Written by Rev. Nicholas Davelaar
Published in the Courier of Russellville, Arkansas on February 13, 2015
We noted last week that a person must know three things to live and die in the joy of belonging to Jesus Christ. According to one of the Protestant Reformers, the first of these is “how great my sin and misery are.”
That said, how does a person come to recognize his or her sin and misery? In fact, what do those words even mean?
That’s hard to know because of how our society has played Humpty Dumpty with the word “sin”.
Everyone has heard of Lewis Carroll’s book Alice in Wonderland. In Carroll’s lesser-known follow-up, Through the Looking Glass, Alice meets Humpty Dumpty (yes, that Humpty Dumpty—the one who sat on a wall and had a great fall).
At one point we hear Alice question Humpty Dumpty about how he used certain words. At first she thought she simply didn’t understand him, but after a bit it became clear that he was redefining words significantly.
“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
“‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
“‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’”
Our society would largely agree. Together we have exerted a Humpty Dumpty sort of mastery over various important words, including the word “sin”.
The word “sin” now merely refers to an act many of us disapprove of.
According to that definition, we come to recognize our sin and misery by asking other people what they think. Or we take cues from movies and television shows.
But how can we be sure they are right? How can we be sure there isn’t more to sin than what we’re being told?
How do you come to know your sin and misery?
If you suspected you had cancer, you would want to know for sure, wouldn’t you? Of course!
You would submit to whatever tests a doctor prescribed so that you might gain an accurate picture of your situation, in the hope that you could then do something about it.
Even if you had heard something helpful on Oprah or from a co-worker, you’d still go to your doctor to make sure.
So how do you come to know—truly know—your sin and misery?
Over 400 years ago one of the Protestant Reformers asked that very question.
Answer: “The law of God tells me.”
God’s law—God’s Word—teaches us our sin and misery.
Think about that. Have you heard God’s diagnosis?
For further study, read Matt 22:37-40 and Rom 3:9-20.