Richard S. Taylor states in his book A Right Conception of Sin that the doctrine relating to sin forms the center around which we build our entire theological system. A faulty concept here would lead to various harmful and deceitful, if not destroying practices.
With open alarm expressed by numerous church leaders concerning creeping worldly mindedness, declination in attendance, and a lack of fervency in devotion; perhaps we should re-examine our doctrine of sin as practiced and taught by example. It is one thing to stand behind the pulpit and declare war on sin and yet another to demand that these principles be carried out first in the life of the speaker and then in the hearers.
The application of the message was what caused the officials at Oxford to refuse to allow Wesley to speak again. He simply asked the question of who was a Christian under the shining light of the gospel.
We are warned about being only hearers of the Word, deceiving ourselves. A battery of excuses have been mined away from us in recent years, with major moves of God being reported in the uttermost parts of the earth, the de-clawing of the Bear, and a host of other facts that prove God is still very operative in the earth today.
A few years ago, when the ill-fated space shuttle was determined to be veering off course and had severe problems, the command central had no choice but to self-destruct the whole mechanism. The word was that it was done to protect potentially thousands from the danger of an out-of-control spaceship.
It is my firm conviction that the conservative evangelical movement as we know it in America has set in motion the concepts that will cause it to “self-destruct.”
Mr. Wesley laid a biblical cornerstone for the doctrine of sin: “A willful transgression of a known law.” Mr. Fletcher followed with his in-depth “Checks to Antinomianism.” Watson, Clarke, Field, and a host of others held tenaciously to this concept. These men taught and practiced that the atonement of Christ dealt squarely and fully with the sin question.
Somewhere a drift began, perhaps during the great controversies that followed the Civil War. Richard S. Taylor wrote his book A Right Conception of Sin to try to correct what he perceived to be errors concerning the doctrine and understanding of sin.
Today we are in a position where thousands give mental assent to so-called principles of Wesleyan interpretation of the Scripture, but in practice deny them. The impetus of the doctrine has been taken away. Leaders bemoan the fact that their base is eroding. The problem transcends our stand on outward adornment, structure of church government, or specific positions on a variety of subjects. Statistics show us something we ought to consider.
We should re-examine our doctrine of sin, not in theory as much as in practices – practices we tolerate in our lives and allow to freely operate in our ranks. The sin of gossiping and backbiting is always listed in the Scripture along with the sins of murder and adultery. Jesus stated plainly that “no murderer hath eternal life.” He clearly linked together the sin of murder and anger. Where does that place a host of professors of religion who engage freely in this common place sin of the twentieth century?
For a while we tolerated it, now we embrace it as a necessary evil in our ranks. It seems to be practiced freely and without much wounding of conscience even among professing evangelical Christians.
This is a sad hour and an hour for genuine repentance and turning from sin. Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. As long as we see ourselves and our peers in self-righteous robes of profession and exceptional knowledge and not in the revealing light of the Scriptures, there is no hope of turning the tide of sin and ungodliness.
The right concept of sin is always demonstrated in a clear rebuke of its practice wherever it is found. Sin nailed Jesus to the cross, not just the gross, heinous sins, but all sin – even the ones practiced by so-called holiness people today.
So far have we drifted from the mindset of John Newton when he wrote,
I saw one hanging on a tree in agony and blood. He fixed his languid eyes on me as near his cross I stood sure, never till my latest breath can I forget that look; it seemed to charge me with his death tho’ not a word He spoke.
Oh, for a revival of owning up to our sin, no matter how palatable or how hard. It is the only path to revival and awakening!