Monday, December 09, 2013

Sin, death, wrath and Ashton Kutcher


Warning. This post contains words like sin and death and wrath.
Serious words filled with anguish and emotion and pain and sorrow.

It also has a paragraph about Ashton Kutcher.

Now, I'm not usually a fan of Ashton Kutcher's work but the 2004 film The Butterfly Effect is both deeply disturbing, upsetting and profound. Kutcher's character Evan finds he has the ability to change situations but it becomes apparent that each positive change has negative consequences... the ripples of chaos theory frustrate his attempts to fix his life. Ultimately, Evan concludes the only hope is to prevent his being born. Better not to have lived than to cause such trouble. It's a (sci-fi) solution to the deathly effects of sin but surely not the only way?

In Romans 6 Paul writes to the church in Rome saying:
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
The Christian message doesn't say you can fix things with a new inspiration to follow. We shouldn't watch planes take off and feel inspired to sing "I believe I can fly".

A new rule won't help either. This broken humanity has had it. We're not as bad as we might be in every way but in our most honest moments we know the corrosive effects of sin in our hearts. I do.

"Biblically", Sin is a deathly thing.
We may think of it as trivial naughtiness in 21st Century Britain, but God uses it to speak of much deeper darkness in the human heart.
Spufford's HPTFTU isn't far off.
Sin is life's opposite.
It's anti-spirit, anti-creation.
Death is now unavoidable.
I feel it.
I convince myself it's not so bad but I know I sin against those I love the most...

When Jesus stepped onto the public stage - at his baptism in Luke 3 - it's for baptism, a moment in which he's numbered with the transgressors, in which he joins them in going down to death (to then be raised) with us, for us. It's a beautiful scene of triune love - with revelation of sin and death at its centre. Beauty always marred with brokenness. I see my deathly sin - taken seriously by the God of love who comes to us to bring us into his life. His story is all about death - his and ours.

So too, as the Old Testament law vividly draws out the grammar of the gospel it shows that sin brings death - consider the gory image of the sacrifice in Leviticus 1 being de-created, taken apart in every way.
Sin goes to death but another can take my place.
It's shocking to see.
Vivid.
It makes a deep impression.
Death of one to bring life to another.

A Christian isn't a death avoider.
The "flesh", the "sinful nature" can be finished off by embracing its death rather than trying to trivialise its trouble or paper over the cracks.

My sin can be put to death by believing in Jesus.
Trusting his death to also be my death.

The Bible tells how he became one of us to bring our sin to nothing.
To finish it off.
To give it the wages it deserves. i.e. DEATH.
Ending sinful life to empty sin of its poisonous power.
But the Jesus story isn't just death.
if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
A stark future is ahead. Adam's helpless race faces death.
But any member of that race can instead die in Christ.
Divine wrath will justly bring sin to death - in Adam, in Christ.
"The wrath of God is satisfied" - sin put to death.
Wrath reaching its just completeness at Calvary or in that terrible day to come. Either way, death.

But in Christ death isn't the end, because death cannot keep its hold on him.
...if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his

In Christ, death is not the end of us.
Not living in the first place is not the only solution.
One can be born again, resurrected.
We can pass through death in Jesus' death, and into life through his resurrection.

Down to the grave, up into life. Down and up. No other way.

The principle is called Union with Christ.
What happens to Jesus happens to us.
He died so do we. But if he was then raised, so will we.
He stands justified, so too we can stand justified.

In Christ, death is finished. Consider it so!

Why would I give my old dead body to more destruction when I could receive abundance of life. The gospel invites me to turn again to Jesus, believe in his death, believe in his resurrection and so consider myself dead to my old fleshly life and alive in Christ.

As I live in the present struggle with sin, my hope is sure:
There is no condemnation for those who are IN CHRIST, who die with him, who rise with him...

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