The Sting Of Sin: If We Only Knew How Bad It Is

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23 ESV).

I did not understand the implications of Romans 6:23 until I was a seminary student. The sting of sin had never been shown to me in such a dramatic way until I began my studies of God’s Word and Lutheran doctrine. Hearing Law/Gospel preaching every day in chapel put how grave was my condition if I continued to sin and treat forgiveness of sin as “cheap grace” or as a “get out of hell free card”. Please do not misunderstand me and think that all the sermons I heard growing up did not rightly distinguish Law and Gospel. That’s not the case. My problem was that I could not connect what was being preached to how I should live as a Christian.

I spent more than one sleepless night agonizing over a particular sin that I committed in my “wilderness years” between college graduation and starting seminary. I knew what I had done was wrong and sinful, but I thought that because I got away with it, there was no problem. The problem was an unclean conscience. It wasn’t until halfway through my vicar year that I decided to confess my sin to my pastor and receive absolution. A burden was lifted from me. Yet one thing remained. I had to come clean about my sin to whom it was committed. That I did, and an even greater burden was lifted.

These thoughts came back into my head today as I was reading C.F.W. Walther’s “The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel” in the recently released Reader’s Edition from Concordia Publishing House. Walther says the Thirty-First Evening Lecture:

This blindness regarding sin is the chief cause of the almost universal rejection of the Gospel in our time. People who fail to recognize the horrible nature of sin decline to accept the sacrificial death of the Son of God for the reconciliation and redemption of this world of sinners. They consider His death completely unnecessary and, therefore, regard the story of the Gospel as a miserable failure.

It is, therefore, one of the most important requirements of a true, Gospel-oriented pastor that he would know how to explain to his listeners the true nature of sin in terms that are as loud and clear as they are terrible, drastic, and relevant. For without a real knowledge of what an awful thing sin is, a person cannot understand and accept the Gospel. As long as he is not alarmed that sin is his greatest enemy and the most awful horror living in him, he will not come to Christ. Law and Gospel can be distinguished even less if a person has no true and adequate knowledge of sin.

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is in desperate need of a renewal of preaching. I heard Synod President Matthew C. Harrison say this very thing at the Northern Illinois District Convention this past March. I’ve been careful to watch how I preach both Law and Gospel. This has led me to read “Law and Gospel” for at least the third (or is it fourth?) time. As I said in a previous post, wouldn’t it be nice to have our circuits reading “Law and Gospel” together as brothers? What would also be nice is to see the return of preaching sermons at circuit meetings and having brother pastors constructively critique the sermon. I know this is the case in some circuits in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

It’s almost shameful that it took so long for me to understand and believe the sting of sin. However, it makes the Gospel of Christ’s death for my sins all the more wonderful.

About Pastor David Juhl

The Reverend David Michael Juhl was born June 1, 1972 in Du Quoin, IL. He was born from above by water and the Holy Spirit on June 18, 1972 at Bethel Lutheran Church, Du Quoin, IL. He was confirmed on March 23, 1986 at Bethel congregation. He attended Du Quoin public schools, graduating from Du Quoin High School in 1990. He attended John A. Logan Junior College, Carterville, IL, and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, graduating with the Bachelor of Arts in Radio and Television in 1994. Before attending seminary, Pastor Juhl was a radio disc jockey, working for WDQN Radio in Du Quoin, IL and volunteering at WSIU/WUSI/WVSI Radio in Carbondale, IL while a student at SIU. Pastor Juhl is a 2002 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN. He served his vicarage at Faith Lutheran Church, Tullahoma, TN. His first charge after graduation was Trinity Lutheran Church, Iuka, IL, where he was ordained and installed on July 7, 2002. He served Trinity until March 4, 2007, when he accepted the Divine Call to serve Our Savior Lutheran Church, Momence, IL. Pastor Juhl is married to the former Rebecca Warmuth since October 3, 2003. They have one daughter, Catherine, born September 3, 2004, and two sons, Matthew, born October 11, 2008, and Christopher, born August 12, 2010.


The Sting Of Sin: If We Only Knew How Bad It Is — 3 Comments

  1. Thank you for this word, David. Yes, the sting of sin and the soothing comfort of the Gospel both need to “click” in our hearts before we “get it.” Sola gratia, Chris

  2. I happened to watch the movie, “The Hammer of God” last week. I’ve seen it many times, but this time to point that seemed to stand out was that Jonnanes was in absolute dispair as he approached death burdened with sin. Jonnanes knew full well that he deserved only the wrath of God because of his sin, but he had temporarily forgotten that he had been delivered from that sin by the death and resurection of Christ. In the end he was restored to the gospel, but I think we sometimes bask in our forgiveness without remembering the condition of our soul without the gospel. We need to have both law and gospel — lacking either one puts in a dangerous position.

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