By Tyson Thorne

January 31, 2019

BiggestProblem Large

The environmentalists having been telling us since the 1950's that the end of the world is only 20 years away, and modern researchers claim we should be more concerned about the shifting of magnetic north which is happening faster than ever expected. For some the rising global population is the world's biggest problem, for others it is hunger and a lack of drinking water. In industrialized nations one often hears that the proliferation of nuclear weapons ought to be our biggest concern along with international terrorism and war. So what is the biggest problem facing the world? Surprisingly, none of these.

In a conversation among friends someone said, with some conviction I might add, that "sin is not that big a deal." I looked at him with a shocked expression, incredulous that he could hold such a position. "In Genesis chapter 3" I explained, "sin enters the world. God responds drastically, throwing the literal first family out of the garden and promising a plan for overcoming sin is going into action. The next chapter over, God tells Cain — this is before he killed Able — that sin is crouching at the door and it's desire is to master him. Every story in the Bible has essentially the same theme: exile due to sin and restoration through God's mercy. Jesus didn't come to save us from cancer, war or socialism, he came to save us from our sin. Sin is the greatest problem humankind faces! How can you say it's "not a big deal"?"

And that's when it struck me. Sin really is the biggest problem the world faces. It is the central and continuous theme of the Bible. Sin is a greater threat to humanity than Satan ever could be. The Bible isn't a list of do's and don'ts as most of the world believes, its about how to overcome temptation to sin and grow in righteousness. How could anyone conclude that sin is no big deal? I've given that question a lot of consideration this week, and while there is no one culprit to point the finger at I believe I have an answer.

First, we're not reading the Bible like we should. In a new publication by the Institute for Bible Reading (IBR), 3 Bad Habits of Bible Reading (and How to Fix Them), the author states that most Christians only read the Bible in snack-sized bites, if at all.

"Today, the dominant method for engaging with the Bible is by “snacking” on it. Verse of the day emails, social media memes, and daily devotionals give us tiny random bite-sized pieces of the Bible at a time. If we’re really devoted, maybe we’ll read a full chapter."

The remedy, of course, is to read the Bible in lengthier pieces, perhaps whole books in a single sitting. The IBR advances the theory that chapters and verses along with headings and commentary have trained us to read the Bible in small sections, and there may be some truth in this. When I begin a new study on a book of the Bible, I create a scroll of only the book's text. I print it out and tape it to a wall, then start reading with a highlighter in hand. I read through the entire book, several times, marking words I will want to study and connecting themes with lines. I write in the larger margins and take notes of any other Biblical references quoted by the author.

IBR's solution is a "reader's Bible". This is the complete Bible, formatted like a modern novel, without chapters and verses or any other notes. The one they publish is a multi-volume set that is attractive and easy to read. There are other reader's Bible's on the market of course and, if you think it would help you, I recommend looking at a few and buying one.

Second, we're not hearing it from the pulpit. I'm not criticizing pastors, they do preach the Bible and most of them are sincere, godly people who want a congregation that is growing both spiritually and numerically. They typically hit the sins culture extols (like homosexuality) but rarely ever mention the one's their congregation struggles with (like divorce). The problem with preaching about sin is it isn't popular and rarely ever leads to numeric growth. If a pastor should develop a series on the topic, it likely isn't received well by the church elders who are all too familiar with the bills (and salaries) that need to be paid. So we get sermons we like, about our identity in Christ, miracles, heroes of the faith or extra-biblical topics like godly parenting or being a promise keeper. Non of these topics are bad or wrong and they need to be preached, just not at the expense of preaching on our biggest problem.

Third, instead of evaluating ourselves in light of the Bible we buy into our culture's self-esteem movement. I've shared the story before about my Christian college's psychology class and how the instructor asked if man's nature was generally good, neutral or evil. 47 percent said "good", 47 percent said "neutral" and only the Bible majors said, "evil". One doesn't need to be a Bible major to know what the Bible says about the nature of humankind. In Jeremiah 17.9 God says, "The human mind is more deceitful than anything else. It is incurably bad. Who can understand it?" More deceitful than anything else. Let that sink in. More deceitful than the Deceiver himself? According to this passage, yes.

"For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith." — Romans 12.3

While we are all sinners, God has given everyone a conscience (1 Kings 2.44) and the Holy Spirit does hold back some of the evil that men do (2 Thessalonians 2.7) which helps keep humanity in check. Believer's have the added benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6.19) and God's assistance to avoid temptation (1 Corinthians 10.13). So our situation is not as dire as it could be, but we still should take Paul's advice (above, Romans 12.3).

Regardless of what we see in the media, sin is the greatest problem facing mankind. This message is not popular, but if we ignore it we cannot be an effective witness (what is Jesus saving us from?). If we really read God's Word and understand our true nature (and how God helps us overcome it) then we can do our part to help save the world!

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