Everyday Doctrines - Man's Sin and Misery
Some people seem so happy and contented in their life of sin. Their pleasure is not to live pleasing to God with a love to their neighbor out of gratitude for his grace. They live to please their own selfish desires and this life seems to them and others as their pleasure. However, this life of man in his sin is an expressed life of misery.
The writers of the Westminster Standards wrote in the Shorter Catechism that man by his fall came into a life of sin and misery (Q.17). In Question 19 they ask and describe that state of misery in this way,
Q: What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
A: All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever.
They outline five aspects of a sinner's misery in this answer. The one I want to consider for a moment is, “lost communion with God,”. Misery can be described as a life without God. Every person lives as a creature of the Creator, as a benefactor of his Creators sustaining governing grace, and even in the overflow of his love through the redemption he has worked in Christ and showered the effects of in the world. Yet, every person who exchanges the worship of this revealed God for the things revealed in the creation as their gods and their subsequent delight has cut themselves off from the only true and living God. This is the first part of their misery, to be without God in this world.
Misery is to live without a living experience of the living God, and to think that his shadows in his creation that reveal him are your true joy. A child sees his shadow and it looms larger than he is himself. He leaps at it hoping to somehow land in it, but it only moves away and evades him. This is the misery of every man who puts his trust in the creature and the creation through which God reveals himself. In sin man has faith that these shadows will somehow satisfy and be his joy, and they can be for a time, even a lifetime. But when shadows give way to reality our misery is exposed and our gods turn out to be not true and not living to delight us in communion with themselves. Like shadows they are lost in the darkness of our misery, and it is alone there we are cut off from communion with the living God.
Jesus Christ came into our misery and even experienced the loss of communion with his Father on the cross for a period of time for us, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!’, he cried. He suffered the pangs of hell in the agony of the Father turning his face away. This he did so that we might come to him by faith out of our misery into communion with God through faith in him. He tells us that all who believe in him have the right to be called the children of God (Jn.1:12). A child whose Father runs to him to have communion with him while he is in his misery having rebelled against the father, is a child of joy. He is a child not playing in the shadows of his own fantasy, but a child in living fellowship with his real, living, true Father.