The Reason for God

Timothy Keller

Chapter 10: The Problem of Sin

Before World War II
"Can we doubt that presently our race will more than realize our boldest imaginations, that it will achieve unity and peace, and that our children will live in a world made more splendid and lovely than any palace or garden that we know, going on from strength to strength in an ever-widening circle of achievement? What man has done, the little triumphs of his present state ... form but the prelude to the things that man has yet to do."
H. G. Wells, A Short History of the World (1937)
After World War II
"The cold-blooded massacres of the defenseless, the return of deliberate and organized torture, mental torment, and fear to a world from which such things had seemed well nigh banished - has come near to breaking my spirit altogether ... Homo Sapiens, as he has been pleased to call himself, is played out."
H. G. Wells, A Mind at the End of Its Tether (1946)
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is something fundamentally wrong with the world.
  • The Christian position is that our biggest problem is sin.
    • "All we like sheep ..."
      • Romans 3:23
      • Isaiah 53:6
      • Romans 7: 15-20
      • 1 John 1: 8-10
    • Yet to the postmodern mind, the concept is ludicrous or offensive to many.
    • Sin is seen as a bleak and pessimistic perspective on humanity.

If sin is placing something ahead of God, then there is a solution. Put God first!
  • But on the contrary, the diagnosis of sin represents hope.
    • If sin is placing something ahead of God, then there is a solution. Put God first!
      • Keller quotes Simone Weil that "All sins are attempts to fill voids." because we cannot stand the God-shaped hole inside or us and we try stuffing it full of all sorts of things, but only God may fill it.
  • If sin is the problem, let's define it a bit more deeply.
    • The refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God.
    • Seeking to become oneself, to get an identify apart from Him.
Whatever we look to as the source of our ultimate meaning in life is our god. If that god fails, we are in deep trouble.
  • We will "deify" whatever we elect to give us our identity.
    • Every person must find some way to "justify their existence" .
      • [see Kierkegaard - footnote 8]
    • If you center your life:
      • On your partner or spouse, you will be dependent, jealous and controlling. The other's problem will be overwhelming for you.
      • On your family and children, you will live your life through them until they resent you or have no self of their own.
      • On your work and career you may become driven and a workaholic - a shallow and boring person. You may lose family and friends. If the career goes badly, you may be depressed.
      • On money and possessions, you'll be eaten by jealousy about money and may do unethical things to maintain lifestyle.
      • On pleasure gratification and comfort and you will find yourself addicted to something.
      • On relationships and approval and you will be constantly overly hurt by criticism and losing friends. You will fear confronting others and therefore be a useless friend.
      • On a "noble cause" (global warming) and you will divide the world into "good" and "bad" and demonize your opponents. Without them, you have no purpose.
      • On religion and morality and, if you are living up to your standard, be proud and self-righteous. If you are not, your guilt will be devastating.
  • Identity apart from God is inherently unstable.
    • Identity not based on God leads to addiction because we turn what might be good things into ultimate things.
      • We may, of course, turn bad things into ultimate things - even worse!
      • We are then controlled by our God-substitutes.
Only if your identity is built on God and His love can you have a self that can venture anything, face anything.
  • With God, you can venture anything and face anything.
    • Again, Simone Weil:
      • "One has only the choice between God and idolatry. If one denies God . . . one is worshiping some things of this world in the belief that one sees them only as such, but in fact, though unknown to oneself imagining the attributes of Divinity in them"
  • Building our life on something besides God not only hurts us if we don't get the desires of our heart, but also if we do!
  • Thoughts from two very different but perceptive observers
    • Dorothy Sayers claimed (in 1947 in the U.K.) that despair about the direction of human society among the intellectual classes stemmed from their loss of belief in the doctrine of "original sin."
      • They believe, she says, in the civilizing influence of progress and enlightenment and are disappointed.
    • Jonathan Edwards claimed that human society is deeply fragmented when anything but God is our highest love.
      • When we care about God, we'll care about all of his creation.
      • Because if we, for example, get out identity from our political position, then politics is no longer really about politics, but about us.
  • The real culture wars are taking place inside our own disordered hearts -
    • Wracked by inordinate desires for things that control us.
    • For things that lead us to feel superior or inferior.
    • For things that cause us to exclude those without them.
    • And that fail to satisfy us even when we get them.
      • Think of any culture war issue and see if this analysis doesn't hold true of one or perhaps even both sides.
  • Cosmically, of course, sin changed the fabric of the world.
    • It disrupted God's shalom .
      • The joyful, flourishing life that come from harmonious interdependence among all creation.
Christianity is different - both harder and easier.
  • At some point in most lives, we are confronted with the fact that we are not the person we know we should be.
    • Our response is to "turn over a new leaf" and try harder to live our principles.
    • Our ordinary idea is that once we satisfy the demands of morality and society, we can finally live for ourselves.
  • But Christianity is different - both harder and easier.
    • Christ wants ALL of us. Not our things. US! And HE will give us a new self.
    • Sin is not simply doing bad things, it is putting good things in the place of God
    • So the only solutions is not simply to change our behavior, but to reorient and center the entire heart and life on God.
  • If Jesus is the center of your life, and you fail Him, He will forgive you.
    • Anything else you base your life on you will have to live up to.
    • But there is NO OTHER center for your life which died for you!
  • Everybody has to live for something.
    • Whatever that something is becomes "Lord of your life," whether you think of it that way or not.
    • Jesus is the only Lord who, if you receive him, will fulfill you completely, and, if you fail him, will forgive you eternally.

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