Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sin and the Glory of God

by Bruce Mills

I spent Thursday through Saturday of this past week at the Ligonier National Conference in Orlando. The teaching that took place was incredible, with men of God such as Sinclair Ferguson, Alistair Begg, Derek Thomas, and D. A. Carson opening up the Scriptures on various aspects of the holiness of God. I was absolutely blown away by D. A. Carson's message on the church as God's holy people, and quickly realized why he was my son-in-law's favorite professor during his time in seminary. But there was one message which stood above all of them in moving me emotionally. It was Thabiti Anyabwile's message titled "Cosmic Treason: Sin and the Holiness of God." He masterfully worked his way through Numbers 25, drawing out point after point about the horrendous nature and treasonous character of sin.

Two of Anyabwile's points were particularly thought-provoking. The first was this: "Sin poisons our sympathy so that we side with the sinner in his sin rather than God in His holiness and justice." Think about that. If we should see God's judgment fall upon an individual, a nation, or a people because of sin, rather than crying out for God to vindicate His name and to continue to execute His justice until the sinner repents and God's name is glorified, we find ourselves sympathizing with the sinner who is receiving the just punishment for his sin. We forget that sin is open rebellion against an infinitely holy God, and the slightest offense deserves eternal damnation in hell. By its very nature, sin is an incalculable malevolence against God's glory. But instead of seeing God's judgment as the demonstration of His supreme holiness, we begin to wonder why He would take such drastic action against someone for what seems to be such a petty offense. We question God's goodness and love, and thus, we demean His holy character. We are willing to accept a God who punishes sin, but only to the degree that we think it should be punished. And when we do that, we have diminished God's holiness to a level equal to ourselves, and we have diminished the nature of sin to that which can be expiated with a minor slap on the wrist.

The second point which I found to be equally profound was this: "To care about anything more than the supremacy of the glory of God is itself treason against God." That statement exalts the glory of God to a level which most people have never considered. God’s glory is the sum total of who God is, and He is defined by His attributes. He is the infinitely sovereign Lord who is holy, righteous, just, loving, merciful, and gracious in all of His ways at all times. Unless we have a high view of God, recognize Him for who He is, and seek to exalt His supreme glory in every moment of our lives, our attitude and actions toward Him are treasonous.

Such a view of God will greatly magnify one's view of the sin in his own life. And as our sin is magnified and we see it for what it truly is, the infinite love of God as demonstrated by His sending His only Son to die for our sin becomes a staggering thought. To think that virtually every moment of my life I am sinning because I don't seek to exalt the supremacy of the glory of God in that moment, yet He loved me so much that Christ came to die for me. That thought simply blows my mind.

There is one last aspect of this that I want to mention quickly. Having such a high view of God and His glory is why Phinehas took the immediate, drastic action that he took in Numbers 25 to stop God's plague of judgment against the people for their sin. And it will do the same for us. A high view of God and a view of our sin as treason against Him will cause us to take every step necessary to kill sin in our own hearts and lives. That may be difficult, but Jesus said we are to take whatever steps are necessary, no matter how drastic, to cut out sin from our lives (cf. Matthew 5:29-30, 18:8-9). His language was figurative--He didn't mean we are to literally cut off our limbs or pluck out our eyes--but He did mean that we are to take sin seriously and do everything it takes to rid ourselves of it. And when we see God in all His infinite glory and majesty, and recognize our sin as a rebellious slap in the face of our Creator, those who are genuine Christians will begin to do just that.

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