One of the reasons why Easter is losing its power to influence lives is the lack of preaching on sin. It is not surprising that fewer and fewer people in our society think of themselves as sinners. For it is simply true that the farther we drift from God, the more likely we are to think that our moral condition is just fine. In today’s cultural milieu, sin is considered to be meaningless. One survey among convicted murderers found that even among them, many considered themselves basically good people.
In contrast, God-centeredness always results in a reaction like that found in Isaiah 6, where the prophet encounters the LORD seated upon his throne. In terror, he responds, “Woe is me! I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips.”
What does trouble me most, is not that sin has been discounted in the public forum. Rather, what troubles me most, is the absence of the preaching of sin from Christian pulpits. Given the absence of sin consciousness results in disinterest in a saviour, would it not stand to reason, that our pulpits would be thundering forth, reminding us of the greatest of all needs. Redemption from sin.
Ephesians 2:1-3 depicts the natural condition of the human race:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
From this passage, we learn 3 important truths about sin.
1) The sinner is dead in sin. There are several ways of viewing the human condition when it comes to God and his righteousness. We might be well. The only problems we encounter are societal structures that oppress us. Were it not for these, we would be fine. Or we might be sick and in need of spiritual health. A great many churches proclaim Christianity as the missing spiritual ingredient that would make us whole. Or, finally, we might be dead and completely unresponsive to God, so that we are without hope. Of course, this is the miracle of the resurrection, for God is able to raise the dead to life.
2) Ephesians teaches us that the dead may be dead to God, but not to unrighteousness. Every sinner actively practices evil. We may be dead to God, but we are overwhelmingly alive to various forms of disobedience. To those who complain that this is not so, we need simply to consider the evidence. Every human being owes God an infinite debt of gratitude for his many mercies. Instead of seeking him, we find multiple paths which lead us to seek our own desires. We act as if the world and our lives are our own.
3) Ephesians teaches that all are by nature the object of God’s wrath. On this matter, we expect the most virulent protestations. God is not angry, says the sinner. Rather he is accepting of my lifestyle choices, for they authenticate who I am. But the real God (not to be confused with the god of our imagination) will not leave the sinner unpunished. For the earth is the Lord’s, and his will is all that will survive.
Easter is the story of the greatest dilemma in history. It is the story of a saviour, who comes to rescue us from death. Without making much of sin, or magnifying sin, there will be no reason to rejoice at the story of the cross and of the empty tomb.