by Preston Foster
Sin is bad. Agreed?
So why do we preach about it so much? Why do so many Adventist Christian preachers act as though sin is the strongest, most irresistible force in the world?
Sin is more than bad; it is horrific. It breeds sickness, death, pain, unease, strife, hunger, war, and everything else we know to be negative and destructive. Sin is most importantly, an insult to God and a transgression of His law. People who are cognizant of sin, know it, by definition, to be a bad thing.
Ironically, it is in church where sin is often glorified. This glorification is not intentional. Preachers and teachers rail against sin, intending to turn people away from it. Ministers work hard to persuade people to repent and reform their ways. Sin is zealously framed as a powerful force that must be repelled by a conscious decision (which is true). Many preachers seek to do so by warning others about the penalties of sin: hell fire, eternal death, and the loss of The Kingdom of God. However, in the process of warning their flock away from sin, many pastors inadvertently elevate it, making sin (and the avoidance of it) the focal point of the Christian experience.
Sin has become the primary theme of many sermons. In “calling sin by its right name,” many forget to identify it as a conquered foe. Many preachers establish their bonafides as messengers of the Word by “risking” political correctness and “naming the names” of sin. Many congregants feel that their pastor is “really preaching” when he or she itemizes sins that are either foreign, well hid, taboo, or under debate in their church. The more detailed the description of the sin, the louder the “Amens” are likely to get. In my culture, the preacher is likely to say something like “You’re going to get quiet on me now,” or “You won’t like this part of the sermon.” This is somewhat disingenuous, as what follows is likely to evoke a more enthusiastic response from those who believe this is what preaching should be about.
The point of emphasizing sin is to heighten the hearer’s awareness of misdeeds, to encourage them to change their behavior and, in doing so, to change their lives. This tactic works, at least for a time, for some of those who have been committed to a life of sin. Guilt is an effective, but temporary antidote. Regarding sin, self-effort is, in the long-run, always futile.
If the underlying purpose in preaching about sin is to establish their bonafides in declaring the gospel, many preachers are copping out. It takes more power and more faith to preach that sin has been overcome than it does to identify and condemn it. It is more of a challenge to convince people that they are no longer slaves to sin than it does to scare them into understanding that if they linger in sin, they are going to hell. There is more power in preaching the gospel than there is in condemnation. Should we not preach that sin is already conquered? Isn’t “good news” that sin has no power over those of us who have accepted Christ?
“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord,”(Romans 6:3-11NKJV).
Why dwell on something that is, to believers, dead? When something is dead, it has no power — unless one chooses to memorialize it and, thus, empower it, (1 Corinthians 15:56).
If the point in preaching about sin is to persuade people to stop sinning, why not preach about the cure for sin? The cure for sin is not self-effort or works, but grace (Romans 6:14). Grace is received through faith in Christ, who defeated death on The Cross. Through His death for our sins and His Resurrection (proof of His victory over sin, per 1 Corinthians 15:17), we can, now, receive His righteousness. That Spirit-led righteousness is the power we can employ over sin and sinful desires (Galatians 5:16-18). Sanctification need not take a lifetime. For those who accept Christ as their Savior, our sanctification occurred at the Cross (Hebrews 10:9-10, KJV).
A few good sermons could be found in that message.