3 Myths About Sin Hurting the Church

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Note: I had a post-election post written out. In the end, I decided not to post it. The crux of it was–we all need to obey what the Scripture says about submitting ourselves to earthly rulers and praying for their well-being. We also need to knock of the silliness we exhibit as either sore losers or “ball-spikers.” Neither is beneficial. There. Now for today’s post:

We don’t use the word, “sin,” much any more. Some think that’s good. I myself do not. Sin is a biblical word, and while it’s scope continues to be reduced verbally by many in the pulpit, God loathed it’s effects so much He sent Christ to die for it’s abolition. Far be it from me to pretend there is no such thing. All Christians (especially those who teach) need to have Jesus-centered substance, grammar, and tone speaking of sin. However, we simply must do it. We need to talk about character formation in a way that draws a clear distinctions between the ways of light and darkness.

Problem one: the idea that “sin is sin.” While this is true in the sense of qualifying us for the need for atonement, it isn’t correct qualitatively. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. However, Hitler and the toddler saying, “no!” to their mother aren’t the same. There is a greatest commandment and Christ speaks of an “unforgiveable sin.” There are ten commandments singled out, and Jesus speaks of “weightier matters of the law.” Sin isn’t flat, and neither are God’s commands. It is, of course, true to say we are all sinners. It is another to suggest that if you have sinned in any way, you lose any ability to call my sin, “sin,” without hypocrisy. Paul called himself the Chief of Sinners but had no problem pointing out the need for repentance from sin in others as well. If I’m overweight, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to lose a few pounds as well.

Problem two: Speaking of sin, especially in judgmental tones, drives people away from God. Time and time again, I’ve found pretending sin doesn’t exist a far more effective way to drive people away from God. When I think there is no difference between my sin and yours, a moralist will see us as “morally equal.” As a result, I feel no special weight to bring you to Jesus…and m From a Christian perspective, there is the greatest difference–the atoning death of Christ, and a clearer definition of light and darkness, sin and righteousness. We speak of sin not because I’m a better person than you are, but because sin separates a person from Christ. That needs to be said clearly. Why? First, because it’s true. Second, because it makes little sense to think people will come to Christ through osmosis or without some sense of need for Christ’s forgiveness. Throughout Scripture–whether at Nineveh or Pentecost, helping people understand their sinfulness in God’s sight provides the clearest path to repentance and union with Christ. I’ve never seen a person driven away from Christ by a sermon on sin. I know some who’ve spent years without asking, “What must I do to be saved?” because they never thought they needed to. Besides, the moral compass of the Lost is not the moral standard by which we preach. God will provide us the wisdom and words to speak of sin without judgmentalism if we desire to speak of it faithfully.

Problem three: An impoverished view of God’s holiness and grace. There are some who really don’t believe God punishes or disciplines us for sin–or even gets too upset about it. On the other hand, some think grace is cheap or about some counterfeit like tolerance or acceptance. Tolerance and acceptance can be totally appropriate, but they aren’t grace. In the same way, God isn’t the holiest among us all. He’s altogether holy. Everything He does is right. Similarly, His grace isn’t ordinary. Because of His holiness and greatness–His grace is also infinitely deeper–and expressed in perfection through His offering of Christ for our sins. Our sense of righteousness is, at best, a shadow of His, and our grace is but an echo of His.

We shouldn’t say “sin is sin,” that speaking of it will drive people away from God, or lower God to the moral standards of humans. When we do, it not only impoverishes our views of sin and grace–it reduces The Gospel to a humanistic gospel–which is no gospel at all. Sin, grace, holiness, lost, found, redemption, mercy…these are good words we need to speak of often and in Gospel concert, if in fact we want to reach people.

Question: Which of the three aforementioned sin myths are most prevalent in the church today? I would probably go with number three. How about you?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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9 thoughts on “3 Myths About Sin Hurting the Church

  1. very well written, growing up I heard sin being called sin and sought to avoid it, then when I noticed how fun it was I indulged in it, than I needed a way to deal with the guilt brought on by my sin I sought the refuge of Christ’s mercy at the Cross, and now this is a daily aspiration, seeking God’s grace through the hand of Christ!

  2. I love your first point. Too many people say “sin is sin” when the Bible is pretty clear that this simply isn’t true.