Is there anyone reading this right now who doesn’t understand that sin is bad? We all know by way of personal experience that sin is bad. And the cross-work of Jesus Christ reveals to us how appalling sin is in the sight of God. But is that all there is to say? Do we know just how bad sin really is?
If we simply think of sin as a violation of some set of rules and regulations, our view of sin is not high enough. Impure thoughts, improper actions, and inappropriate words all come under the heading of sinful behavior, but to see sin as simply missing the mark of our moral code does not go deep enough. To leave sin there is to leave it in the shallow end of the flowing river of life.
King David refused to do this. After his adulterous encounter with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband, David confessed to the Lord,
Against you, you only, have I sinned. (Psalm 51:4)
David rightly saw his sin as something far greater than rebellion against a set of commands. He saw his transgressions as something far more grievous than a violation against a moral code. He saw his sin reaching all the way to God—where it always reaches, because sin at its deepest level is a violation against God.
To be sure, David knew he had sinned against Bathsheba and her husband and, as king, David had sinned against all the people of Israel. He rightly understood the nature of his sins as damaging countless horizontal relationships. But at the end of the day, the most important violation his sin had committed was the one against his vertical relationship with God. What makes sin so exceedingly sinful is that it is ultimately willful rebellion against a loving, merciful, and sinless God.
It is only when we keep this fact in view—that our sin is a personal affront to God—that we will seriously set our hearts against our sins. Knowing that our sin is ultimately directed against God is the fuel we need to fight against our tendency to keep sinning against others. Perhaps, in some twisted way, we may believe someone “deserves” the sinful treatment we are delivering to them. But we can never regard God in that way!
This is part of what I mean when I say we must preach the Gospel to ourselves every day. God’s glorious Good News tells us that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Do we really want to continue to sin and thus thumb our nose at the Savior who left heaven’s throne to take up our cross?
It is only the power of the Gospel that will help us fight against the darkness of our sinful nature that still lives within us. We can never justify any wrongdoing against the perfect love and the perfect righteousness of God.
Joseph understood the sinfulness of sin and provided us with one of the best examples in all of Scripture to fight against sin when he asked, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).
Joseph was sold into slavery and taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials and the captain of the guard, bought him as a slave. Joseph proved himself worthy and was elevated into a position of leadership and authority. When Potiphar’s wife repeatedly tried to seduce him, Joseph flatly refused.
Remember that it was Joseph’s own brothers who had coldly contemplated killing him before they sold him into slavery. He was far from his home and likely never to see his father or brothers ever again. At some level, he could have very well have been thinking that God had abandoned him. Whatever he might have wondered during those first awful days of realizing he was the property of another man, Joseph never forgot God’s love. He refused a moment of pleasure with Potiphar’s wife because he refused to sin against his God.
Trusting in God in spite of his circumstances kept Joseph doing the right thing when the wrong thing would have been so easy to do. And that is what we need to do too! Trust God and keep His amazing love and grace before our eyes always. Keeping the sinfulness of sin in view will go a long way toward helping us say what Joseph said . . . before we have to confess what David did.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!