Today’s topic is a concept that I’ve been contemplating for a while now. My friend Joe likes to say, “Christians are obsessed with sin.” Which is a pretty disturbing statement in and of itself, but, as is true to my nature, I want to take it a step further and say Christians make sin our god. I don’t make that statement to shock you, to upset you, to offend you, or to make you feel guilty though I am certain that for some it will have those affects. I make that statement because it needs to be said.
I think sin has become our god because it’s what we talk about most. I mean just think about it, when was the last time you heard a sermon that didn’t talk about some sin or another and how to fix it? How many times do we pray begging God to forgive us of our sins wondering if He’s tired of hearing the same confession over and over again? Our biggest focus in the church is on behavior modification and obedience. We push away and alienate those with “worse sin” than us spouting “love the sinner, hate the sin” as our justification. We talk about it, sing about it, pray about it, preach about it, write about it, and devote our complete focus to it. We let our obsession with it rule and direct our lives either with the purpose of avoiding it or engaging in it. Is that not making sin our god?
I write, speak, and teach the gospel of grace regularly. I repetitively discuss the finished work of Christ, His forgiveness and removal of ALL sins past, present, and future. Countless times I have spoken on the enormity of God’s grace the reaches down and grabs us in the midst of our sin and makes us saints. Just as many times I (and Paul) have written that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Even so, do you know what the most common question people ask me is? The one that I am asked probably once a week?
The number one question, the answer that everyone wants to know, is… “What about grace when it comes to ____________ sin?”
It absolutely blows my mind at times how people will nod their heads and even let out an excited “amen” at the talk of God’s great love and favor for us and then with the next breath ask, “But what about when I lie to my boss? But what about when I get angry with my kids? But what about the woman next door and her new wife? But what about that one guy at church with the porn addiction? But what about MY past?
I just can’t help but be sad and think to myself, oh you poor people, you’ve missed the point of Jesus.
Here’s the thing, Satan knows he’s been beat. He knows exactly who we are; that we are new creations in Christ and incapable of being separated from Him or His love. In fact, I’m certain he knows these things much better than we do. So, since he’s been beat his only power now is in keeping us from believing in and experiencing what we already possess. His most brilliant tactic of all is that he keeps us so focused on our sins (whether those already done or yet to come) that we completely miss out on experiencing the freedom, peace, and rest that we already have.
Then, as I believe is true with all things, where our eyes are focused is inevitably what we walk towards bowing down to our golden calf of religion forged in the fires of “try harder” and “pray longer.” We make sacrifices at an alter built with the bricks of self-loathing and self-righteousness, praying desperately for God to give us forgiveness not realizing that He already has. We beg and plead for mercy and He, looking adorningly at Christ’s perfection in us, answers, “For what?”
The biggest charge against this gospel of extreme grace is that it’s easy on sin or that it overlooks sin. Critics demand we offer a solution to the problem of sin and I say, what sin? Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that I don’t fail. I’m not saying that I don’t participate in, experience, and cause brokenness. I’m not saying that I’m not a complete mess at times. I’m saying that Christ already died for that. Should He be crucified again each time I fail? And if Christ already died for that, if He paid that price, settled that debt, why are we so obsessed with the behavior that no longer defines us?
It’s incredibly sad really because while we’re so busy talking about sin, how to manage it, which ones to confess, how to confess them, which ones are unforgivable, and which are acceptable, guess what we’re not doing? We’re not talking about Jesus.
Jesus, the one who we’re supposedly doing this all for. Jesus, the one who took all our sin upon himself and carried the weight of it so we wouldn’t have to. Jesus, the Deity who slipped into our weak and fragile skin and subjected himself to the worst pain imaginable for the sole purpose of our redemption. He offers us His divine birthright and yet how willing we are to make sin our god, our lips wagging in worship of it.
My answer to that age old question, “But what about...” is simply this: it’s been paid for. Whatever “it” is, it’s been paid for. In the midst of the decay, the grunge, grime, and rank odor of your decomposing spirit, you were overwhelmed and overtaken by the glory and grace of Life. So that, though you were once a zombie seeking only the next piece of flesh that would satisfy your unquenchable appetite, you have now been made alive and vibrant in Christ. You are free to no longer live for your next meal but to feast and be filled with all that you could ever wish for or need. Sin makes a poor god. Let us take our eyes off it and fix them on Christ.
May you find freedom from a sin-focused life. May you come to realize and believe that even the darkest and dirtiest of sins has already been judged, punished, and paid for by Christ. And may this belief be the foundation for a life overwhelmed by God’s scandalous grace.