Summary: Seventh in the "Back to the Basics" series, exploring the foundational beliefs of Christians. This sermon addresses the question, "What do Christians believe about sin and salvation?"
God loves us. Even before we are aware of it, God loves us.
That’s a basic, fundamental starting point for the entire Christian faith. God loves us. The Scriptures witness to that love on every page. Our lives were not an accident: We were created by God’s plan, out of God’s joy. God placed the very image of God in us and celebrated our life. Even when we turned away and separated ourselves from God’s presence, God pursued us, his love reached for us.
Human beings were created to live in that love, but we choose our own way, put ourselves, our ambitions, our desires at the center of our lives in the place of God. And, in so doing, we separate ourselves from God. Further and further we have fallen from God as we have chosen our own way and stepped further from that image God placed upon us.
Through Abraham, Moses, and the prophets, God invited us back, called us back, planned a pathway for us to return to the loving arms of our Creator. God wants us to remember his love and return; To remember how we were made to be and know the peace and joy of living in the love of God every day of our lives.
But, here’s the thing: the God who created us will never force us into that relationship against our will. God does not treat us like puppets with whom he can simply pull our strings and make us do whatever he wants. God created us with freedom: we have the freedom to choose to have a relationship with God or to not have a relationship with God. And the choices we make every day determine whether or not we have that close, intimate relationship with our Creator.
It’s not unlike the relationships we have with our families, and other people. Having a good relationship with our families means that we have to make decisions that include them in our lives. We have to spend time with them, talk with them, say and do things that bring them closer to us: Go to a ball game together, share meals, talk about important things that you are going through, work through disagreements and problems together.
Right now, my family mostly consists of my wife, Monica, and I. But I make decisions every day to be sure I get to spend some time with her and share important parts of my life with her. Sometimes I even have to decide I’m not going to do something else because my relationship with her is more important than getting all my work done or weeding my garden.
If, however, I start neglecting my relationship with Monica, stop doing things that keep me close to her, our relationship would start to weaken. At first she might just be hurt that I didn’t show up for dinner or stayed at work late to get things done, but that creates distance between us. And if I continue to make those kind of decisions over time, we would slowly lose touch with one another’s lives, when important things happen I wouldn’t be a part of them, and over the years, we would grow apart and end up not knowing each other nearly as well as we do now. Our relationship would deteriorate and maybe even die.
Just so, every day of our lives, we can choose to say and do things that bring us closer to God or we can choose to say and do things that take us further from God. The problem is that even though we were created for that relationship and are better off when we are in that relationship, often we choose to say and do things that create more distance between ourselves and God. And it’s those decisions to put something else at the center of our lives that we call Sin.
We are focusing today on what Christians believe about Sin and Salvation. Our beliefs about what sin is and what salvation is about are among the most important things for Christians to be clear about because almost everyone in the world believes that there are things we should and shouldn’t do, but Christians are very clear that sin, at its root, has to do not merely with what we do wrong, but primarily with our relationship with our Creator and our rebellion against him.
Any time we choose to say and do things that take us further away from God, it’s Sin. Any time we make ourselves or anything else that’s not God the center of our lives, we Sin. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul talks about people exchanging the glory of the immortal God for images that resemble mere human beings and how worshipping the Creature has led people into serve only their own interests, lose track of real value, and abuse sex, parents, money and relationships.