Sin and Worldview

“The great danger is always to single out some aspect or phenomenon of God’s good creation and identify it, rather than the alien intrusion of human apostasy [sin], as the villain in the drama of human life. Such an error is tantamount to reducing direction to structure, to conceiving of the good-evil dichotomy as intrinsic to the creation itself. The result is that something in the good creation is declared evil. We might call this tendency ‘Gnosticism’… In the course of history, this ‘something’ has been variously identified as marriage and certain kinds of foods (the Gnostic heresy Paul warns Timothy against in 1 Timothy 4), the body and its passions (Plato and much of Greek philosophy), culture in distinction from nature (Rousseau and much of Romanticism), institutional authority, especially in the state and the family (philosophical anarchism and much of depth psychology), technology and management techniques (Heidegger and Ellul, among others), or any number of things. There seems to be an ingrained Gnostic streak in human thinking, a streak that causes people to blame some aspect of God’s handiwork for the ills and woes of the world we live in.”

Albert M. Wolters, Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview (Eerdmans, 2005) p. 61.

Piper: Physical Horrors + Moral Evil

Yesterday may family spent the day at the new Civil War museum and driving through various battlefields in Gettysburg. It was an excellent opportunity to reflect on the war and especially the role these rocky battlefields (like Little Round Top) played in the outcome. It was a sobering reminder of the 620,000 young men and boys that died in the war and of haunting sounds that once filled this little town as thousands of men groaned from the pain of battle.

Leaving the battlefields left a sorrow in the heart and a residual question in the mind—what is the eternal purpose of wars like this one?

As we drove from battlefield to battlefield viewing thousands of memorials littered all over what is, in my mind, the worlds largest cemetery, the words of John Piper in his second and final message at the Resolved conference in Palm Springs were ever-present.

In his message on Monday evening—The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and the New Earth—Dr. Piper said the following:

Every human has died. Animals suffer. Rivers overflow an inundate hundreds of city bocks in Cedar Rapids. Avalanches bury skiers. Tornados suck the life out of little Boy Scouts. Tsunamis kill 250,000 in a night. Philippine ferries capsize killing 800 people in a moment. AIDs, malaria, cancer, and heart disease kill millions. A monster tornado rip through cities. Droughts and famines bring people to the brink, and over the brink, of starvation. Freak accidents happen in ways you would not want to describe. Little babies are born with no eyes, six legs, horrible deformities. That is because of ONE SIN! The universe was subjected to futility and corruption in hope (Romans 8:20).

This is very important for you to answer: Why did God subject the natural order to such horrific realities when nature did nothing wrong? Souls did something wrong. Adam and Eve’s volition did something wrong. The earth didn’t do anything wrong. Why is the earth bursting with volcanoes and earthquakes? Animals didn’t do anything wrong. What’s the deal with this universal subjection to corruption, when one man and one woman sinned one time, and the whole natural order goes wrong? Disorder everywhere in the most horrible ways, a kaleidoscope of suffering in this world, century after century.

Here is my answer—and I don’t know any other possible answer biblically—God put the natural world under a curse so that physical horrors would become vivid pictures of the horror of moral evil.

Cancer, tuberculosis, malformations, floods, and car accidents happen so that we would get some dim idea of the outrage of moral evil flowing from our hearts. Why did he do it that way? Ask yourself an honest question: How intensely outraged are you over your belittling of God compared to the engagement of your emotion when your child is hurt, or your leg is cut off, or you lose your job, or some physical thing happens? Everything in you rises to say, “No!”

How often does your heart say “No!” with the same emotional engagement at your own sin? Not very often. Therefore, what God says, “Alright, I know that about fallen man, therefore I will display the horror of his sin in a way that he can feel.” That’s why Jesus, when the tower fell on the 18, said simply “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” The point of the falling of the tower and killing of 18 people was your moral evil (Luke 13:4). That was the point.

All physical evil has one point—sin is like that morally, we don’t have the wherewithal to feel it appropriately, therefore were going to get some help from the physical order. That’s the point of the world we live in, it’s pointing to the horror of moral evil. O, that we would see and feel how repugnant and offensive and abominable it is to prefer anything to God—and we do it everyday.

Adam and Eve brought the universe into this present horrific condition by preferring their own way and fruit to God. All the physical evil the universe is not as bad as that one act of treason. …

The ultimate reason that there is a new heavens and a new earth is not that there might be new bodies for saints. That’s true. That’s just one of the reasons. The reason there is a new heaven and a new earth is because when God conceived of a universe of material things he conceived of everything: It will be created perfect. It will, by my decree, fall. I will labor patiently for thousands of years with a people recalcitrant showing the depth of human sin and I will at the center and apex of my purpose, send my Son to bear my wrath on my people. And then I will gather a people who believe in him for myself. And then I will return and I will cast all of the unbelievers into hell, which will demonstrate the infinite worth of my glory and the infinite value of my Son’s sacrifice, which they have rejected. And I will renew the earth and I will make my people so beautiful and then tailor this universe for them with this purpose—that when my Son is lifted up with his wounds, they will sing the song of the Lamb who was slain before the foundation of the world in the mind of God who planned it all.

Therefore, be it resolved: We will endure any suffering. We will endure any assault, any slander, any reviling, any disease, precisely because we have a great reward in heaven, namely, Jesus Christ crucified.

-John Piper, sermon transcript, “The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and the New Earth” taken from the 11:20-19:20 and 44:09-47:00 markers. You can listen to the entire message delivered at the Resolved conference here ( June 16, 2008 ) and you can listen to an earlier version of this message delivered at the Gospel Coalition here ( May 24, 2007 ).

Giving and receiving correction

tsslogo.jpgsermon delivered on July 29, 2007
by Pastor Mark Alderton
Sovereign Grace Fellowship
Bloomington, MN

INTRODUCTION

We continue our series on topics that affect our fellowship – our life together – and which are vital to biblical and effective fellowship that builds up the church and the individuals in it. The topic of this message is correction.

Correction is another word for adjustment or changing course. It doesn’t have to be about sin. It can be about improving something like how a team is organized or how a person plays guitar. But the focus of this message is going to be about bringing correction to the sin in our lives, about moving from sin to obedience to God.

There are many, many things that could be said about correction – about methods of correction, about the different levels of correction like counsel, reproof and rebuke, and so forth. Our focus this morning is going to be on one thing: how to give and receive correction for sin in a hopeful and grace-motivated way. We’re going to learn how to speak into one another’s lives about our sin.

Now, most of us are probably not thinking at this point, “How excellent! We’re going to talk about how to confront sin in my life. I’ve been feeling the need to have more correction. Why don’t we have a whole series on this?!”

More likely the idea of correcting one another provokes a feeling somewhere between tolerance and dread, unless you’re hoping that someone else who is hearing this will be more open to your correction after this message.

We generally don’t like correction. We like to get it over with as soon as possible and would be glad to avoid it altogether. It can seem so unfriendly and oftentimes it is brought with sinful attitudes and we respond to it in similar fashion.

Well, by God’s grace we’ll have a more favorable and faith-filled understanding of correction after this morning. Correction does not need to be a bad experience. In fact it should not be. There is a way to give and receive correction in a hopeful and grace motivated way. The Scriptures show us how.

Continue reading

Confessing Sin (1 John 1:8-9)

tsslogo.jpgsermon delivered on July 22, 2007
by Pastor Mark Alderton
Sovereign Grace Fellowship
Bloomington, MN

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[Along with Rick Gamache, Mark Alderton pastors a church in Bloomington, MN (suburb of Minneapolis). Mark is a very wise brother in Christ and gifted as an excellent expositor of God’s Word. This sermon on confessing sin is ‘lights out.’ Literally! About 20 minutes before the sermon began the electricity went out. Mark continued with the sermon in a dark and hot elementary school gymnasium without any amplification. The manuscript is too good not to post here on TSS. Mark graciously offered this sermon on confessing sin and another for tomorrow on his follow-up sermon on giving and receiving correction. These sermons are a tremendous blessing. Thank you Mark! – Tony]

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The topic of this text and this message is confessing sin. Or in other words, it’s about agreeing with God that we have done something wrong; that we’ve either done something he says we shouldn’t do, or failed to do something he says we should do.

We are addressing this topic because we’re in a series dealing with those things that affect our fellowship, our life together as a church. And sin affects our fellowship, especially unconfessed sin, so this is a matter of importance to us.

I don’t know what you think of the idea of confessing your sins to someone or why you would want to do that. I can tell you what I thought of it growing up.

I was raised with the understanding that to be right with God you needed to go every once in a while to a priest and confess your sins to him in a confessional booth. I’m not sure how these appointments were set up – I know I never asked for them. But they were pretty intimidating to me and I thought that I’d better have some pretty bold sins to confess or the priest would think I was hiding something, and I wanted to get through this as quickly as possible.

So I got a list in my mind, and at the confession I’d say sheepishly, “Well, father (that’s what we called the priest) …”

… I got angry with my sister and I hit her

… I hit a golf ball through the house window and lied to my dad that someone threw a rock at it, and…

… I stole firecrackers out of my dad’s dresser drawer and blew up an anthill

Then, if all was right in the world, he wouldn’t ask for too much else, and let me go fairly quickly with an assignment to do some penance to show that my sorrow for my sin was real.

That was my idea of confessing sin. I didn’t like it and I had no idea why I needed to do it other than that it was expected of me.

Now that may not be your exact experience (and I would be glad if it wasn’t because that’s not a biblical model), but you may have some of the same misunderstandings and temptations related to confessing your sins to others.

Perhaps you don’t think you have much sin in your life to confess. Or perhaps you think that your sin is just between you and God and there is no need for others to know. Or perhaps you don’t know about the blessings God promises to those who live a life of ongoing confession of sin.

Continue reading

Confessing Sin and Receiving Correction

tsslogo.jpgIt’s overwhelming to count the number of Christian books focused on topics not explicitly biblical. Just on church leadership, the most popular books cover keys to increase attendance, tricks to design the best information cards, strategies to station greeters, and checklists for meeting the expectations of church visitors. However, it seems the greater challenge for the Church is excellence where the Bible is clear. Isn’t that what Mark Twain said?

Let me give you two examples.

When was the last time you confessed your sins to another Christian? That’s biblical (1 John 1:8-9). Or when was the last time you humbly received correction? That, too, is biblical (Heb. 3:12-13). Reformatting the information cards can wait.

Now, I’m not saying these two disciplines are easy or popular. They are not. It’s far more comfortable to circle the theological errors in other groups. And when it comes to popularity, publishers know a book on these topics would flop. Confession and correction rub the cat the wrong way. They are too painful to be popular.

Speaking of pain, have you ever stepped on a nail? I mean really stepped on one. Out of the blue, you’re walking along, minding your thoughts and then – silence! – you feel the odd sensation of the nail entering the bottom of your foot. Youch! (My foot just curled in reaction to writing that sentence.) The worse part is the expectation that someone now needs to pull the nail out. (Now my hands, both feet, jaw and forehead are all tense.) I think removing a nail is the most agonizing part of it all. But the nail must come out for healing to begin.

So it is with sin. Spiritual health demands sin be pulled out of our hearts. Despite the painfulness of confessing sin and receiving correction, this is the Christianity once for all delivered to the saints.

How we style the welcome cards is a matter of preference. Whether we confess sin and receive correction is a matter of faithfulness.

Our forefathers understood the depth of remaining sin. As you saw earlier today in the brilliant quote from Horatius Bonar, we may think we sail on a calm and sinless ‘wine dark’ sea. But it only takes an icy blast of trial to awaken the old man and churn the mud of sin – the idolatry, anger, self-centeredness – that remains in our heart. Puritan Richard Sibbes warns us too. Let Rome say she cannot err. But let us who know better be aware of our black hearts and proneness to sin.

The battle of mortification continues throughout our lives. Confessing sin and receiving correction is the appropriate awareness of our sinful condition. Because sin ever remains in our hearts, our confession of sin and openness to correction never ends.

So I invite you to join me this week as we conspire to boot that wicked old man overboard in our seafaring pursuit of holiness.