Biblical Foundations 11: Preparing For Easter 1 (Sin 1)

Lamb of God (3-8-16)

Holy Spirit—please give us grace to teach what is encouraging from the Bible
& give us guts to teach what may be excruciating from the Bible.

As we get closer to Good Friday and Easter, we must review—or learn for the first time!—
why those two days occurred in the first place.

The Bible is clear that both the Cross & the Empty Tomb (and the Christmas manger as well!) are central and foundational to Christianity (1 John 4:1-3; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:22; 1 Corinthians 15:1-5,13-19)—if you lose them you have lost Christianity entirely, if you don’t believe in them you are not believing in Christianity. There are many things we can humbly disagree on, but there are a few things that we must boldly agree on.

We must then ask the following questions:

  • Why did Jesus have to die…and have to die like THAT, so brutally?
  • Why couldn’t He have just “waved a wand” or said a really powerful prayer to offer humans forgiveness of sin & new life & adoption into God’s family?

The short answer is three little letters—“sin.”

Our SIN is why Jesus had to die…and die so brutally.

  • The terribleness of the cure often shows the terribleness of the disease—you don’t cure stage 4 cancer with rubbing a little ointment on your skin topically; no, you must get ruthlessly invasive with chemo, radiation, and surgery in order to cure the patient and help them live! With cancer, even the cure is brutal because the disease is so brutal. Same with Jesus’ death that offers us forgiveness, not of mistakes, but of sins…

And so as we prepare for Good Friday & Easter in a couple weeks, I want to spend the rest of this post digging deeply into the Word to understand sin more fully.

Loved ones, the last post talked about being amazed at Jesus…but there is a certain danger with learning to be amazed at Him…

  • We’ll never be really amazed at a lion in a zoo while it is in a cage and separated from us by a deep pit. As long as we are SAFE, we’ll never REALLY be amazed…We’ll never be really amazed at a lion until we’re face-to-face with him on the savannah without guardrails, just us and the lion, weakness face-to-face with strength, powerlessness face-to-face with power.
  • Same with Jesus, the Lion of Judah. We must take down the guardrails that make Jesus “safe” and stand before Him, in all His love & power, His grace & Truth, and through the Bible see Him as He is—HOLY!—and see ourselves as we really are—SINFUL! Scary, but necessary…and totally worth it!!!!

My friends, we often skip to God’s grace & love without ever telling people the reason that we NEED His grace & love—our terrible SIN! Thus we have many church-attenders who understand that God loves them in an intellectual sense but that aren’t that moved by His love, aren’t very amazed by His love, aren’t staggered with the awesomeness of the cross!

Honestly, on an average day, are you amazed by the love of God through Jesus Christ? Are the sharks of your stress swept away by the tidal waves of the grace of Jesus Christ? If not, a big part of that problem is that we don’t realize how bad we are, how unlovable we are, how nasty and heinous our sin is, why we need His grace in the first place! As I shared last Sunday, we must be appalled at our sin if we are to truly be amazed by the Savior.

  • A few years ago, a group of people organized a fund-raiser for a woman whose husband had just killed himself. Most of us would agree that this was a very kind thing for these people to do.

    • But this act becomes EARTH-SHATTERING, AMAZING, when you get more of the details—the man who killed himself had just killed some of the children of the people who would raise money for his wife. The terribleness of the man’s crimes makes the act of love of the victims’ families even more amazing. And so if we AREN’T amazed by Jesus, we need to ask Him to show us how appalling our sins really are—not just mistakes, but sins against God… it is amazing that Jesus would want to gather us in His arms when we realize how terribly we treat Him on a daily basis…
    • We’re like people with an amazing telescope (the Bible) staring intently at the sky looking for the amazing stars (Jesus’ grace & love) but it’s noon out! We always want it sunny (positive & pleasant & sweet words/thinking/teaching)—we only want others to talk about God’s love and we don’t usually want pastors or anyone else to talk about our sin (midnight)…but midnight is the BEST (and in some ways the only) time to actually see and appreciate the stars (Jesus’ grace & love)!!!
    • Oh loved ones, many church attenders don’t even believe in hell anymore! I’m not saying it’s easy, and I’m not criticizing people who genuinely wrestle with the Truth of hell. I’m just saying that many professing-Christians no longer wrestle, they no longer choose to believe it simply because they don’t approve of it/don’t understand it! The Bible—JESUS TOO!—talks about hell too often for us to disregard it and delete it from our beliefs!

People are worried about talking too much about sin and death and hell and God’s Judgment Day, but we swing to the other extreme and rarely if ever talk about it! We shouldn’t talk about sin more than God does, but we also shouldn’t talk about it less than God does either.

There are approximately 1,200 chapters in the Bible (app. 900 in OT & 300 in NT):

  • The word “sin” occurs 1,364x (NIV)—an average of more than once per chapter. Additionally, the word “guilt” occurs 189x; “death” occurs 465x; “judgment” occurs 154x; “punish” 171x; “wrath” 181x; “wicked” 469x; “evil” 430x; “hell/hades” 23x; “devil/satan” 80x; “dark” 202x. Total = 3,728x
  • The word “love” occurs 686x (NIV); “heaven” 622x; “grace” 124x; “mercy” 126x; “forgive” 121x; “peace” 249x; “faith” 458x; “hope” 180x; “truth” 137x; “life” 565x; “light” 263x. Total = 3,531x
  • Thus, words like sin/death etc. occur an average of 3x per chapter in the Bible;
  • Words like love/grace etc. occur an average of 3x per chapter in the Bible.

My simple point is this: God talks about both topics A LOT; let’s do the same!

No one says doctors & nurses are negative & “medical-book-thumpers” for telling you what’s wrong with your body during a check-up and what bad consequences there will be if you don’t get healthy—we celebrate those doctors & nurses because they have to tell us those things in order to help us get well…telling us those things is a way that they love, bless, serve, heal, care for us!

Same is true with God when He talks about sin, death, hell, Judgment, etc.—He brings it up so much because He loves us! What we consider the “bad news” is necessary for us to accept and appreciate the “good news”! God isn’t only being loving when He talks about grace…He is also being loving when He talks about sin!

Consider this scenario after a check-up:

  • “Only tell me the good news, Doc!”
  • “Just the good news?…Alright, well…this hospital has a state-of-the-art cancer treatment facility—top notch. Well-trained surgeons, the latest equipment, high remission rates.
  • “That sounds great—well done! Keep up the good work! Have a great day!” 🙂

That is what happens when we never teach/preach/learn about our sin, about death and hell and God’s Judgment.

If I told you that someone spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to give you, as a free gift, delivered to your front door, a full truck load of beads, 50,000 pounds of beads…what would you say? And if you found out that the owner’s son died delivering those beads to you…seriously, what would you think?

You might think, “Are you kidding me? What am I going to do with 50,000 pounds of BEADS? And that trailer in the driveway! What an eyesore! But it is very generous and very kind, it is an expensive gift, I just don’t understand why I NEED so many beads! And for the owner to sacrifice his son for such a dangerous mission of delivering that truckload of beads through icy roads, tornadoes, etc. I’m thankful, I really am…BUT WHY DID HE GO THROUGH ALL THE TROUBLE IN THE FIRST PLACE!? I NEVER EVEN ASKED FOR THESE BEADS!”

That would be a likely, and understandable, reaction to such a generous but strange gift.

But if the owner told you that you NEED those beads to live, and to live forever, and if the owner helped you understand how terrible it is for you to NOT have the beads, if the owner told you all that and you believed, then those beads, and the death of the owner’s son in delivering them to you, would change everything. As you went from not understanding to understanding, though the beads haven’t changed at all, you would see them differently, those beads that started out as annoying and a burden and a strange gift at best would turn into your most precious and prized possession, and as you learned about all your friends and family and neighbors and co-workers who don’t have those beads, you would begin to pass them out to everyone and anyone—you have plenty to share, an inexhaustible supply of these amazing beads!

My friends, what was the turning point for the person in the above analogy? It was understanding WHY they need the beads and WHAT happens to them if they don’t have the beads. That was what helped them be amazed at the beads and willing to risk others thinking they’re nuts (or offensive!) for passing out the beads to them.

And that is why we need to understand how nasty our sin is; only by allowing the Bible and the Holy Spirit to show us the terribleness of our sin (not just sin in general!) will we be truly amazed at the love and grace and Truth of Jesus Christ, His cross and His empty tomb, only then will we be willing & able to receive Him as our Savior (and not just as our homeboy/mascot/lucky rabbit’s foot) and to tell others about Him through our words.

The Bible uses different words to help us understand how terrible sin is–let’s look at two of them:

Iniquity (17x): “Primarily, it denotes ‘not an action, but the character of an action’ (Oehler), and is so distinguished from ‘sin’ (chaTTa’th).”[1] Wow.

  • Imagine a driver taking his off the road for a second and running over someone, killing them. Tragedy, terrible pain for both the family of the dead and the driver as well. Technically guilty of a crime—manslaughter.
  • Now imagine a driver intentionally steering the car to run over the person with the intent of killing that person. Same result as the first scenario, but it is much worse because of the motive and pre-meditated nature of the offense—1st degree murder. In the Bible, the word “iniquity,” which we are all guilty of spiritually, refers to this second scenario: the character of the action, the motive.

But you might think, “I often don’t even realize I sin, I’m often not conscious of it! Doesn’t that make it LESS terrible?”

Fair question. Actually, the opposite is true—our iniquity runs so deep because we so often sin without realizing it, because we barely often notice the thump under our tires as we try to run over God and run over another person with our words, actions, unforgiveness, that shows how deeply and entirely sinful we are. Because these sins happen so frequently as our default setting—not “second nature” but FIRST NATURE—that makes it even worse, even more serious, not less serious.

Iniquity is not a bad day once in a while that we all have—the Bible says our iniquity happens EVERY SINGLE DAY. Wow.

Psalm 38:18: “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”

I’ll say! The grace of God helps us to be troubled by our iniquity, like pain symptoms that lead us to go to the doctor’s office for healing…

Transgression (25x): We often only think of sin in this way, and in our minds we make the majority of sins to be much more tame/watered-down/innocent than they really are! We look at sin as simply coloring outside of the lines of God’s drawing…and we even celebrate those who have enough nerve and daring and so-called “originality” to intentionally color outside the lines! But transgression is more than just coloring outside of the lines of God—it is taking the crayon and attacking God and others with it.

  • When a driver is texting and drives up on the curb and runs over a child, it would not be right for the driver to say, “RELAX! I just drove outside of my lane a bit!” The driver did much worse than that! Same with our sin/transgressions—they are much worse than we think, much worse than falling a little short of God’s perfection and coloring “a little outside” of God’s lines…
  • Sin is literally “missing the mark”, missing the bulls-eye of the holiness & perfection of God. But it is even more than that. Sin isn’t just trying to get a bulls-eye but missing with our bow & arrow; it’s pointing the bow & arrow & firing it AT God, AT others, even AT ourselves with the aim of hurting/wounding/killing! That is what the Bible teaches about sin.

Isaiah 53:5: “But he [Jesus] was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Please look at the raw picture that Scripture paints of our sinfulness, of our need for a Savior:

Romans 3:9-20 NIV:

What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all!
For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.
10 As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;

11 there is no one who understands;

    there is no one who seeks God.

12 All have turned away,

    they have together become worthless;

there is no one who does good,

    not even one.”[b]

13 “Their throats are open graves;

    their tongues practice deceit.”[c]

“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”[d]

14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”[e]

15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16 ruin and misery mark their ways,

17 and the way of peace they do not know.”[f]

18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”[g]

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

Serious stuff!

Imagine a fishbowl full of water and fish. Now imagine someone attacks that fishbowl with a baseball bat; in a few seconds, the bowl is shattered, the water is all over the floor, and the fish are dead. That is the quick result of attacking the fishbowl with a baseball bat.

  • That represents the “really bad sins” that people commit, the people on death row and the serial killers and puppy torturers and so forth—whatever you think of as “really bad sins,” that is represented by the baseball bat. Such sin destroys a person’s soul and leaves them dead.

Now imagine you make three tiny, almost microscopic holes in another fishbowl. You walk by the bowl day after day and it looks great, it has the appearance of health, the fish are swimming and the bowl looks great, pleasant to look at! But after weeks, months, or even years, what is the result of those three microscopic holes in the bowl? Though for a long time the bowl looks much better, has a much better appearance than the bowl that was attacked with the baseball bat and destroyed in a few seconds, after a long enough time, what are the results of those three small holes in the second fishbowl? The bowl is cracked, the water is all over the floor, and the fish are dead. That is the long-term result of the three holes—the same end-result as the bowl attacked by the baseball bat.

  • Loved ones, this second bowl represents all sins for all of us who might not have been on literal death row for pre-meditatively murdering someone or who might not have done any of those “really bad sins.” Though we might not have done the same specific sins as someone else, our own personal and particular sinfulness is simply a variation on the same theme—our end result is the same as theirs. That is sin, my friends, and that is why ALL OF US need Jesus to save us, forgive us, re-birth us from above, adopt us into His family and transform us completely from the inside out. We are all on spiritual death row awaiting our execution and whether we realize it or not, no matter how fancily we have decorated our prison cell, no matter how stylish we have designed our orange jumpsuit to be, as a dear friend says, we are all wearing an orange prison jumpsuit!

If the Holy Spirit hasn’t helped us see and agree and realize and have sorrow over that about ourselves, we need to ask Him to help us, we need to ask Him to tell us if we’ve called out to Jesus for salvation or if we have called out to Him simply for a little encouragement, a little behavioral improvement, if we want Jesus to just be our buddy or if we want Him to be our Savior and our King.

If we don’t let Jesus lead us into the thorns of our sin we will have a hard time discovering & appreciating & being amazed by the roses of His grace & love & Truth. What we think of as just thorn bushes turn out to be rosebushes if we will follow Christ even there, even with the pokes and the scratches and discomfort…

Please prayerfully wrestle with all this throughout the next two weeks as we prepare our hearts for Good Friday & Easter…As God opens your eyes to see the depth of your sin, cry out to Him for forgiveness, cry out to Him to also open your eyes to see the heights of His grace & love & Truth (Ephesians 3:17-19), and you will begin to be amazed at the LORD in ways you haven’t been in a long time, or haven’t ever been before. You will cry out to Him, not for cosmetic surgery, but for a full heart transplant…so you can truly be alive, and alive with Him forever…

Closing Challenge

Friends, this post is not meant to be discouraging for long! You are hearing the message that tens of thousands heard in the Bible, that hundreds of millions have heard over the last 2,000 years!

In much of the United States, hitchhiking is an illegal way to travel.

In the Kingdom of God, hitchhiking is the ONLY LEGAL way to travel to heaven.


Has the Holy Spirit shown you that no matter how DRIVEN you are,

you are spiritually broken down and stranded on the side of the road?

Will you stick out one of your sinful thumbs to Jesus?

He will pull over, open the door, and reach out both of His nail-scarred hands to you…

and chaeffeur you personally to heaven…