Why Talk Sin?
Recently I participated in a Bible study on the book of Hosea. Hosea was a prophet, and God instructed him to marry a prostitute and love her. Even in the midst of his wife’s unfaithfulness, Hosea was faithful and patient with her. Hosea’s life served as a picture that God used to show Israel the contrast between their unfaithfulness to Him, and his patience, love and faithfulness toward them.
It’ll come as little surprise that Hosea is a difficult book to study. Chapter after chapter is filled with a message of gloom: Israel’s sin is destroying them. God, in his righteousness must punish sin. Glimpses of hope are interspersed throughout the book, but the overall message is dark – sin blinds, deceives and destroys.
Staring Sin in the Face
Why would we do a Bible study like that? Wouldn’t it be a better use of our time to study the positives of God’s love and mercy rather than the negatives of sin and judgment? After all, talking about sin is not very politically correct. It’s far from our favorite topic of conversation, to say the least.
When we chose to do a study on Hosea, I found myself a bit worried. I was afraid participants would be uninterested or offended. I wasn't sure how we could keep hammering away at the topic of sin for twelve weeks. And when we learned that we would have new believers in our midst, I questioned the wisdom of our choice. Surely this study would be too intense or too condemning, right?
However, spending twelve weeks studying the book of Hosea convinced me of quite the opposite. We certainly can benefit from studying a book like Hosea. And in fact, we really must look at the topic of sin if we are to more fully understand the depths of God’s mercy, love, and grace.
So why talk sin? Here’s three reasons I found while studying the book of Hosea that talking about sin is actually imperative:
It Confronts Us with Reality
We need to really know the depths of our sin. We are constantly tempted to believe that we aren’t really that bad or to excuse our behavior. We like to compare ourselves to others, feeling reassured that at least we don’t do “that.” But the Bible shows us that even the smallest offense is treachery to God. This is not because what we have done is necessarily so bad, but because every sin that we commit reveals that we think we know better than God. Every sin usurps God’s authority. Every sin betrays our self-reliance, our belief that we don’t really need Him.
Scripture does not soften the blow of reality: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Not one of us can stand before God blameless and righteous. Yet somehow it’s all-too-easy for us to acknowledge this truth without dwelling on the details of our own sinfulness.
So often we think of sin as a list of ugly, awful behaviors, which isn’t necessarily wrong; the Bible is full of these lists. However, these lists sometimes feed our tendency to justify ourselves. For instance, Hosea 4:2 lists swearing, lying, murder, stealing and committing adultery as sins grievous in the eyes of God – great! I haven’t done any of those today. This book must not really apply to me, right? However, when we take time to study Hosea, we find that chapter four also highlights the sin of forgetting God and lacking knowledge of him (Hos. 4:1-6). And here I find conviction. I often forget God. I regularly lack a desire to know him and draw near to him.
Studying Hosea changed my understanding of what sin is and confronted me with the reality that sin is much worse than I would like to believe. I am much more wretched than I would like to own. I need a Savior so much more than I’d like to admit.
It Helps Us Understand God’s Righteousness
Understanding just how bad our sin is highlights just how righteous God is. When we stop justifying and downplaying the state of our own hearts, we realize how truly good God is. Seeing sin for what it is – a treacherous offense against God - helps us understand that a righteous and just God cannot leave such offenses unpunished.
Identifying and acknowledging sin in our own lives allows us to more fully worship God. We cannot worship him well when we feel that we are mostly okay without him. In seeing the depths of our own depravity we can glory in his righteousness, holiness, and goodness.
It Magnifies God’s Grace
Seeing sin for what it is doesn’t just highlight God’s righteousness, but it also magnifies his grace, mercy, and love—for us.
God pursues sinners with an abundance of grace. That’s why he sent his Son Jesus into the world to take upon himself the full consequences of sin as he died on the cross. On the cross, Jesus defeated sin and death, and then he rose from the dead, dealing death its final blow. Now, any who will believe in the work of Jesus and submit to him as Lord are given righteousness by him. When the Father looks at us, he sees Jesus’s righteousness.
But we can’t grasp the significance of this if we think that we aren’t that sinful. When we dismiss or ignore the concept of sin, we are essentially saying that what Jesus did wasn’t that big of a deal, that his sacrifice wasn’t that important, or that it was only important for what I “used to do.” But when we understand just how devastating any and all sin is, we rejoice and glory in the mysterious grace of God – that he would see fit to make a way for sinners to be his daughters and sons. We realize that we don’t have to self-justify and deny our sin, but rather we can trust in his grace.
We benefit greatly from talking about sin. For it is in being confronted with our own depravity that we really get to celebrate Jesus. That’s exactly what happened with our Hosea study. Instead of being an exercise in guilt, it was an exercise in worship. Seeing our desperate need for a Savior opens our eyes to the depths of his grace, mercy, and love. And that is what we need most.