“I know there are consequences for our sinful actions but is it possible to escape the consequences if we start living differently?” from “B.L.” to Reverend Billy Graham
“Sin is a terrible and destructive thing, and sometimes we have to pay the consequences for our foolishness and rebellion against God.” Reverend Billy Graham’s response*
In Chapter 5 of John Stott’s book Basic Christianity, we discussed the fact and nature of sin, its universality and every one of God’s guidelines for human behavior, also known as The Ten Commandments. God has certain expectations for every one of us and sometimes we fail to live up to His expectations.
Human beings have a sin nature that stems from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; we have a “bent toward” doing wrong. Stott writes at the beginning of Chapter 6, “We should like to leave this distasteful subject [sin] and pass on immediately to the good news of Christ’s salvation, but we are not ready to do so. We need to grasp what the results of sin are before we can appreciate what God has done for us and is offering to us in Christ” [Stott, 71].
What he is really saying is we need to pause and consider the consequences.
“Is sin really so serious?”
How do you handle alienation from God? How about bondage to self or maybe conflict with others?
In this post we will concentrate on alienation from God.
Let’s be honest, if all of us have a sin nature, we all sin [duh!]. I admit it and depending on the nature of the sin, I can feel so guilty that I feel cut off from God. I can’t pray to Him. I can’t hear His voice. I don’t notice His presence in my life. My highest destiny [says Stott] is to know God, to “be in personal relationship with Him. Our chief claim to nobility as human beings is that we were made in the image of God and are therefore capable of knowing Him” .
“Personal relationship” is a comforting phrase but many misunderstand what it means. The idea sounds like God and human beings can be best buddies but that is not quite correct. God is a righteous Being, infinite in His moral perfection. The Bible is full of instances when humans tried to physically approach God but it was not really possible. Moses hid his face, Job sees God and despises himself, Isaiah has a vision of God and feels lost, Ezekiel received a vision of God and fell on his face, Saul of Tarsus was blinded by God’s bright light on the road to Damascus and John on the Island of Patmos describes God having eyes like a “flame of fire.”
Stott writes “If the curtain which veils the unspeakable majesty of God could be drawn aside for a moment, we too should not be able to bear the sight” .
The problem is that sin cuts us off from a perfect, all powerful God. Too many pastors preach that God is love and neglect to say that God hates sin. God despises sin in every form and that is what we do. Let’s return to some of the writings of Billy Graham. “We live in an age when sin is winked at; where God is indulgent, softhearted and tolerant of those who break His commandments. People find it difficult to believe that God hates anything, much less sin….Some people may be pretending that sin doesn’t exist, but sin is present all around us. When left unforgiven, sin sends men and women into a timeless eternity in Hell.”**
Stott agrees: “Hell is a grim and dreadful reality. Let no man deceive you. Jesus Himself spoke of it. He called it ‘outer darkness’ because it is an infinite separation from God who is light” [Stott, 73]. There is no need to let sin get this far, so far that we turn our backs on God and we act like we are not committing sin when we are, so far that we know we are sinning and cannot talk to God in prayer. Many of us have had first-hand experiences where we knew that God was with us, times when we could see His power at work in our lives but I have also had times when I felt so wretched that I could not speak to Him due to the guilt I was experiencing. I need to own my sin so I will not feel alienated from God. Stott writes “Until our sins are forgiven, we are exiles, far from our true home. We have no communion with God. In Biblical terms, we are ‘lost’ or ‘dead’ through the trespasses and sins which we have committed” .
Ok, if we are bound to sin, what are we going to do when it happens? God can use anything to teach us, even our experiences with sin. God’s ways are not our ways; He is truly beyond human understanding. Some of my most important lessons are from healing and restoration brought about by owning up to my sin, repenting from my sin, seeking forgiveness and asking Him to heal me and restore me. At times like these, my relationship with my Lord has been restored and I feel His love for me. It says in Romans 5: 8 “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
From my discussion of The Cross of Christ we understand that we have a chance to get right with God and that chance comes through our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior. That is our reconciliation with Him. We cannot get “closer” to God without that sacrifice of His Son taking responsibility for our sin [a responsibility that He did not need to take for He was sinless]. Jesus broke down the sin barrier between God and man, that sin barrier that was symbolized in the construction of the Tabernacle and the Temple; the shroud that separated the inner Holy of Holies from the outer Holy Place. No one could pass into God’s presence except the High Priest, but when Jesus went to the cross, that barrier was torn in two and man could pray directly to God without a High Priest intermediary.
Why would we want to be alienated from our Father when we can have direct access? It is hard to explain but it may have something with that phrase that I quoted from Reverend Graham: “sin is present all around us” and we get weak and give in to it. We forget what is important, we get tempted and we don’t have enough mindfulness to stave off bad behaviors.
When we are reconciled with God and have a relationship, He restores our souls, He brings peace into our lives and we experience the joy of a lifted sin burden, a canceled debt.
Let me ask one simple question.
Who would not want that?
*Billy Graham died on Feb 21, 2018. This information was obtained from his newspaper column based on his writings.
** from the writings of Billy Graham “God does not take sin lightly”