09 Jan Who Wants To Talk About Sin?
Who wants to talk about sin??? That’s the question my dear friend, Kelly Johnson, asked in her blog several months back. It’s a valid question, and I have an answer: we do! Which is why I am launching a new sermon series this weekend: Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues. Sounds like it’s gonna be a real “pick-me-up”, doesn’t it?
Well, you might be surprised. Throughout the seven weeks of this series, we’re going to explore seven pairs along the sin/virtue continuum:
- Pride and humility
- Lust and self-control
- Envy and contentment
- Sloth (or laziness) and diligence
- Anger and patience
- Greed and charity
- Gluttony and grace
As I’ve already begun to discover in my preparations for these sermons, if we want to live with real freedom and joy, we won’t get there by ignoring or denying that these vices exist in our hearts. Freedom and joy can be ours, along with abundance and peace, but only when we get honest and tell the truth about the sin that holds us back.
Because sin is universal, it’s tempting to make excuses rather than confront it head-on. “Hey, I’m not so bad; in fact, I’m better than most. At least I’m not a liar, murderer, adulterer, [fill in the blank].” But, comparing ourselves to others misses the point. We are all infected and infested with sin. We are selfish. We want control. We want more than we need, and we don’t care what impact that has on other people. We judge others by our ideas of what is good or bad or fair. We are fearful of differences we don’t understand, and we are woefully short on compassion and kindness. We worry. We live from the False Ego rather than the True Self. Yes, sin is rampant in us, and it’s downright ugly.
This doesn’t mean that the solution is to beat ourselves up. I think that’s where so many of us, including (and maybe especially) in the church, get off-track. We will never develop greater maturity, wisdom and compassion by berating ourselves for our shortcomings. What is needed is transformation, and transformation only comes through love—love of God, love of self and love of neighbor. And, this love is not a one-way street. First and foremost, we need to receive and embrace the truth that God loves us exactly as we are, warts, flaws, and all. In response to the love we receive, we then are motivated to return God’s love through gratitude, worship, and loving lives that reflect the incredible gift we have been given.
Transformation is something God does in us, and we cooperate with God by yielding to the maturing process that God wants to do in us. Too often “sin” is talked about as something we have the ability to change all on our own. We make our resolutions (“I won’t get angry with Johnny again!” or “I will stay away from that addiction!” or “I won’t worry anymore!”) and inevitably and predictably, we fail. No wonder talk about sin is viewed as such a “downer!” Instead, I invite us to see ourselves in partnership with God. We want a meaningful, joyous life, and that’s exactly what God wants to give us! But sin stands in our way. Pride, lust, envy and all the rest rob us of the profound peace that is ours in Christ. As we become aware of the sin in our lives—and its impact—and as we ask God to create clean hearts in us in which humility and contentment reside, God’s Spirit will transform us, not because we are such wretched creatures, but because we are so deeply treasured by the God who loves us.
If you live locally, I invite you to join us Sunday mornings at 10:00 a.m. for this new sermon series. If you live further afield, the sermons will be posted each week on our website and on our Facebook page, so you can follow along. I look forward with great anticipation to how God will work in each of us to transform our vices into virtues and in doing so, unleash the power of love in our lives and in our world.
Yours for the Kingdom,