Guest post by Jason Kanz
A few times recently, I have been struck by how badly my son Ian smells. He is an active little boy who really doesn't like to shower unless forced, so I should not be surprised. With considerable goading, I can eventually convince him that he needs to get clean, but even then, he must be reminded that he actually needs to use the soap on his body, that it doesn't transfer to him by osmosis or wishful thinking. He does not know he is dirty so he sees no need to be cleaned.
But I am his dad. I desire better for him. Because I love him, I want what is best. Part of parental training is showing a better way. To be clear, I do not love him because he cleans up, I help him to clean up because I love him.
The Christian faith is in many regards the same way. 1 John 1:5-2:1 reads, "This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
We are like Ian before coming to Christ. We do not know how dirty we are. Unfortunately, some Christians and churches downplay sin. They do not boldly proclaim what God's word actually says. They do not want to offend people, so they do not talk about things like sin and disobedience. They preach an anti-gospel that says, "you don't need to change. Life is about you. Whatever tastes, wishes, and desires you might possess are true and good and right. God would never judge you." They never talk about sin, so people see no need for a Savior.
Don't be mistaken, the opposite approach is similarly problematic. There are some Christians and some churches that downplay grace. All they seem to talk about is sin, without ever walking people to the cross. They expect people to clean themselves up before they are allowed through the doors. The message seems to be "we want perfect people and if you are not perfect, we (i.e., us and God) don't want you." Even though they always talk about sin, their view of the cross is too small.
The Old and New Testaments specifically name dozens, perhaps hundreds of specific sins--sexual immorality, covetousness, homosexuality, lying, slander, theft, pride--and many, many more. At their core, they all come down to placing ourselves on the throne instead of God. We live out the lie that the universe revolves around us rather than Him. All of us, ALL OF US, have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Michael Horton wrote yesterday, "Paul’s point in Romans 1-3 is to sweep the whole world—Jew and Gentile—into a heap, condemned under the law, in order to announce that Christ is the Savior of all, Jew and Gentile, and justifies the ungodly who trust in him. We are all called to repent—lifelong repentance, in fact. In this, as in everything, we fall short; our imperfect repentance would be enough to condemn us if we weren’t clothed in Christ’s righteousness. However, to repent is to acknowledge that God is right and we are wrong—on the specifics of precisely where we want to assert our sovereignty."
We are all dirty right down to the core of our being. But we cannot be cleansed unless we know that we are dirty. Jesus came to clean the dirty. "For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins." (Leviticus 16:30)