Summary: This message discusses missing the mark with God, how it happens, and the resulting consequence. It also shares how to get our lives centered and on target with God, and hit the bulls eye that will get us into heaven.
One day a man decided to head into the woods to go hunting. As he rounded a corner on the trail, he unexpectedly encountered a bear. As quickly as possible, he aimed his rifle and shot, and then missed! Immediately the bear came charging toward him, and out of extreme fear the man froze and couldn’t move. However, he was able to muster a few brief words.
“Oh, Lord,” he prayed, “Please forgive me for not living for You, and grant me just one petition. Please make a Christian out of that bear that’s coming after me.” That very second, the bear skidded to a halt in front of the man, fell to its knees, clasped its paws together and began to pray aloud, “Dear God, bless this food I am about to receive.”
It’s not a good thing to miss what you are aiming to shoot. Whether you are aiming at a bear, or aiming at a target in an archery competition, missing can result in serious consequences or penalties. In our message today we will learn about missing the mark with God; how it happens, and the resulting consequence. We will also learn how to get our lives centered and on target with God, and hit the bulls eye that will get us into heaven.
We Are All Born Off Target with God (Isaiah 59:1-2)
1 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.
Isaiah declared plainly that sin separates us from God. Commentator John Gill says the imagery Isaiah had in mind was “a partition wall dividing between them, so that they enjoy no communion with Him,” and because of sin, “the Lord does not grant His gracious presence to them, but stands at a distance from them.”(1) Our sin separates us from God, because the Lord is holy and righteous; and sinful human beings cannot stand in the presence of a holy God. Sin is like black oil and holiness like pure water, and oil and water do not mix.
This distance between God and human beings is extremely wide, like an arrow that has been shot at a bulls eye and has missed the target completely and landed deep in the woods. Sin eliminates our accuracy in the game of life and leaves us off target with God; and the biblical truth we cannot miss is that all people are born into sin and begin their life off target with God. Paul said that “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). He also stated, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).
In Romans 3:23, the apostle declared, “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” The Greek verb that Paul used here for “sinned” is hamartano, which comes from the root hamartia. Hamartia first appeared in Aristotle’s book Poetics around 335 B.C., and is rooted in the notion of missing the mark.(2) “It . . . indicates failing to make a bull’s-eye.”(3)
For example, when a soldier was practicing archery, trying to hone his skills, there would be a score keeper standing nearby watching the target. If the soldier failed to hit the bull’s eye, the score keeper would yell out, “Hamartia!” Hamartia eventually found its way into the language of the New Testament to “make a point” concerning man’s relationship with God. John MacArthur elaborates,
Hamartia originally carried the idea of missing the mark . . . with a bow and arrow. It then came to represent missing or falling short of any goal, standard or purpose. In the spiritual realm it refers to missing and falling short of God’s standard of holiness, and in the New Testament it is the most common and general term for sin (used 173 times).(4)
Sin is simply missing the mark with God. It is falling short of the standard of God’s holiness; and Scripture teaches that we have all come up short.
If you are participating in an archery competition, there are penalties added to your score every time you miss a target. The main question that arises is, “What is the penalty for falling short of God’s standard of holiness?” In Romans 6:23, Paul declared, “The wages of sin is death.” This is a reference to “spiritual” death, which is eternal separation from God’s presence, and enduring, infinite and never-ending punishment in the flames of hell.
The penalty for missing the mark with God is death. Was such a penalty ever exacted in an archery competition? During the sixth century in Japan, the samurai practiced mounted archery in a game called Yabusame. The penalty for missing was an added incentive for hitting the target. “The warriors who missed were obliged to take their own lives.”(5)