Posts Tagged 'sin'

Panic Podcast: A Handful of Psalms, Part 3

Good morning, fellas, gals, and others.  Today’s podcast is all about getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar. That ever happen to any of you? It happened to David, and after Nathan the prophet called him out, he wrote the famous Psalm 51, and that’s what we’re looking at today.

 

Panic Podcast: Bible Doctrines, Part 3

Good Friday! Today we’re talking sin on the podcast, so grab your Bibles as we learn about what the Bible has to say about the problem of sin and its solution.

 

What Is Man, Part 3

In our study of man, we’ve discussed one of the most profound and significant verses in all the Bible:

what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? (Psalms 8:4 | NIV84)

To me, that is just a remarkable verse; far more remarkable than so many of the things theologians and so-called Bible scholars like argue about. The very fact that God – the Creator of all – takes time to give us, sinful human beings, a thought is staggering enough, but that He is actually “mindful,” watching us carefully and paying attention to us and our circumstances, is, as they say, mind-blowing. But there it is: God is mindful of human beings. He does indeed pay attention to us, and sometimes, in startling ways and in ways so subtle we don’t even notice, the Lord steps into our stream of history and intervenes to change things; to move us along in the direction He wants us to go in.

We’ve also looked at the fact that God created human beings in His “image” and “likeness.” That is, men and women have a rationality, morality, spirituality, and personality missing in lower forms of life. We are able to relate to God and people all the while being the masters of all of creation.

Human beings are the highest forms of God’s creation. All other parts of creation are for the purpose of serving man, just as man’s ultimate, best purpose is to serve God. Man, unlike animals, is theocentric. Whether he knows it or not, or whether he acknowledges it or not, man was created to have his Creator at the center of his life. Man has a built-in desire to worship God, but because of sin, unredeemed man wanders around his whole life, finding other, sinful ways to satiate that desire. Therefore, he ends up worshipping gods of his own making: his job, his family, his hobbies, power, money, sex, and so on.

As far as the two (there are only two, by the way) sexes go, God created them to be equal. While men and women are different and are capable of doing things unique to their particular sex, they are equal since they were both created in ONE image and likeness: God’s. Sin has seriously damaged that equality, so that without God, it seems as though the sexes are not equal. That’s a result of sin; human beings brought that inequality on themselves. Of note, though, is that “in Christ,” there is neither male nor female. In Christ, that equality is completely restored.

And we considered the immaterial, spiritual side of man: his soul and spirit. All living beings have a soul, but the soul of animals is an “earthly soul,” while man’s soul is animated by his spirit, which was breathed into him from Creator. The human soul and spirit are different; they are separate yet inseparable.

The soul and the body

How is your soul related to you body? There are three ways:

First, the soul may be called “the holder of life.” That’s why, for example, the word “life” is interchanged with “soul” in the Bible. The soul seems to infuse the body with life, so that when the soul is gone, the body dies – it no longer exists. When the soul leaves the body, all that remains is a lifeless husk – a bunch of material pieces and particles in a state of even more rapid decay.

Second, the soul inhabits every part of the body and influences all off its parts. That’s why we read odd things like this:

When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered…. (Psalms 73:21 | NIV84)

Without pity, he pierces my kidneys and spills my gall on the ground. (Job 16:13 | NIV84)

My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad;16 my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right. (Proverbs 23:15c-16 | NIV84)

Finally, it is through the body that the soul interacts with the physical world. The senses inform the soul. All the thinking, feeling, willing, and other acts are things the soul does, with the help of the body. It’s your soul that does the sinning with the help of the body.

Sin and the fall of man

When Adam and Eve sinned and man fell from grace, everything changed. The whole of God’s creation was changed, in both subtle and obvious ways. Especially changed was man, created in God’s image. God’s image in man wasn’t completely lost when sin entered the world:

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. (James 3:9 | NIV84)

That image, though, was severely damaged. For example, consider this verse in light of the world as we know it today:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:28 | NIV84)

Clearly, the earth isn’t subdued and it’s a bad idea for any man to attempt to exercise dominion over a charging elephant or a roaring lion! Man’s relationship to nature has been completely changed because of sin and the resultant curses upon both man and and nature.

As it is with nature, so it is his fellow human beings. Because of sin, the ability to live at peace and harmony with other people no longer comes easy, if at all. If healthy relationships with other people is all but impossible due to sin, it’s totally impossible to have a relationship with God apart from Jesus Christ and His work on the Cross. Why? Because sinful man is dead to God and forever alienated from Him.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3 | NIV84)

And, maybe worst of all, even if an unredeemed person gets it into his head to “clean up his act” and “do good deeds,” because of his unredeemed, sinful state, those good things do him no good at all.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6 | NIV84)

What was the big deal about Adam and Eve’s sin? Why did it cause all of God’s creation to become corrupt? It’s because of the nature of sin; particularly that of the first human couple. Theirs was no “moral lapse” or “an error in judgment.” Their sin was an outright rebellion against God. It was a conscious turning away from God and a rejection of Him. So serious was their sin that the moment they committed it, they began to die spiritually, which would very soon lead to the corruption of the body and to physical death.

In addition to spiritual and physical death, many were the consequences of that first sin. Paul touches on the subject in some of his writing:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness…. (Romans 1:18 | NIV84)

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Romans 3:20 | NIV84)

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…. (Romans 5:12 | NIV84)

Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. (Romans 5:18 | NIV84)

The wrath of God, futility of good works, death, condemnation, all those things resulted from one rebellious act. But perhaps the greatest – or the saddest – result of the first sin was what it did to the human will.

Sin and human nature

When sin entered the world, the will of man – that of all human beings – became corrupt and his nature sinful. People act in accordance to their nature; nobody acts contrary to his nature. Another way to look at it is this: Righteous acts flow from a righteous nature; acts of corruption from a corrupt nature. It can never be otherwise. That’s not to say that  an unsaved person can’t perform a good deed; he can. Maybe his life is full of good deeds.  But he will always, without fail, return to his bent of corruption.

They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. (John 8:33-34 | NIV84)

Jesus said it better than anyone ever could. If you sin, then you are a slave to sin.

This corruption of our will or the fact that our once godly nature turned sinful, has had a devastating effect upon our relationship to God. Once, we had the nature that God wanted us to have, but when Adam sinned, we inherited HIS now-corrupted and sinful nature, not the one God gave to him originally.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…. (Romans 5:12 | NIV84)

What that means is this: Even the nicest citizen you can think of, if they haven’t been redeemed, then their nature is necessarily hostile toward God, even as Adam’s act of rebellion was hostile toward God. This hostile nature has made that nice citizen estranged from God.

The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8 | NIV84)

Man’s new nature, what we call “the human nature,” is totally corrupt, and that makes all unsaved people dead to God. Being totally corrupt doesn’t mean that human beings only do evil things all the time. It means that without being rescued from our sins by Jesus Christ, we will never be as good as we can be, and we are unable to do anything that God recognizes as righteous. Our day-to-day lives, decisions, and actions will always be affected by sin. We can, and sometimes do, make free and rational decisions that are good and decent, but those choices will always be influenced by our sinful nature.

The nature of sin

We know how and why sin entered the world, but a question that has nagged at philosophers and theologians and those who love Trivial Pursuit, is: How did evil enter the world in the first place? I’m going to skip the various teachings of Greek philosophers and the writings of Neibuhr and Marx.

What needs to be understood is that sin not a “thing.” Sin does not have “substance.” If sin were a “substance,” or a “thing,” it would have had to have been created by God, since He created everything. Even though sin is not a thing, it is real. It is more than just a defect. Sin is an active force that is destructive and corrupts all it touches.

Sin originated in the abuse of one of the greatest gifts God gave man: freedom. Man was created free, and he used that freedom to disregard the glory, will, and Word of God. So, evil is a matter of relationship; it leads one to disobey God and break away from a relationship with Him.  As a matter of fact, thanks to sin, man finds it hard to have a relationship with his fellow man.  Thoughts of jealousy, bitterness, hurt feelings, and so on, always complicate every single relationship we have with other people.  What’s worse, is that thanks to sin, man can’t even have a healthy relationship with himself!  Just think of all the self-destructive things a man does every day of his life.  He eats the wrong foods, he drives too fast, he takes pills to make himself fall asleep and pills to stay awake.  He abuses alcohol and drugs and even other people just to make himself feel better and to dull the mind-numbing pain of loneliness, of a broken heart, and of a futile existence.  This person is in the worst kind of rut, and he needs Jesus to lift him up and out.  Jesus, and only Jesus, can cure the curse of sin.

 

What Is Man, Part 2

Man is not an animal. He was created with great care and deliberation by God in a way unlike the way He created the animals. Man is a soul, he possesses a spirit, and lives in a body. Animals have souls, too, but theirs is an “earthly soul,” which lives only as long as their body lives.

Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth? (Ecclesiastes 3:21 | TNIV)

Man’s soul is completely different because it is animated by a spirit put in him by God. Just looking at animals and people makes it obvious how different they are. Men can do things animals cannot do, no matter how “intelligent” an animal may appear to be. Their intelligence comes from their instinct, not from reason. For example, both animals and people can build homes, but only people can build great cathedrals and skyscrapers. Animals seem to chatter and communicate with each other, and sing, and even say words like the parrot, but only human beings can produce works of art and literature, write symphonies, and come up with all kinds of brilliant inventions.

Something else about the soul is that it is something only humans possess. Angels, for all their amazing powers and abilities, do not have souls. Man became a living soul, but angels are merely spirits. While it’s true that God is also a Spirit, He is different from angels. He is eternal and perfect, but angels are not necessarily eternal, since they may be judged and destroyed.

Some people wonder where the soul comes from. Genesis teaches that God breathed man’s spirit into his body, but what of his soul? Bible scholars seem to be divided on this issue. On one side, there is the group that teaches that each individual soul is an immediate creation from God. According to this theory, the individual soul does not come from our parents but was created by God. There is some Scriptural support for this view. Consider:

I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then they would faint away because of me—the very people I have created. (Isaiah 57:16 | TNIV)

…and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7 | TNIV)

Moreover, we have all had parents who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! (Hebrews 12:9 | TNIV)

A prophecy: The word of the Lord concerning Israel. The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit in human beings… (Zechariah 12:1 | TNIV)

On the other side, there is a group that teaches that the soul comes from our parents. They point to, among other things, the sinful nature human beings received directly from Adam. Obviously we didn’t get that from God! They also look at similarities between the personalities and temperaments of children and parents and conclude that all of those characteristics are passed from parents to offspring. They offer Scriptures like these in support of their view:

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12, 13 | TNIV)

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned… (Romans 5:12 | TNIV)

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:22 | TNIV)

So, which group gets it right? Did we get our souls from God or our parents. A good rule of thumb in trying to determine such matters is this: If the Bible isn’t dogmatic about something, then we shouldn’t be, either. In the case of the soul, it seems reasonable to view it as a co-operative venture of both God and parents. When a new life is conceived, it is the result of an act of God and human beings. Paul made a profound observation, which he passed on to the egg heads in Athens:

For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ (Acts 17:28 | TNIV)

God is ultimately in control over all aspects of our world, and nothing happens without His being involved, including how new human beings come into the world. Everything happens according to the laws He set in place.

Ultimately, though, where life comes from will always remain a mystery, at least on this side of Heaven. We’d be wise to avoid going too far in our speculations of such matters.

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. (Ecclesiastes 11:5 | TNIV)

What we do know for certain is that the creation of man marked God’s crowning creative achievement. Of all the marvelous, wondrous things God created – from the universe to the most delicate of flowers – man was and remains the greatest of His creative work. Of man’s creation, we read this:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 | NIV84)

There are two important words that need to be considered. They are: “image” and “likeness.” Most Bible readers skim over those two words without giving them a second thought, but they are important and mean two very different things.

Image and likeness

The first word, “image,” comes from the Hebrew word tselem. It’s a word that has reference to statutes or models. It implies that something in man reflects something of the nature of His Creator. The second word, “likeness,” is the Hebrew word demuth, signifying a pattern or form representative of something else. It suggests that there is something like God about man. But the real interesting aspect of these words is that they suggest man, as great a creation as he is, isn’t quite finished yet; further development will take place. In other words, Adam and Eve were not created perfect, but that they were created to grow. That’s not to say there was something imperfect about their creation, but their “perfection” was like the perfection of a seed, rather than the plant it would eventually become.

As God created each sex, there is complete equality between men and women. In the Creation account, neither sex is given prominence of the other. This makes complete sense since both men and women have been created in God’s image. Interestingly enough, in our “re-creation,” that equality, which was destroyed by sin, is restored.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 | TNIV)

It goes without saying, however, that the Bible teaches a natural distinction between the sexes; each sex has certain functions and responsibilities carried out by men and women (see Genesis 2:18 – 25).

In spite of the greatness of man; in spite of how much like God he is, he is not God and can never be God. Man will always be dependent upon His Creator; that is how it should be. Our Lord once said this:

For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. (John 5:26 | NIV84)

That’s total dependency. We have eternal life only as long as Christ’s life is in us.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:1 – 6 | TNIV)

Since God is a Spirit, He does not possess a body, therefore the image of God in man doesn’t refer to a physical resemblance. God’s image in man involves a natural and moral image.

Natural image

Human beings possess something animals do not, but God does: a personality. This includes things like sensibility, will, intellect, and things like that. Human beings, like their Creator, are able to build civilizations, think deep thoughts, and engage with one another on in intellectual and emotional level. Our ability to think and reason and come to conclusions based on all available information are things we have in common with God.

Moral image

God created man to be a free moral agent. Unlike animals that operate on base instincts, man is able to exercise the power of self-determination. It is that part of man that makes it possible for him to have fellowship with God and to communicate with Him.

The moral likeness between man and his Creator is obvious when it comes to something is deep and profound as love.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8 | TNIV)

God is love. He doesn’t just love; He IS love – it’s part of His essential nature. This is something we get from God – the ability to love. We first love God, and while it is a commandment, it is also the natural response to His great love towards us.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5 | TNIV)

We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19 | TNIV)

And this also enables us to love others.

This moral likeness to our Creator also gives man the ability to act righteously and justly. It helps us to distinguish between good and bad. When Adam and Eve were created, they were created with genuine holiness of heart. They had a true inclination toward God, but sin ruined that and now man inclines away from God, not toward Him. But the moral likeness is still there in man, so man, even without God, can still do good, helpful things, but unfortunately, those things can also be turned into something evil.

But through the work of Christ in man, that moral image is restored.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22 – 24 | TNIV)


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