Hope at stake as we decide how to respond to sin

In the culture clash of values throughout human history, it is hope that is on the line.

The choices regarding what a people choose to value determines their hope. The tension in deciding those values is created by sin. Sin is not determined by a majority; it is determined by God.

Human culture not only is attracted by sin but it is addicted to it. So to ease or neutralize that tension between what is sin and what is right or what is truth, people wrestle with whether to cover over sin, immunize against sin’s guilt or approve it in order to not make it “sin” anymore.

That’s how a sinful people culture deals with the emotional and physical whiplash from sin. We seek to cover it by promises of never doing it again. We seek to immunize it through drugs, alcohol or adopting our own belief system.

Sin, by its very nature, is disobedient and destructive. Nothing can change what is in its DNA. Sin can appear as lying, cheating, dishonesty, greed, sexual perversion of all kinds, pornography, physical and emotional abuse and neglect.

Whatever kind of package it’s in, sin comes with built-in consequences.

It is like the story of a deadly poisonous snake who is found by a traveler on a high altitude hike. The snake is very cold and appeals to the traveler to pick him up and carry the viper down to a warmer altitude. The traveler is cautious and is fearful that the snake will bite him if he picks the snake up. The snake promises that he won’t bite and assures the traveler he just needs a little help. So the traveler picks him up and takes him down the trail and places the snake on the ground, where the snake bites him and inserts poisonous venom.

The traveler reacts in surprise and says, “you promised not to bite me!”

The snake replies, “you knew what I was when you picked me up.”

With sin we have been infected with physical death (the separation of the soul and spirit from the body), and we also have gotten spiritual death (judgment and separation from God).

If you don’t seek the antidote for sin, you will get the full consequence of both deaths with no hope in eternity. We already realize the experience of dying. Humans have died physically since the fall of Adam in the garden. The irreversible tragedy of spiritual death we cannot know until after we die physically. The Bible says that “after death, comes judgment.”

So what is on the line is eternity. The Bible in 1 Thessalonians 4 speaks about not grieving like those who have “no hope.” Grief with no hope is absolutely devastating. Hope is the assurance of eternal life in Heaven.

Is there a solution? Yes! Thank God! The first answer to the sin in my life is Jesus. His sacrifice for the sin of all mankind is acceptable to God.

But there’s more. Coupled with coming to Jesus is an action called repentance. It is a word that means “to turn,” meaning to steer your life in a direction away from sin, away from where it has been going. It’s got to be a life makeover, or nothing much changes.

The other part of the antidote is found in the letter of James in the New Testament. James 4:7-8 orders, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

Listen. All of us have urges to behave and act sinfully. The sexual revolution is driven and controlled by those urges, as are all of the other sins. The urges to swindle or cheat or lie are spontaneous responses from a conflicted moral center. It is part of being a fallen human in a fallen world. “Fallen” means “not what we were originally design to be” (my definition).

We resist the urges by desiring a new passion in our life — a passion for worshiping God, a passion for knowing the word of God, a passion for the power (authority) of the Holy Spirit who comes to live inside of us through Jesus.

So, remember: Sin cannot win. With sin in your life, you will not win.

Turn to Jesus; turn from sin. Resist the devil and draw near to God. Why does this matter? Because hope is on the line.

David Woods is senior minister at Park Chapel Christian Church in Greenfield. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.