Summary: In this sermon, Paul gives us a six-point summary of the gospel--the good news of God.
In his commentary on Romans John MacArthur points out that a quick look at any newspaper or a passing glance at a weekly news magazine reminds us that in our world most news is bad and seems to be getting worse. What is happening on a national and worldwide scale is simply the magnification of what is happening on an individual level. As personal problems, animosities, and fears increase, so do their counterparts in society at large.
People are in the grip of a terrifying power that holds them at the very core of their being. Left unchecked, it pushes them to self-destruction in one form or another.
That power is sin, which is always bad news.
Sin is bad news in every dimension. Among its consequences are four inevitable byproducts that guarantee misery and sorrow for a world taken captive by it. Let me state four byproducts of sin.
First, sin has selfishness at its heart. The basic element of fallen human nature is the exaltation of self, the ego.
When Satan fell, he was asserting his own will above God’s will, declaring five times, “I will. . .” in Isaiah 14:13-14, a passage which speaks of Satan’s fall: “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
Man fell by the same self-will, when Adam and Eve asserted their own understanding about right and wrong above God’s clear instruction (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-7).
By nature every person is self-centered and inclined to have his own way. He will push his selfishness as far as circumstances and the tolerance of society will allow. When a person’s self-will is unbridled, he consumes everything and everyone around him in an insatiable quest to please himself. When friends, fellow students, colleagues, or a spouse cease to provide what is wanted, they are discarded like a pair of old shoes. Much of modern western society has been so imbued with the propriety of self-esteem and self-will that virtually every desire has come to be considered a right.
The ultimate goal in many lives today is little more than perpetual self-satisfaction. Every object, every idea, every circumstance, and every person is viewed in light of what it can contribute to one’s own purposes and welfare. Lust for wealth, possessions, fame, dominance, popularity, and physical fulfillment drives people to pervert everything they possess and everyone they know. Employment has become nothing more than a necessary evil to finance one’s indulgences. As is often noted, there is a constant danger of loving things and using people rather than loving people and using things. When that temptation is succumbed to, stable and faithful personal relationships become impossible. A person engulfed in self-will and self-fulfillment becomes less and less capable of loving, because as his desire to possess grows and his desire to give withers. And when he forfeits selflessness for selfishness, he forfeits the source of true joy.
Selfish greed progressively alienates a person from everyone else, including those who are closest and dearest. The end result is loneliness and despair. Everything that is craved soon yields to the law of diminishing returns, and the more one has of it, the less it satisfies.
Second, sin produces guilt. This is another form of bad news. No matter how convincingly one tries to justify selfishness, its inevitable abuse of things and people cannot escape generating guilt.
Like physical pain, guilt is a God-given warning that something is wrong and needs correcting. When guilt is ignored or suppressed, it continues to grow and intensify, and with it comes anxiety, fear, sleeplessness, and countless other spiritual and physical afflictions.
Many people try to overcome those afflictions by masking them with possessions, money, alcohol, drugs, sex, travel, and psychoanalysis. They try to assuage their guilt by blaming society, parents, a deprived childhood, environment, restrictive moral codes, and even God himself. But the irresponsible notion of blaming other persons and things only aggravates the guilt and escalates the accompanying afflictions.
Third, sin produces meaninglessness. This is still another form of bad news and one that is endemic to modern times.
Trapped in his own selfishness, the self-indulgent person has no sense of purpose or meaning. Life becomes an endless cycle of trying to fill a void that cannot be filled. The result is futility and despair.
To questions such as, “Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? What is truth?” the self-indulgent person finds no answers in the world but instead discovers the lies of Satan, who is the author of lies and prince of the present world system (cf. John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 4:4). In the words of Edna St. Vincent Millay in her poem “Lament,” he can only say, “Life must go on; I just forget why.” Or, like the central character in one of Jean-Paul Sartre’s novels, he may say nihilistically, “I decided to kill myself to remove at least one superfluous life.”