Cultural opposition is the name of the game for God’s faithful. We paddle upstream with all the force we have against the current of culture, and culture hurtles itself against us with nothing but submission as its goal.
When Jesus established his earthly ministry, the Pharisees stood resolute on their religious high horses. When Paul took the gospel to the Gentiles, he was counted a fool.
Now, in 21st century America, the façade of cultural Christianity is crumbling to reveal that underneath the mask of nominal faith lies the true character of man. Faster and faster America is jettisoning the title of “Christian nation.” “Self” is the god that is worshiped, and “love” is the name of the religion. The standard of right and wrong is whatever “feels good at the time,” and it is found in the holy scripture flowing from the pens of pop stars.
The current is rushing faster and with more force than it ever has in American society. Paddling upstream is a grueling and seemingly useless exercise. So slowly but surely, the gospel is losing its messengers. Slowly but surely, we are losing what makes the gospel of grace so sweet to the lost and dying world. Slowly but surely, we are conceding to culture on what God expects from us. Slowly but surely, we are willing to call sin righteousness, in a vain attempt to relieve the pressure bearing down on us.
Christian, do not stop preaching sin, because sin is what makes the gospel beautiful.
God Takes Sin Seriously
God takes sin seriously. Paul makes three very important points about sin in his letter to the Roman church. In 1:6, Paul states that God’s holy nature resolves Him to judge sinners, who by their sin are in open rebellion against him. God’s holy nature is the standard for right and wrong.
In 3:23, Paul observes that the sinner in open rebellion is, in fact, everyone. Every man, woman, and child on earth has fallen short of the ultimate standard, God’s nature, and in turn sinned against God.
Lastly, in 6:23, Paul says that the wages of sin – literally, what a sinner earns for his or her open rebellion – is death. In keeping with the flow of Paul’s argument throughout the book, this means that every person who has not been born again by the Spirit is in danger of reaping what they have sown: they have sown sin and will reap death.
When we stop preaching the doctrine of sin, we neglect what it is that Jesus is saving us from. By neglecting the preaching of sin, we are effectively turning Christ’s salvation into a self-help program. Instead of declaring, “You are a slave to sin, but Christ can set you free” we simply must say “You could be a better version of you with Jesus.” The heart of the gospel is lost.
God Names Sin
God is not resolved to merely speak about sin in a general sense, though. He specifically names sin. In Exodus 20, God gives Moses the Ten Commandments that must be followed. In Galatians 5:18-21, Paul lists sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and “the like” as sins.
In Colossians 3:5, Paul urges Christians to put to death “earthly desires,” which includes sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed, and idolatry.
In James 4:17, The Lord’s brother summarizes sin by simply stating that if you know good and do otherwise, you are sinning.
When we stop preaching sin, and specifically naming sin, we are declaring good what God has declared evil. We are effectively widening the path of destruction so that our friends, family, and congregations can all fit. If we do not name sin, we have nothing for the gospel to affect, nothing for the gospel to deliver us out of, nothing for which Christ needed to die. We make Christ die in vain.
The Gospel Speaks to Sinners
It does not make sense for me to jump in front of a man standing in the street if there is no oncoming traffic. It makes no sense to holler and shout and push a man out of the way of a non-existent bus.
If we do not take sin seriously, and name sin as it is, then we are losing the full gospel message. In Romans 5:6-8, Paul makes this exact point. He says that at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly; and that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
It is precisely because of sin, because of our sinning, that Christ came. It is our sin that alienates us from God; our sinning that makes us rebels in God’s kingdom.
How can a soul receive the medicine of the gospel of Christ if they do not realize they have the sickness of sin? How can the light of the gospel illuminate a life that has no idea that the world they live in is so dark? How can the sweetness of the gospel be shared if the bitterness of sin is not tasted?
Truly, we must not neglect to name sin, and take it seriously. Do not fail to keep battling against culture. It is easy to preach a self-help gospel, but a self-help gospel will help you right into Hell. Culture will buck, and kick, and fight, and try to accept a gospel that does not require change. We are not called to preach an easy gospel, but the gospel of grace, which wrecks lives to the glory of God.
Keep paddling. Keep battling. Keep preaching sin.