Tuesday, May 13, 2008

River Region's Journey - Whatever Happened to Sin?

I do like to share my monthly column from River Region's (formerly Montgomery's) Journey magazine here on the blog. In May, I revisited a topic that I had explored here, in addition to giving a thumbnail sketch on how God is working around the world. Here is what I submitted for May:

In the 80’s, Christian musical artist and philosopher Steve Taylor gave this description of moral relativism:
Morality lies within
Consciences are restin'
Please repeat the question again
Whatever happened to sin?

Not only can we ask that question, “whatever happened to sin?” but we can also explore concepts such as, “What is sin?” and “What behaviors are defined as sin?” I have been a bit fascinated by a new study by Ellison Research that shows that a majority of Americans surveyed believe in a concept of sin, but differ widely on what activities actually can be defined as sinful. For the purposes of the study, sin was defined as "something that is almost always considered wrong, particularly from a religious or moral perspective".

So 87% of Americans believe in the concept of sin, and there were 30 behaviors that were listed for those taking the survey to give a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" regarding whether they believe that behavior (or lack of behavior) was sinful. Only 7 out of 30 were described as sinful by a majority of those taking the survey. Among those making the cut were adultery (81%), racism (74%), using hard drugs (are you kidding? - 65%), having an abortion (56%), and homosexual activity or sex (52%).

The surprise comes as we look at some of the items that were classifed as sinful by 50% or less of those surveyed - reading or watching pornography (50%), sex before marriage (45%), getting drunk (41%), and gambling (30%). You can find the results at www.ellisonresearch.com.

I think as we look at the whole notion of sin, we see that while there still may be a sense of right and wrong generally in our culture about some things, what defines right and wrong is often up to the individual. As Christians, we can have moral clarity as a result of the teachings of the Scriptures - we have a bearing for our lives. And as Christians, we can bring the world an antidote to the problem of sin through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I had a fabulous conversation the other day on The Meeting House with Dr. Mark Roberts, who serves now in leadership at Laity Lodge in Texas, after pastoring a Presbyterian church in California. He made the excellent point that, “We are in a place where increasingly people are going to define for themselves…right and wrong…even if they acknowledge God and even if they acknowledge that they’re Christians. And that is troubling, but I think it also gives us our marching orders – in the sense that we need to engage with people, not merely to just go out and say, ‘Hey, this is sinful’; that’s not going to get us very far. But to live our lives in such a way that people are drawn to Christ, to live both individually and in the world together as we’re God’s people.” You can read his blog at www.markdroberts.com. Certainly, God has a moral code by which we are to live, not just to be prevented from doing certain things that we may want to do, but to participate in the “divine nature”, walking in the very best way of living for us.

And people all over the world are experiencing this new and abundant life in Jesus Christ. One of the exciting aspects of hosting The Meeting House radio program on Faith Broadcasting each weekday afternoon is to trace the hand of God at work around the world. William and Amy Stearns, authors of the book, 20/20 Vision: Amazing Stories of What God is Doing Around the World, have joined me previously on the show, and they publish a “Global Report”, available on their website at www.billandamystearns.info. Citing the Generous Giving website (www.generousgiving.org), they report that each day 166,000 people hear the good news of Jesus Christ for the first time, and that each year, 27 million people profess faith in Christ as Savior for the first time. A great example of the church’s growth is that the current 81 million believers in China are expected to swell to 135 million by 2025. By the year 2050, the 50 million believers in India are expected to swell to 125 million. Recently, author Joel Rosenberg appeared on the show, and reported the dynamic spiritual growth taking place in the Middle East. You can read about his research at www.joshuafund.net.

The light of Christ is shining throughout the world, as the burning torch of God’s righteousness is illuminating the darkness. As we embrace the truth that God’s way is best, we find we have the power to turn away from sin, and we can have a penetrating influence in our culture.

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