The Gravity of Sin and the Power of Joy
Pastor Oliver exhorts us to take our eyes off ourselves amid our afflictions and struggles and look joyfully to God.
A black hole is a point in space that is so dense that it creates a deep gravity sink. The gravitational field generated is so intense that matter and radiation cannot escape. A black hole can even curve the pathway of surrounding light towards itself. Likewise, sin also causes us to turn into ourselves. The early Church Father Augustine said that "sin causes us to curve into ourselves". Dr David Powlison, a biblical counselling professor, noted that we tend to have "tunnel vision", turning inwards and focusing on ourselves amid our hurts, hardships and sin. The gravity of sin causes us to curve into ourselves.
I want to be careful here. Hurts, suffering and afflictions can be caused by the brokenness of the world and the sin of others. But our responses can be sinful. For example, I may be affected by a severe health issue like cancer. Getting cancer and suffering is not a sin, but my response to my cancer can be. If I get bitter, blame God and others, and proceed to look out only for myself, then my response becomes self-centred sin. I could respond otherwise, choosing instead to trust in God and seeking to love God and serve others with whatever time I have. In other cases, suffering and hardships can come as a result of my sin and idolatry. If I often put down others because of my pride and needing to be right all the time, then the hurt of having few friends is due to my sin. So the "tunnel vision" of turning inwards and focusing on ourselves is caused either by our sin or sinful responses to suffering and difficulties.
I have experienced this tunnel vision effect, and I found that the gravity of sin causes me to curve into myself and cause relational separation. For weeks, I was focused only on my hurts and failed to notice God and others during one of my past relational breakups. I distance myself from God. I even overlooked pieces of evidence of God's grace towards me in my struggles. I distance myself from my friends to the extent of ignoring their hurts and struggles. It took a friend to confront my self-centredness before I realised where I was spiritually. Even when I was first confronted, I still did not see my friend's loving approach as part of God's grace towards me! I was curved into myself and too self-absorbed to see clearly.
Joy is one primary way that enables us to turn outside of ourselves. Paul clearly expressed this joy in writing to the church in Philippi (e.g. Phil 1:4, 7, 18; 2:2; 4:10). It was a joy in his relationship with Jesus. He delighted in the one who saved him even amid his suffering. But this joy was more than a knowledge of the salvation blessings we had now in Christ when we trusted in him. It is also lived out experientially in our lives and our relationship with God and others. It is a soul-satisfaction in God, being happy with Him and His salvation and creational gifts. It is overflowing happiness that comes knowing your eternity is secured and that it will be good. Paul could even rejoice amid his imprisonment and suffering, as long as the gospel goes forth and the church is built up, for the joy of God's people (Phil 1:25; 2:17-18). It is a joy that comes from seeing the gospel's advance and God's people, the church, rejoicing in Jesus Christ. And even now, God's grace is also extended to us as we can enjoy His people (the church) and His gifts in his created world. Joy has power. Joy unbends the curving into ourselves because of sin and enables us to look outside of ourselves.
What would it look like to turn outside of ourselves amid our struggles? It means being able to take our eyes off ourselves amid our afflictions and struggles and look joyfully to God. We are better able to see the evidence of God's grace. We see how He is working in and through us and others around us. It means having a happy, settled certainty that nothing changes our relationship with God despite the challenges we face. It means cheerfully moving out from ourselves to God and others even if the situation doesn't change. Our perspectives and movements change. We move towards God, learning to be thankful and growing in friendship with God. We move towards others. First, being open to others helping and encouraging us, and then supporting and encouraging others with the grace we have received through our joy in Christ. My friends, be aware of the gravity of sin and turn to the power of joy in Jesus!
1. Join us for our next Quarterly Congregational Meeting on Sunday 3 Oct 2021 at 2pm over Zoom. We will be introducing and welcoming new members and looking at coming events in the last quarter of 2021. Would you please mark this date on your calendars?
2. Join us for an in-person worship service at 5pm this Saturday (4 Sep 2021), or 9am this Sunday (5 Sep 2021). You can register for service here. Livestreaming of both services are also available on GBC's YouTube channel. Let us gather as we look at 1 Peter 1:13-2:3 on "The Pursuit of Holiness". Pray for God's Spirit to prepare our hearts to hear from God's Word and to change us.