Category Archives: Sin

The Hell of Sin In the Awakened Conscience

Charles Spurgeon, sermon 1068:

Only let a man once feel sin for half-an-hour, really feel its tortures, and I warrant you he could prefer to dwell in a pit of snakes than to live with his sins. Remember that cry of David, “My sin is ever before me” [Psalm 51:3]; he speaks as though it haunted him. He shut his eyes but he still saw its hideous shape; he sought his bed, but like a nightmare it weighed upon his breast; he rose, and it rose with him; he tried to shake it off among the haunts of men, in business and in pleasure, but like a blood-sucking vampire it clung to him. Sin was ever before him, as though it were painted on his eye-balls, the glass of his soul’s window was stained with it. He sought his closet but could not shut it out, he sat alone but it sat with him; he slept, but it cursed his dreams. His memory it burdened, his imagination it lit up with lurid flame, his judgment it armed with a ten-thonged whip, his expectations it shrouded in midnight gloom. A man needs no worse hell than his own sin, and an awakened conscience.

What is there to say after reading that quote except to sing: “Hallelujah! All I have is Christ / Hallelujah! Jesus is my life.”

At All Cost, Get This

Romans 5:20–21:

…but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans: Assurance (Banner of Truth, 1971), pages 299–300:

What grace has done is not merely to counteract exactly what sin has done. If grace had done that, and that alone, it would still be something wonderful. If the effect of grace had merely been to wipe out, and to cancel, all that had happened on the other side, we should have had a theme for praising God sufficient to last us through all eternity.

But, says the Apostle, it is not an exact counterbalance; what I have on the right side does not exactly tally with that I have on the left. In fact there is no comparison; it is a superfluity, an abounding, and engulfing, it is an overflowing on the side of grace. We must hold on to this truth at all costs and get it clear in our minds. The point is that grace does not merely exactly balance, it does not just undo what sin has done; it does much more.

On Dispensing Religious Jargon

Here’s a wise caution for all preachers, teachers, and writers who frequently draw from the vocabulary of the faith — words like sin, grace, Christ, and a host of other sanctified terms that emerge over time within our particular circles — but who are tempted to use the terms without ever stopping to explain their meaning. Helmut Thielicke explains the danger, and then proposes one helpful practice, in his book The Trouble with the Church: A Call for Renewal (Harper & Row, 1965), pages 36–38:

Where is the average person today who, when he hears the word “sin,” really hears what the New Testament meant by that word? For whom today does this word still say that here man is being addressed at the point of his resistance and opposition to God, that this means man in his will to assert his autonomy, his insistence that everything centers in man, his incredible passion for security, his lostness in preoccupation with the moment and that which is tangible and immediately at hand? And yet all this must be heard when we hear the word “sin,” if for no other reason than to understand that it is possible for a sinner to be at the same time an example of moral perfection and that he need by no means be a criminal, an antisocial, or even a person who lacks seriousness. Were not the Pharisees ethically very respectable people? And yet for Jesus they were more drastic examples of sin than publicans and prostitutes.

And the word “Christ” itself? What would really be the result if we were to investigate the exchange value of that term in the psychological substructure of the average man today? What we would come out with would probably be some idea of a fabulously wise man or a perfect human being.

The point is that we need to say what we mean by these terms; we dare not throw them at people as supposedly valid coins whose value is immediately recognized. Otherwise we shall all too thoughtlessly reach out for them with the notion that they are perfectly familiar, whereas the truth is that the metal begins to glow and burn only when we have some idea of what these coins really signify. …

I once experimented with students, having them prepare sermons in which the conventional terms like “God,” “sin,” “grace,” etc. did not appear. The words had to be paraphrased. I think this is a good exercise, even though it has importance only as an interim practice. For we should not discontinue the use of these words in the pulpit; all we need is a withdrawal-cure because of the thoughtless use we make of them. We need to learn to overcome the temptation to string together the old words in different variations, because then souls remain underfed and are lost.

Simul iustus et peccator

B. B. Warfield (Works, 7:130):

Sin and Christ; ill desert and no condemnation; we are sinners and saints all at once! That is the paradox of evangelicalism. The Antinomian and the Perfectionist would abolish the paradox—the one drowning the saint in the sinner, the other concealing the sinner in the saint. We must…out of evangelical consciousness, ever see both members of the paradox clearly and see them whole.

HT: Zaspel, p. 488.

Chief of Sinners

John Newton penned three letters explaining his thoughts on how grace typically grows in the life of the Christian. Using agricultural terms he explains how grace develops in the sinner from the first green blade of conversion (A), to grace in the ear of corn (B), and then finally to mature Christian represented by corn ready for the harvest (C). In his letter explaining the highest levels of Christian maturity he writes this about humility and its fruits [Works, 1:212]:

A measure of this [humbling] grace, is to be expected in every true Christian: but it can only appear in proportion to the knowledge they have of Christ and of their own hearts. It is a part of C’s daily employment to look back upon the way by which the Lord has led him; and while he reviews the Ebenezers he has set up all along the road, he sees, in almost an equal number, the monuments of his own perverse returns, and how he has in a thousand instances rendered to the Lord evil for good. Comparing these things together, he can without affectation adopt the Apostle’s language, and style himself “less than the least of all saints” [Eph 3:8], and “of sinners the chief” [1 Tim. 1:15].

Humbling Orthodoxy

The doctrine of God’s divine election of unworthy sinners is a humbling truth. Or to use Spurgeon’s words, “a sense of election causes a low opinion of self.” That is the bullet point under which the following quote from Spurgeon comes to us, as recorded in a sermon delivered on July 1, 1888:

Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be. If he charges you falsely on some point, yet be satisfied, for if he knew you better he might change the accusation, and you would be no gainer by the correction. If you have your moral portrait painted, and it is ugly, be satisfied; for it only needs a few blacker touches, and it would be still nearer the truth.

Satan’s Tactic

From Puritan Thomas Brooks’ book Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices:

“The first device that Satan has to keep souls in a sad, doubting, and questioning condition, and so making their life a hell, is by causing them to be still poring and musing upon sin, to mind their sins more than their Savior; yes, so to mind their sins as to forget, yes, to neglect their Savior, that, as the Psalmist speaks, ‘The Lord is not in all their thoughts’ (Psalm 10:4). Their eyes are so fixed upon their disease, that they cannot see the remedy, though it be near; and they do so muse upon their debts, that they have neither mind nor heart to think of their Surety. A Christian should wear Christ in his bosom as a flower of delight, for he is a whole paradise of delight. He who minds not Christ more than his sin, can never be thankful and fruitful as he should.”

The Essence of Sin

From The Victory of the Cross by Brooke Foss Westcott (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1888), page 23:

“The essence of sin is
selfishness in respect of men, and
self-assertion in respect of God,
the unloving claim of independence,
the arrogant isolation of our interests.”

Hunting Tiger Woods

In case you haven’t read it, my friend C.J. Mahaney wrote an insightful blog post regarding Tiger Woods and the recent allegations of marital infidelity. C.J.’s biblical insight into the activity of sin in the heart illumines some valuable lessons for us all. You can read it here.

David Stein, a Christian and a writer and sports talk radio host for The Sporting News, recently commented on the Woods situation during his radio show (iTunes). You can listen to Stein on Woods here:

Sin and Worldview

“The great danger is always to single out some aspect or phenomenon of God’s good creation and identify it, rather than the alien intrusion of human apostasy [sin], as the villain in the drama of human life. Such an error is tantamount to reducing direction to structure, to conceiving of the good-evil dichotomy as intrinsic to the creation itself. The result is that something in the good creation is declared evil. We might call this tendency ‘Gnosticism’… In the course of history, this ‘something’ has been variously identified as marriage and certain kinds of foods (the Gnostic heresy Paul warns Timothy against in 1 Timothy 4), the body and its passions (Plato and much of Greek philosophy), culture in distinction from nature (Rousseau and much of Romanticism), institutional authority, especially in the state and the family (philosophical anarchism and much of depth psychology), technology and management techniques (Heidegger and Ellul, among others), or any number of things. There seems to be an ingrained Gnostic streak in human thinking, a streak that causes people to blame some aspect of God’s handiwork for the ills and woes of the world we live in.”

Albert M. Wolters, Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (Eerdmans, 2005) p. 61.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 453 other followers