This year, I started a new preaching series through the book of Genesis. The series started off on a positive note as I expounded chapters 1 and 2, preaching about the creation and about man and about the Garden of Eden. But, then came chapter 3. Things got a little gloomy as I had to preach about the fall. Then came Cain and Abel, then Noah and the flood, then the Tower of Babel. I found myself preaching alot about sin, judgment and the wrath of God. There was a part of me which was ready to get through all of this matter on sin and judgment, I was ready to preach on something a little more positive and upbeat. After all, we’re a brand new church plant looking to attract new people, not drive them away. However, as I progressed through the book of Genesis, I found that I could not excape the subject of human sin and evil.
This experience, of preaching through the book of Genesis, has driven home a very important point to me. More than ever before, it has forced me to consider what the Bible teaches about human nature. As uncomfortable and unflattering it may be to hear, the reality is that we as a fallen human race, are by nature, terribly sinful and totally depraved. This subject of human sinfulness is not reserved only for the book of Genesis, it is unavoidably present throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. The fact that this topic pervades the entire Bible, is proof that Christanity cannot be properly understood where the subject of human sin and evil is neglected. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening today, the typical American church neglects to preach seriously about sin. And as a result, todays typical American Christian, does not understand real Christianity.
I shake my head in amazement sometimes when I hear Pastors complaining about how shallow and worldly their church members are. Considering the sermons that some of these Pastors preach, its no wonder that their people are not growing. Their sermons are soft and sentimental, very light on doctrine. Everything is on the surface, never going deep. Their golden rule is to always be positive, to never say anything negative. Its a sad state of affairs, but it seems that the seeker-friendly church movement has won the day, even in churches which claim to be reformed. The seeker-friendly church idea is entirely Arminian, and even Pelagian. It’s based on the belief that sinners can be persuaded to “try Jesus” if the church makes Jesus appealing to them. So the seeker-friendly church leader studies all the latest polls, statistics and research about what sinners find appealing, so much for Sola Scriptura. They then structure their worship services accordingly. In comes the entertainment, out goes the sense of reverence. In comes the humorous, anecdote filled chat, out goes the expositional preaching. In comes the therapuetic, man-pleasing motivational speech, out goes every mention of pride, lust, worldliness and the need for us to put our sin to death.
Despite all of our talk about discipleship these days, I don’t believe we will see a significant amount of Christian maturity until we recapture a biblical understanding of sin and of it’s vileness in the eyes of God. Ultimately, it’s not the knowledge of sin which makes us grow spiritually, it’s the knowledge of God and of the gospel which transforms us. However, a proper knowledge of God should produce a proper understanding of sin and of our depravity. And, a proper understanding of our sin and depravity should produce in us a deep appreciation for the gospel, and a powerful personal godliness. In other words, a knowledge of our sinfulness affects our knowledge of God and of the gospel. We can’t expect to go deep in the things of God, while being superficial about the sinfulness of human nature. It is an awareness of our utter vileness and complete inability which makes God’s grace appear so amazing. It helps us to gain a better understanding of God’s sovereignty and of the mystery of divine election. It helps us to see that our salvation is entirely a work of God. If I am so dead in trespasses and in sin that I can contribute nothing to my salvation, then, that changes the focus from what I am doing, to what God has done. And all I can do is be astonished and amazed that God would set His love upon a wretch like me. Rather than catering to my spiritual pride, this sort of focus can only leave me humbled, and filled with reverance and adoration. If arriving at that goal means I must first understand the bad news of my sin, then I would say that preaching and teaching bad news is necesary.