(Series Intro) God’s Word basically presents us with two ways of dealing with sin. There is a man-centered (anthropocentric) approach, and a God-centered (theocentric) approach. In this brief, three-post series we take a look at 4 man-centered approaches of dealing with sin in the life of a believer before finally taking a closer look at what Scripture presents as a true, God-centered gospel fueled approach.
In a man-centered approach to dealing with sin, the primary focus is on the sin itself and our response to it. This can take several forms. Here is what it often looks like at ground level.
We attack our sin.
Thirdly, we clearly recognize the problem. We are tired of living in filth. And with a new-found energy and clarity of vision we decide to attack the issue head on. We are on a roll with dumpsters and trash bags and shovels and books on “christian living” and accountability groups and Bible studies and prayer partners.
And here is the poster-child for the North American, evangelical method of dealing with sin. We clearly see our sin. We are moved towards repentance. But instead of confession, repentance and turning towards Christ, we turn towards self-help and a renewed application of the human will. It is the false gospel of “repent and try harder”. You don’t need Jesus for that.
We are crushed by our sin.
And then finally, once all of our denials and misdirection and human motivated efforts eventually lead us to the only end that they can, we end up being crushed by our failure to achieve on our own what only Christ can accomplish for us.
And here is where it becomes even trickier. Because there is almost an echo of gospel here. Because there is a sense in which we cannot come to Christ in true repentance unless we have been crushed by a realization of how far we fall short of the law’s requirement for perfect righteousness.
So in this instance we accurately see God in all his perfected glory. We are confronted by our sin with a wide-eyed clarity. And we are on the right path! But rather than running to Christ, we simply wallow in self pity. “I just can’t do it. Why should I even bother?” And again, because the primary focus is on ourselves and our failures rather than on Christ and his accomplishments on our behalf, we remain in a self-centered downward spiral of “Woe is me. I am undone.”
I would venture to say that large portions of the North American evangelical church culture exists on a pendulum swinging back and forth between these final two man-centered approaches. For some, we are primarily focused on ourselves in a vigorous attempt to muscle our way towards wholeness and holiness. There is no gospel. There is simply secularistic behavioralism encased in “Christian” wrapping paper.
For others among us, we reservedly realize that we are at the end of our rope. We have once again failed and we are oh, so tired. So we quit. In some cases we quit altogether. We quit praying, quit reading Scripture, quit going to church (they are all hypocrites anyway). We are done. In other cases, and this is almost more frightening, we quit while maintaining the appearance remaining. We simply perfect our acting skills, sit in the pew every Sunday and go through the motions.
This is where a man-centered, Christ-less approach to sin will ultimately leads. Which is exactly why God the Father sends God the Son. Next we turn towards what this gospel-filled, theocentric approach to sin might look like.