Summary: The serious nature of sin is the reason why Jesus died. It’s deadly consequences he’s taken on himself
POOF! I’ve just made you the presiding judge of the universe. That’s the good news. Now you have to decide if you will grant this person forgiveness. All they ask is for mercy and the chance for a new beginning with the help of Jesus? (Show series of slides of recent people in the news). If you’re like me the answer is a very qualified, “Maybe”. What if I inserted photos of people you knew, who you lived with, who had hurt you, or even your own picture? We want to answer, “Yes, but…” or “But they did…” or even, “Well if they…”
There are those we’d let off. They would either seem sincere, or nice, they would have reasons for doing what they did. They would appeal to our sense of logic or use the old excuse, “everyone does it” and we just might buy it. Then there are those we’d toss into the deepest prisons or hell itself without flinching because we believe their crimes are worthy of such punishment.
The Joke’s on us…
We laugh at human sin like a TV audience chuckles at the innuendos and immorality of sitcoms and movies even though we’d never think of doing such a thing ourselves. We live even more confused lives because on one hand we are shocked by some sins while living comfortably with others that destroy our lives. In 1973 Dr. Karl Menninger caught on to this tendency of ours decades ago and wrote a book titled, Whatever Became of Sin. Another author, Cornelius Plantinga Jr. suggested in his book that, "The heart of sin is the persistent refusal to tolerate a sense of sin, to take responsibility for one’s sin, to live with the sorrowful knowledge of it and to pursue the painful way of repentance." To push us a bit further it seems that what plagues us, inside and outside of the Church, is that have forgotten how deadly sin is. We’ve missed the fact that sin is far more dangerous than terrorist attacks, AIDS, West Nile Virus, or “stranger danger” combined. And that God cares about the sin we wallow in and find ourselves trapped in.
In one of the flashbacks in the movie we see the ending of the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. In that slow motion scene Jesus’ sandal is all you see then he bends down and draws in the sand. Suddenly the crowd of men, gathered to execute this woman tosses their stones down in disgust as they leave. From one side of the screen a scratched and bruised woman reaches out to Jesus who reaches down and lifts her up. Do you remember Jesus’ words to her? Jesus asks, “does no one condemn you?” When she says no. He says, “Neither do I. Go on your way. From now on don’t sin.” Jesus was able to do this not because she deserved it and not because the men who accused her were awful. He was able to pronounce her forgiven because he knew what he would face on the cross for her, and for us. Maybe you’ve seen the anti-drug commercial where the girl stands and watches from a dock as her friend struggles in the water and calls for help? The voice over is telling. It says, “If your friend was in trouble you’d help them. Wouldn’t you?”
Well we are in trouble, and God hasn’t stood around doing nothing. He has jumped into our world with everything he has. He has “moved into the neighborhood” as The Message translates John 1:14. He walked among men and women just like us successful, shamed, discouraged, optimistic, religious, skeptics. And he did something else. He settled the issue of forgiveness once and for all. To settle this Jesus died. If you haven’t seen it yet I recommend you see, The Passion of the Christ. It’s not a film young children should watch. But you go. I believe it’s important that you see it for it’s powerful effect of reminding us how much our forgiveness cost our God. The theme of this is a quotation from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, in chapter 53:5 “He was pierced for our transgressions” . . . or our wrongdoing . . . our sins . . . “and by his wounds we are healed”.
This is the chapter of the Bible that the Ethiopian was reading when Philip was told by the Holy Spirit to come up to him. And this readers’ mind is sharp because he wonders if Isaiah is talking about himself or someone else. Philip saw his chance and starting at that verse he told him about Jesus.
Two types of people…
There are two types of people listening to this sermon right now. There are those who are all too aware of their sins. They know that their lives are messed up. They don’t even believe their own lies anymore. They’ve become caught up in stuff that they thought they’d never do. They’ve done things that disgust them. They’ve felt physically sick because of what’s gone in their lives. The second group doesn’t believe that sin is all that serious. They know it’s there but it’s a non-issue. They are busy trying to live their lives and sometimes living life means bending, breaking and tromping on things that sound good but really don’t work in today’s world.