So, why? Why would that be necessary? What’s the problem? Well, you are created in the image of God. That means you are a masterpiece! There’s something amazing about every human being, something noble, something beautiful, something magnificent. Human beings are capable of such extraordinary creativity, because they’re created in the image of God, and God is creative. They can produce great music, art, literature. Human beings are capable of great self-sacrifice, devotion, kindness.
But there’s also another side to the coin. We are also capable of bad stuff. You only have to open the newspaper, look at the news – there are some terrible things going on around the world. There is evil going on around the world. But the world is more complex than just saying, ‘Well, those are evil people, and these are the good people,’ because it’s more mixed. People who are capable of great love and devotion and kindness can also do some bad stuff.
I’ve done some stuff in my life that I deeply regret. I’ve hurt some people. I’ve even hurt people that I love.
And the apostle Paul puts it like this. He says: ‘All of us have sinned…’
Now, sin. Sin: that’s a word that’s changed meaning in our culture. ‘Sin’ has almost become like a good word: One advert for ice-cream used the slogan, ‘It’s so good, it’s sinful!’. But sin in the Bible is the bad stuff. And Paul says: ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ What does that mean?
Well, all of us have sinned. I personally find it so hard to admit I do anything wrong. Those words ‘I am sorry’, they just won’t come out! I find if I do something wrong, I just think it’s got to be someone else’s fault. I blame someone. I usually blame my wife: ‘it’s her fault!’ And, you know, we look around to make excuses.
John Collins was the vicar at Holy Trinity Brompton, the home of Alpha in London, from 1980–1985. He’s now ninety years of age. He’s a very a very gracious, loving, kind, humble man. Also has a great gift of explaining the Bible. And sometimes a rather arrogant young guy would come to him and say, you know, ‘I have no need of God. I lead a good life.’
So John would use this illustration. He’d say: ‘Supposing there’s a scale here on this pillar of all the people who’ve ever lived. Who would you put at the top?’ And they’d say, ‘Well, maybe Mother Teresa’ or their mother would go at the top. And he’d say, ‘Well, who would you put at the bottom?’ And they’d say, ‘Well, maybe Adolf Hitler’ or their boss would go at the bottom. And then John would say, ‘Well, I think you’d agree we’re all of us somewhere between there and there.’ And John being a very humble man, he’d say: ‘I’m probably somewhere down there, and you’re probably somewhere up there,’ and the guy would nod and say, ‘Yeah, that’s probably the case.’
And then John would say: ‘Well, what do you think the standard is?’ And the guy would say: ‘Well, maybe the standard’s the ceiling.’ And John would say: ‘No, look at the verse. The standard’s not the ceiling – it’s the sky. ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’
The glory of God was revealed in Jesus. And compared to him, we all fall a very long way short.
So you might say, ‘Well, if that’s the case, we’re all in the same boat. Why does it matter?’ It matters, according to the New Testament, for these reasons, and I’ve put them under four Ps to make them easier to remember:
- First of all, the pollution of sin. The things we do wrong spoil our lives. It’s like the pollution of the environment is a big problem at the moment, but Jesus says it’s possible to pollute your soul. The stuff that we do wrong can spoil our relationships.
- And then there’s the power of sin. The bad stuff in our life, the bad habits, they’re very addictive. Jesus says: ‘Whoever sins is a slave of sin.’
- And then the third P is the penalty of sin. There’s something within us that cries out for justice. When we see these horrific things that are going on around the world, we say: ‘That ought not to happen. They should be stopped. They should be brought to justice.’
- And then the fourth P is the partition of sin. You know how it is when we have offended someone, or someone has offended us, we don’t want to look them in the eye. We try and avoid them because something’s come between us. And what the New Testament says is the stuff that we do wrong has caused a partition between us and God.
That’s, if you like, the bad news. But the good news is this – this is the solution: God loves you; the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me. God has come to this earth in the person of his Son to do something about it, to die for you and to die for me.