Will the God who would crush and kill His own Son, let you slide ?

Voddie Baucham of GraceFamilyBaptist.net:

Psalm 51 – 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

In other words, here’s what God desires, what God delights in, and yet- „…against You I have sinned”. Notice he didn’t say, „.. against Bathsheba I have sinned, against Uriah, I have sinned”.  No, „Against You God, and ultimately, against you only, I have sinned”. Because, who was Uriah, except the man that you created? Who was Bathsheba, but the servant of the most High God. „I sinned against You”. A holy and a righteous God.

And, that’s what worries me about „The Shack” (novel), that’s what worries me about the Rob Bell’s of the world; that’s what worries me about those who don’t want to „preach on sin, because people already know that they’re bad”.

„No, we don’t”. No, we don’t; we watch the nightly news and we think, „those people are bad, not us”. We don’t recognize that we have sinned against a holy and righteous God.

I serve the great God of the universe!, who gets angry and pours out His wrath
I serve the great God of the universe!, who demonstrated His wrath when He poured it out on  His own Son.
And, it amazes me that we believe this, that God would crush and kill His own Son, but let you slide.

Not for a minute. The spotless, sinless Lamb of God suffered and bled and died, because of the wrath of God. That propitiation in satisfaction of the righteous wrath of God, that’s what was experienced on the cross.

HOW DARE WE TAKE THAT LIGHTLY? That’s the One against whom you’ve sinned.

Published on May 28, 2012 by  See more at: http://www.wretchedradio.com.

Why are Christians so miserable? Dr. Ken Matto

I have given twelve of the most blatant reasons that aid Christians in living in misery. Of all the people on earth, Christians have the greatest future. We have eternal life in Heaven but so many walk around like this is all there is. Satan has succeeded well in refocusing the Christian’s eyes on the here and now. The Christian needs to look beyond the horizon of the here and now and realize that we have a future which will never end and it will be in bliss. There is no reason for the Christian to walk around like they are in total defeat or as if they are ashamed of who they are. When Christ went to the cross, He was placed on that cross naked and bleeding. He was not ashamed to face it yet we are ashamed to face who we are. The false religions of the world proudly display who they are and the Christians are the only ones who walk around with their heads hung low. Let’s just briefly look at the twelve reasons: 

  1. Seeking Victory – We already have the victory
  2. Political Amalgamation – Shrouds the true Gospel
  3. Christianity and the New World Order – These wealthy are not gods but men
  4. Following Men – Leads to futility
  5. Modern Versions – Attacks the person of Christ
  6. No Commitment – Creates spiritual lethargy
  7. Fear – Shows no trust in God
  8. Cheap – Shows no trust in God’s ability to provide
  9. Materialism – Engenders greed
  10. No Fear of God – No spiritual growth
  11. Coveting some type of sin – Serving the flesh
  12. What happened at the cross – All sin forgiven and removed 

The way a Christian can turn themselves around from being miserable is to find out where they are being disobedient to the Scriptures and immediately begin to repair that breach.

Once a Christian becomes obedient, the joy of salvation returns to them. This obedience comes by getting to know the Scriptures. (Psa 51:12 KJV) Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. David asked the Lord to restore unto him the joy of the Lord’s salvation after he confessed his sin with Bathsheba. We too must ask the Lord to restore us to the joy of His salvation. It may cost us and take time. Getting into sin is like getting into debt. It is easy to get into debt but hard to get out and yet it is very doable.

The beginning of joy is to compare where your Christian walk is right now according to the Scriptures. Once you know where you are at, then you begin to remove the worldly ideas, motives, and methods. Then you replace them with the biblical ideas, motives, and methods and then the joy of your salvation will return because you have begun to refocus from the world to the Lord.

(Acts 16:25 KJV) And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

Paul & Silas - jail Acts 16

 If there is one strange phenomenon skulking around Christianity today, it is the fact that many Christians are miserable. With what God has done for the Christian, we should be the most joyous people on earth, I didn’t say happy, I said joyful. (Gal 5:22 KJV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, According to Galatians 5:22, when a person becomes saved, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit given to them is joy. It seems that instead of being given the fruits listed in Galatians 5:22, it looks like most Christians have received rotten fruit. The way Christians walk around today, it seems like they have received fruits like these: hate for love, misery for joy, anxiety for peace, impatience for longsuffering, harshness for gentleness, badness for goodness, and disbelief for faith.

At this writing, I have been saved for 29 years and I have had the non-privilege in running into many Christians who seem to live exclusively in the doldrums. When I run into these people, I make it a policy to run from them. It is obvious that when Christians walk around in perpetual spiritual depression that what has happened is they have been diverted from Christ. This is not to say that they have lost their salvation, they have lost direction, perspective, and ultimately their joy.

How was it that Paul and Silas, were able to sing praises unto God after being flogged? Today’s Christian goes ballistic if someone sits in their seat at church. Paul and Silas was able to sing true praises from prison because they had not lost their spiritual perspective. The problem is that many Christians today have lost their spiritual perspective and have transferred that perspective to the physical realm. (Rom 1:17 KJV) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. (2 Cor 5:7 KJV) (For we walk by faith, not by sight:)

Romans 1:17 was the catalyst for the Reformation. Martin Luther was miserable and then one day he read Romans 1:17 and instantly the Holy Spirit illuminated that passage. He then realized that it is by faith we live and not by works. He was stuck in the Roman Catholic system which was a hotbed of works and mysticism. Once God broke through with the mighty truth of that passage, it sparked the Reformation and the truth started to spread. The Roman Catholic institution could do nothing to stop it. One Monk who read the Scriptures, changed the face of spiritual Europe and then it came to America and from America the true Gospel went out to every nation. In 2 Cor. 5:7, we are told that the just, that is the saved, the same born again Christians found in Romans 1:17, are to walk by faith and not by sight.

The word “walk” carries with it the idea of “live or conduct oneself.” This means that we walk strictly by faith and not by sight, or what we see. The physical senses have a tendency to neutralize faith, if we allow them to. The key to understanding this situation is that as I mentioned before, many Christians have transferred their faith in God to faith which is determined by what they see. Let me say at the outset, that just because we do not know what is going on in the world, does not mean that God has lost control. If God has lost control, here is how we will recognize that fact. Either the sun will be speeding toward us or we will be speeding out of control toward the sun. So every morning when you get up and look out the window and see the sun where it belongs, then you know God is still in control. Our non-understanding of God’s ways must never be the catalyst for losing faith. 

In this article, I am going to reference 12 things which will and have caused Christians to lose their perspective, leading to loss of joy and faith. You may disagree with them and continue to live in misery, which unfortunately has become the psychological trademark of many Christians. The overriding problem in Christianity today is that Christians have lost focus and that focus must be regained and I will broach that at the end of this article, because if we don’t know what we are doing wrong, then we will never be able to make it right.

1 – Seeking to be Victorious(1 John 5:4 KJV) For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. (1 Cor 15:57 KJV) But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. One thing the Christian must understand and that is that victory is not a goal, it is the present state in which the true believer lives. We have overcome the world through the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing more to overcome. A Christians needs to conduct their life from the point of victory, not toward a victory, which has already been won. The Christian has been set apart from the world system and the problem is too many Christians are dabbling with the world. Whenever we attempt to do something in the same way the world does, we are lowering ourselves from the roof of victory. You see victory is not a ladder to climb instead all Christians are on the roof of victory and we don’t come down. Just like the roof covers the entire house, the victory of Christ in our lives causes us to be above the whole world system. 

2 – Political Amalgamation(Psa 119:140 KJV) Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it. The word of God is pure but when we try to take politics and combine it with the Bible, we take the pure word of God and adulterate it. This does not mean that the Christian cannot be politically active but it does mean that the bible is interpreted spiritually and not politically. If someone votes in a candidate and that candidate seems to be a Christian but later it is obvious that they are anything but a Christian, then one can lose heart. We must never expect anything but the lowest form of conduct from any politician. God is not a Republican or a Democrat. Christians who heavily invest their lives in politics will soon live a disappointed life and if they do not refocus their eyes on the Lord, then they will walk around in defeatist mode. 

3 – Christianity and the New World Order(1 John 5:19 KJV) And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. I have been familiar with the teachings of the New World Order. They would include groups such as the Trilateral Commission, The Bilderbergers, The Council on Foreign Relations, Yale order of Skull and Bones, etc. Now there is much material available on these conspiratorial groups and what they have accomplished in their goal of ruling the world. I know many Christians who read this material and after they do, they are so discouraged and cast down you think they lost their salvation.

The problem is that when one reads this material, it tends to refocus our eyes off the Lord and on the “elite.” I know Christians who have devoted their lives to this material and what fruit have they borne? (2 Tim 2:4 KJV) No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. We are in the army of the Lord which means we are in a different kingdom. We know that there is always going to be these kind of groups of wealthy people who are going to make sport of the poor people. (John 18:36 KJV) Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. Jesus told Pilate that His kingdom is not of this world.

If you are truly saved, then your kingdom is not of this world and those who are trying to rule the world are not of our kingdom but of the kingdom of Satan. If we continue to soak up this material concerning the unrest in the kingdom of Satan, then we are going to be discouraged as we see things happening in society. We must remember that Christianity was birthed in one of the most oppressive regimes in history. The Roman Empire was no friend of Christianity but did that stop the spread of the Gospel? If we allow ourselves to become discouraged by reading all this types of material, then the next step is, we stop ministering. If we are susceptible to easy discouragement and fear, then avoid these materials and stay upon the Scriptures. We need to know what is going on in our Kingdom and not in Satan’s kingdom. 

4 – Following Men(1 Cor 3:4 KJV) For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (Psa 118:8 KJV) It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. If there is one thing which defines modern Christianity it is compartmentalization. What I mean by that is that Christianity has been partitioned off by teacher and preacher worship. Christians today have devoted themselves to the reading material written by men. It seems commentaries, books, and sermons by preachers have usurped the teaching of Scripture. The only time we study the Scriptures is when we are under the teaching of our favorite teacher. The problem is that man has a limited horizon and only God has an unlimited one which is the one that the Christian should be focusing on. The Bible is not of anyone’s private interpretation and there should be uniformity among Christians in understanding of the Bible.

If Christians would study the Scriptures and not follow teachers, then they would excel in Christianity and it would be much stronger. I personally know Christians who have chosen to follow a man and they are the most miserable examples of Christians I know today. That is because their favorite teacher has become the Holy Spirit to them. What I mean by that is the teacher does all the interpretation and the followers only believe what that preacher or teacher tells them to believe.(John 16:13 KJV) Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. John 16:13 tells us that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth but the problem is that too many Christians seek for their favorite teacher to guide them into all truth. The problem is that when many teachers gain a large following, they tend to get puffed up with pride and will take counsel from no one. Then when they are found wrong, the followers lose faith and become discouraged. This does not happen when you follow the Lord because He does not give false teachings and therefore if your mind is upon the Lord, rather than man, then you will not suffer discouragement. 

5 – Modern Versions(Psa 119:89 KJV) LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven. The word of God is settled in Heaven and that means it is settled here on earth. (Mat 6:10 KJV) Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Jesus prayed that God’s will should be done in the earth as it is in Heaven. Since 1881, the fatal year of the publication of the Revised Version of Hort and Westcott, there have been 218 translations of the Bible. Every new translation becomes more corrupt than their predecessors. This includes the New King James Version which casts doubt upon 873 verses in the New Testament. With every translation that is produced, the wording is changed because if a copyright is to be secured, there must be sufficient change in the text. The publishers are not concerned as to whether you go to hell or not, they just want to sell books at your eternal expense. The majority of Christians use multiple translations thinking they are getting a better understanding but they do not realize they are ingesting more confusion. Every translation says something different which means the modern versions are in flux and are subject to every archaeological find.

God cannot bless a word that has been tampered with because He pronounces judgment upon those who add or subtract from His word. Let me show you just two of the most butchered verses in the New Testament: (Rom 8:1 KJV) There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (NIV) Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (1 John 5:13 KJV) These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. (NIV) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 10 words omitted from Romans 8:1 and 13 words omitted from1 John 5:13. How can a holy God, who states that His word is settled in Heaven, place a blessing upon these counterfeit versions when they have been mutilated by Satan’s scholars? This is why those who study these modern versions are not receiving any spiritual benefit, only confusion. Confusion does not engender spiritual growth and spiritual growth is a key to a joyous Christian walk.

6 – No Commitment(Heb 6:12 KJV) That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Another synonym, yeah two, for slothful would be “lazy” and “idle.” The Christian’s reason of existence is to send forth the Gospel and to make disciples of all nations. When a Christian refuses to get involved, they are spurning the reason God has kept them here after salvation. Christianity is a lot more than just going to church on Sunday. It is a seven day a week responsibility. Many say they do not know what their spiritual gifts are and sitting in front of the TV every night is really going to help you find it. Do you need to know your spiritual gift to go and buy a couple hundred tracts and then hand them out? All you need for that is one hand to hold the stack and the other one to disperse them to those who pass by. You can’t even put a tract in with your bills? You are that lazy?

Do you know why world religions are gaining momentum? It is because Christians are sitting home watching TV or walking around with their MP3 players stuck in their ears dead to the world around them. The churches have chosen to build their kingdoms within their walls and have seriously neglected going out to the streets. True evangelism is not “bring them to church on Sunday” but is going out to meet the unbelievers where they work and play. It seems a very small number of Christians know what commitment means. Many of them know what “commitment to self means” but not commitment to Christ. Many Christians walk around like zombies because they have no idea what their reason of existence is. There is an old saying that 10% of the Christians do 90% of the work. I believe it is a much lower percentage than that. Most Christians will not even place a bumper sticker on their car.

When the Lord told us to go out into the world, He said it as a command. No one is going to reach the world sitting on their couch eating potato chips or sipping Budweiser. What churches need to do is ramp up their teachings on commitment. In our constitution, it is required that men serve 6 years of their life in the military. What churches should do is follow the same course of action. Don’t let anyone join unless they promise to give at least one year of committed service to the church, by the time that one year is complete, they may desire to continue on in service. 

7 – Fear (Isa 35:4 KJV) Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you. Another characteristic of the miserable Christian is that they live in fear. They are afraid that someone at work might find out they are a Christian. In deference to their religion, Muslims will tape C4 to their bodies and blow it up killing them and whoever is around them. Comparing the commitment the Muslim makes to the commitment that the Christian makes, the Christian commitment pales in comparison. These people will blow themselves up and many Christians are afraid to even hand out a tract. They are afraid that if they are found out to be Christians, they might not get a promotion at work. (Heb 13:6 KJV) So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Hebrews 13:6 states that the Lord is my helper and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. In our opening verse, Isaiah 35:4, the Lord will come with vengeance on those who have caused us trouble.

Our first responsibility is to be Christians and then employees. Have you ever seen people in restaurants bow their head before a meal by rubbing their forehead? My wouldn’t it be a shame that the drug addict sitting one table over might find out that you are a Christian? The fear of man has overtaken many Christians and when we first become saved, maybe there is a little apprehension but that should fade after a while. The Christian has nothing to fear in this world. We are commanded to go into the world with the Gospel and that means the world around us first. What do we really have to fear?

You know what we fear the most? Anticipation! We want to do something for the Kingdom of God and as soon as we plan, the next thing we know we are anticipating personal consequences. Guess who is planting that idea in your mind? It is Satan! He wants you to live in cowering fear so you will be the type of Christian who does nothing. Fear can stop you dead in your tracks. If we look back in history at many of the martyrs, their testimonies were bold because they we were willing to take it to the point of their physical death. If you are willing to trust the Lord, you will find that you will be a strong testimony but if you shrink back at every bit of opposition, then it shows you are not trusting the Lord.

suffering unto death, apostle Paul is beheaded

Look at the Apostle Paul, he didn’t sneak into town at night and then sneak out the next night. As soon as he came to a town, it was only a short time before there was an uproar. This was because he was willing to take his testimony as far as his physical death and eventually it cost him his life but he is still affecting people to this day. How? (1 Th 5:27 KJV) I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. Here Paul implores them to read this epistle to all the brethren, not only those who are members of the church, but even to those they witness to and become saved. In fact, Paul’s prayer is still being answered today. Whoever is saved and has a Bible, is reading or will read 1 Thessalonians. Paul’s prayer is going to be answered until the last day. What will be your legacy? Fear or action?

8 – Cheap with the Lord’s Money(2 Cor 9:6 KJV) But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. If there is one pair of words which makes up the premier oxymoron, it is, “Cheap Christian.” The Bible is replete with promises God makes to those who are willing givers to the work of the Lord. So many Christians do not give anything to God’s work and they wonder why they have financial problems in their life. Then their excuse is I cannot afford to give anything. That is the time you need to turn your excuse in for a new heart about giving.

Giving is a great dynamic of the Christian life. It is a sad shame that many Christians place God last on their list. Of course, their own priorities are always first. Basically, what is being taught by cheap Christians is that a person’s eternal soul is not as important as my priorities. When I was a young Christian, the man who discipled me placed a love for missions in my heart. Since I was a young Christian, I have supported missions because missions is the heart of the Gospel. We have been commanded to go forth with the Gospel to the whole world and if we are unable to go, then we can and should support those whom the Lord has raised up to be able to go. Now what follows is not name it and claim it but my own personal testimony to the fact that God is very faithful to His word. I live in a house that didn’t cost me a penny (cost was $65,000), I drive a car that didn’t cost me a penny (cost was $15,800), shortly some Christians are going to purchase an electric recliner for me which would otherwise cost $535. Some time ago a brother bought me a desk which sells for about $200 for $15. Since I live in a Co-op, our monthly co-op fee is $174 for 2010. In January, I received a big surprise concerning my Property tax rebate. I received a total of $958 back from my 2008 taxes. Instead of throwing it in the bank, I put $950 in my checking account and now from March-December 2010, instead of budgeting $174 per month, I now budget $79 per month because the $950 covers the other $95 per month. For those ten months, my co-op fees are only $79 per month. 

Now I am not saying these things to brag, what I am saying is that God has given many promises in Scripture to those who willingly give to His work. As a new Christian, I did not know anything about these promises but I learned as I went along. I really feel sorry for those who refuse to give to God’s work or just see it as another burden on their budget. It is this kind of attitude that causes cheap Christians to remain in financial trouble and financial trouble always causes misery. When Christians get into financial trouble, their focus is on the finances and not on the Lord. 

9 – Materialism(Luke 12:18 KJV) And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. On the other side of the coin from the cheap Christian is the Christian who is extremely materialistic. Since they are too busy attempting to find security in all their worldly goods, they too are cheap Christians when it comes to the work of the Lord. How can one support the work of the Lord and their materialism? Guess which one will win out? So many Christians feel they need to have every new gadget that comes out or they must have the upgraded model.

When the Lord Jesus came to this earth, He didn’t even have a place to lay His head. Today it is very easy to become materialistic since we don’t even have to leave the house to go shopping because we can shop on line. The problem here is that these Christians look at the economy or the doomsayers on TV and become frightened at what they say and start hoarding everything. Their faith in God is replaced by their faith in their material goods. It is a shame when Christians feel more secure with material goods then they do with the Lord.

Materialism does not lengthen your life nor does it make you feel secure because the more you have the more you want and pretty soon you will be like the rich man who wanted to tear down his barns and build new ones which were bigger. How many Christians live in bigger houses than they can really afford? If we limited our junk buying, we could live in cheaper homes more comfortably. The less material goods we have the less worry we have. I am not speaking about having extra batteries or extra food in the pantry or even a second car if you have a big family. It is the obsession with buying everything and anything on a whim just to have it. The desire for material goods is a sin because it refocuses your desires from God to materialism.

10 – No Fear of God(Lev 26:2 KJV) Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. Have you noticed that most churches today have become non-alcoholic night clubs? What I mean by that is when you visit these churches, they call it contemporary services which means they have a rock and roll band on stage and that is exactly what it is, a stage! In Leviticus 26:2, God commanded Israel to reverence His sanctuary. To reverence the sanctuary meant that the people would attend the service and would not allow anything sinful or unclean to come into it. The amalgamation of rock and the Gospel is mixing the world and Christianity which is trying to take the Gospel of Heaven and adding Hell to it and thinking you are having a great outreach.

Any time you mix the Gospel with the world, you neutralize the effects of the Gospel and it is no more the Gospel, just religion. Since rock and roll bands have been brought into the church, the spirituality in these assemblies has gone out the door. Once the reverent atmosphere leaves the church, there is no dwelling on God because these rock bands minister to the flesh alone. (Rom 13:14 KJV) But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. Romans 13:14 warns us that we must never make provision for the flesh and that is what these church based rock groups are doing.

When you do not have true understanding of who God is, then you will not fear or reverence Him. Christians tell many jokes with the name of God and the name of Jesus used casually. The third commandment has never been rescinded. It seems whenever Christians come into contact with these rock and roll churches, their reverence for God evaporates. Just go into any Christian bookstore and you will find the name of Jesus on everything, from pencils to skateboards. Whatever companies can place the name of Jesus on, they will sell it and the sorry part is that Christians will buy them. That is why there is no fear of God today.

When I was young, I attended a church where you sat in silence waiting for the service to begin. It was a time of reflection and prayer. You sang hymns like Rock of Ages or Amazing Grace. Today you sing one line 30 times over. These false churches build euphoria into the fleshly part of the Christian and when they hit hard times, they will not know how to handle it because the clergy do not know enough about the Bible to preach their congregations to proper Christian living and how to face adversity. One cannot grow spiritually unless they understand the fear of God.

11 – Coveting some type of sin(Josh 7:20-21 KJV) And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: {21} When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. Achan was tested by the Lord to see if he would obey the command to not take any of the spoils. He disobeyed and it cost the lives of thirty six men plus the punishment was that he and his family were stoned to death and burned with fire.

If we are holding on to a pet sin, we may be affecting others without knowing it. Christians that hold on to a pet sin, will never experience the full joy of their salvation and will make them feel like a hypocrite to the point that they will not be a witness. The problem is that they would rather forsake the witnessing than the pet sin. It does not matter what that pet sin is, it will keep a Christian from growing to their full potential in the Kingdom. When a Christian has a pet sin, they definitely know they have it and maybe it is the type of sin which is hard to expunge. We cannot walk in sin and in the presence of the Lord at the same time. Since the flesh and spirit war against each other, the Christian must strive to make the spirit rule over the flesh. We must intentionally avoid any situation which can enflame any sin passion in our lives. 

12 – What happened at the cross(Col 2:13-14 KJV) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; {14} Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; When biblical teachings are replaced by rock and roll bands in the church, then biblical truth flies out of the window. When that happens, Christians are denied the cardinal truths of the Scriptures.

One of the great truths is that every sin which the Christian has ever committed or will ever commit has been paid for and removed from their souls. The Christian has a sin cleansed soul and is readied for Heaven. This truth seems to be missing in almost every church. This results in the Christian believing that they still have sins which must be atoned for. When Christ went to the cross for His Elect, He removed the sin from every true believer. Without the Christian realizing this truth, they will still feel like they are a sinner. Nowhere in Scripture does God call His children sinners. They are redeemed children of God. Christians need to know that they have been fully forgiven. Salvation is not partial but full. 

A God-Centered Understanding of Sin by Stephen Wittmer

The most important truth about sin is the one least recognized in our day. It is this: all sin is primarily sin against God. Where sin is understood as merely a moral concept rather than mainly a religious one,[1]  where it is seen primarily as a person-to-person problem rather than as primarily ‘theocentric,'[2]  motivation for fighting sin is decreased and confusion about the character of God is increased. While recognizing the ‘horizontal’ (person-to-person) nature of sin, the Bible consistently presents sin as mainly a ‘vertical’ (person-to-God) offence. My purpose in this article is to promote a God-centered understanding of sin by outlining the biblical evidence for the vertical nature of all sin and then reflecting on the manifold pastoral implications of this view. If we are to understand the seriousness of sin and to help ourselves and others think about and fight sin the way we ought to, we must have this God-centered view of sin.

1. The vertical direction of all sin

The claim that sin is mainly a vertical problem is emphatically not the view of our culture. On the contrary, a lack of reference to God when thinking about sin is evident everywhere. Two recent books illustrate this reality. In Morality Without God?, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, a professor of philosophy and legal studies at Dartmouth College, argues that morality has nothing essentially to do with God or religion.[3] We can justifiably hold that there is such a thing as objective morality, and we can determine right and wrong, with no reference to God. The entire project of Sinnott-Armstrong’s book is to divorce morality from God: according to Sinnott-Armstrong, objective morality exists, but God does not. Joseph Epstein’s witty and learned book Envy is also symptomatic of the problem I’m highlighting.[4] Although the book is packed with helpful insights into the sin of envy, not once does Epstein talk about envy as having any kind of vertical component, as having anything to do with God. He treats envy purely from a horizontal perspective, dealing solely with the way it affects our relationships with other people. Therefore, whatever Epstein’s religious beliefs (he implies in the book that he is not ‘in a state of full religious belief’), his book does in practice what Sinnott-Armstrong’s book argues for programmatically. Morality and immorality are understood in both books without reference to God.[5]

Sinnott-Armstrong and Epstein, together with many other people (including many Christians) are living in a kind of moral/ethical ‘Flatland,'[6] with a two-dimensional view of sin. On this view, sin is something you do to another person or something another person does to you. Granted, most Christians recognize that some sins are sins against God, but the sins they think of as falling into this category are usually those aimed directly at injuring God, such as the worship of other gods, idolatry, or taking the Lord’s name in vain. Of course, breaking the first three commandments is sinning against God.[7] But so is breaking any of the Ten Commandments and so are the many sins not mentioned in the Decalogue. The Bible suggests that all sin is sin against God, even when we’re not consciously trying to offend God by our sin; even when, in the moment of our sin, God is the very last one on our minds. In order to present the biblical evidence for the vertical direction of all sin, I will focus on three seemingly horizontal sins: adultery, envy, and despising those less fortunate than ourselves.

The vertical direction of adultery

According to the Bible, adultery is primarily a sin against God. In the course of Abraham’s travels, he twice did a despicable and cowardly thing. Because he was afraid the kings of the countries he was visiting would kill him and take his wife, he told them Sarah was his sister. Consequently, Abimelech, the king of Gerar, took Sarah in order to make her his wife. But God came to Abimelech in a dream and told him that if he slept with Sarah he would die because Sarah was another man’s wife. Abimelech protested his innocence to God and God agreed that he was in fact innocent: ‘Then God said to [Abimelech] in the dream, „Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her”‘ (Genesis 20.6). According to God, if Abimelech committed adultery with Sarah he would be sinning against God. Other passages offer the same God-centered perspective on the sin of adultery. When the wife of the Egyptian Potiphar tried to seduce Abraham’s great-grandson Joseph, he refused and said, ‘How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?’ (Genesis 39.9). According to Joseph, sleeping with his master’s wife would be sinning against God.

King David evidently shared this view. After committing adultery with Bathsheba and ensuring that Bathsheba’s husband Uriah was killed in battle, he wrote Psalm 51. In this Psalm, David cries out to God: ‘Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight’ (Psalm 51.4). For hundreds of years, careful readers of Psalm 51 have been amazed by David’s claim that he sinned only against God. What about Bathsheba? What about Uriah her husband? Surely David sinned against them? Of course he did. David’s selfish pursuit of sexual pleasure and emotional intimacy with another man’s wife was clearly a sin against Bathsheba’s husband Uriah, and against Bathsheba’s parents, and against Bathsheba herself. We know Paul would have thought so, because he said that the command to love other people ‘sums up’ the command not to commit adultery (Romans 13.9). When David says he has sinned ‘only’ against God, he means that by far the greatest offense has been against God.[8] Consequently, all other offenses pale in comparison. Charles Spurgeon saw this clearly: ‘The virus of sin lies in its opposition to God: the Psalmist’s sense of sin towards others rather tended to increase the force of his feeling of sin against God. All his wrong-doing centred, culminated, and came to a climax, at the foot of the divine throne.'[9]

How did David arrive at this God-centered understanding of his sin? He seems to have learned it from God himself, through Nathan the prophet. In 2 Samuel 12, God sends Nathan to confront David for his sins of murder and adultery. Nathan’s message is clearly that David has sinned against Uriah by killing him and taking his wife. But the main thrust of God’s message through Nathan is that David has sinned against God. God says: ‘Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?’ (2 Samuel 12.9). And God says: ‘Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ (2 Samuel 12.10). Nathan says: ‘Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die’ (2 Samuel 12.14). David clearly gets the message. He responds: ‘I have sinned against the Lord’ (2 Samuel 12.13).

The vertical direction of envy

I choose to focus on envy here because (as noted above) Joseph Epstein totally ignores the vertical dimension of envy in his book on the subject. The Old Testament book of Numbers tells the story of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who rebel against Moses as the people of Israel journey through the wilderness (Numbers 16). These three, and at least 250 others, assemble against Moses and Aaron and take exception to the fact that Moses and Aaron have exalted themselves over the rest of Israel by being the only ones (together with Aaron’s priestly sons) who can minister in the tabernacle as priests. As Levites, those who are rebelling want to do more than serve in the tabernacle. They want to be priests. Their sin is envy (cf. Psalm 106.16). They want what Moses and Aaron have. And their case is clearly against Moses and Aaron; the story in fact states that, ‘they assembled themselves against Moses and against Aaron’ (Numbers 16.3).

But that is not how Moses sees it. Moses sees their challenge as being primarily against God: ‘Therefore it is against the Lord that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?’ (Numbers 16.11). Later, the daughters of Zelophehad remember Korah’s sin as a gathering together of the people ‘against the Lord’ (Numbers 27.3). Moses remembers the sin of Dathan and Abiram as contending not only against Moses and Aaron, but ‘against the Lord’ (Numbers 26.9). This story therefore demonstrates that the sin of envy is not merely sin against another person. That is the way we tend to think of it, as purely horizontal. But the Bible suggests that envy is most basically sin against God.

The vertical direction of despising the less fortunate

A third example of the vertical nature of sins we normally consider ‘horizontal’ comes from Proverbs. Proverbs 14.31 says: ‘Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.’ Proverbs 17.5 says: ‘Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.’ Leviticus 6.1-3 suggests, similarly, that deceiving one’s neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or robbing one’s neighbor, or oppressing one’s neighbor, or finding the lost property of one’s neighbor and then lying about it, constitutes a ‘breach of faith against the Lord.’

The vertical direction of other sins

Throughout the Bible, we learn of many other sins that from a human-centered perspective are purely horizontal but from a God-centered perspective have a mainly vertical direction. Dishonoring and deserting one’s parents and living a debauched life is sinning against God (Luke 15.18, 21). Lying to other people is sinning against God (Acts 5.3-4). The many sins of Sodom, among which were both sexual sins (Genesis 19.5) and economic sins (Ezekiel 16.49-50), were sins against the Lord (Genesis 13.13). Undue fear of other people or circumstances is sin against God, as is presumptuous activity that moves forward without God’s blessing (Deuteronomy 1.26-46, esp. 1.41 and 1.43). Grumbling against God’s appointed leaders is in fact grumbling against God himself.[10] Child sacrifice is a sin against God (Leviticus 20.1-5). Slander and deceit are sins against God (Psalm 50.17-22). Covetousness is sin against God (Ephesians 5.5; Colossians 3.5). Sins that fracture the Christian community, such as unaddressed anger, corrupting talk, and bitterness, are sins against God (Ephesians 4.30).[11] Persecuting Christians is a sin against Jesus (Acts 9.4-5), as is a failure to love and serve Christians (Matthew 25.41-46).

2. The reason all sin is sin against God

This raises an important question: why is all sin in fact sin against God? There are many reasons. I’ll offer four. Sin against others offends God because he is their creator and values them, because he is your creator and has instructed you how to live, and because all sin calls God’s character into question.[12] Finally, sin against God’s people offends God because God has redeemed them and they belong to him and are united to him.

God is their creator

First, sin against others offends God because he is their creator. This truth is clearly indicated in Proverbs 14.31, which claims that oppressing a poor man insults his ‘Maker.’ Hurting another person offends and insults God because God made that person and values them. They bear his image. An offense against the creature is therefore an offense against the loving creator, just as a great sculptor is deeply offended if someone defaces or destroys his favorite creation. Proverbs 17.5 repeats this claim; mocking the poor entails insulting ‘his Maker.'[13] Again in this verse, God is identified as the maker of the poor, who bears his image no less than the rich.[14] As Cornelius Plantinga has said, ‘Sin offends God not only because it bereaves or assaults God directly, as in impiety or blasphemy, but also because it bereaves and assaults what God has made.'[15] It is encouraging to see recent evangelical works on ethics that recognize the Godward direction of sin. Walter Kaiser rightly claims that murder is a crime not just against another person but also against God: ‘Murder, then, amounted to the shooting, mugging, or slaughtering of God himself in effigy. Murder is so serious because it is a crime against the majesty of the divine image in each individual. No matter how disgraced or debauched a person may appear, they are not to be equated with disposable litter or seen simply as disheveled wretches of humanity; they are still made in the image of God and carry enormous intrinsic potential and significance.'[16]

The Godward direction of sin includes not only harming the creature but also overly valuing the creature. Why does Paul, in Ephesians 5.5, equate the ‘horizontal’ sin of covetousness (likely to be understood as sexual greed) with the ‘vertical’ sin of idolatry? Because sexual lust, like other kinds of overwhelming desire (e.g. lust for money or power), ‘…places self-gratification or another person at the centre of one’s existence, and thus is the worship of the creature rather than the Creator…'[17]

God is your creator

Sin against others also offends God because God is your creator. Sin inhibits our ability to display God’s image as we were designed by God to do. Moreover, the biblical doctrine of God as creator teaches that God continues to sustain his creation and hold it in existence. In sinning, we misuse and abuse the existence God has given us and in which he sustains us moment by moment. C.S. Lewis expressed these truths clearly: ‘…indeed the only way in which I can make real to myself what theology teaches about the heinousness of sin is to remember that every sin is the distortion of an energy breathed into us – an energy which, if not thus distorted, would have blossomed into one of those holy acts whereof „God did it” and „I did it” are both true descriptions. We poison the wine as He decants it into us; murder a melody He would play with us as the instrument. We caricature the self-portrait He would paint. Hence all sin, whatever else it is, is sacrilege.'[18]

As our creator, God has established rules for how we are to interact with our fellow human beings. When we resist those rules, we resist his authority as creator. Therefore, sin offends God.[19] Note that the phrase ‘I am the Lord’ is repeatedly inserted into the legislation about sexual relations in Leviticus 18.1-30.[20] The implication of this repeated phrase is that sexual sin involves God. He is the one who gave the commands and told his people how he wanted them to live (18.4-5, 30).

I cited Leviticus 6.1-3 above. This passage claims that deceiving your neighbor financially or robbing your neighbor or pretending his lost property is your property is actually a breach of faith against the Lord. Why is this the case? We’re given the answer just a few verses earlier in Leviticus. Leviticus 5.17 says: ‘If anyone sins, doing any of the things that by the Lord’s commandments ought not to be done…’ The reason our sins involve God is that sin is a violation of his commandments. He has told us how to live, and we have disobeyed him. If a father tells his little boy not to throw stones at the cat, and the little boy nonetheless throws stones at the cat, the boy’s actions have caused a rift in his relationship with the cat and with his father. In fact, he has sinned against his father even if his aim is bad and he misses the cat.

The same is true with Israel’s sin of fear in Deuteronomy 1.26-46. Israel’s fear of the inhabitants of Canaan is sin against God because it involves disobedience to the command of God (1.26, 41), the casting of aspersions on God’s character (1.27), and failure to trust God (1.32). Moses explains that Israel’s refusal to enter the land was rebellion against the commandment of the Lord and a lack of trust in him.[21] The Godward direction of Israel’s fear is manifest in Deuteronomy 9.24: ‘You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day that I knew you.'[22]

Sin calls God’s character into question

Sin against others offends God because sin is always saying to God that we know better than he how to make ourselves happy. For this reason, sin inevitably calls the truthfulness of God’s plan and promises, and the goodness of his character, into question. It says to God: ‘You’re a liar.’ Therefore sin, in the words of Proverbs 17.5, ‘insults’ God. The case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram in Numbers 16 illustrates this. In Numbers 16.8-10, Moses explains that Korah’s challenge to Moses and Aaron was in fact a challenging of God himself because it was God, not Moses, who appointed the Levites to their task of serving in the tabernacle and Aaron and his sons to be priests. Therefore, for Korah and the others to assert themselves against Moses and Aaron is to challenge God’s wisdom in placing each person where he wants them. Their challenge against Moses and Aaron is therefore sin against God. In envying Moses and Aaron, they are essentially saying to God, ‘Your allotment of responsibility is deficient. You should have given us more responsibility.’ Consequently, it is God, not Moses or Aaron, who destroys these men and their households by causing the earth to split beneath their feet (Numbers 16.31-35).

Whenever we envy a person who has better looks or a bigger brain than we do, we are saying to God (whether we mean to or not), ‘You should have made me different.’ We are essentially putting ourselves in the place of God, and this is the very heart of sin.[23] All complaining, in fact, moves in this deadly direction. In The Art of Divine Contentment, the Puritan Thomas Watson claims that, ‘murmuring is rising up against God, for thou settest thyself up against God, as though you were wiser than he.'[24] In his sermon on Job 1.21, John Calvin said,

‘As soon as God does not send what we have desired, we dispute against Him, we bring suit, not that we appear to do this, but our manner shows that this is nevertheless our intent. We consider every blow, ‘And why has this happened?’ But from what spirit is this pronounced? From a poisoned heart; as if we said, „The thing should have been otherwise, I see no reason for this.” Meanwhile God will be condemned among us. This is how men exasperate themselves. And in this what do they do? It is as if they accused God of being a tyrant or a hairbrain who asked only to put everything in confusion. Such horrible blasphemy blows out of the mouths of men.'[25]

This is dangerous ground upon which to tread. Isaiah 45.9 pronounces woe upon the one who ‘strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots!'[26] The connection between envy and questioning God’s wisdom and character explains why David’s solution to the sin of envying wrongdoers (Psalm 37.1) is to call for trust and delight in the Lord (Psalm 37.3-4). Trusting in God’s wisdom and provision punctures the power of the sin of envy.

God has redeemed his people

Finally, sin against Christians is sin against God because God has redeemed his people.[27] This reality undergirds Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 8-10. In 1 Corinthians 8.11-13, Paul addresses the issue of whether the Corinthian Christians may eat food offered to idols in the idol temples. Before absolutely prohibiting feasting in temples (which he does in 10.14-22) Paul first focuses on a crucial reason not to eat idol meat in idol temples. One should refrain for the sake of one’s brother, in order not to make him sin against his conscience by doing what he believes to be the wrong thing. Paul says that if this ‘weak’ brother does what he believes is wrong, he is ‘destroyed.’ Importantly, Paul describes this brother as one ‘for whom Christ died’ (8.11). Paul then establishes the seriousness of causing one’s brother to stumble: ‘Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ’ (8.12).[28] This vertical direction of the sin convinces Paul to forgo his own rights for the sake of his brother: ‘Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble’ (8.13).

3. Why a God-centered perspective on sin is so important

The reason it is crucial to have a God-centered perspective on sin is that we’re in a tough fight against a wily enemy. Satan deceives us (John 8.44), sin deceives us (Hebrews 3.13), and we deceive ourselves (Jeremiah 17.9; Ephesians 4.22). In one meeting with a couple who had recently begun attending our church, it became clear that, despite their emphasis that they loved God’s Word and were hungry for robust biblical preaching and teaching, they were unmarried and living together. There was obviously a serious disconnect occurring here between belief and practice: sin was deceiving them and they were deceiving themselves. The measure of sin’s deceitfulness is its power to produce these strange blind spots and juxtapositions in our lives and unfortunately, examples abound. A young John McCain bravely endures many years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, returns home as a war hero, and begins a series of extramarital affairs. The intrepid, trustworthy, larger-than-life Sir Ernest Shackelton carries on an extramarital affair over a long period of time. The Bible is full of stories of men and women with equally terrible blind spots, and if we take a long, honest look at ourselves we will find them in our own lives. We live with these juxtapositions because sin deceives us and we swallow the lie. John Owen wisely said, ‘Without sincerity and diligence in a universality of obedience, there is no mortification of any one perplexing lust to be obtained.'[29]

Like all lies, sin multiplies at an alarming rate, one sin quickly leading to another. Sin rarely travels alone; it prefers to travel in packs. For example, adultery almost always requires deceiving one’s partner. Frank Pittman is onto something when he claims that: ‘The infidelity [of an affair] is not in the sex, necessarily, but in the secrecy. It isn’t whom you lie with. It’s whom you lie to.'[30] Well, of course the infidelity is in both whom you lie with and whom you lie to. The point is, they go together. One leads to the other. Our enemy (sin) is devious and fast-growing. Therefore, we must know it well. We must have a God-centered view of it. If we really grasp this perspective, it will help us enormously. Here are the some of the ways a God-centered view of sin will help us.

A God-centered perspective on sin reveals sin’s lies

We sin more readily against people when we believe they have no chance of repaying our wrongs. One of the (many) reasons it is tempting to be rude toward telemarketers and bad drivers in traffic is that we will likely never see them again. Hence, we’re almost invariably more impatient and less forgiving toward such people, because we believe they can’t pay us back. This deeply mistaken position is revealed for the lie it is by the truth that all sin is sin against God. Because all sin, including so-called ‘horizontal’ sins, has a Godward direction, there is no sin that God does not care about. Every sin must be paid for, either at the cross by Jesus, or in eternity by the sinner. God demands it. When I was a boy my brothers and I put burrs into the hair of the little girl who lived next door. We thought that was very funny, because she couldn’t get back at us. But when she went home and told her mom, who got angry and called our parents, the situation quickly escalated from funny to serious. We will do well to remember that sin angers God and provokes the vengeance of Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1.8). God has no further preparations to make for the final judgment; he is ‘ready’ to judge the living and the dead (1 Peter 4.5).

We’re also more tempted to commit certain sins when we believe they are relatively trivial and insignificant. A white lie is just white. A little cheating on the exam is just a tiny thing. When we come to see that all sin, including the so-called ‘little’ sins, have a Godward direction, we realize that even these sins are actually sins ‘of the deepest dye.'[31] J.I. Packer says, ‘there are no small sins against a great God.'[32] Truly embracing this God-centered perspective will have transformative effects upon our marriages.[33] It will motivate us to wage war against the sins with which we once were willing to make peace. The seventeenth century English pastor John Flavel imagined the voice of temptation as saying: ‘It’s only a small matter, a trifle. Who else would worry about such a trivial thing?’ Flavel suggested what the believer should say in response: ‘Is the majesty of heaven a small matter too? If I commit this sin, I will offend and wrong a great God. Is there any little hell to torment little sinners? Great wrath awaits those the world thinks are little sinners.'[34]

We are also more likely to commit a sin when we believe it will not harm anyone. Envy is a particularly good example of this. Who does envy harm, particularly if you don’t even tell the person you envy that you envy them? And suppose I envy some famous person I will never meet? Where’s the harm in that? Without an understanding of the Godward direction of sin, the resultant harm of such a sin appears minimal or even non-existent. But understanding sin from a God-centered perspective sheds light on this issue by opening our eyes to the reality that all sin grieves God (Ephesians 4.30). Ed Welch writes from this God-centered perspective: ‘Even if our sin does not seem to be hurting another human being, it is still sin. If sin was reduced to hurting others, then we could become morally perfect by isolating ourselves from all people. Sin, however, is not primarily a human-against-human action. It is human-against-God.'[35] The implication of this perspective is that there is no ‘harmless’ sin.

Finally, we are more likely to commit a sin if we are not even aware it is a sin. Unless we understand sin with a view toward how it affects God, we will be deluded into thinking that some sins are not really sinful. Living all of life consciously before God opens up whole new areas that we come to see as no longer value-neutral but rather as matters of holiness or sin. To take two quite distinct examples, we might reflect upon self-harm and time management. The implications of viewing morality from a purely horizontal perspective are seen in the work of Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, who (as I noted above) has written an entire book arguing for objective morality without God. This position has important implications for Sinnott-Armstrong’s understanding of self-harm. He claims it is irrational, not immoral, to cause harm to oneself without an adequate reason.[36] Suicide, for example, is merely irrational. It seems to me that this claim can only be true within a worldview that fails to take the presence of God and his ownership of our persons into account. Writing from within the Christian tradition, Aquinas taught that suicide is not just a failure of one’s duty to self and community, but also a failure of one’s duty to God.[37] When we understand that we are the work of a creator God and that we have a responsibility to the God who has redeemed and indwelt us (1 Corinthians 6.19-20), self-harm is rightly seen as sin against God.

How we choose to use our time is not (as it is perceived in the secular time management books) a value-neutral discussion that boils down to being more productive or less productive. That is only the case if we see our time and how we use it in purely horizontal terms. But when we see time as a gift given to us by God and understand ourselves as responsible to God for how we use it, we come to understand time management as a matter of sin or righteousness. In The Preciousness of Time and the Importance of Redeeming It, Jonathan Edwards manifests a profoundly God-centered view of time management, pressing upon his readers the truth that we are accountable to God for our time and will need to give an account for our poor use of it. Edwards’ vertical perspective is totally missing from most modern discussions of time management. As Walter Henegar notes, procrastination is acceptable in our culture, viewed sometimes even as an endearing personality quirk.[38] C.J. Mahaney nicely summarizes the discovery Henegar came to as he analyzed his own strong propensity toward procrastination: ‘What Mr. Henegar discovered was the simple truth that underlying our procrastination – putting off the most important duties we are called to accomplish – was not so much a busy schedule but a sinful heart.'[39] Procrastination, seen in its vertical dimension, is not just a ‘bad habit’ or a lack of productivity, but rather a sin against God himself.
A God-centered perspective gives us the proper motivation for fighting sin

Why do we fight sin? Sometimes simply because we hate its consequences, or because we’re ashamed of the stigma attached to it, or because we want to experience the thrill of victory in conquering it. These are inadequate reasons. Realizing that all sin is sin against God helps us to fight sin for the right reason – because we know it hurts God, and that is the last thing we want. Jerry Bridges says it well when he explains that our problem ‘is that our attitude towards sin is more self-centered than God-centered. We are more concerned about our own „victory” over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve the heart of God.'[40]

A God-centered perspective on sin shows the gospel to be sensible and sweet

The way we view sin is a gospel issue. Thomas Watson wrote, ‘Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.'[41] If we think of sin as merely a horizontal problem, we may begin to believe that our sin is small and our virtue is sizable, and that therefore we’re just about good enough for heaven and not quite bad enough for hell. Realizing the vertical nature of sin disabuses us of that notion because it reveals to us the catastrophic seriousness of sin. The more bitter our sin becomes to us, the more sweet will be the gospel.

If sins are merely horizontal, the gospel is not only less sweet – it is not even sensible. The gospel is the good news that God freely rescues us from eternal punishment and destines us for eternal life in his presence, in a new heavens and new earth. But the biblical doctrine of an eternal hell makes no sense if sin is merely a human-to-human offense. Clark Pinnock offers the following objection to the doctrine of eternal punishment: ‘It just does not make sense to say that a God of love will torture people forever for sins done in the context of a finite life.'[42] Pinnock would be correct concerning the injustice of a punishment that lasts ‘forever’ for sins committed in a ‘finite’ life, except for the fact that each of these sins offend an infinitely precious God. The seriousness of sin is a function of the worth and value of the one who is sinned against.[43] Because all sin is against God, all sin is infinitely serious. For this reason, hell is just.[44]

A few years ago, my wife and I visited one of Berlin’s most famous art museums. Failing to notice a line on the floor that ran around the perimeter of each room about two feet from the wall, I enjoyed getting close up to the paintings, observing how the paint had been applied and studying the brush strokes. As I stood a few inches from one of the paintings, I had one of those sudden, crazy impulses one sometimes get in art museums: what would happen if I raised my elbow and drove my elbow straight through the painting? Thankfully, I resisted the impulse! Eventually one of the museum attendants pointed to the line on the floor and told me I had to stand behind it. The paintings were so valuable that they didn’t want me to get within two feet of them, let alone put my elbow through one.

The penalty for destroying a Bruegel or a Rembrandt or a Monet at this art gallery is greater than the penalty for destroying a postcard of the same painting being sold in the museum shop. Suppose I jab a scissors through a Rembrandt. I may be physically tackled by the attendant and I will surely face months of litigation, a significant financial penalty, and perhaps time in prison. But now suppose I jab a scissors through the postcard of the same painting in the museum gift shop. I will almost certainly not be tackled (unless the gift shop attendant is overly zealous). Rather, I will owe a couple Euro to the shop and I may not be welcome there anymore. Why the drastic difference in penalties? It’s the same painting. The difference is that the original is more valuable than a postcard of the original. The seriousness of an offense is related to the worth of the one (or the thing) offended. In most societies around the world, the penalty for damaging a flower is less than that for cruelty to animals. And the penalty for cruelty to animals is less than that for child abuse. Why? Because a puppy is more valuable than a flower, and a baby is more valuable than a puppy. In fact, the penalty for injuring a human being is greater than the penalty for killing a flower because human beings are considered so much more valuable than flowers.

Humans are in serious trouble because we have offended God, and there is no being in the universe more valuable than God. In the terms of our analogy, we have pierced not the postcard but the painting. God is a being who is valuable in every way. He is the most valuable being in the universe. And God is the one whom humans have offended. That is why our sin against him is so desperately serious. This was all seen and said by Jonathan Edwards in his remarkable sermon, ‘The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners.'[45] Edwards has nuanced my view of why sin against God is infinitely serious by introducing the important concept of obligation. According to Edwards, ‘The crime of one being despising and casting contempt on another, is proportionably more or less heinous, as he was under greater or less obligations to obey him.’ The degree of obligation toward a being is in turn proportionate to that being’s ‘loveliness, honorableness, and authority.’ God is infinitely lovely, infinitely excellent, infinitely beautiful. Therefore, I owe him total allegiance. Therefore, sin against him is infinitely evil[46] and deserving of infinite punishment.[47] In the course of the sermon, Edwards applies the truth that, ‘It is just that God eternally cast off and destroy sinners’ in order to produce conviction in his hearers. But at the end of his sermon he briefly addresses the ‘godly.’ They should see afresh the ‘freeness and wonderfulness of the grace of God towards them.'[48] This should lead to praise of God and to humility: ‘You shall never open your mouth in boasting, or self-justification; but lie the lower before God for his mercy to you.’

The truth of the Godward direction of sin, in other words, makes the gospel both sensible and sweet. This truth should stagger us all over again with the grace of God in our lives. When we realize the greatness of our sin, the fact that we deserve eternal punishment and separation from God in hell, we come to see the glory of the gospel, the declaration that God offers us free pardon. We enter into relationship with him through no merit of our own. Instead of hell, we get heaven. David Wells says this forcefully and beautifully in The Courage to Be Protestant:

‘Without the holiness of God, sin has no meaning and grace has no point. God’s holiness gives to the one its definition and to the other its greatness. Without the holiness of God, sin is merely human failure, but not failure before God….Without the holiness of God, grace is no longer grace because it does not arise from the dark clouds of his judgment that covered the cross. Without God’s holiness, grace would be nothing more than sentimental benevolence. It is this holiness that shows the graciousness of grace, its character as unmerited, because it also shows us the offensiveness of sin.'[49]

4. Conclusion: the hope offered by a God-centered perspective on sin

The realization that all our sin is chiefly sin against God is both sobering and hope-giving. It is sobering because, as we have seen, it means there are no ‘small’ sins. All sin is sin against God and therefore infinitely serious. But it is also hope-giving, because God is merciful. This is the positive side to our sinning against God. When offered a choice, David chose to fall into the merciful hand of God rather than the hands of men (2 Samuel 24.14). The reason God has mercy on his people is precisely because he is God and not a man (Hosea 11.8-9).

I pointed above to 2 Samuel 12, where Nathan confronts David with the Godward direction of his sins of murder and adultery. There is a poignant moment at the very end of their exchange. David recognizes the vertical dimension of his sin: ‘David said to Nathan, „I have sinned against the Lord”‘ (2 Samuel 12.13). Nathan then responds to David with an assurance of the remarkable mercy of the Lord: ‘And Nathan said to David, „The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die”‘ (2 Samuel 12.13). The God we offend is the very God who forgives.[50] A significant part of developing a God-centered understanding of sin is relating to God as the one who forgives our sin and helps us battle against it. William Arnot has seen this clearly: ‘The difference between an unconverted and a converted man is not that one has sins and the other has none; but that the one takes part with his cherished sins against a dreaded God, and the other takes part with a reconciled God against his hated sins.'[51]

Sin, as Jonathan Edwards observed, is like a sickness of the eyes that confuses us as to the true colors of things, or like a sickness that affects our ability to taste, so that we can’t distinguish good, wholesome food from bad food. Sin ruins our ability to discern spiritual things.[52] Consequently, in our fight against sin, we must shine the clear light of biblical truth upon both it and ourselves. Truly understanding our enemy is an important step in winning victory over it. I hope this article will be useful as one part of the process of understanding and battling the enemy. The gospel fruit of a God-centered perspective on sin should be not dismay but rather delight in the finished work of Christ and greater determination in the battle against sin. Soren Kierkegaard once prayed: ‘Father in heaven! Hold not our sins up against us but hold us up against our sins, so that the thought of thee, when it wakens, should not remind us of what we have committed but of what thou didst forgive, not of how we went astray but of how thou didst save us!'[53]

Stephen Witmer (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) has lectured in New Testament at the University of Cambridge and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is now the pastor of Pepperell Christian Fellowship in Pepperell, Massachusetts. He has written Divine Instruction in Early Christianity (2008) and has published articles in several journals, including New Testament Studies, Novum Testamentum, and Themelios.

A God-Centered Understanding of Sin
Article by Stephen Witmer  June 2010

Psalm 32 – You are my hiding place (commentary by Spurgeon)

Commentators believe Psalm 32 was written after Psalm 51 (which was written after the Prophet Nathan confronted David over his sin with Bathsheba). Remarkable, is David’s swift repentance and acknowledgment that  the guilt of sin had caused him – see verse 3 -„When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.’  Yet, Psalm 32 is an illustration of how the result of true repentance is the joy of forgiveness.

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