Angela and I have had the opportunity to live in post-Christian Europe, the Bible Belt South and the melting pot that is Florida. For all their cultural differences, we have noticed that wherever we go people tend to define sin the same way. Just last week we were speaking at a conference in Sacramento, CA (far from the Bible Belt) and we saw it again. Ask almost anyone to define sin and they will usually say something like lying, stealing, cheating, killing, etc.
So, is that sin?
Sin is nothing short of human insanity.
Imagine going to the doctor with a widespread purple rash. What would you do if the doctor took out some gauze and alcohol hoping to wipe the rash off? You would get a new doctor! We all know that a rash is usually the symptom of a deeper problem and the same is true for sin.
Lying, stealing, killing and cheating are nothing more than the rash. The underlying disease is sin and its hold is deeper than most of us realize.
The real problem is that we don’t like the way the God of the universe who made us, loves us and knows what’s best for us wants us to live. Sin is the human condition that makes us say, “I don’t need you, God, and I am going to live the way I want to live.”
Insanity is irrationality taken to the extreme. It is an utter inability to make reasonable decisions to the point that someone places himself or others in harms way. Witnessing insanity is one of the saddest and most helpless feelings possible.
My kids often give me a small picture of insanity. They distrust that I have their best interest at heart and desire to do things that will harm or even kill them. I have seen them run out into a busy road, attempt to jump off an ancient city wall, dive into water before learning to swim, eat bugs, put metal objects into light sockets and walk behind the car as it backs out. Now, we call this immaturity because we expect them to outgrow that kind of irrationality. But instead of outgrowing it we transfer it to God.
Can you think of anything more unreasonable than defying the God of the universe who has nothing but our best interests at heart? When we defy God we are embracing insanity in its most grotesque form.
The effect of sin on the unbeliever
The Bible says that God will give the insane what we desire (Rom. 1:28-32). If we desire a life apart from the authority and love of God, as irrational as it is, He will give it to us. Sin brings death (Rom. 5:12) and death, both physical and spiritual, is what we will receive.
The effect of sin on the believer
When we believe, we are saved from the penalty of sin, but sin still has great power in our lives. If we are not careful, sin will steal two of the most precious gifts God has for us: joy and peace.
Power to steal joy
We are meant to experience the joy of God’s glory in this life, but sin will steal that joy. Sin causes us to care more about our glory than God’s glory and joy is replaced by insecurity and jealousy.
Case and point, I have been planning this article for some weeks (my RUF friends can attest to that) and this week Kevin DeYoung wrote an article on his blog called ‘The Stupidity of Sin.’ The very message I have been wanting people to consider, eloquently addressed by a pastor whose reach goes far beyond anything I will likely ever see. Is that not a great thing? Is there not much to be thankful for? But do you know what my first thought was? “Stupid Kevin DeYoung!”
Sin caused me to care more about my glory than God’s and it stole the joy He wants me to experience.
Power to steal peace
I was talking with someone recently who was struggling with anxiety and an inability to trust God to provide in a very specific area of his life. As we talked it became clear that there were some very specific ways he was living in unrepentant sin. At a subconscious level, he was telling God, “No, I am going to do this thing whether You like it or not” while simultaneously wanting a peace that only comes from trusting God.
We can’t tell God, “No, I don’t trust You” over and over again in one area of our life and expect the peace that comes from trusting God in another area. The insanity of sin, though, causes us to believe that this is possible and robs us of the peace God desires us to experience.
There is a cure for the insanity
Sin is insanity, but insanity has a cure. In the words of Kevin DeYoung,
We may sin in serenity for a season. But God cannot be mocked forever (Gal. 6:7). Our madness will be made manifest. Eventually, his words will overtake us (Zech. 1:6).
This is why we need Jesus. Jesus took on the curse of our insanity (Galatians 3:13) and offers us perfect and eternal sanity with Him. Only when we confess our sin, trust in Jesus and allow Him to make us sane will we experience the joy and peace we truly long for.