Sin is at the root of every problem in our lives and everything that’s wrong with the world. As Christians, we are saying, by God’s mercy, that we’ve come to realize that all of the death, destruction, chaos and pain that we see on a daily basis and that we hate with intensity actually begins with us – our idolatry, our anger, our lusts, our pride and our selfishness. Sometimes its intentional, sometimes it’s not, and even we ourselves are bewildered by what comes out of our hearts – but we’ve come to see that in turning away from our Creator we have made an awful mess of this planet, of our nation, of our relationships with others and of our own lives – and it’s a mess so big and so a stain so deep that we can never clean it up on our own.
We can’t just “be better” people, because being “better” doesn’t mean that we’re “right” – right with God, right with one another, or right with ourselves. In all of our thoughts and actions we have cast Him aside, we have turned from our Maker to the things He has made in order to get direction for our lives, and in doing that we have so violated our relationship with God, so offended Him with our sin – the effects of it, the willfulness of it, the betrayal in it – that we stand in a state of total guilt and total worthiness of His just retribution. We are responsible. We are to blame. There is nowhere else to point the finger - and we must pay.
But judgment isn’t our only problem with our sin. We haven’t just come to realize that we are worthy of judgment, we’ve come to realize that our sins are, in fact, killing us. They’re destroying us. Everything that God has made, in all its beauty: food, drink, sex, the glories of nature, the creativity of human expression, all varieties of human relationships – all of these things which God has given us to enlarge our souls, to increase the capacity to have intimacy with Him, to reflect His own beauty – they’re tainted by our sin. The good in these things haven’t been destroyed by our sin, but they’ve been distorted and we abuse these things to our own hurt, which has led to the shrinking and shriveling of our souls. So instead of liberating us, we become enslaved to them.
And so our sin doesn’t just cause us to perish in judgment, it is the reason we ARE PERISHING, even now. We must answer Our Maker for our sins, and in the meantime we are being dehumanized by them. We’re not just the perpetrators of sin, we’re victims of sin – even our own. We’re not only awaiting eternal death in judgment, we’re dying now. We’re slaves to sin and the fear of death. So, what will we do?
God’s answer to that question, of course, is "nothing". There’s nothing WE can do. So He did it. Because of God’s love for the people He made, He sent Jesus to die in our place and to rise on our behalf. Jesus’ life demonstrated the freedom and beauty of man without sin. He offered Himself to God on our behalf and died on our behalf, taking the judgment we deserve and rising again in order to give us new life, a life not dominated by evil. Jesus has dealt with our sin in his death and is now dealing with our sin in the power of His resurrection. He is the lamb of God who [PRESENT TENSE] takes away [IS EVEN NOW TAKING AWAY] the sin of the world. He cancelled its penalty once and for all and He’s conquering its dominion over us even now.
Christians need the Father’s mercy to continue forgiving us for our sin, His Son, Jesus Christ, to continue interceding on our behalf and you the Holy Spirit to continue washing and sanctifying us from sin. And that’s exactly what God is doing in the Church. The Church is the place where sin is being defeated, and God’s righteousness is gaining a foothold, a beachhead, in the world. And when I say righteousness, I don’t mean some “on your high-horse” fussy, finger-wagging perfection – I mean what the Bible means by that word. I mean “rightness”. Everyone, both Christian and non-Christian, knows that something is wrong with the world. It’s broken. It’s not how it’s supposed to be. It’s not “right”. But in the Church God is making things right – He’s making right relationships, right living, right thinking, right loving, right hoping, right feeling, right sorrow, right pain, right suffering, right joy. That’s righteousness – not some weird abstract standard that’s meant to squash everyone – but the life-giving, relationship restoring “rightness” which reflects who the Creator is, and what every person and culture on earth desperately hungers for (and yet violently opposes) – it’s what Christians call “the kingdom of God” - God’s righteous rule. It’s a wonderful thing.