Confronting Sin in a Culture of Moral Relativism
Why do we need a Savior? We often talk about the saving power of Jesus, but do we ever pause and think about “what is it about us that needs saving”? What is wrong with you and I and why do we need to be rescued? The simple answer to that is sin. But in reality it’s more complicated. The nature of sin goes all the way back to the garden of Eden. To the first man and first woman. In choosing to disobey God, they set mankind on a course to live underneath the curse of sin and death. Death afterall is the just, deserved wage of sin (Romans 6:23). See death is actually unnatural to the human condition as it was meant to be. We often associate sin and death as just part of humanity, but that is not how the Bible defines humanity. Humanity was suppose to live in perfect harmony with God, in constant fellowship with Him, taking delight in Him and all He provided, and enjoying and cultivating the perfect world He had made. Sin destroyed that. So sin and death are actually an invasion into the human experience as God intended it.
We must stop seeing sin as just an act or a series of acts and start seeing it also as a condition of our hearts. It is from that condition we need rescued, and from which we must be saved if we are to be restored in fellowship with a perfect and holy God. Wayne Grudem defines sin as “any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature”. I prefer John Pipers definition, “any feeling or thought or action that comes from a heart (a condition) that does not treasure God above all things”. Acts of sin flow from a heart diseased with sin. Sin is something we must all face and deal with. It is something we must teach our kids about. It is something we desperately need rescuing from. The greatest threat to us or our kids is not the world, it is the sin inside us. If we are to be people made right with God, sin must be dealt with. But how do you talk about sin in a culture of relativism. Relativism defined is “the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.”.
The Apostle John in 1 John 1:5-2:2 addresses the issue of confronting sin. I believe he gives us 3 ways by which we can confront sin in an age where sin is viewed so lightly.
1 John 1:5-2:2:
1. Confronting Sin Means Exposing it to God's Light
Two truths about light that are also true of God is that light gives life, and light exposes what’s in the dark. Isaiah 9 says “people walking in darkness have seen a great Light”. God is light, he is holy and good and pure. He is everything darkness is not. He gives life and he exposes the dark places of our lives, the sin indwelling each of us.
God is sin’s antithesis. The Character of God is everything sin is not. That’s what I mean when I say God is Sin’s antithesis. He is it’s exact opposite, and he stands opposed to it. This is the starting point to understanding the destructive nature of Sin. You can’t possibly see how devastating the darkness of sin is until it is exposed to the holiness of the light of God.
Has anyone ever experienced utter darkness like in a cavern or cave? How did that make you feel? Did you feel panicked as if the world was falling in? Did the darkness seem to have a tangible weight that seemed heavy on you? How uneasy did it make you feel to not know what was around you or be able to see where your next step would be? How comforting was it when light was finally turned on?
Sin is even more devastating that true darkness
2. Confronting Sin Means Walking in the Light
To “walk in the Light” means to develop a “continuous and consistent pattern of life” that believes what Jesus taught about Himself and to live out those truths daily.
When we walk in the light 3 things happen according to 1 John:6-10. First we are honest with other people about our sin and struggles. The false teachers of Johns day claimed to have fellowship with Christ, with Light, yet walked in darkness. In other words, they claimed to be walking in the light but lived a lifestyle of open sin. Their words and actions did not match.
Those who walk in the light are honest with others about their sin. John says in v.6 that the truth must be practiced not just talked about. To claim the truths about Christ but to live a lifestyle out of sync with those truths is to lie about who we are and who Christ is.
Second, you must be honest with yourself about your sin. Again, relativism teaches us to lie to ourselves about sin. “You are fine the way you are”. “If it is right to you then it’s right, don’t believe what everybody else says”. “Live your truth”
We confront this lie by reminding ourselves daily about who we are. V.8 says that we deceive ourselves when we aren’t honest about what sin is. Relativism is dangerous because it teaches us to lie to ourselves every day. If sin is relative then it becomes easy to justify anything and everything you say and do. Don’t lie to yourself. Those who walk in the light are honest with themselves about their sin. When we acknowledge sin in our lives, then we acknowledge our reliance on the Savior.
Lastly, be honest with what God says about your sin. God has emphatically described mankind’s condition as having the stain of sin:
Psalm 14:3 “All have turned away; all alike have become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one”
Isaiah 53:6 “We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all”
Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable-who can understand it?”
Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”
And John says, rather bluntly, that those who would claim to be without sin do not have God’s word in them. In other words, that have no fellowship with God.
See, walking in the light confronts sin in our lives because walking in the light reminds us of who we were when Christ rescued us, who we are now, believers in the midst of being remade by the power of Christ, and who he is making us, his perfected children that will dwell with him forever in His kingdom.
3. Confronting Sin Means Placing All Our Hope and Trust In Christ Alone
Christ Our Advocate
Advocate in the Greek is parakletos which means "Called to one’s side" or "helper". It pictures someone who pleads the cause of someone else before a judge. Someone who acts as legal council.
This is why the doctrine of relativism is so dangerous. It tells you that you make the rules. You declare right from wrong, and you live according to the values you set as good. In essence, relativism makes you God. It makes you your own defense attorney. In the world of relativism you become judge and jury and you represent yourself.
Christian, Christ is your legal defense before the judgment seat of God. And He is a very good attorney because unlike an earthly defense attorney, he can guarantee your acquittal. See, in Christ, the guilty can stand before God and be declared innocent.
Christ Our Propitiation
This is a radical truth. The Greek word translated here at atonement or propitiation is hilasmos, it simply means to appease or satisfy. A similar greek word is used in Romans 3:25 when it talks of God “setting forth” Christ as a propitiation.
Christ satisfied God’s wrath and punishment for our sins. It’s important for us to understand that a very real transaction took place on the cross. The cross isn’t just a symbol of sacrifice, it is the fulfillment of God’s just penalty for sin. Paul puts it this way in Colossians 2:14 “He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross”.
When Christ on the cross said “it is finished”, that’s what he meant. He paid in full what we owed God because of our sin. Christ, The Righteous One, was hung on a cross in place of sinners. The cross is where the wrath of God and the mercy of God meet.
In a world where sin isn’t taken seriously, we look to the cross and it says otherwise. We belittle the cross when we fail to see sin for what it is. The cross tells us everything we need to know about sin and about ourselves. The truth of Christ as propitiation, when I first truly understood it, broke me. The death of Christ wasn’t the result of a world gone mad, but was the result of my sin meeting God’s love. In order to reconcile me, Christ had to be crushed. Do we mourn that? Do we rejoice in that?
So how do you confront sin in a culture of moral relativism? You shine a light on it, you walk in the light, and you run to and embrace the cross. Sin and death are very real but they hold no power over those in Christ because He has defeated both