Psalm 11 says,
1 In the LORD I take refuge.
How then can you say to me:
“Flee like a bird to your mountain.
2 For look, the wicked bend their bows;
they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows
at the upright in heart.
3 When the foundations are being destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”
4 The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD is on his heavenly throne.
He observes everyone on earth;
his eyes examine them.
5 The LORD examines the righteous,
but the wicked, those who love violence,
he hates with a passion.
6 On the wicked he will rain
fiery coals and burning sulfur;
a scorching wind will be their lot.
7 For the LORD is righteous,
he loves justice;
the upright will see his face. (italics mine)
Have you ever heard the idea that God loves the sinner, but hates the sin. If that is the case, what should be done with Psalm 11? What should be done with Psalm 5, Leviticus 20:22, 23, or Proverbs 6? If it were true that God hated only the sin, why doesn’t God simply forgive the sin? These are the not the only examples. In 2 Samuel 6 God takes Uzzah’s life. What Uzzah did there was explicitly forbidden in Numbers 4:15 (see also Exodus 25). Uzzah paid for this sin with his life. Was it the sin or the sinner that God judged here?
Please know that I’m not writing this with a light heart. This is not a favorite topic of mine. It is, however, on my heart because the ones with whom I encounter most would be hard pressed to say that they are sinners (or wicked). Rather, it would be easier to say they maybe sin on occasion (though, they may be hard pressed to use such a strong word as sin). Since the early church it has been understood that after the fall, man’s natural relation to sin was one of total slavery. Augustine said that man after the fall is “not able not to sin.” Yet, the gospel assumes that one is a sinner, and as a sinner you are completely unable to be a part of God’s cosmic reconciliation coming about through Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and current ministry sitting at God’s right hand interceding for the saints (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24). Thomas Watson said, “Til our sin be bitter to us, Christ will never be sweet.” How can sin be bitter to us if we fail to recognize that sin and sinner are not two separate entities. A sinner sins, and sin is the habitual practice of sinners.
Jesus offered a description of two different types of people at the end of the greatest sermon ever preached. He said a bad tree doesn’t bear good fruit, nor does a good tree bear bad fruit (Matt. 7:15-20). What happens to the tree? It’s cut down and burned the fire. Not the fruit, the tree. This sobering reality seems neglected in our churches. I’m not advocating for a preaching style humorously characterized by the photo to the right, but I am advocating for communicating to people that humans are naturally evil. People are bad trees who will be cut down and burned in the fire. However, this is where the good news is like a glass of water to a parched desert traveler. Jesus is Lord, and sin, death and rebellion has met its end in Jesus.
God raised Jesus from the dead. Death, the natural consequence of a sinner’s sin, has been defeated. Life is available to all those who die to themselves in Christ. As Christ lives, we too shall live. In Christ we are made alive, being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Paul reminded the Corinthians saying, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sinfor us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:17-21). New creation!! What a glorious exchange! From sinner to the “righteousness of God” because of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Gospel!
I’m pretty sure this rambling is pretty incoherent at times. There are doubtlessly many wholes and gaps in what I’ve written. However, my point in writing was really two-fold. First, humans are sinners. In their sinful condition they are objects of God’s hatred and wrath. Sinners have taken their divinely created life sustained by the breath and grace of God and claimed total independence. They’ve robbed God’s glory and given it to themselves and whatever idol they serve. Their emphasis is inward, when it should be completely upward. God is the center of his own universe, yet man made himself the center of God’s universe (see John Piper: Desiring God, ch. 1). However, secondly, God has made a way for sinners to be reconciled to himself through the Lord Jesus. Not necessarily for the sinner, but the benefits for the sinner are infinite and eternal. God is reconciling the world to himself through the Lord Jesus for his own glory. He’s putting the wrongs back to right. He has declared sin, death and rebellion dead and defeated in and through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He has given life in the resurrected Jesus.
Let me conclude with a verse from Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy:
Come, ye weary, heavy-laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.