Summary: If you want to take care of the sin problem in your life, don’t depend on religion. Instead, enter into a real relationship with Jesus Christ, and let Him make you holy, whole, and free.
Pastor and author John Ortberg talks about a time early in his marriage when he and his wife sold their Volkswagen Beetle to buy their first really nice piece of furniture. It was a sofa. It was a pink sofa, but for that kind of money, Ortberg says, “It was called a mauve sofa.” The man at the sofa store told them all about how to take care of it, and they took it home.
They had very small children in those days, so the Number One Rule in their house from that day on was “Don't sit on the mauve sofa! Don't play near the mauve sofa! Don't eat around the mauve sofa! Don't touch the mauve sofa! Don't breathe on the mauve sofa! Don't think about the mauve sofa! On every other chair in the house, you may freely sit, but on this sofa—the mauve sofa—you may not sit, for on the day you sit thereon, you will surely die!”
And then one day came the “Fall”, Ortberg says. There appeared on the mauve sofa a stain… a red stain… a red jelly stain. Mom called the man at the sofa factory, and he told her how bad that was. So she assembled their three children to look at the stain on the sofa: Laura, who then was about 4, and Mallory, who was about 2½, and Johnny, who was maybe 6 months. She said, “Children, do you see that? That's a stain. That's a red stain. That's a red jelly stain. And the man at the sofa store says it's not coming out, not for all eternity. Do you know how long eternity is, children? Eternity is how long we're all going to sit here until one of you tells me which one of you put the red jelly stain on the mauve sofa.”
For a long time, they all just sat there until finally Mallory cracked… She said, “Laura did it.” Laura said, “No I didn't.” Then it was dead silence for the longest time. Ortberg says, “I knew that none of them would confess putting the stain on the sofa, because they had never seen their mom that mad in their lives. I knew none of them was going to confess putting the stain on the sofa, because they knew if they did, they would spend all of eternity in the ‘Time Out Chair.’ I knew that none of them would confess putting the stain on the sofa, because in fact, I was the one who put the stain on the sofa, and I wasn't sayin' nuthin'! Not a word!” (“Why Serious Preachers Use Humor,” The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching, Zondervan, 2005; www.PreachingToday.com)
Here’s the truth, my friends: We’ve ALL stained the sofa. The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There’s an ugly stain on everyone of us, and no amount of blaming others or keeping quiet about it will ever solve the problem.
So how do we clean up the mess we’ve made of our lives? How do we take care of the stain that has marred the image of God in each one of us? How do we deal with the sin problem that has plagued every human being since Adam? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Hebrews 10, Hebrews 10, where the Bible shows us how.
Hebrews 10:1-4 For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (ESV)
If you want to take care of the sin problem in your life, then…
DON’T DEPEND ON RELIGION.
Don’t rely on the rituals of religious activity. Don’t trust in sacrifices, sacraments, and such.
The author is addressing a Jewish audience, so he refers to the animal sacrifices the Jews were making at the time to atone for their sins.
And he makes it very clear. Those sacrifices are but a shadow of reality, verse 1. They’re only a hint of the real solution to the sin problem.
It reminds me of Plato’s analogy of the cave. He says most people are like prisoners chained inside a cave with their backs to the opening. They’re chained in such a way that they can’t turn around, but can only see the back wall of the cave. When people and objects move past the opening of the cave outside, they cast a shadow on the back wall, and that’s all the prisoners can see. They see only the shadows, not the real objects themselves.