Friday, December 2, 2011

The Only Antidote

Any person exercising the ability to cast their eyes on God will find that when they turn their vision back to their own life, or onto the world around them, that there is much in our lives that displeases God.  The thoughts in our minds, the desires of our hearts, the words from our mouths and the actions of our hands are very often contrary to God’s will.  And things that we think, desire, speak and do that are in opposition to what would please God are what we know as sin.  The essence of sin is anything that we do that is not aligned with God’s will, what is “good, acceptable and perfect” according to his standards, not ours. 

The other day I was reading some thoughts related to a treatise on original sin written by Jonathan Edwards, the 17th century pastor and theologian.  The central idea of original sin, i.e. that humans are sinful by nature, from birth, runs contrary to the notion common to our time that all people are basically good.  We may make occasional bad choices, but our reference point for our selves, and most of the people we know, is that deep down we are good people. 

When we check our assumptions about the goodness of humanity with the Bible we find something profoundly different.  In both the Old and the New Testaments we find God’s teaching on the true nature of our hearts.  Psalm 51:5 says “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  Isaiah 64:6 says “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” In John 5:42 Jesus says “But I know that you do not have the love of God within you.” And I John 1:8 sums up the notion of original sin with this declaration: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 

God’s word in the Bible provides the corrective to our well-intentioned but misguided modern ideas about who we are.  We are sinners, and have always been so.  Original sin is not an arcane notion of long-dead theologians but a constant aspect of the human condition.  Herman Bavinck wrote “If anything is certain, it is that sin is not an accidental phenomenon in the life of individuals, but a state and manner of life involving the whole human race, a property of human nature.  The sinful deeds, which occur not just now and then but characterize all persons of all ages and circumstances, point back to a sinful inner disposition, just as bad fruit presupposes a bad tree and muddied water and impure spring.”[1]

The words from the Bible and people such as Edwards and Bavinck could lead us to believe that all is lost, that we are so sin-soaked as to have no hope.  But those words merely tell us the truth plainly, so that we can more clearly see the solution, our only hope.  And the problem of sin in our lives is dealt with by Jesus Christ.  He provides the antidote, the only possible treatment for the sin that has infected us from our very beginning. 

I like the idea of Jesus as the antidote to sin, because an antidote is “a remedy to counteract the effects of poison,” and absent the work of Christ sin is the most deadly of poisons, a poison with eternal effects. 

Paul wrote to the Colossians “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.”  Paul then adds that being reconciled to God through the finished work of Christ has this effect:  “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”

We who are in Christ are no longer alienated from God.  We are no longer seen as hostile in mind.  No longer seen as doing evil deeds.  No longer slaves to original sin but free in Christ, to be presented by him before the throne of God as holy, as blameless, as above reproach.  That we would be receive such love from God, that we would be reconciled with God through Christ is at the heart of John Newton’s hymn, Amazing Grace. 

The other day, as I was reading of Edwards and Original Sin I was listening to Chris Tomlin and I as I heard his rendition of Newton’s hymn I was struck anew with the power of God’s love as the antidote for our sin.  I invite you to click on the song link and listen.  If you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, pray as you listen, giving him your thanks and praise for his great gift to you.  And if you are unsure of where you stand before God then listen and ask yourself if this is the time that he is calling to you, offering to you the only antidote for the deepest of ailments.  May you know the grace and peace that is only found in Jesus Christ.

[1] Bavinck, Herman, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006) 3:88.

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