I was asked at one point in my life, “Does a person have to understand his sin to be saved?” My generation has been taught, unashamedly, that it’s all about Jesus. It’s about knowing Jesus, and His love. Gone are the days of revivals teaching Hell, fire and brimstone. Now are the days of acceptance, tolerance and love. We may acknowledge sin in a general sense, but there is no specific naming of it. Except, of course, when we get on our political high horse.
So the question is honest and characteristic of a tolerant, loving millennial who wants to find hope for eternity.
In short the answer is yes. A resounding yes. It is sin alone that separates us from God. It is our wickedness and sinful nature that God will judge and for which God will condemn to Hell. Adam and Eve lived in communion with God and it was only for the sin of eating the forbidden fruit that they were condemned, kicked out of the garden, separated from God, cursed and damnation to Hell became the standard for unrepentant humanity. We are all born with a sinful nature, we are all born condemned; “conceived in sin” David says (Ps 51.5).
God is sovereign and He is the judge. Yes, He is love and the fact that He has left us on this Earth to have an opportunity to hear of Him and repent is the most loving and gracious act possible. He did not wipe us off the face of the earth when we ate that cookie our mother said not to eat, the first time we lied, the first time we hit our sister. No, He is patient towards us (2 Peter 3.9). But His patience will run out, and when we stand before the judgment seat, He will condemn the sinner to Hell; the sinner who is not covered in the blood of Jesus.
But acknowledging sin is not enough. We must develop (be given) God’s heart and perspective on it. We have all met the “Christian” who is fascinated with salvation stories, but who dwells on the wickedness that was before the conversion. That person who says He believes the Gospel, but still thinks if he is good enough, if he goes to church and does all the right things, if he plays the game, he will be saved.
“A sign of sanctification is an antipathy against sin. A hypocrite may leave sin, yet love it. As a serpent sheds its coat, but keeps its sting. But a sanctified person can say he not only leaves sin, he loathes it.”
– Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity
Thomas Watson, one of the puritans, wrote so clearly on the subject. We must loathe our sin. Detest it, hate it, abandon it and think of it as God thinks of it: worthy of damnation. If we truly believed our sin worthy of damnation, we would not cheat on our income taxes. We would not break the speed limit. We would not tell white lies or steal to feed the poor. And we would refrain from these sins because we hate them. Watson points out that the hypocrite leaves his sin, but remembers it fondly. It is only the unrepentant who continues in it.
So what are you? Are you being sanctified? Is God saving you? Or are you a hypocrite? Or are you the unrepentant? We are all sinners, we will all continue to sin until the day that we die. But God is concerned about your heart towards it and the resulting resolution to die to it.
“Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.'”
– 2 Chr 7.12-14
God Himself said that if we humble ourselves, pray, seek Him and turn away from our sin, we will be saved. Yes, we must understand our sin. That it breaks the heart of God. That every sinful action puts Jesus back on the cross. That He hates it and will justly judge it by eternal damnation. But that He also took the punishment we deserve for our sin and offers us Christ’s righteousness. Jesus took our place. So let us consider your actions today. Ask God to reveal to you His heart about your decisions. Rely on His strength to honor Him, and loathe your sin.