Summary: Sin is simply anything that takes our focus off of God. Trust your instruments.
Title: A Matter of Degrees
Text: Matt 7. 13 – 14
MP: Sin is simply anything that takes our focus off of God. Trust your instruments.
SO: Mainly, I want to set up my “Seven Deadly Sins” series by explaining what sin is and why we must not choose it.
He was a trained pilot, so he knew what to do. But just knowing what to do doesn’t mean your mistakes are any less serious. The most basic lesson you learn as a pilot is, trust your instruments. The cardinal sin is to go with your gut. But it’s easy say and sometimes hard to do. So, when on July 16th, 1999, he chose to disregard his training and commit the cardinal sin of flight, what at first had been a little mistake ended up costing John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. his life.
JFK, Jr. was flying a little six-seat airplane from New Jersey to Martha’s Vineyard, along with his wife and his sister-in-law. When you’re out flying over the ocean, sometimes the haze can fool you. It looks like the horizon is here, when, in reality, its here. That’s actually why every pilot has one of these in his plane – an artificial horizon. The rule is simple. Trust it. Follow it, do what it says. Otherwise, you’ll end up trying to violate the laws of gravity.
But, he chose to ignore his training. He pulled back ever so slightly on yoke. When you do that, centrifugal force makes you feel like you’ve leveled out – you can’t really distinguish it from gravity. But your instruments now better. But now confident, if confused, about where the ground was, he simply kept climbing.
Now, you know that an airplane flies because of lift underneath the wings. But if those wings end up perpendicular to the ground, there is nothing to hold you up. You will literally fall out of the sky. And, even just a few degrees of climb, over time, if not stopped, turn into 180 degrees. And when you get there, simple laws of physics kick in, and that, as they say, is that.
Sin is the same way. Very few of us have curly mustaches and evil plans to rule the world. But we live in a world bound up in simple laws. We don’t set out to violate them intentionally – but little by little, by small degrees, we can end up in the worse situation possible. Nothing is more natural, but nothing is more deadly. That’s why we must pay such close attention to our instruments – the Word he has given us, the Son who died for us.
This morning, if you would allow me to be your flight instructor, I want to give you some basic training in the most fundamental force in our Christian lives – sin. I’m not going to waste my time trying to convince you it’s bad. I suspect you know that already. What I want to do instead is teach you how it works, how to prevent it, and how to mitigate it when it occurs.
I also want to tell you where we’re going for the next few weeks. This week and next, we’ll be talking very generically about it. Think of this as Ground School 101. In some ways, talking about it may be too basic for you, but let me assure you, at 30,000 feet, the more you know gravity, the better.
After that, however, I want to venture into territory we as Protestants have tended to ignore. As early as the 6th Century, the church had summarized much of its scholarship into a list called “The Seven Deadly Sins.” Books have been written about it, movies have been made from it – some people have even suggested that the seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia draw at least one character each from it.
The Bible doesn’t have a single passage that lists them as such. Still, it’s a useful tool for seeing some of the more dangerous – even deadly pits we must watch out for. These pits each have names – Lust, Envy, Covetousness, Anger, Gluttony, Pride, and Sloth. Classically, you were supposed to remember them in Latin using the acronym Saligia: Supberia, Avarita, Luxuria, Invidia, Gula, Ira, Acedia.
Not being a Latin scholar myself, I prefer to use a sentence to remember them. Lust, Envy, Covetousness, Anger, Gluttony, Pride, and Sloth – List Enumerates Character Attributes Guaranteeing Political Success.
You can also remember them by thinking about that theological classic, Gilligan’s Island. How, for instance, can you think about the Professor, and not think “Pride?” I mean, here’s a guy who can make a hot air balloon out of bamboo and jackets, but can’t fix a simple hole in a boat. What else does that but pride? Ginger? Lust – what else. And Mary Ann? Well, living with Ginger, you have to be thinking Envy. Mr. Howell & Mrs. Howell – Greed and Sloth, take your pick. The Captain – as fat as he was – could take two: Gluttony and Anger. And, of course, that would leave our erstwhile protagonist, none other than Gilligan himself. Who else could be, keeping them all locked there on the island, but Satan himself?