From time to time you may hear one of the pastors end our prayer of confession with words like, “if we regard sin in our lives this prayer will be ineffectual…” (cf. Ps. 66:18). What does it mean to “regard sin”? To regard sin is to respect sin. It means to let sin have some place in your heart or life. To regard sin is to make peace with sin. How do people do this?
Sometimes people regard sin by saying it runs in the family. Some people regard sin by saying it’s in their blood, in their biology, in their brain – they’re genetically predisposed. Other people regard sin by saying they have never experienced the world differently. They have always been this way. It feels natural. It’s just who they are. It’s their personality type. Or sometimes, we regard sin in our lives because the sin we need to repent of seems to us to be a virtue.
Ever since Adam, sin has come naturally. It has infected all that we are. And holiness does not come naturally to any son or daughter of Adam – it seems unnatural. Unfortunately, many people mistake common grace for saving grace. Some people can be naturally friendly, organized, strong leaders, self-disciplined, hard-working – all by common grace, supplied by the remnants of the image of God and natural revelation. And these virtues are frequently the devil’s strongholds because who needs to repent of their good work ethic?
But when someone becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit invades a person’s soul and topples the reign of sin and death. We become new creations: new men, new women. When Jesus makes us new, our natural gifts are revealed to be covered in the flesh-rot of self-righteousness and pride – that we do have some goodness in ourselves after all. When Christ comes to reign, He makes war on all our death-deeds and especially the pride-mold in our virtues.
Jesus died and rose again so that we might be born again. And this means that everything must die first. This is necessary because we inherit sin from our fathers, because of the sin in our blood, in our brains, because of the sin that comes so naturally, because of the leprosy infecting our virtues, because we have never actually experienced the world rightly, until Christ makes us new.