Living in a Dark World (Comfort in Ourselves, or in Our Savior?)September 15, 2007
Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34 ” The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.
Matthew 9:10-13 “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
It was Martin Luther who said “the gospel is a table for sinners and sinners only”. And it was Thomas Mertin who said “the phony self is the enemy.” For every Christian, there are certain sins which are despised more than others. Take homosexuality for example. When is the last time you spoke with a flamboyantly gay person? When is the last time you spoke with any gay person? If your answer is not too long ago then great. If your answer is never, then you’re probably no different than most Christians.
We are intimidated by certain sins over others. This seems peculiar to me for this reason. Proverbs 6:16 says “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” These are things the Lord explicitly hates. Homosexuality isn’t even mentioned; while however ‘a heart that devises wicked schemes’ could count. But nevertheless, those who have ‘haughty eyes’ and ‘lying tongues’ are also explicitly hated by God. These are sins we commit every day. Yet, we don’t buckle at the sight of these sins, which God equally hates.
Corinthians 6:9-11 says “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
It’s funny to me how certain sins in the Church, especially homosexuality, are shunned far more then other sins. We don’t mind hanging out with prideful people, liars, fornicators, adulterers, and drunkards, but when it comes to what we view as “the really gross sins” we can’t handle it. In turn, our view of holiness is that we should stick our figures in our ears and say “la la la la” really loud when we’re around the sins we can’t stomach. We so easily develop this un-biblical notion that purity means to be absent from what offends us! But we must continually remind ourselves that 1 Cor 6:11 says “that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Who are we, as redeemed sinners (Christians), to think that we deserve grace, but others do not? We must continually put on the helmet of salvation (Eph 6:17) and remember that the cross secures our favor with God, not the fact that we haven’t slipped into certain types of sin.
But there is a crucial balance when it comes to being around sinners. First, we must realize that we will never be able to be around sinners like Jesus was. He was given a foot wash by a prostitute and never had a perverted thought for a millisecond. However we should gleam from His example. If he was called a glutton, a drunkard, and a friend of sinners by the self-righteous crowd, then we ought to be known as such from the self-righteous crowd. Secondly, we follow Jesus’ example and engage sinners, but never engage sin. We compromise on man made traditions, but never on Scripture. We will err in this process. But if we are going to err, then it ought to be on the side of loving sinners, which is what we are (only we hate our sin and are being sanctified from it because the Holy Spirit lives in us).
Now along this line of thought, many are saying “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” This is a lie from the pit of Hell. The Bible does not say this whatsoever. Eph 2:3 says “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.” The object of God’s wrath is the sinner, not the sin. The object of the believer’s sin was Christ, not the believer’s sin itself. God hates sinners but He also loves them. This is the gospel. Too often we portray the gospel with either God’s hate or His love. The gospel is both! Being said, since you are not God, you can very well hate sin and love the sinner, and let God be the final judge. Jesus initially came to save the world, not judge it (John 3:17); therefore, we must be about the business of His saving ministry until Christ returns again, in which that time He will judge. So again, because we are not The Judge, we are to hate sin but love and pray for sinners. Granted, a hatred of sin is intricately tied to our judgment of the person in that sin, but nevertheless, let us not forget the depth of our own sin, the undeserved grace which has been given to us, and the duty to love others (without compromising holiness) and share the gospel.
We must step out of our comfort zones and get to know the type of sinner that most generally wouldn’t. Don’t be afraid to get to know sinners. Don’t be afraid to cut off relationships or situations that are dangerous too. Don’t be afraid to be friends with all kinds of sinners, yet remember your goal isn’t to back down from holiness so as to impress people. Many would have you abandon your faith because misery loves company. But don’t be so weak in your faith and react to this by staying far away from the lost. Learn to be friends with sinners, yet get some guts and call them out on their sin. People need to be confronted about their sin sometimes. Are you able to do this? Do you only talk with other Christians about how awful sin is, or do you ever tell those who really need to hear it? Whether you tell them firmly or politely isn’t my concern. If you do point out someone’s sin to them, point out the gospel as well. This will keep your heart in line with the truth. What sinners need is Christ, not to merely conform their behavior to yours.
In some instances, people will need to be confronted about their sin, and should not become your close friends. Loving the lost is not easy and it is not black and white. It is a fine line we must all strive to walk. Your goal isn’t to politely smile and tolerate sin so that you can show people that Jesus is cool too. Don’t be afraid to not laugh at crude jokes, explain why homosexuality is sin, and how the gospel is what we all need. Engage sinners, while also taking a stand against sin. Don’t be phony and fake about it. Don’t put a front on around sinners and then put your real face on with your Christian friends. As Chris Seay says “shut up and be human”. Know yourself. Know the depth of your own sinfulness. A Christian who truly loves the scandalous cross of Christ will not emphasize the sins he has not committed, but will tremble at the end of every day for the sins he has committed. But then his greatest fears will meet his greatest hope in seeing His beautiful and perfect Savior. He will find rest day after day in constantly looking at the cross, not himself. As R.C. Sproul says, John Newton’s hymn will be that person’s biography.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see. Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, twas grace my fears releaved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed…”
Grace teaches our hearts to fear because when we are fully stripped of all our physical, emotional, and mental merits, and depend upon God’s grace alone for salvation, it causes us to tremble as we realize we are at His complete mercy. Yet, when we also realize the beautiful truth that we have indeed been saved, and have been given such grace as this, all our greatest fears become insignificant!
Being said, as we are called to daily reach out to the lost, and be light in a dark world, remember that you are not even worthy to be a light. Make sure you find your righteousness in your Savior, not yourself. Otherwise you will forget where you came from, and have absolutely nothing to offer a dying world.