Why God is Against Sin

john_murray_0In the sermon this past week, I quoted John Murray on God’s response to our sin. Here’s the quote,

“In the last analysis sin is always against God, and the essence of sin is to be against God. The person who is against God cannot be right with God. For if we are against God, then God is against us. It could not be otherwise. God cannot be indifferent to or complacent toward that which is the contradiction of himself. His very perfection requires the recoil of righteous indignation. And that is God’s wrath.”

I find this quote profoundly helpful for a few reasons.

The writing is excellent. I am amazed that Murray relates several different concepts together in such a way that the central truth seems so obvious: of course that’s the way things are, how could it be otherwise? Every sentence appears self-evident, and each truth builds clearly to the final conclusion. And yet, when I try to explain the same concept, I always use many more words, and it never sounds quite as obvious. Regardless of where we are in our theological development, we should strive to articulate biblical truth more clearly. This will help refine the truth in our own minds and whoever happens to be listening to us.

Sin is only properly understood in relation to God. Sin, in the full sense that the Bible describes, cannot be understood simply as a wrong action. It is not defined as sin because it hurts others, because it is out of step with the culture, or even because it is contrary to the created order. It is sin because of what it says to God and what it does to God. I think adultery provides a good analogy. When a man has a sexual relationship with a woman to whom he is not married, it’s sin. When a married man does it, it’s adultery. The act is adultery because of the unique relationship he has with his wife—because of who she is to him and who he ought to be to her. Likewise, we only see sin rightly when we understand it in relation to God.

Sin is against God. A man’s adulterous actions are not only defined in relation to his wife. They are against his wife. When married man acts inappropriately toward other women, he is committed an act against her. So also, our sin is always against God. God is Holy. He has called us to relationship with him in holiness. When we choose not to be holy, are committing an action against him. All sin is relational. It is a personal offence. And that’s why it deserves a personal response.

God is against us in our sin. My favorite aspect of this quote is that it shows God’s anger toward us in our sin is not simply a technicality, but it arise out of his nature. I’ve often heard preachers almost apologize on God’s behalf for his wrath against sin. They give the impression that God would love nothing more than to welcome all into heaven with open arms, but, as it turns out, there’s this clause in the fine print about God not being able to let sin into heaven, and that’s why God is bound to send sinners to hell. It’s sort of like king Darius after he realizes he was tricked into signing the orders for Daniel to be thrown into the lions’ den. He doesn’t want to do it, but he has no other option. Murray, however, explains so well that because sin is against God, God must be against sin. It is part of God’s essential nature. If he is not against sin, he is not God.

This quote is at the beginning of Murray’s excellent chapter on Justification. He argues that because sin is such a terrible offence against God and deserves God’s wrath, the actions on God’s part restore us to a right relationship with him would have be extraordinary. And that’s exactly what they are.

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Reflections on a month of Sabbatical

I have a great family. I spent the month of May in my basement working on my dissertation, so naturally I was around my family a bit more. People were often surprised I chose to work at home because they thought I would be more distracted. However, I wanted to be closer to my family. I loved every minute of it. I’m blessed to have a wife and children who wanted me to be home.

I am privileged to pastor a great church. I’m thankful to the deacons for suggesting I take a sabbatical and to the church for their full support. I also found that I really wanted to attend my church’s services even when I didn’t have be there to lead. There’s nowhere else that I would rather worship.

I’m not as attentive to my family as I thought I was. While not pouring shepherding energy into the church, I found myself putting a lot more shepherding energy into my family. I realized that I had put them on the back burner far too much. Many their needs seemed not as great as those in the church, so I wrongly justified giving them less attention. I don’t want to do that again. There will naturally be a change when resume pastoral duties, but I still want to devote my primary pastoring to my family. I think I understand better what the Apostle means when he says that if a man can’t manage his own household, he will not be able to care for God’s church.

I’m not essential, and that feels really good. The church functioned just fine with out me. A few critical meetings happened with out me. The preaching and teaching continued just fine without me. Don’t get me wrong. I am privileged to serve in my position, and I would be quite disappointed if they decided that they didn’t want me. But, my job is to raise up leaders who can continue the work long after me. It feels good to see this happening.

It’s hard to stay plugged into God’s word. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have a sermon that I was preparing, and that meant I wasn’t forced to be reading my Bible. I also had a major project—my dissertation—that was hoping to finish before the end of the month. I found it easy to justify not reading my Bible in the morning in order to get a jump-start on my research for the day. And yet I also found what a different it made for my own spiritual state when I did start the day reading the Bible and praying. This tells me, as a pastor, that I need to have sympathy when the members of the congregation tell me that they are too busy to read their Bibles. But, at the same time, I need to encourage them to look to the bible as a first priority because it can make all the difference in the world.

I need to work harder at trusting God with things outside of my control. The hardest part about taking the sabbatical was removing myself from people and projects I care deeply about. However, with some distance I realized that much of my “caring” was really “worrying,” and that doesn’t help anyone. It only models the very thing that will bring disaster on people’s lives. I’m excited to jump back into the projects and relationship, but I need to be more aware of my own limitations. At the end of the day, all I can do is preach and pray. God must do the work. And because he is perfect and sovereign, why would I want it any other way?

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Wedding pictures



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Wye Island


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God looks to the Humble

To listen to this week’s excellent message by Phillip Howell, click here.

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The Place of preaching

What is necessary for the success of a church? To listen to the sermon click here.

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