Spectacular Sins, Today and Yesterday

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

When we published Spectacular Sins five years ago, sinning was not even then as spectacular as it is today. For example, that the history-long, ever-present heartache of same-sex desires in boys and girls and men and women should be celebrated as holy was not yet sanctioned by culture, court, chief, and church. Today it is. There are no words painful enough to lament this human ruin and divine dishonor.

In reissuing Spectacular Sins this week, now in paperback, we are saying that the message is more needed now than ever. The coddled Western world will sooner or later give way to even more spectacular sins, and then to great affliction. And when it does, whose vision of God will hold? Where are Christians being prepared for great global sorrows?

The aim of this book is not to meet felt needs, but to awaken needs that will soon be felt, and then to save your faith and strengthen your courage when evil prevails. These are big, deep, weighty, strong truths — truths for pestilence and war and personal calamity. These truths are made of steel, forged in the mind of God, set out in the Bible. These truths circle around the stunning reality that God wields the wickedness of the world for his purposes of salvation and judgment.

I know that God is tender, and that personal fellowship with him is sweet, and that touching the heart happens through the brokenness of the still small voice. I know this, and I love it. Jesus Christ is a precious Friend to me.

But I also know this: If, while I am having a tender conversation with my wife, a man breaks in and kills her and all my children and leaves me wounded on the living room floor, I will need a way of seeing the world that involves more than the tenderness of God. My mental and spiritual survival will depend on more than the precious gifts of God’s intimacy.

I know that a tire iron cannot caress a bruised heart, but if your car is rolling over and about to crush you, a cold, steel perpendicular tire iron might save your life. Then later, at home, as you tell the story, tears will flow, and Jesus will hold you as you sob for joy. And that tire iron is his sovereignty over and in spectacular sins.

My aim in this book is to show that sin and evil, no matter how spectacular, never nullify the decisive, Christ-exalting purposes of God. No, my aim is more than that. Spectacular sins do not just fail to nullify God’s purpose to glorify Christ, they succeed. In God’s unfathomable providence they bring his gracious purposes to pass.

This truth is the steel God offers to put in the spine of his people as they face the worst calamities — the ones caused by spectacular sins. There will be tenderness in due time. But if the back of our faith is broken because we think God is evil or absent, who will welcome him when he comes with caresses?

When you are tempted to forsake God because of the greatness of evil and misery in the world, I pray that this book will help you believe unshakably the great divine dictum: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

The most spectacular sins are not signs of ultimate absurdity. Satan is the ultimate irrational being. And much of what he is allowed to do will have the mark of senselessness on it. But there is another vantage point. Namely, God’s: Yes, senseless at one level, but not ultimately.

Far, far above thy thought,
His counsel shall appear,
When fully He the work hath wrought,
That caused thy needless fear.