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Romans 1:18-32 - The Gospel is the antidote to sin
As I have been teaching on Romans over the last year I have talked about sin quite a lot. It’s difficult not to when the set text is Romans. I am going to tell you about what I think but not tell you what to think. By the way, last week I spent some time on 26-27 so if you want to know what I think about these references to homosexuality please check it out on the website.
What were you doing in 1987? – I was dancing to … the Pet Shop Boys who had a single at no.1 for 3 weeks - "It's sin".
When I look back upon my life it's always with a sense of shame
I've always been the one to blame
For everything I long to do no matter when or where or who has one thing in common too
It's a, it's a, it's a, it's a sin.
And the song finishes with a prayer in Latin:
I confess to almighty God for you brethren that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, deed and omission. It is my fault, through my fault, my most grievous fault.
Sin is not a popular or comfortable word these days. Try to wriggle out of it, explain it away.
Not something we like to say – when we mean it. It’s OK to talk about taking an extra slice of cake or reviewing the sin taxes in the budget.
Outnumbered – grappling with the emerging sin in children – but not calling it that.
We sometimes talk about someone being evil – if they are very, very bad. Wicked can now mean good in a grammatical somersault.
I think ____ is sin.
I think ____ is sinful.
We don’t like to say “sin” or identify something as sin or, even worse, someone as sinful.
Why? Because to speak of sin implies a religious category or a moral absolute. It implies that you are bringing God into the discussion, it implies judgement. And since tolerance is now the pinnacle of virtue, judgement of another is, in itself, the worst possible sin.
Jesus said in Mark 2:17
It is not the healthy who have need of a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.
He meant that some people think they are righteous and don’t need a Saviour. And we all know people who won’t accept that they are sick and in need of a doctor.
The first of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is,
we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
John Stott says,
Nothing keeps people away from Christ more than their inability to see their need for Him or their unwillingness to admit it.
Some people refuse to recognise that we are sinful and that we need Jesus. It would be wrong to induce guilt but it would also be wrong for a doctor to acquiesce to a patient’s inaccurate self- diagnosis.
Today’s theme is that the gospel is the antidote to sin. There is good news, although we are sinners, we have a Saviour in Jesus.
I am going to talk about
what sin is, where it came from, what does it look like, what it does to us and what can be done about it.
WHAT IS SIN?
Sin is a theological category. It gains its definition, it becomes understood, only in reference to God. Sin is to do with God or rather the disregard of God.
Verse 18: the godlessness and wickedness (or un-righteousness) of men who suppress the truth by (holding onto) their wickedness (un-righteousness).
Righteousness = dikian
Unrighteousness = a-dikian (anti-righteousness)
God has revealed Himself as perfect and sin is anti-God, anti-His perfection. Sin is a state of being.
However, we often talk about sin by reference to the
of the illness – our attitudes and behaviours. Which is correct, but incomplete - sin itself is in our nature because of the way we are facing – away from God. It’s not just
we do but
we do it. Sin is a theological category.
WHERE DID SIN COME FROM?
God is Holy and pure, there is no sin in Him – there can’t be because sin is in opposition to God. So if God created all things, does that mean He created sin? No, but in giving His created beings free will, He gave them the choice of rejecting Him = sin.
The first creatures to sin were some of the angels. But the first of mankind to sin were Adam and Eve. Later in Romans Paul goes on to explain that from then on mankind was infected by that inherited sin, inherited corruption.
That’s another uncomfortable thought. Some argue that man is essentially good and just needs some education and counselling to get things right. One look at the newspaper should correct that notion. Last weekend we remembered the genocide in Rwanda twenty years ago. The last century will be remembered as the evidence of the most advanced nation, the best educated people, turning into pathological mass murderers.
And anyone who has raised small children knows that they can be very badly behaved without any training or guidance from you!
The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable fact and also the most resisted by the human mind.
Denying sin is a bit like flying to a different time zone and not adjusting your watch – you know that everything around you says it is 2.30pm but your watch stubbornly leads you live as those it is time for breakfast.
Romans 5:12 -
sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men because all sinned.
We are all infected, we are all sinners from the beginning.
WHAT DOES SIN LOOK LIKE?
What does sin look like? It …
Rejecting God’s truth
– Adam & Eve doubted whether what God says is true and choose to believe the lie of the enemy instead. Romans 1:25
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.
Sin looks like falsehood and denies that God is true.
Thinking we are God
– verse 21
although they knew God they neither glorified him as God not gave thanks to him.
Helen Rowland, psychotherapist in Skipton,
“You don’t tell people your problems in Yorkshire. That’s what they say. But I have a waiting list. … the fundamental issue is always, “Who am I?”
Adam & Eve, Instead of knowing their place as part of God’s creation took it upon themselves to become like God. Instead of understanding that we are the children of God we try to place ourselves at the centre. Sin looks like us trying to be god.
Worshipping idols instead of God
– Romans 1:23
they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles
– or celebrities, or porn, or fast cars and nice houses. The mark of sin is not just atheism but paganism. Turning our worship away from the God who made us toward that which is made. Sin looks like religion that worships anything but God.
Can’t tell the difference between right & wrong
– Adam & Eve trusted their own evaluation of what was right or wrong rather than allowing God’s words to define right or wrong.
Helen Rowland, psychotherapist in Skipton, “at the moment it’s sex and sexuality in young people … the young men probably have an addiction with porn … but they don’t see it as a problem.”
Charles Saatchi re-interprets the 7 deadly sins as 7 virtues in his book "Be the worst you can be".
they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God.
This is atheism, the ultimate arrogance of man. And so
He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
What does sin look like? Sin looks like a world in which we don’t know what’s right or wrong.
WHAT DOES SIN DO TO US?
I said last week that there is no hierarchy in sin. That’s true – in legal terms one sin is as bad as another. You may have only broken the speed limit once in your entire driving history. But if so, you have still broken the law. We are all sinners and before God we have all sinned. In his holy presence there is no part of us that can stand his scrutiny.
But, the effect that some sin has is greater than others and that may well affect the way we respond to it.
Romans 1:21-32 is a desperately sad description of what this illness/infection does to us.
(22) Their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man….(28) and God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done ...
greed and depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, insolence, arrogance, boastful, disobedient to parents, senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless….
It starts with our thinking, our will. And the vicious cycle is that once we turn away from God, our thinking becomes even more foolish which in turn leads us further from God until the trajectory of our life is religion with the wrong gods in charge.
Our sinful nature turns us away from God - from truth to lies, from the divine to the mundane, from glory to the earthly, from the extraordinary to the ordinary.
WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT SIN?
If everyone were basically good and could be taught to behave well then all we need are some good teachers. But we have plenty of them.
If everyone were basically good and would make better choices with some counselling then all we need are some good therapists. But we have plenty of them.
But because we are sinful and have turned away from God then what we need is a Saviour.
We have examined the illness and the symptoms and diagnosed a deadly disease. The prognosis is devastating. What can be done?
When I look at my sins (and if
think they are sins, then they
sins) I can see the appeal of born-again Christianity. I suspect that it is not the Christianity that is so alluring. It’s the re-birth. Because who wouldn’t want to start all over again?
There is good news, the gospel, the antidote. In verse 17, which precedes this passage, it says that a righteousness from God has been revealed in the gospel. God knows the problem, the good doctor has made the diagnosis before we owned up to it and he has a prescription, an antidote which brings new life.
The antidote to sin is that God sent His only Son Jesus to live as a man, to experience the temptations and pain of mankind and yet, in purity and holiness to be punished on our behalf. All the sin of the world, before and after, is rolled up and placed on the cross. In Jesus death we can all die to sin. And in His resurrection the power of sin is defeated forever.
God will credit righteousness to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was the condemnation of all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
We have a condition known as sin because we continually turn away from God. And this illness is going to kill us. But there is a miracle cure, an antidote. When God sent his own Son Jesus, in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering, he paid the price and he suffered the punishment that righteousness demands so that we may be set free and cured of this disease. So that we may have a new life. You can be born again.
There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ.
The good news is that God loves you so much that He has sent a Saviour to redeem you and set you free from sin. All that is required is for you to recognise your need and visit the doctor. It’s called repentance.
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
I invite you to surrender your life to the love of Jesus, completely and unconditionally. The gospel is the antidote to sin and in believing in Jesus your illness can be healed, the empty void filled, you can be set free, saved and redeemed.
The Gospel is the antidote to sin.
Romans 1:18-32 The Gospel is the antidote to sin
What is sin, where does it came from, what does it look like, what does it do to us and what can be done about it?
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