As beautiful, wonderful, and precious as life is, this world leaves much to be desired. Day after day we struggle with the effects of sin on our world, lives, and in our relationships. When we try to imagine a sin-free world we come up short.
“But Jesus!” we are quick to cry. Yes, if it wasn’t for Jesus…. Jesus, our hope, Rescuer, Savior, Defender, Transformer. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8); to bring life and freedom (John 10:10, John 8:31-32). However, many of us live as if sin is a problem to solve. Did you gossip? Confess. Jesus forgives. Drool over pornography? Confess it. Jesus forgives.
Because the sinning side of forgiveness feels “free,” we think about sin as if we’re in Dollar Tree, loading the cart before checking out. But God’s desire–as per the book of 1 John–is that our love for God and others would find us running to the check out counter for each item, that we would see the eternal life-sized price tag of each one.
It is tempting for those outside an abusive or oppressive relationship, or as the individual pushing the sin cart, to declare forgiveness–because it didn’t cost us anything. It’s been paid for. There is freedom. But the truth is that someone is bearing the weight and consequences of sin, someone in addition to Jesus. That someone is the one who was sinned against.
We bear the result of others’ sin against us. Fully. Wholly. Often alone. Just as Jesus bore our sin in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 3:18), we are hurt. We carry gnawing memories, experience fear, shame, distrust. The individual who sinned is done. He’s over it. He said “sorry” and moved on. No harm. No foul.
It’s easy to take an item to the Jesus-counter, confess, ask forgiveness, then walk out the door with pockets, nooks, and crannies loaded with unconfessed sin.
Abuse is not an “event.” Sin is never one event. It is an ongoing course of conduct crime.
Sin kills relationships. Sin is more than a problem to be solved.
Sin is death. It rots. Stinks. Putrefies. Belches. Boils. Destroys. And unless it is honestly, humbly admitted, owned, repented of, and paid for by Jesus (which is shown as fruit that grows and a tree that matures over time–Mt. 7), the film of sin remains. It doesn’t go away. It eats away at and damages relationships; coming to the surface, eroding conversations, interactions, marriages, families and churches.
Jesus paid it all, but the price remains. He forgave the eternal debt–the price of the eternal soul–but that does not mean sin is “on sale” or discounted in the earthly realm. Sin is humanly unforgiveable.
To put off, renew the mind, and put on new desires, thoughts and behavior is a work of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:22-24). It’s regeneration, not spiritual mumbo-jumbo that happens in a pastor’s office, friend’s living room or coffee shop. It is the outworking and evidence of God. Such change cannot be self-willed, self-applied, self-lived.
In the Old Testament law, the consequence of sin was more than a trip to the confession check-out counter. Sin required preparation, planning, public acknowledgement, putting one’s hand on the sacrifice to transfer guilt, slaughtering the innocent, offering the innocent, entrusting the priest with sacrificial details, then carting the offensive material outside the city and setting it on fire.
Jesus has prepared a place for us–through His death and resurrection. God planned it. Jesus is both Mediator and Lamb. The Holy Spirit empowered and brought it to fulfillment. However, God’s provision doesn’t change the reality and price of sin. It must be acknowledged and owned. Jesus does not snap forgiveness fingers at the moment confession, removing the consequences that result from hurting others, affecting their life for years to come and losing their trust. These take time. They must be worked through and acknowledged. Grief and pain are not unforgiveness. They are an authentic human response to sin. Grief is not bitterness. It is the reminder of loss, overwhelming sorrow at what could have been, of smashed dignity, and broken promises.
In Christ there is hope–there is always hope–but at a cost. The cost of the One and only Son of God. There is nothing modern, contemporary, hip, or woke about sin and it’s effect. Sin is more than a problem to be solved. It is death. And we are not the solution.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost.
We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong,
on him, on him.
7-9 He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn’t say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he’d never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn’t true.
10 Still, it’s what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God’s plan will deeply prosper through him.
11-12 Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he’ll see that it’s worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many “righteous ones,”
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I’ll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn’t flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep. (Isaiah 53, The Message)