Last Sunday, we were visiting a friend in Taiping and she brought us to the Taiping Gospel Hall's service. The focus of the worship service was on Jesus as the Passover Lamb and the redeeming power of the blood of Christ. The Upper Room devotional for that Sunday morning was also about the effect of sin in our lives.
Unfortunately in our modern society we have, as the psychiatrist Karl Menninger pointed out nearly forty years ago, criminalized as well as medicalised sin. Consequently, the police and the doctors have taken over the place of the priests in dealing with some of the negative and destructive behaviors arising from the evil in our human nature which had previoously been called sins. The criminals in turn become the scapegoats that are to be sacrificed. Some aggressive, expensive, unpleasant, hurtful, and even obnoxious behaviors are seen as “illnesses.” Such illnesses are then defined as coping devices and an “automatically chosen lesser evil and an attempt to make the best bargain possible.”1
For our spiritual health it is critical to see sin as the ‘stain” causing a block and breakdown in our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ died on the cross to remove this stain so that we can live a life of repentance and restored relationship with our Heavenly Father. But without repentance and confession, we are unable to remove our stain of sin.
Sin is more than the things we do or do not do. It is a state of being in which we are dead to God and living in the darkness of our human feelings, thoughts and actions. David Eckman makes the point that Jesus died not only to save us from sin but to deliver us from the chaos of our inner lives. In his view, the chaos caused by the domination of our inner life by unwholesome appetites, negative moods and selfish thinking is worse than cultural or family chaos.2
When we focus only on our salvation, we will be filled with anxiety about losing our salvation as we try desperately to live our Christian lives as sinful saints. We know we are called to be saints but time and again we fail to be as loving as we think we should be.
On the other hand, we may be tempted to become so self absorbed in our salvation that we may become saintly devils. David Eckman had encountered Christians with a self-focused faith who became a white-collar criminal or an expert at taking sexual advantage of women.3
But when we are alive to God, we are redeemed sinners on the way to recovery from our addiction to our appetites, moods and our faulty thinking. We are in the state of being in love - our appetites are directed towards a desire for God, we are filled with the love, joy and peace of the Holy Spirit and our minds are transformed and renewed towards seeking the will of our Heavenly Father.
We will be conscious of our sinful nature but we are set free by the power of the Holy Spirit to cultivate a loving relationship with God through the Living Christ in us. So let us encourage one another to live out the following words of the song, Just Let Me Say:
"So let me say how much I love you.
With all my heart I long for you.
For I an caught up in the passion of knowing
This endless love I've found in You
O the depth of love and forgiveness found
To be called a child of God
Just make me say how much I love You
O my Saviour, my Lord and Friend
1. Karl Menninger, Whatever Became Of Sin, page 86-109
2. David Eckman, Knowing The Heart Of God 68
3. David Eckman, Knowing The Heart Of God, 74