Tag Archives: sin

The Profound Unnaturalness of Sin

Sin is profoundly unnatural. It is the intruder, it is the defiler; it is the fox in the henhouse and the leaven in the bread. But in the event that these illustrations simply aren’t “doing it” for you, I turn the floor over to Arthur Machen. His classic fantasy-horror story The White People opens with a striking reminder of just how unnatural sin really is:

“And what is sin?” said Cotgrave.

“I think I must reply to your question by another. What would your feelings be, seriously, if your cat or your dog began to talk to you, and to dispute with you in human accents? You would be overwhelmed with horror. I am sure of it. And if the roses in your garden sang a weird song, you would go mad. And suppose the stones in the road began to swell and grow before your eyes, and if the pebble that you noticed at night had shot out stony blossoms in the morning?

“Well, these examples may give you some notion of what sin really is.”

As Chesterton would say, this is a white world with black spots, not the other way around. Let us never forget it. There will come a day when it will be made completely white again.

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Only the Christian Knows This

“The most experienced psychologist or observer of human nature knows infinitely less of the human heart than the simplest Christian living beneath the Cross of Jesus. The greatest psychological insight, ability, and experience cannot grasp this one thing: what sin is. Worldly wisdom knows what distress and weakness and failure are, but it does not know the godlessness of men. And so it does not know that man is destroyed only by his sin and can be healed only by forgiveness. Only the Christian knows this. In the presence of a psychiatrist I can only be a sick man; in the presence of a brother I can dare to be a sinner.” – Bonhoeffer, Life Together (pp. 118-119)

The Doctrine of Eternal Punishment and Why We Need It

“When I pastored a country church, a farmer didn’t like the sermons I preached on hell. He said, Preach about the meek and lowly Jesus. I said, That’s where I got my information about hell.” – Vance Havner

One of my favorite chapters in Why We’re Not Emergent is the one where Kevin DeYoung examines the modern tendency to soft-peddle the doctrine of eternal punishment. This is not, he says, merely a “liberal” problem – many evangelicals do it, too, “opting instead for a therapeutic God who encourages our self-esteem.”

As a result, God’s wrath and the reality of hell are downplayed, avoided, reinterpreted to suit our sensitive palates, and even outright denied. We’ve all heard people complain about hellfire-and-brimstone preaching; but considering the state of the modern church, one has to wonder how many of those complainers have actually heard a hellfire-and-brimstone sermon. My guess? Not many. If any.

“We need the doctrine of eternal punishment,” observes DeYoung. “Time and time again in the New Testament we find that understanding divine justice is essential to our santification. Believing in God’s judgment actually helps us look more like Jesus. In short, we need the doctrine of the wrath of God.”

And here’s why (pp. 198-200):

“First, we need God’s wrath to keep us honest about evangelism. Paul reasoned with Felix about righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment (Acts 24:25). We need to do the same. Without the doctrine of hell, we are prone to get involved in all sorts of important God-honoring things, but neglect the one thing that matters for all eternity, urging sinners to be reconciled to God.

Second, we need God’s wrath in order to forgive our enemies. The reason we can forego repaying evil for evil is because we trust the Lord’s promise to repay the wicked. Paul’s logic is sound. “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom 12:19 NIV). The only way to look past our deepest hurts and betrayals is to rest assured that every sin against us has been paid for on the cross or will be punished in hell. We don’t need to seek vigilante justice, because God will be our just judge.

Third, we need God’s wrath in order to risk our lives for Jesus’ sake. The radical devotion necessary to suffer for the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus comes, in part, from the assurance we have that God will vindicate us in the end. That’s why the martyrs under the throne cry out, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Rev 6:10 NIV). They paid the ultimate price for their faith, but their blood-stained cries will be answered one day. Their innocence will be established when God finally judges their persecutors.

Continue reading The Doctrine of Eternal Punishment and Why We Need It

The Flaming Sword of Justice

“He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree!” 1 Peter 2:24

The most significant and appalling demonstration of God’s holiness that the universe ever beheld, infinitely distancing and transcending every other – is the sufferings and death of His only and beloved Son! The cross of Calvary exhibits God’s hatred and punishment of sin in a way and to an extent which the annihilation of millions of worlds, swept from the face of the universe by the broom of His wrath, could never have done!

Behold the most solemn display of God’s hatred of sin! Finding the sins of the Church upon Christ as its Surety, Substitute, and Savior – the wrath of God was poured out upon Him without measure! Finding the sins of His people laid upon His Son – God emptied upon His holy soul, all the vials of His wrath due to their transgressions! Go, my soul, to Calvary, and learn how holy God is, and what a monstrous thing sin is, and how imperiously, solemnly, and holily bound, Jehovah is to punish it, either in the person of the sinner, or in the person of a Surety. Never was the Son of God dearer to the Father than at the very moment that the sword of divine justice, flaming and flashing, pierced to its hilt His holy heart!

But it was the wrath of God, not against His beloved Son – but against the sins which met on Him when presenting Himself on the cross as the substitutionary sacrifice and offering for His Church. He gave Himself for us!

What a new conception must angels have formed of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, when they beheld the flaming sword of justice quenched in the holy, loving bosom of Jesus! And in what a dazzling light does this fact place the marvelous love of God to sinners! Man’s sin – and God’s love; the indescribable enormity of the one – and the immeasurable greatness of the other; are exhibited in the cross of Christ as nowhere else.

Oh, to learn experimentally these two great facts: sin’s infinite hatefulness – and love’s infinite holiness! The love of God in giving His Son to die; the love of Christ in dying; the essential turpitude and unmitigated enormity of sin, which demanded a Sacrifice so Divine, so holy, and so precious!

~ Octavius Winslow, Christ’s Sympathy to Weary Pilgrims

HT Grace Gems

As Many Heads As A Hydra

“My chief and abiding trial lies within; and I hope that the Lord will sanctify it – to make me by degrees ‘little’ in my own eyes. I long to be able to use Job’s words, with the same feeling as I believe Job had when he spoke them, ‘Behold, I am vile!’ (Job 40:4.) The acknowledgment in words is quite easy – but really and in good earnest to ‘abhor myself’ and repent in dust and ashes – is most difficult. I know that I ought to be humbled before Him – but I want to be so indeed.

“But that monster self has as many heads as a Hydra – and as many lives as a cat! It is more than 25 years since I hoped it was fast nailed to the cross – but alas, it is still very much alive – and still mixing with, and spoiling everything I do!”

~ John Newton

HT Grace Gems