Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sin

Pastor’s Window for March 2008

Sin

Lent is a season of repentance. Repentance literally means a turning or returning. It is a turning from sin to God, or a returning to God from sin. And repentance includes two things: contrition (sorrow over sin) and faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

But what is sin? That may seem to be an obvious question, and if I walked up to you on a Sunday morning and asked you to define sin for me, you would probably say, “all the bad things we do.” But your answer would only be partially right and it would betray the fact that none of us takes sin as seriously as we should. For in your definition of sin, you would have identified the symptoms, but not the disease. Treating symptoms will never cure the disease. While treating the symptoms may be important, if that is all we do, the disease of sin is still fatal. “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23; ESV). How can we take repentance seriously if we don’t take sin seriously?

Christian theologians have always found it helpful to make a distinction between Sin and sins. When we talk about Sin with a capital ‘S’ (I’m capitalizing it in this article for the sake of convenience), we’re talking about original Sin, the guilt we inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve, who rebelled against God by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Ever since, their descendants have been infected by the disease of original Sin. As a result of this disease, man has lost the image of God, which is the perfect knowledge of God as He wishes to be known, perfect alignment of man’s will with God’s will, perfect love for God, perfect holiness, perfect righteousness, and perfect happiness in Him. As a result of the disease of original Sin, man’s nature is fallen, corrupt, so that he no longer has a free will, but is bound to the devil and sin, and is born spiritually blind, dead, and an enemy of God. He cannot choose to love God. He cannot choose to serve God. He hates God from birth, and even from conception (cf. Psalm 51:5), so deep is this inborn corruption. We confess this in the liturgy each Sunday morning when we declare, “we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean” (LSB, p. 151). We cannot free ourselves from this inherent bondage to Sin. We cannot cure ourselves of this dreadful disease.

This disease comes with symptoms. The symptoms are the actual sins (lower case ‘s’) we commit, sins of commission (the bad things we do) and sins of omission (the good things we omit, don’t do). We confess these actual sins in the liturgy when we declare, “We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.” Now, don’t get me wrong, these actual sins are serious. One actual sin is enough to earn us an eternity in hell. But again, we don’t cure a disease by treating the symptoms. Tylenol may take the edge off a headache, but it will not cure the brain tumor. We may give someone with a brain tumor Tylenol, but we do not kid ourselves into thinking the Tylenol will help cure them. We are more concerned to treat the disease that is causing the headache. Likewise, it is important to treat the symptoms of Sin, but it is even more important to treat the Sin. In short, you will not defeat Sin by living a holier life, sinning less, doing more good. You will only live a holier life, sin less, and do more good, after Sin has been defeated in you by God in Jesus Christ His Son.

The only cure for Sin and its resulting sins is Jesus Christ! He is your Great Physician. He alone can cure you from your dreadful disease. He alone can free you from your bondage to sin, death, and the devil. He did so by taking on your flesh, being tempted in every way as you are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). He reverses the curse of Adam by living the perfect, holy life in our place. Original Sin does not take hold of Him. He commits no actual sins. But He does take our Sin and our sins upon Himself on the cross. There the righteous and holy God, out of love for us, punishes His only Son in our place, for our Sin, and for our sins. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus is the Lamb of God, pure and holy, who is the once for all sacrifice of atonement for Sin, offered up to God on the altar of the cross. God declares this sacrifice acceptable and pleasing. He does so by raising Jesus from the dead, and seating Him at His right hand.

Now Jesus’ perfect life, sin-atoning death, and victorious resurrection are given to you, freely, by grace, through faith. You are baptized into Christ. Your Sin has been washed away. Your sins have been covered in His blood. His righteousness is counted as yours. His death for your Sin is your death to Sin. His resurrection is the sure and certain promise of your victory over death and your own resurrection from the dead, as well as your new life in Christ even now. Adam’s curse is reversed. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin… grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:12, 21). This is not all apparent yet. As long as you are in this sinful flesh, you have to deal with Sin and sins. But remember that these things have already been conquered in you. You have the freedom now to battle against Sin and sins. Repentance is that daily battle. It is a daily return to God’s gifts in Christ. God gives you strength as you daily remember your Baptism, daily hear His Word, regularly hear His Word preached, regularly confess your Sin and sins and receive His absolution, and regularly attend the Supper of His body and blood for your forgiveness. God grant us His grace this Lenten season to take Sin seriously, so that we realize our Sinful condition, are brought to daily repentance by the Holy Spirit, receive Christ’s gifts in faith, and daily battle against and crucify our corrupt flesh out of love for our heavenly Father, who first loved us, and gave His Son to save us.

Pastor Krenz

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