The Effects of Sin
Several weeks ago, Pastor John Piper preached a message entitled The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and the New Earth. I started listening to it yesterday. One portion in particular really caught my attention. I'm guilty of not taking sin anywhere near as seriously as it should be taken. This message really gives me something to think about.
The Unendurable Sight of Suffering
So the big picture in outline form: God created the universe out of nothing; it was all very good the way he made it; it had no flaws, no suffering, no pain, no death, no evil; then Adam and Eve did something in their hearts that was so horrifyingly evil -- so unspeakably wicked, preferring the fruit of a tree to fellowship with God -- that God not only sentenced them to death (Genesis 2:17), but also subjected the entire creation to what Paul called "futility" and "bondage to corruption" (Romans 8:21-22).
In other words, whereas once there was no suffering or pain or death, now every human dies, every human suffers, animals suffer, rivers overflow their banks suddenly and sweep villages away, avalanches bury skiers, volcanoes destroy whole cities, a tsunami kills 250,000 people in one night, storms sink Philippine ferries with 800 people on board, AIDS and malaria and cancer and heart disease kill millions of people old and young, a monster tornado takes out an entire Midwestern town, droughts and famines bring millions to the brink -- or over the brink -- of starvation. Freak accidents happen, and the son of a friend falls into a grain elevator and dies. Another loses an eye. And a baby is born with no face. If we could see one ten-thousandth of the suffering of the world at any given moment, we would we would collapse under the horror of it all. Only God can endure that sight and carry on.
The Horror of Sin Pictured in Creation's Futility
Why did God subject the natural order to such futility because of the sin of human beings? The natural order did not sin. Humans sinned. But Paul said, "The creation was subjected to futility." The creation was put in "bondage to corruption." Why? God said, "Cursed be the ground because of you" (Genesis 3:17). But why? Why are there natural disasters in creation in response to moral failures in man? Why not just simple death for all the guilty offspring of Adam? Why this bloody kaleidoscope of horrific suffering century after century? Why so many children with heart-wrenching disabilities?
My answer is that God put the natural world under a curse so that the physical horrors we see around us in diseases and calamities would become vivid pictures of how horrible sin is. In other words, natural evil is a signpost pointing to the unspeakable horror of moral evil.
God disordered the natural world because of the disorder of the moral and spiritual world -- that is, because of sin. In our present fallen condition, with our hearts so blinded to the exceeding wickedness of sin, we cannot see or feel how repugnant sin is. Hardly anyone in the world feels the abhorrent evil that our sin is. Almost no one is incensed or nauseated at the way they belittle the glory of God. But let their bodies be touched with pain, and God is called to give an account of himself. We are not upset at the way we injure his glory, but let him injury our little pinky finger and all our moral outrage is aroused. Which shows how self-exalting and God-dethroning we are.
The Trumpet Blast of Physical Pain
Physical pain is God's blast with a physical trumpet to tell us that something is dreadfully wrong morally and spiritually. Diseases and deformities are Satan's pride. But in God's overruling providence, they are God's portraits of what sin is like in the spiritual realm. That is true even though some of the most godly people bear those deformities. Calamities are God's previews of what sin deserves and will one day receive in judgment a thousand times worse. They are warnings.
O that we could all see and feel how repugnant, how offensive, how abominable it is to prefer anything to our Maker, to ignore him and distrust him and demean him and give him less attention in our hearts than we do the carpet on our living room floor. We must see this, or we will not turn to Christ for salvation from sin, and we will not want heaven for any reason but relief. And to want heaven for relief is to be excluded.
Wake Up! Sin Is Like This!
Therefore God, mercifully, shouts to us in our sicknesses and pain and calamities: Wake up! Sin is like this! Sin leads to things like this. (See Revelation 9:20; 16:9, 11.) Preferring television to fellowship with God is like this. Desiring relief in heaven, but not desiring the Redeemer, is like this. The natural world is shot through with horrors that aim to wake us from the dream world of thinking that demeaning God is no big deal. It is a horrifically big deal.
I preached this truth at Bethlehem on the fourth anniversary of Nine-Eleven, knowing that there were people in our church dealing with terrible suffering. Two or three weeks later, I was in a pre-service prayer meeting with our folks, and one of the young mothers of a severely disabled child prayed, "Dear Lord, help me to feel the horror of sin the way I feel the horror of my son's disability."