As time progresses and Christianity becomes more watered down, sin is being hushed throughout our country. This is even occurring in a number of our churches. Perhaps it was the seeker-sensitive movement, or perhaps it was/is the sensitive seekers, but regardless, this is a key we cannot reshape. If we reshape the key of sin, then we have no means of unlocking the beauty of the Gospel.
Christians should not be embarrassed by the doctrine of sin nor should we soften the scriptural truths regarding the human condition. In terms of evangelism or missionaries, the message is more sufficient than anything we could create in its place. Years of failed substitutions, or appealing to external problems, has shifted the truth away from the fact that we are the problem. This is not to say that we beat individuals over the head with the doctrine of sin, because our approach does matter, however, we need to ensure that they understand sin, otherwise, why do they need a savior? This question really reveals how many have changed the gospel to avoid “true sin” and the message of man’s depravity. Jesus has become a savior of secondary (and even non) issues in order to bypass the reality that all men are sinners in their hearts.
The doctrine of sin is crucial for fully understanding the gospel, and that understanding becomes a matter of true saving faith. In diminishing the blow of the human condition, or the doctrine of sin, we would find the value of the cross decreasing and we can easily question why we need a savior to begin with. Should Christians be embarrassed by the doctrine of sin? Of course not! It was the doctrine of sin, and our depravity, that showed the beauty of God’s glorious and merciful grace. The doctrine of sin is essential to the gospel; to show that we cannot fix our ways or be sufficient in fulfilling the law of The Lord.
“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Grecian” (Romans 1:16).
The truth of sin elevates our Lord in understanding his great mercy, what price He paid for us, and by understanding what punishment He took on for us. To humble ourselves and recognize the truth of our low and underserving positions is reminiscent to the words of John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). However, in changing sin, we have changed the message. Rather then the cross showing how utterly deprived we are and how merciful God is, we have made it man-centric, appealing not to truth, but to humanistic emotionalism. We have made the cross all about us, how great we were that the Son of God would die for us, that we were worth so much that “heaven went bankrupt for us”. The reality is; Any view of the cross that elevates the value of man over the depth of his sin is wrong. The cross shows how wicked we were in that the perfect Eternal Son of God took on flesh and had to die for us in order to save us. God saved us, because he is good and merciful, not because we are wonderful. God didn’t need to save us, he didn’t need us at all, but he is merciful. How does God love us? By dying for us, the undeserving, wicked, rebels,
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6–11)
Understanding sin is a part of understanding our world, and it is also a part of understanding ourselves. For the well being of others we must include the doctrine of sin in the preaching of the gospel. The doctrine of sin ensures that we understand that evil is primarily in the world because of ourselves. It is not some external problem that we are victims to, but it is ourselves. Our we victims to other’s sins? Of course, but we also inflict death with our own sins. We are the primary cause, but we find ourselves shifting the blame on each other with the belief that we are “good people.” While, by man’s questionable standards we can be good people, we are holding a debt, acquired firstly from birth and secondly from our personal sins, that must be accounted for one day. God is a good, just, judge, which means he will punish the wicked. This truth is crucial and should not be withheld from any human being, but what follows the truth of sin, of course, is that grace is extended to us by God’s provision of a substitute, Jesus Christ.
The “fire and brimstone” message has almost completely passed away, and instead we have shifted to a view of universalism, which has entered into the church in order to “win souls” or fix bad feelings regarding the righteous judgment of God. I’m not saying the fire and brimstone message is the best presentation, because I do think there is the balance of the Law, Sin, and Grace, but the extreme counter-measures have been damaging to say the least. We have entered into a post-modern Christianity where Christian truths are relative, there are many paths to God, and we don’t have the right to question differing beliefs. This is contrary to the message of scripture, and we must counter it. We must.
In our depravity, only the truth of scripture can work in the hearts of men, because faith comes by hearing and so we must preach the Gospel as a whole. The message is sufficient, and therefore changes need not be made to the truth. I will grant that some inappropriate approaches need to be addressed, and I would postulate that using the 10 Commandments such as Ray Comfort does is a beautiful way of showing individuals the truth. Regardless, the doctrine of sin must remain lest we fail to truly grasp the work on the cross. Sin is vital to understanding the world, and its evil, and it is vital to the spreading of the gospel. There is a solution to sin, to our debt, and the solution is the glorified and beautiful work of Jesus Christ. We owe it to our brothers and sisters in Adam to spread this bad news, for their benefit, so that they can understand the good news and perhaps become brothers and sisters in Christ. In this particular case, the gospel of Jesus Christ will always require the sobering truths of the bad news. As R.C. Sproul has said, you cannot understand the Good news without understanding the bad news.