Christ Died For Our Sins

Lamb
Image: Cover Photo for TableTalk Magazine (Ligonier.com), January 2015 issue

Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It is also the book of beginnings because it tells us  the origins of life and accurately explains the main problem of the world–Sin. From the first two chapters of Genesis, we are told of a Creator ―God― Who created the world and all that dwells in it (Genesis 1:1, 31, 2:26-27). After creation, God saw that everything He had created was good (Genesis 1:31).

But today, in contrast to Genesis 1:31, the world in its current state is not good. It is a world filled with pain, tragedy, wickedness, cruelty and every horror imaginable. How do we reconcile the current state of the world with God’s proclamation that “everything that he had made…was very good”. The answer is that sin entered the world. So;

What Is Sin?

Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God [a].Lev 5:17; Jas 4:17; 1 John 3:4

~Westminster Shorter Catechism Q14

In these words we see what sin is. Sin is breaking God’s law by omission or commission. In modern English, the words, “want of conformity” will read as “inability to conform to the law of God” or “failure to measure up to or obey God’s command”. In Greek, the word hamartia is used in explaining what sin is. Sin is “missing the mark” just like when an archer or bowman misses their target. And rightly so, we are all sinners because we have missed the mark of God’s righteous standard (Romans 3:23).

How did sin enter the perfect world God created one may ask? Again, we turn to the book of origins. In Genesis 2:16-17, we read of a commandment God gave Adam, the first created man, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”.

Fast forward to Genesis 3, Adam disobeyed God; he ate of the forbidden tree and by that act of disobedience, sin entered the world. Adam in the garden of Eden was acting as a federal head for all of humankind therefore his fall became the fall of all who will ever walk this earth: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”(Romans 5:12).

Except Jesus who lived a perfect life without sin, all humankind inherited the consequences and effects of Adam’s fall; physical and spiritual death. Our nature was badly corrupted and we were alienated from God. The Psalmist said “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).

What he means here is that he was born with a sin problem. He inherited sin. We are by ourselves unable to please God: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:11-12). These words describe the helpless state of humankind without Christ. They are enemies of God, separated from Him and guilty of eternal damnation.

However God didn’t leave sinners to our fate to try to work our way to Him. God made the first move towards reconciling sinful humankind to Himself. If you read Genesis 3 again, we see that though Adam and Eve sinned, God’s mercy was manifested.

Firstly, God proclaimed what theologians refer to as protoevangelium–the first gospel. God announced His plans towards reconciliation. A curse was pronounced and a remedy for that curse was also revealed: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

The seed of the woman referred to here is Christ who the Bible speaks of by saying “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil”(1John 3:8). The works of the devil is sin that separated us from God. And it is this, Jesus died to destroy. He took the punishment that belonged to sinners. He died in our place to appease for our sins and reconcile us to the Father. Our sin was imputed to Him. He became our substitutionary atonement  (Isaiah 53:5-6, John 1:29).

Secondly, God covered the nakedness (guilt and shame) of Adam and Eve revealing a type of Christ’s imputed righteousness to those who will come to Faith through Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:21). Paul aptly captures this saying, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Corinthians 5:21).

Christ was murdered on the cross because of the sins of you and I. And He resurrected to give eternal life to all who will come to Him in Faith. This is the essence of what we celebrate as Easter. Christ dying for the sins of the world (John1:29). If you have not come to saving faith through Christ, you are condemned to eternal damnation and an enemy of God. One day, you will have to answer for your sins before a Holy God and nothing you will present will measure up to God’s Holy standard. Your good works outside of Christ are like filthy rags. Repent from your sins and turn to Christ for forgiveness.

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Total Depravity: For All Haved Sinned.

tulip_red

In the previous article, I mentioned the doctrines of grace acronised as TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace And Perseverance of the Saints) and further explained with a quote that “Reformed Christians believe that all five of the doctrines of grace are derived directly from the Scripture and that the acronym TULIP accurately describes the Bible’s teaching on soteriology—the doctrine of salvation”¹.

I did an unusual thing by first explaining the last petal in the TULIP; P (Perseverance of the Saints). Today, I will do an explanation of the first ‘petal’ T, which is Total Depravity.

You may have heard a charge of bigotry against Christianity for declaring Jesus is the only way to heaven. People have pressed further to say there are good people living charitable, philanthropic lives and based on that, they can make it to heaven. The sad reality however is that, there are no good people on earth. The Bible condemns all as sinners. In Romans 3:9-10, Paul says “For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one”. Further on in v.23, he says  “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. John also puts it this way: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (John 1:8). Anyone who says they are without sin is living in self-deception. That’s the point of John 1:8.

The origin of our sin is explained by the Bible as springing forth from Adam’s disobedience of God’s command: “…of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”(Genesis 2:17). Adam disobeyed, he ate and the sentence for disobedience; physical and spiritual death was pronounced. In Adam’s fall, all humankind fell and were declared sinners: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

All I have said so far is what Total Depravity is. We are all sinners: “As a result of Adam’s fall, the entire human race is affected; all of Adam’s descendants are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1, 5). Calvinists are quick to point out that this does not mean that all people are as bad as they could be. Rather, this doctrine says that, as a result of man’s fall in Adam, all people are radically depraved from the inside and that their depravity affects every area of their lives”. ²

G.K. Chesterton, quoted in an online article on Original Sin said “Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved,” (Orthodoxy, chap. 2) ³. You see, what he means here is that the sinfulness of humankind is not difficult to prove. The empirical evidence is all around us. Just look into your heart and life. Sin stares you in the face doesn’t it? On this grounds, no one stands the chance of acquittal from God on their merit. The only means God has provided is through Jesus Christ who offered Himself as a sin sacrifice to appease God’s wrath towards humankind. Come to Him in faith or you will perish in your sins:

I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins. (John 8:24).

1: https://www.google.com.gh/amp/s/gotquestions.org/amp/doctrines-of-grace.html

2: ibid

3: http://www.theopedia.com/original-sin

The Poor In Spirit And The Kingdom Of Heaven

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingom of heaven (Matthew 5:3)

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see ~John Newton

Before a Holy God, humankind, without Christ stand wretched. The Bible attests to the truth of this wretchedness in various places. Humanity is separated from the glory of God because of sin (Rom. 3:23). The prophet Isaiah declares our rigtheousness is like filthy rags before God(Isaiah 64:6). Jeremiah paints a rather troubling picture of our condition. He says our “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick”(17:9). “Desperately sick”–that calls for desperate solution. In Ephesians 2:1, sinful humanity is described as “dead in sins and trespasses”

Apart from these general descriptions of humanity, we also see in the pages of Scripture, the reality of our human wretchedness before God through the experiences of some of its characters.

When Isaiah, a prophet saw the holiness of God, he exclaimed in dread “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”(Isaiah 6:5). Apostle Paul, when he was brought face to face with the reality of the fallen nature in his own life, he, out of the pain of the reality of indwelling sin, wrote words similar to Isaiah; “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”(Romans 7:24). You might think an Apostle of his calibre must not utter such words.

All these, I believe finds better expression in David’s confession after his infamous adultery with Bathseba. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive” (Psalm 51:5). In these words, David sums up what is true of all of us– Original SinPraise-06-782013 and Total Depravity.

Original sin is the doctrine which holds that human nature has been morally and ethically corrupted due to the disobedience of mankind’s first parents to the revealed will of God. In the Bible, the first human transgression of God’s command is described as the sin of Adam and Eve in theGarden of Eden resulting in what theology calls the Fall of mankind. The doctrine of original sin holds that every person born into the world is tainted by the Fall such that all of humanity is ethically debilitated, and people are powerless to rehabilitate themselves, unless rescued by God.

Total Depravity is the doctrine that fallen man is completely touched by sin and that he is completely a sinner. He is not as bad as he could be; but in all areas of his being, body, soul, spirit, mind, emotions, etc., he is touched by sin. In that sense, he is totally depraved. Because man is depraved, nothing good can come out of him (Rom. 3:10-12); and God must account the righteousness of Christ to him. This righteousness is obtainable only through faith in Christ and what He did on the cross

We see clearly the biblical account of the condition of the human race. However, the proud, haughty and arrogant will have nothing to do with these description. Not many people agree they are that “bad”. Predominantly, people believe they are good and reject any idea that attempts to describe them in a least favourable way.

The poor in spirit however, acknowledge their wretchedness and accept the truth of the human condition as expoused in Holy Scriptures. Like the publican, they “beat [their] breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The poor in spirit, agrees with the truth of God’s word that apart from His grace and imputed righteousness; they are lost in their sins and bear His wrath. The poor in spirit are totally dependent on God for their salvation. The poor in spirit possess a humble heart as a result of the knowledge of their depravity and unworthy of God’s love apart from His mercy. The poor in spirit are humble and accept the divine verdict of man’s lostness. They acknowledge they are sinners:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.(Psalm 51:17).

This sense of wretchedness leads sinners to turn to God for His mercy, ushering them into His kingdom; “for theirs is the kingdom of God”. The poor in spirit, through faith and regeneration of the Holy Spirit are born again and regenerated. Their sins are forgiven. They become children of God through adoption into His family. They gain entrance into the Kingdom of God and eternal life. Once they were lost, now they are found. Once they were enemies of God, now they are reconciled To God. Once they stood condemned before God. Now, they are justified through faith. Though poor in spirit, now they are rich in Spirit and made beneficiaries of all God’s divine abundance.

Are you aware of your sinfulness and inadequacy to please God? There is hope. There is forgiveness. Come to Christ in faith and repentance and enjoy the blessedness of heaven-forgiveness and reconciliation to God.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s(Psalm 103:1-5).

Create In Me A Clean Heart

2 Samuel 11,12. Psalms 51:1-12

We live in a fallen world in a fallen body. A world broken with pain and heartaches. A world inundated with sin. Believers have been separated from sin to righteousness, yet we struggle with sin and fail sometimes if not often. Unbelievers are called unto repentance from their sins. Sin is the root of all our predicaments.

Every now and then a scandal breaks making news headline. Apart from those making the headlines, numerous, equally scandalous, go unnoticed; they occur in “secret places”. However, though removed from the public eye, God sees all that is done in “secret places”. (Ps 139:7,  Heb 4:13).One of such scandals took place in the palace of an ancient king. The story is narrated in 2 Samuel 11 through to 12. David commits adultery with Bathsheba. She takes seed and in an attempt to cover up, David connives with his army general, Joab, to assassinate Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. The plot was well executed. Uriah is dead, David marries Bathsheba. Done and dusted! No one knows what has transpired. But wait, though done in secret, the Bible tells us an “Omnipresent eye” was watching:

But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.(2 Samuel 11:27b).

God, displeased with David’s sin, sends Nathan, a prophet to confront David. After the “charge sheet” has been read out to David; Scripture records “David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; You shall not die” (2 Samuel 12:13). Fast forward to Psalms 51 and David penned his prayer of repentance on a musical note.

The effects of David’s sin on his relationship with God and himself can be seen in Psalms 51:8-12. His joy was gone. He senses a gulf between himself and God. Spiritually, unrepentant sin separates humanity from God. Naturally, the first  reaction many of us take, when we sin, is to hide and pretend. This also, we inherited from our first parents. Their first reaction when they fell was to hide themselves from God:

…the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (Gen 3:8).

You see, sin has ramifications. Psalms 51 gives us a picture of the weight of sin. Sin is first and foremost against God; an infinitely Holy God: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” (vs4). To be bothered about sin in your life is to be bothered about a good cause.

At this point I will offer three suggestions to undergo a “heart cleansing”

1: Acknowledge Your Sins.

Hiding our sin is a great deception. We must bring our sins before God to be healed and forgiven. The first verses of Psalms 51, i.e. vs 1-3 opens with David acknowleding his sin. In 2 Samuel 12:13, we see this same truth. When Nathan confronted David with his sin, he didn’t debate, deny or justify his sin. He admitted to his sins immediately.

In our age of self-esteem and self-aggrandisement; we will do everything to ignore our sins, cover it up with activity; more activity eventually drowning the voice of our conscience. When we mourn over our sins, we are told not to be hard on ourselves. But sin is ubiquitous. In theology, the universal presence of sin is termed Original sin. Ps 51:5 tells us the origin of sin; “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Sin is natural with us as a result of the fall.

The whole world, without saving faith in Christ, lies dead in sin.(Eph 2). The dispositions of our hearts are evil. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). When Isaiah encountered the holiness of the Lord, his depravity and sinfulness stared him in the face: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”(6:5).

When Peter encountered Jesus, his sinful nature couldn’t stand the presence of The Holy One. Falling at Jesus’ knees, he exclaimed: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8). Paul, in deep anguish, I believe over indwelling sin, cried out; “[O] Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”(Romans 7:24). The tax collector who showed up in prayer with the self-righteous Pharisee is also worth mentioning. He, “… standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’(Luke 18:13).

2: Repent: Look To Jesus

“God be merciful to me, a sinner”. This prayer, devoid of eloquence and “empty phrases” got God’s attention. Hear Jesus’ commentary. “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified…”(vs14). God hears the prayers of the penitent who looks up to Him in humility and true repentance for forgiveness of their sins: “…a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”(Psalms 51:17).

A renunciation of the presence of sin is probably the worst predicaments that has happened to the human race. Instead of addressing sin as sin; we live in denial, replacing sin with psychological words aimed at drowning and soothing our conscience.

Sin has eternal ramifications and must be treated as such. We  must not live in denial of the presence of sin in our lives. We are all sinners from conception and having inherited the consequence of Adam’s disobedience, Scriptures accuses us and places us distanced from the glory of God (Psalms 51:5, Romans 3:23).

Sinner, will you do the noblest thing of your life by acknowledging your sins? Run to the outstretched arms of the Saviour Jesus for forgiveness and remission of your sins. Come just as you and receive pardon for your sins. (Pro 28:13, Matt 11:28-30, Jn 1:12-13).

3: Submit To The Holy Spirit

“Go and sin no more”: I think on two occasions, Jesus pronounced these words to people who have been forgiven of their sins. The woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:11) and the paralysed man who was healed by Jesus (Jn 5:1-14).

When we come to saving faith through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, God requires from us a life of holiness and separation from sin (Eph 1:4, 1 Pet 1:15-17). We are called out of the world not to be friends with the world–lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life.

This, left on our own is a daunting task, because as long as we live on this side of eternity, our struggles with the flesh and with sin will continue(Gal 5:17, Matt 26:14).

However, despite the struggles, we are not victims of our flesh. We are not left on our own  to suffer under bondage of sin. God works in us to will and do of His good pleasure, while we, with the help of the Holy Spirit also work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We need not be overcomed by sin once we have been regenerated.

The Holy Spirit renews and gives us strength to be victorious when we submit daily to Him by taking advantage of the means of grace available to us.

Broken and sinful, we all need grace and forgiveness of sin.

Blessed, merciful, Jehovah, Lord, my sin, You have forgiv’n. Now I’m filled with joy eternal, Now I’m satisfied in faith. O my soul, give thanks with praises, Great is God’s blessings we have. Merciful, He loved, redeemed me, Evil dungeon saved me from.~~Presbyterian Church of Ghana hymn 462, Author:Philipp. Friedrich. Hiller 1699-1769. Scripture:Matthew 18 vs. 27