Sin: What’s the Big Deal?

In being made more aware of my idolatries Sunday, I spent some time meditating on the importance of the doctrine of sin. Why talk about sin so often? Why make such a big deal about it? When all around my soul gives way, should sin really be that high on the mental checklist?

Well, I thought, what is my ultimate goal? Defeating sin isn’t an end, it’s a means to an end, so what is that end? Succinctly put, my created purpose is to glorify God. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). In his Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, Matthew Henry writes, “In eating and drinking, and in all we do, we should aim at the glory of God, at pleasing and honouring him. This is the great end of all religion, and directs us where express rules are wanting.”

So, does fighting sin distract us from pursuing the glory of God? Quite the opposite, actually. There is really only one obstacle that stands between us and the glory of God, and that is our sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). What causes us to fall short of the glory of God? Past hurts? Unfulfilled desires? Adverse circumstances? No, sin causes us to fall short of the glory of God. The world, the flesh and the devil are certainly antagonistic. They war against all that is godly. Their influence should not be minimized. But these three sources of temptation would have no power if not for the presence of sin still dwelling in us (see Romans 7)—what Jerry Bridges likes to call “residual depravity.”

Pursuing the glory of God is my ultimate goal and my ultimate good. Nothing less than God Himself will satisfy my soul. My favorite quote comes from John Piper: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” So pursing holiness by putting sin to death—and all by the power of grace alone through faith alone—enables me to glorify God and thereby satisfy my soul. As John Owen puts it*, “The vigour, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh.” A few pages later, he says that believers “who are assuredly freed from the condemning power of sin, ought yet to make it their business all their days to mortify the indwelling power of sin” (emphasis mine).

As God gives more grace to combat my idolatries, I am also battling with fear, anxiety, and self-pity. In essence, this article—as most posts I write here—is serving as a way for me to preach to myself and remind myself of the eternal truths of Scripture, which will always transcend my subjective and self-absorbed feelings.

* Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers; the Necessity, Nature, and Means of It: with a Resolution of Sundry Cases of Conscience Thereunto Belonging. (First published in 1656—yes, the good old days when book titles were as long as the books themselves.)