…and men loved darkness rather than light, John 3:19bNKJV
Question 153 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us by reason of the transgression of the law?” It gives the answer, “That we may escape the wrath and curse of God due to us by reason of the transgression of the law, he requireth of us repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and the diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation.” Last time we looked at this question we examined what sinners must do to receive salvation and how that “doing” does not contradict that salvation is by grace alone. Today we consider why God’s wrath is due to us on account of our transgressions of His law.
Driving to my office this morning I was listening to a popular Christian song on the radio. The music was emotionally provocative and excellently performed. Clearly, the singer was intending to exalt God’s grace in salvation and to express his thanksgiving and wonder at that grace. He passionately sang of his keen awareness that he has forfeited all of God’s approval and blessing due to the many “mistakes” he has made and continues to make. I do not recall all of the lyrics other than the fact that he used the word “mistakes” to describe the reason for his unworthy status before God. In my office I did a search on all forms of the word “mistake” in several English translations of the Bible. Other than for “unintentional” transgressions of the ceremonial law, the only time an English translation used the word “mistake” to describe a moral sin was Eccles. 5:6, which reads: “Let not your mouth lead you into sin, and do not say before the messenger that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands?” (ESV). Here Scripture plainly warns us against referring to a broken vow or promise to God as a “mistake” because doing so would provoke God to anger against us.
Beloved, our sins are not mistakes! We do not sin, as one of my kids used to say when he was very young, “on accident” (a chip off the ‘ol block so to speak!). We sin on purpose. We sin because we knowingly, lovingly, wantonly, intentionally, with ardent desire, conscious purpose, full awareness, and malice aforethought choose to do evil! The crowd did not deceive me, my friends did not pressure me, the devil did not make me, my weakness did not get the better of me, I was not simply off my game, having a bad day, a thoughtless moment, needing to vent, forgetting myself; no, I was doing it on purpose. It’s not that deep down in my heart I didn’t mean it that way. My sin shows what is deep down in my heart (Jer. 17:9)! As the verse at the head of this article plainly states: men, all men, all (fallen) human beings, love, really love, darkness. We sin because we love sin. We are in love with evil. That is what it means to be a sinner.
Truly if sin is really just mistakes, unintentional weak moments, not really who we are in our hearts, wouldn’t a gracious God forgive that? I mean if my sin was really the result of the devil being stronger than me and making me do what I would not have otherwise done, wouldn’t a just God who loved the weak rescue me rather than judge me for that? If deep down in my heart I did not want to sin and disobey God, but because this is a fallen world and I was just not strong enough to fend off all the influences towards evil that are constantly coming at me wouldn’t a good God recognize my desire for good and not fault me for being too weak to carry it out?
Beloved, the reason why my sin truly does deserve, not merely God’s disappointment or even frustration, but the full fury of His holy, fiery wrath is because I love to do what He hates. My sinful flesh gets pleasure from wickedness. I want to do evil, evil is tempting to me. This is who all of us are as fallen human beings. But thanks be to God if you are a Christian, you have been given a new nature that truly does love God and truly does hate evil, and although your old nature remains and often makes itself known, yet the new you, the REAL you, is not that person anymore. Therefore, let us not play games with ourselves. Let us not coddle that old nature referring to his wickednesses as “mistakes.” Let us call his evils the transgressions, iniquities, and sins that they are – knowing that as we do, God, by His grace will forgive us and strengthen our new selves to more and more put our old sinful selves to death!