Twenty years ago, as of yesterday, many in the world began their day like any other, but it soon changed dramatically. For some, their lives would be forever changed; for others their lives would end. Some, located in remote locations on the other side of the world, would have their lives changed because some decided to relentlessly pursue any and all who were involved in the events of September 11, 2001, and anyone who was believed to be favorable to their philosophy. Only recently has our country withdrawn from Afghanistan, after many years of attempting to root out or eliminate those who were perceived as enemies. It seems these efforts only further angered some who saw it as only more Western aggression and imperialism.
To say the lives of hundreds — if not millions — of people were affected would be a vast understatement. Life changed forever after that day. It likely will never be as it was before September 11, 2001. I imagine very few people were expecting such a horrible day as that day was, and very few — if anyone — could have anticipated the fallout and the extent of the aftermath. The thing is, we all have to deal with it now, and have to find a way to deal with the consequences as best as we can. As with many tragic events of times past, the farther in time it is from us, the more likely we are to not remember it or even know about it. Those who are seniors in high school this year were not even born yet so, to them, this is just the way it has always been. Those who have lived on both sides of September 11, 2001, would tell a different story. Many would say they would like things to be like before, and that they wished that day would have never happened. But it did. And so, we deal with the aftermath.
With this picture in mind of such a tragic day and the tragic and despicable events that took place on that day, let us turn our attention to something of a spiritual nature, but that is no less tragic and widespread. The matter is that of sin, and its effects on mankind, its devastation, and how it, too, changes lives forever — and not for good. I know some will scoff at the idea that sin is as devastating as the events of 9/11, but the truth is, sin is far more devastating, and affects far more people. It’s just that sin, like the idea of our country being attacked by a foreign enemy on our home soil was ‘alarmist thinking’ or ‘scare tactics’ [before it actually did happen], some just simply refuse to believe (1) sin is a real problem or (2) sin is a danger to anyone. Some will boldly ridicule anyone who calls an action sin, and our common usage of the term nowadays is more likely describing something someone believes shouldn’t be so good. [Someone describes a chocolate dessert as sinful.]
But making light of something as serious as sin does not make it any less serious. God’s word tells us, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Everyone who sins [that is, everyone, cf. Rom. 3:23] transgresses God’s law and there are no exceptions. And lest we think that is not a serious matter, God’s word also tells us, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Now, to be clear, He does not mean literal, physical death, but spiritual death — a separation from God and all the blessings He has promised to the righteous.
That is what God noted was the result when His people wondered why He was no longer hearing them or delivering them from their enemies (cf. Isa. 59:1, 2). It was also what He meant when he told Adam to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Adam and Eve did not physically die that day, but were separated from God. The shocking truth is, as the apostle Paul would note many years later, is that, then, “death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). The devastating aftermath of sin’s entrance into the world was that everyone was adversely affected. No one escaped the devastating effects of sin. No one.
The world was forever changed after that day and that transgression in the Garden of Eden. As the apostle Paul would go on to write, “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam” (Rom. 5:14), and, “sin reigned in death” (Rom. 5:21). After the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden, sin spread throughout the world and its devastating effects [spiritual death; separation from God] followed. Again, there are no exceptions to this. Everyone sinned, and everyone was, at that point, separated from God — spiritually dead. Paul would use just that terminology to describe all who were still held accountable for their sins, reminding the Christians of Ephesus that they were, previously, “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1).
But all is not lost; man was not completely hopeless. Just as there were brave and heroic individuals who saved lives and prevented even worse tragedies from occurring on 9/11, God did not simply turn away from us and leave us without possibility of rescue from what could rightly be described as a sad and hopeless situation. He already had a plan in place before we sinned, before the first sin, and even “before time began” (2 Tim. 1:9). Unlike most of us prior to 9/11, God knew man would sin before man sinned, and He had a rescue plan already in place, to be revealed at the right time.
That plan was what we might call God’s plan for man’s salvation from sin. It was a plan hidden from mankind until Christ came to this earth, lived as a man [but without sin, Heb. 4:15; 1 John 3:5], and gave Himself to die on the cruel cross as the offering to God for our sins. This plan was not revealed to man until after He had ascended back to heaven, “revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Eph. 3:6) who then revealed this plan to others. That plan tells us that while “we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). And who were/are the “ungodly”? That’s you and me, and every other human being who has ever lived to be old enough to be able to choose between right and wrong. While we were standing in the pit of sin, stranded and hopeless and desperately praying, wishing, and hoping for someone to rescue us from our perilous situation, God sent Someone to rescue us from the devastating and spiritually-deadly aftermath of sin. That Someone was His Son Jesus Christ. That Someone is our Savior.
It would seem completely nonsensical to us if we heard of someone trapped in the twin towers on that tragic day that refused to be rescued. Is it any less nonsensical to refuse the offer of salvation from our sins by the only One who can save us? Is it any less foolish? Dangerous? Sadly, that is just the case today, for many refuse to acknowledge they are in any danger, and so refuse the offers of help or the pleas of those who see their true condition. Too late, they will one day see it as the most foolish decision they had ever made, for the day will come when they stand before the very one who offered to rescue them, and “give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:10, 12; 2 Cor. 5:10).
Sin’s aftermath is always devastating, destructive, and deadly. Please don’t underestimate the damage it will do, or has already done. But if you find yourself in its aftermath, please know there is Someone who is willing to give His life for you to save you. He already did. — Steven Harper