Listen to this list of things:
- the lusts of our hearts to impurity
- the dishonoring of our bodies
- dishonorable passions
- a debased mind
- all manner of unrighteousness
- all manner of evil
Those things sound like they might be the main problem between us and God. But here’s what crazy Paul says in crazy Romans: these things are not the primary cause of our separation from God, they happen because we are separated from God.
Our broken faculties – these things we label as ‘sin’ – are the consequence of the real issue: our worship problem.
The root problem that you and I have is that we don’t respond to God as God. We see that He is God. We look at Him and we’re like: yup, that’s God. But, according to Romans, we don’t see fit to respond to Him that way. We don’t want to honor Him as God.
This kind of changes things.
If we think that our ‘sin’ tendencies are the source of the problem, it will lead us to a gospel of behavior management. If those things on that bulleted list are the root of the problem, then it makes sense to live in line with an Islamic or Jewish faith: fix those things and you’ll fix the problem.
But if those things are the penalty – the result of the problem – then fixing them will (a) be impossible and (b) won’t save us.
This changes how we view the sin of others. They church in Romans was having a hard time not judging splashy sinners. They had a hard time sharing the Gospel with those who looked beyond hope.
So Paul rolls up on them and explains – hey, don’t judge their actions as if those actions are the MAIN issue. The very things that we think are the root of our separation from God, are not. They are the evidence of our separation from God, rather than the cause.
When we see folks acting like crazy sinners without a care in the world – that’s the result of the divide between us and God. It’s the tragic penalty of a ‘bigger wrong': not honoring God as God. Every time we judge the splashy sins of those around us we testify that we don’t understand the real problem of sin at all. What sinners need is not a change in behavior, it’s a change in worship.
We can fix everything on the outside of those around us and we are still left with the cancer inside: an unwillingness to worship God as God.
This changes how we interact with sin. Instead of seeing our sin primarily as an issue of breaking a moral law, we must grasp that we break the moral law because of our sin. Breaking the law is not the issue, it’s the result of the issue.
Which means, if you and I want to wage war on our sin, it has to be on the root. We have to wage war on our idolatry. We have to battle to honor God as our King and Lord and Savior and Ruler.
This levels the playing field. The Gospel is the great leveler. The issue that has led to our separation from God is the same in every single heart. Whether it plays out as pride or envy or adultery, it’s the same problem: we don’t want to honor God as God.
That means that we don’t have to just say ‘we’re the worst of sinners’, we can actually believe it. Because sin is not defined by what happens on the outside, it’s defined by the moments when we would rather have a husband than God; the moments when we find our identity in our kids, in our work, in being loved by one another instead of Him.
Those are the sins that led to all other sins.
We need a Savior who isn’t just going to teach us how to act differently, but one who will worship God in us. And that’s the very thing that Christ purchased for us: His Spirit, worshipping God perfectly as God, every minute of every day.
Who will save us from this body of sin and death? Thanks be to God, Christ Jesus.