Sin and Blessing
Guest Blog: Charlie
Dunn, Associate to the Pastor
Yesterday Pastor J.D. spoke to us on the destructiveness of sin
and how it hinders God from blessing us. He demonstrated how sin is ultimately
any passion/desire/idol which serves to override our willingness to walk in
obedience to God. In other words, we find something of supposed worth in our
lives and pursue it more than or to the exclusion of the presence and blessing
of the Lord in our life. As Tim Keller has stated, these passions or desires
eventually become for us, “self-salvation projects.” In other words, we come to
believe that there is something in our life, apart from Christ, that we
absolutely cannot live without. We need it to be happy, fulfilled, satisfied, comfortable
or any host of things, but regardless we need
it, even if it means unintentionally throwing Jesus under the bus to get it.
The “frustrating” thing about a sermon like today’s is that
it reveals so clearly the depravity of my own heart and how if left up to my
own devices, I will take almost any passion or desire and turn it into an idol,
thereby forfeiting much of the blessing God would otherwise like to give me.
How true was the great reformer John Calvin when he said, “our hearts are like
idol factories,” daily turning one passion after another into mini-Gods.
As a result, some days I just long to see, not how others
fight this temptation, or what some self-help book prescribes, or even the
opinion of some counselor, but how Jesus fought the temptation to find his
worth, acceptance, purpose, or pleasure, in anything but His Father.
I think John 2:23-25, a seemingly obscure passage, gives us a
little insight. In this passage, we catch a glimpse of Jesus’ perspective
regarding the tenuousness of those little “self-salvation projects.
By the time chapter 2, verses 23-25 come along, Jesus has
been introduced and praised by John the Baptist, called his first disciples, performed
a miracle at the wedding in Cana, established his authority in the temple, and demonstrated
his glory so that many believed in him. One might say Jesus was living a
successful and influential life. He had mastered The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People…thought I am sure that
being fully God and fully man probably helped.
Yet in the midst of all these seemingly wonderful
circumstances, the gospel writer lets us in on Jesus’ mindset when he says, “But (ie: despite all these
circumstances) Jesus, on his part did not
entrust himself to them (ie: those that were ‘believing’ in him and
consequently praising him…those that were making his circumstances so positive)
because he knew what was in man and needed
no one to bear witness to man.”
Jesus understood three things that I consistently fail to
understand when it comes to those “self-salvation projects.”
First, Jesus understood the beautifully, stable nature of
being justified by the Father, or in our case, the Gospel, as opposed to his
circumstances. He recognized that his circumstances could change at any moment while
His Father’s love for, favor toward and blessing on him would remain.
Consequently, he didn’t need his circumstances to give him anything. It wasn’t
that he didn’t care about all the stuff around him; it’s just that he didn’t need
a career, which may or may not be successful to make him important, or a
relationship, which may or may not disappoint him to make him accepted, or a
pleasure, which may or may not fulfill to bring him joy. Rather he had the
perfectly stable and unchanging love of His Father, who was clear when He
stated, “this is my son in whom I am well
pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Likewise, we who have believed on Christ are as 1
Corinthians 6:11 and Romans 5:8 say, “washed
(ie: innocent and clean), sanctified
(ie: set aside and given purpose in life) and
justified (ie: fully known and yet fully accepted) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God…and
while we were still sinners (ie: least deserved it).” The beauty of the Gospel is that before God we are both fully
known in all our imperfection and yet fully loved and therefore free from
requiring that everyone and everything around us contribute to our identity.
Secondly, Jesus also understood the repulsiveness and
destruction of all false, functional gods…of all sin. When verse 25 says that
Jesus “would not entrust himself to (ie:
give himself to or be justified by) man
because he knew what was in man, we see that Jesus wasn’t naively captivated
by the truth, as a boy might be over an infatuation with a pretty girl. Rather,
Jesus refused to entrust himself to anyone or anything except His Father
because he knew the appearance of beauty, in this case the praise of men, ministerial
success, or favorable circumstances didn’t necessitate true beauty or blessing. Rather, Jesus
recognized that what was “inside” man
or anything of the world (ie: imperfection, selfishness, and sin) would
eventually curse him. As Keller has again said, these passions/desires/idols
make grand promises of purpose, fulfillment, satisfaction and prosperity if we
would merely live up to them. Yet when we don’t we are left worse off than when
we started. As one businessman once said, “I spent all my life climbing the
corporate ladder of success, only to realize that when I got to the top the
ladder was leaning against the wrong building.” The Gospel on the other hand
doesn’t say “if you fail to reach me, you will die.” Rather it says, “If you
fail, I (God) will die for you.”
Finally, Jesus understood that the ability to live in the
freedom of the Gospel and apart from the captivity of false gospels requires a
conscious decision. As the text says, “he
would not entrust himself to man.” In other words, Jesus consciously resolved
to be justified and directed by only the love and blessing of His father.
Likewise, we are encouraged to “be
transformed by the renewal of our minds” (Romans 12:2), whereby we consciously
mediate on the beauty of the Gospel and the repulsiveness of all other false
gospels so that we also can make wise and informed daily-decisions.
When we realize both the beauty of the Gospel and the repulsiveness
of all other false gospels, the battle against sin becomes more a choice than a
battle. After all, who wants to pursue acceptance and love through a passion which
will ultimately only let you down? Who would dare want to enter into a marriage
if you knew at the outset it would only end in divorce, or a career if it would
end in bankruptcy or a pleasure if it would end in addiction? Jesus knew what
was “in” these and consciously chose to walk in accordance with His Father’s
will, which allowed him to live a perfect life, fully blessed by the Father.
The question then that I am forced to ask each day, if I am
serious about wanting God’s hand of blessing on my life is, “do I believe that
the Gospel, which is simply the good report that God became like me to save me
from me ” is in fact true. If I can answer in the affirmative, then I need not
pursue any other passion for the purpose of acceptance, dignity, value, or love.
After all what else can actually promise to give me “everything I need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3) except
Jesus and still deliver?