Summary: Breathe Easy With Jesus 1) Exhale your wickedness; 2) Inahle his promises
What do you do when you’re so congested that you can hardly breathe? Have you ever tried using a Neti Pot? A Neti Pot looks a bit like a tea pot. You are to fill it with warm salt water then shove the spout up one nostril while tilting your head sideways over a sink. Apparently water will cascade out the other nostril clearing away the congestion. While many gush that this is a sure way to breathing easy I think I’d rather put up with the congestion than subject myself to the Neti Pot “cure.”
Thankfully I don’t suffer from nasal congestion very often so that I’ve never had to seriously consider using the Neti Pot. But there is another, more serious kind of chronic congestion that infects me...and you. My breathing becomes labored whenever I consider honestly how I treat the people around me. I think of them the way I think of my laptop: they better do what I want, when I want, or I’ll get cranky. People, of course, are not laptops. They are divine works of art. Yes, they have been marred by sin but that’s all the more reason we should patiently attend to them and care for them. When we realize just how poorly we treat others, it should lead us to ask: “How can God love someone like me - someone who gladly takes his love but is not eager to show love to others?” The answer, of course, is that God should have stopped loving us a long time ago and he should have subjected us to his fiery wrath. This truth ought to make your chest tighten and cause your breathing to become shallow – the sensation a convict must experience as he trudges to the electric chair. But there is hope! Our sermon text will teach us how to breathe easy…with Jesus. We do that when we exhale our wickedness and inhale his promises.
Did I see a few eyes grow wide when I used the word “wickedness”? Oh, sure. You realize that you’re not perfect but to accuse you of wickedness seems to be a bit over the top! The people to whom the Apostle Peter was speaking in our text may have thought the same thing. Let me set the scene. Jesus’ disciples, Peter and John, went to the temple one weekday afternoon to worship. There Peter healed a lame man. As this man jumped around the temple courtyard for joy, other worshippers marvelled at what Peter had done. But Peter made sure they knew that he had healed the lame man only by the power of Jesus. Peter then told these worshippers that Jesus was in fact the promised Messiah they had been waiting for. Yet what had they done with Jesus? They had crucified him. Of course, they themselves hadn’t done the deed. The Roman soldiers had done that and the Jewish leaders had put them up to it, but the people of Jerusalem had participated in the crime by allowing it to happen.
There are a number of spiritual truths that we can learn here. First, just because you faithfully come to worship (as did the people in our text who made time for weekday worship), doesn’t mean that you’re not guilty of “wickedness.” Wickedness is not “super bad sin.” Sin is wickedness because it’s a perversion, a bending away from God’s will. What wickedness are we guilty of? It could be harbouring a grudge. It could be sharing a bed with our sweetheart before marriage. It could be pride that we bit our tongue when we could easily have said some nasty things, not realizing that God does not want us biting our tongues but speaking words of encouragement! No, it doesn’t matter that we didn’t know these things were wrong. The people of Jerusalem may have crucified Jesus in ignorance but they still had blood on their hands. Payment needed to be made for their sin just as someone must pay for the damage to your car whether it was keyed on purpose or scraped accidently.
When we consider the sins we regularly commit, it should cause us to hyperventilate. I mean if we had to pay a penny for every sin, we would owe God $2,160 a day - that is if we sinned every other second for the 12 hours we were awake. By the end of the week we would owe him a little over $15,000 and by the end of the month, over $60,000! What would you say to a family member who was running up charges like that on your credit card? “Stop it!” you’d cry. And so our debt of sin is no laughing matter. What’s worse, sin can’t be paid for with pennies. Just as every drop of arsenic carries a death sentence, so does every sin.