Summary: Sin is essentially wanting to replace God with something else and that leads to all sorts of consequences. Only God has the cure
This is a series based on and heavily dependent on Timothy Keller’s Best Seller "The Reason For God" for which I’m deeply grateful. It uses much of his argument though with various additions by myself or the other preachers of the series.
Sin isn’t the most popular term in our world today is it, though comedians occasionally use it as a means of getting a laugh. Yet it’s central to a reformed understanding of the human condition. But it sounds so harsh to say that I’m somehow warped in my humanity; that everything I do is tainted by sin. I do lots of good things. I’m basically a very nice person. Yet that’s what the Bible tells me. So is this a good or a bad doctrine? Is it a doctrine that makes you depressed or that gives you hope? Well, let me suggest that in fact it’s a doctrine that should give us hope.
But before we think about how it might give us hope I want you to think about the way you see people behave.
What sorts of reactions do you see from people who do the wrong thing? Don’t we see people trying to explain away their failures, or justify the evil within them. Sometimes it’s the fault of their upbringing, sometimes it’s some trauma they’ve gone through, some will say what they did was out of character with who they really are, some even blame their doctor for prescribing the wrong drugs.
And even when we’re willing to admit that we have problems we’re often told you mustn’t get depressed about it, you need to build up your self esteem. But is that the case? Or do we actually need to develop a healthily low self esteem.
They say the key to mental health is self awareness, self-understanding. People spend fortunes talking to therapists so they can get to understand themselves. And it’s not only mental health. The key to healthy relationships is also self awareness. You see, if we understand ourselves as flawed human beings, i.e. sinners, it’ll help us forgive others, treat others with patience and understanding and ask forgiveness of others. If we’re willing to admit that we have failings then it’ll make it easier to accept everyone else who we’ve always known have failings. So the Christian doctrine of sin can be a great source of hope.
What is sin?
Sin is essentially wanting to replace God with something else. Soren Kierkegaard defined sin as not wanting to be oneself before God. That is, it’s wanting to have an identity apart from God. It works itself out in us trying to fill the God-shaped hole within us with anything we can find that might divert us from the real issue.
So it’s not about breaking the rules. It’s about a broken relationship with God that results in all other relationships breaking down.
Ernest Becker in a book called “The Denial of Death” says that a child’s need for self-worth “is the condition for his life” - so every person is desperately seeking “cosmic significance”. He says our need for worth is so powerful that whatever we base our identity and value on we essentially deify. i.e. we treat it with all the passion and intensity of worship and devotion. And that even applies to those people who think of themselves as non-religious. This explains, for example, why engaged couples tend to idealise their partner. I find one of the greatest hurdles in marriage preparation is to convince the couple that their partner is not the ideal person they think they are; to explain to them that they’re basically incompatible. They’re not going to fulfill their life by becoming totally absorbed into this other ideal person. It might sound harsh to say it like that but unless they can get over it their marriage will be a difficult road to travel.