Sin and Salvation; January 30, 2018

Isaiah 53:6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

This chapter as a whole is an incredibly rich prophecy of the Messiah. I first memorized this verse as a child as a Royal Ambassador (a Baptist boys’ group that I participated in during the annual mission meetings). Whereas it is true that familiarity breeds contempt, I keep coming back to the deep truth that is here. For one thing, it contains what is perhaps the simplest, most fundamental definition of sin: going our own way. Most of the time that seems innocent enough, and independence is an essential part of the maturation process, but it is when our “own way” ignores God that it becomes sin. That was the fundamental point in the Garden of Eden: the devil tempted Eve to go a way other than what God had said. What we don’t realize is that an activity might be completely innocent in itself, but if God has said to do something different, then that activity becomes sin. We don’t like to recognize that! Two people might do exactly the same thing, and for one person it would be fine but for the other person it would be sin, if God had told them to do something else. That’s why we are all so totally dependent on the grace of God. None of us hears God perfectly, and we certainly don’t obey Him perfectly. However, the good news is that Jesus bore our iniquity, our sins, on the cross, so in Him we can draw near to God and know Him as our heavenly Father.

Japanese in general have a lot of trouble with the whole concept of sin. One reason is that the word itself, in Japanese, can mean “crime,” and the average person certainly doesn’t want to describe themselves as a criminal. This verse is the answer to that, but it takes a revelation of the Holy Spirit for it to sink in. Japanese society is described sociologically as a “shame culture,” as opposed to the “sin culture” that is prevalent in Western nations. That means that bad activity is discouraged because it is “shameful,” rather than because it is “wrong.” That makes communicating the Gospel all the more difficult. Japanese has an excellent word for repentance, that breaks down into “regret and re-do.” However, if the regret is just because you are embarrassed, that isn’t Biblical repentance! I need to get back to the definition of sin in this verse in helping Japanese understand what salvation is all about, or I will end up with people who have gotten wet because they have agreed to some propositions, rather than people who have genuinely been born again. I have certainly had some of both types, and over time, the difference is stark. It’s obvious I can’t force people to repent, but the Bible says that conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit anyway, (John 16:8-11) so my job is to pray and to speak the truth in love.

Father, I’m all too familiar with choosing my own way myself. Thank You for Your grace! Thank You that You do work in me to cause me to desire to do Your will, so that I may follow You in truth. (Philippians 2:13) Help me extend to others the grace You have poured out on me, so that together we may be transformed into the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18) for Your pleasure and glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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