Personal Sin Goes Beyond the Person

This verse caught my attention in my study of the Book of Exodus: “…yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” (Exodus 34:7b). Some of the initial observations are:

  1. God is absolutely holy.
  2. God does not tolerate sin.
  3. God’s holiness is displayed through his punishment.
  4. Sin is costly. It often costs more than the one who sinned. That is, “personal” sin goes beyond the person.

According to D. A. Carson:

This is because sin is social. Sin is never merely individualistic. You cannot commit any sin, no matter how private, without it having repercussions not only in your own life but in the community where you live. Maybe the addiction is as private as looking at porn in secret: surely that is not doing any damage to anybody but you (if it is doing any damage at all). But in reality, if you focus in secret on porn, the way you view the opposite sex will gradually be changed, and that will reshape family dynamics, which will in turn influence your children. Your sin has social implications to the second, third, and fourth generation: that is what God here says. God transcends time and space, and he can see the ramifications that you cannot see.

From The God Who Is There (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010), 68.

What Churches Can Learn from Penn State Scandal

What churches can learn from Penn State scandal? I would recommend you read Al Mohler’s commentary here. In addition, I offer some further lessons.

1. When you witness or know of sin in the church, don’t turn the other way. Don’t go about business as usual. Don’t claim ignorance. Don’t pretend that you can do nothing.

2. God is absolutely holy. And those he redeemed are holy (indicative) and ought to be holy (imperative).

3. God takes sin seriously. Hence, his people should too.

4. The God-given means in which the community of God’s redeemed (i.e. church) is to cultivate sanctification and even sanctions against the unruly is through discipline (Matthew 18; First Corinthians 5; Second Thessalonians 3:6).

5. God is the final judge, not you and me. And he will judge. No one will get away with anything from God who is all-knowing.

6. Everyone needs the gospel and God’s people need to be reminded of the gospel.

What is the gospel? That God created man to glorify and to enjoy his creator. Instead, man chose to disobey and transgressed against his creator. As a result, the man who was once “the image bearer of God” has been tainted with sin and all his descendents now have been born with sinful disposition. Although God could have allowed the whole humanity to remain condemned, he chose to save some. So, God sent his son Jesus to fulfill such mission. As a result of the finished mission, God demands that all men everywhere to repent and be reconciled to their creator and the only redeemer.

The Reality of the Christian’s Struggle Against Sin

It seems that there have always been those who have argued that Christians don’t sin after their conversion. Still, I would think that anyone who is even vaguely aware of the condition of their own heart will admit that they battle with sin every day.  James 3:2 tells us “we all are stumbling in many ways”.  Recently I came across Francis Turretin’s thoughts on this topic in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology (P & R Publishing, 1994).  Turretin (1623-1687) gave a five-fold proof to his negative answer to the question: Is sanctification so perfect in this life that believers can fulfill the law absolutely? (2:693-700)  He wrote:

  1. First, from the remains of sin.  Where sin dwells, there perfect sanctification cannot be, nor the fulfilling of the law.  And yet in believers, whoever they may be, sin always dwells…. (1 Jn. 1:8; Jam. 3:2; 1 Kg. 8:46; Prov. 20:9)
  2. Second, this very thing is confirmed by the “struggle between the flesh and the Spirit” which perpetually occurs in believers in this mortal life, and forces out of them so many groans and lamentations. (Gal. 5:17) [Turretin also argues at length that Romans 7 is the testimony of a believer.]
  3. Third, the impossibility of fulfilling the law is proved from Acts 15:10, where it is called an unbearable … yoke…. For if it could not be borne, how could it be fulfilled by anyone?
  4. Fourth, we are commanded to pray daily for the remission of our sins.  Now if it was possible for the renewed to fulfill the law of God, it is possible for the same not to need the remission of sins and not to be bound to say according to the command of the Savior, “Forgive us our debts.”
  5. Fifth, from the examples of the saints.  The saints everywhere openly acknowledge and confess this inability (Job 9:3, 20, 28; 15:15); David (Pss. 32:5; 130:3; 143:2); Solomon (Prov. 20:9; 1Kg. 8:46); Isaiah (Is. 64:6); Daniel (Dan. 9:5, 6); Paul (Rom. 7:14; Phil. 3:13); John (1 Jn. 1:8) James (Jam. 3:2).

Helpful words from a teacher who ministered in Geneva about 100 years after John Calvin.

Book Review: The Mortification of Sin

I finally finished this book today! Here’s one of the memoriable excerpts:

One of the choicest and most important parts of spiritual wisdom is to find out the subtleties, policies, and depths of any indwelling sin; to consider where its greatest strength lies – how it uses occasions, opportunities, and temptations to gain an advantage. We need to find out its pleas, pretences, and reasonings, and see what its strategies, disguises and excuses are!

We need to continue to attack our lusts daily with the spiritual weapons that are most detrimental to it. This is the key to the warfare. Even when we think that a lust is dead because it is quiet, we must labour to give it new wounds and new blows every day (Col. 3:5).

This abridged edition of John Owen is classic indeed! It is difficult to find books worthy of your time and money on the subject of “mortification of sin” in the top ten contemporary Christian books list. That should say something about the contemporary readership. We are not so concerned about our sin than we are about our self-esteem, self-image, self-pleasure, and self-love. I doubt that average church-goers even know what “mortification of sin” means when such apprehension and applications are critical to one’s sanctification. That is why a book like this is a must to anyone who is serious about sin and sanctification.