In our postmodern world, many non-Christian people view Christianity as a religion that is obsessed with sin. Numerous modern media presentations have depicted the Christian faith as a cold, kill-joy, moralising institution, while the church is regularly referred to as the haunt of hypocrites, who prey on the vulnerable, as they preach moral standards that are no longer considered necessary by large portions of contemporary society. It is not unusual to find Christian leaders caricatured as twisted or corrupt characters in modern dramas on television or in books and movies. But perhaps believers have nurtured this understanding. The reality of sin is frequently presented by institutional churches as simply the things we do that do not line up with a particular set of moral standards, and sadly, many people who claim to be followers of Jesus do anything but follow His teachings.
The prophet Isaiah summarised the reality of sin by telling us:
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, each one to his own way; and Jehovah has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
From God’s perspective, sin is a momentous problem. I can say this with absolute authority, because God has revealed this truth in His Word. But what is sin? Isaiah spelled it out – sin is “each one” going his or her “own way”. This concept presupposes that there is a God and that He has revealed He has a particular way He wants us, His creatures, to live. And indeed this is the core of the Christian gospel.
The Christian faith is not an inherited set of ideas and ideals, it is a belief system based on God’s revelation of Himself through His Son and His Word by His Holy Spirit. The Creator has given us this revelation so that we can be informed about His Way and Truth. Through His Word God tells us that we have all inherited a tendency to do our own thing.
If God had not created this universe with specific intentions this might not be a problem, but the Father has revealed a very definite plan and purpose for His universe and it is incumbent upon us to make ourselves aware of His revelation to us. God gave us intelligence and He reaches out to us through His Son, His Spirit and His Word. Wilful ignorance will be no excuse when it comes to our eternal destiny.
When Jesus came into the world the Father had carefully prepared for His incarnation, He came with a message and a specific plan and purpose. God had called out a nation of people to live according to His way and it was into this nation that Jesus was born. Today we live in a world where His message has, for centuries, been broadcast, published and spoken out into towns, villages and cities all over the world. If we choose to ignore or ridicule this message we seal our own fate. As Jesus put it, we are condemned already, because we choose to do our own thing and reject God’s way by choosing not to believe in the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18), who is the Way (John 14:6).
The Father sent the Son into the world to save humankind from the condemnation we are each under because of sin. This condemnation will eventually result in the total destruction of this present creation, which is plagued by sin and its consequences – pain, suffering, death and decay. Christians call the time when Adam and Eve chose to do their own thing rather than follow God’s clear directions, The Fall. It was because of this historical event that humanity was set on a path to destruction.
From the first human couple that God created we inherited our mortal condition (1 Corinthians 15:22) and a sinful nature (Romans 5:12). If we choose to ignore God’s message to us concerning these historic truths and turn away from His Word, we will not only miss our Creator’s clear communication to us, we will also find it increasingly difficult to discern His Truth.
Ever since The Fall pain, suffering and death have been part of the human condition and the universal presence of the hereditary sin nature meant that the entire human population would always fall short of God’s eternal, holy standards (Romans 3:23). Since the first humans made their devastating choice, the mutations that entered the human race have been inherited by all subsequent generations and every individual born of our race has been subject to death. The other dreadful consequence from that earth-shattering decision was that humanity gained a new master. Instead of submitting to God’s guidance, sin now masters us (Romans 6:13-18).
In His Word God has revealed He has a rescue plan for humanity. He wants to save us from the final destruction that is coming upon His corrupted creation. He is going to create a new heaven and a new Earth filled with God’s righteousness (2 Peter 3:13), where there will be no sin, pain, suffering or death (Rev 21:1-4), but only those people who are prepared to accept God’s Way can be part of His new creation. We cannot be part of the eternal, holy family God is preparing without His Holy Spirit, and we cannot be filled with His Spirit without accepting Jesus Christ as our Master and Saviour. It is only then that we can receive the gift of eternal life and can live our lives according to God’s plan, rather than going our own way and doing what is right in our own eyes (Prov 21:2-3).
The reality of sin is all around us, but sin is our problem, not God’s. The Creator could simply wipe out all that He created if He chose to do so. He had the power and ability to bring the universe into being from nothing and He could reduce it to nothing in an instant.
Thankfully, He has revealed to us that this is not His intention. Human history is interwoven with God’s merciful outworking of His rescue plan. From the moment after Adam and Eve rejected God’s way He set that plan in motion and at the right time He came to Earth to deal with the problem humanity had created, the problem of sin. He did this by taking upon Himself the penalty for the sin of all humanity (1 John 2:2; 1 Tim 2:6; Heb 2:9).
God is holy and He sees sin for what it is, it is a corruption of His way and it leads to pain, suffering and death. Sin must attract a severe penalty to truly indicate just how destructive it really is. To dismiss it lightly would be to trivialise its consequences.
God decreed that death was the just penalty for sin (Gen 2:17; Romans 6:23). And as soon as Adam and Eve chose to do their own thing rather than obey God, corruption and death entered the world. In a very real sense this was a merciful act on God’s part. For a human being to live eternally with a corrupted nature would be unendurable.
The Father also made it possible for our penalty to be passed on to His Son (Romans 3:24-26). Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we each have an opportunity to be saved from the just penalty we would otherwise rightly incur. When we have been redeemed by the only Saviour the world will ever know, we can be part of the new creation God will make after He destroys this present fallen one.
Giving our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ and accepting Him as our Saviour is only the beginning of the journey. We all know that Christian people are not perfect. Christians still sin. Until God changes us from mortal to immortal and from corruptible into incorruptible beings (1 Cor 15:53), we are still susceptible to our sinful tendencies rising up and overwhelming God’s Spirit within us. At times we still want to do our own thing rather than God’s. Christians can allow hate and revenge to take hold of them rather than love and forgiveness. As The Bible puts it, they can walk in the flesh rather than in the Spirit (Rom 7:5; 8:4-14). Many Christians get stuck on a particular doctrine or follow a particular church’s beliefs, refusing to budge from their position, even though The Bible clearly teaches a different way. Christians can still choose to be blind and do their own thing rather than submit to the authority of God’s Word.
However, those who are true followers of Jesus will be making every effort to walk in God’s Spirit and not follow their old ways (Romans 8:1; 13; Eph 4:24; Col 3:8-15). Jesus’ message is revolutionary, He commands us to love even those who hate us (Matt 5:44). He also expects us to live holy lives so that we might be fit to be God’s people in His new creation. Although we are still part of this fallen creation God has given us His Holy Spirit to empower us and His Word to guide and direct us, and His followers should make every effort to understand and walk in God’s way.
God fully intends to deal with the problem of sin and its consequences – pain, suffering and death – but to do this He has revealed He is going to start again (Rev 21). This is the message our Creator has clearly given to humanity. Why would anyone choose to remain ignorant of the message Jesus came to unveil? Our eternal destiny is in our own hands, but we must act, we must take the time to be properly informed and then we must make a choice. We must choose whether we want to be part of God’s eternal creation or perish along with the old one that will most definitely pass away.
The Bible is filled with passages about the finite nature of this present creation. The apostle Peter wrote:
Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” They deliberately forget that God made the heavens by the word of His command, and He brought the Earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. Then He used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And by the same word, the present heavens and Earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the Day of Judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.
But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the Day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the Earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, He will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new Earth He has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in His sight. And remember, the Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. (2 Peter 3:3-15a)
God is patient, but He won’t wait forever. The day is fast approaching. He has given us all the information we need to make a wise choice. We each have a personal philosophy on which we base our lives. Wilfully choosing to be ignorant of God’s clear message to us is a very bad choice, as is remaining blind to the fact that even those people who choose to reject the notion of God have their own set of biases, beliefs and base assumptions. Surprisingly, these beliefs and assumptions are often unexamined and unconsidered; they have simply been taken on because they are part of the dominant cultural paradigm. Wilful ignorance is often simply blind faith in a naturalist philosophy.
God has given us intelligence and He expects us to use it to examine His revelation to us. Unless we are prepared to carefully examine the evidence for Jesus’ worldview, we cannot make a wise choice and we may well find ourselves amongst those who are destined to perish rather than benefit from God’s gracious gift of eternal life (John 3:16).