy, ineffectiveness, boredom, dead orthodoxy and liberalism, but we will abhor these sins and all sin. We will flee from sin and seek to live as those who are redeemed by the power of the cross of Christ. We will not fall into the errors of living worldly lives by listening to ungodly music, going out and drinking with the world, and attending dances the theater, but we will utterly abhor such ways of life, because we will understand that to be given the gift of faith means that I will fight against all worldly mindedness. I will realize that I am dead to sin. That does not mean that I am free to do what I want, but that I am free to do the will of God. That does not mean I am free to commit sin but that I am free from sin’s dominion over me. In fact, I have the gift of grace and the Spirit of God in my heart to fight against sin the rest of my life.