Summary: This is my fifth of the five clergy talks that are given on Grace in the Walk to Emmaus Ministry. It is on Obstacles to Grace or Overcoming Sin.
Obstacles to Grace are “barriers to a relationship with God; any part of life being presented as the whole.” In short, we can say obstacles to grace are what the Bible refers to as sin. We all have an idea what sin is. From early childhood most of us were taught that sin is “all the bad things we do.” Sin separates us from fellowship with God, and we are all born sinners. David, in confessing his dual sin of adultery and murder and seeking God’s forgiveness and restoration, admits in Psalm 51:5:
“Surely I was sinful at birth,
Sinful from the time my Mother
Paul reminds us of this fact as well in Romans 3:23, when he declares,
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” If any doubt the truth that we are all sinners from birth, just stop to reflect: “No one every has to teach a child how to be bad, our parents struggled with us, as we do with our children and grandchildren, many pain staking hours in trying to teach us how to be good.”
The Bible clearly shows us that “Sin is pretending that we are the center of the universe.” You and I want to be “the master of our fate, and the captain of our soul” rather than allowing God His rightful place to be the rightful Lord of our lives. It has been said, “The problem with Sin is the ‘I’ in the middle of it. Perhaps two people that clearly show us this truth are Elsa Schraeder and Max Detweiler, two of the supporting cast in Roger’s and Hammerstein’s musical THE SOUND OF MUSIC. In the song “No Way to Stop It,” they boldly proclaim:
“And there’s no way to stop it,
No there’s no way to stop it
And I know though I cannot tell you why
That as long as I’m living,
Just as long as I’m living
There’ll be nothing else as wonderful as I!
I, I, I
Nothing else as wonderful as I.”
[--Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II, “No Way to Stop It,” THE SOUND OF MUSIC (New York: Williamson Music, Inc., 1959), vocal score, 147-9.
You and I both have been there and perhaps continue to battle that temptation even now.
Wanting to take God’s place at the center of the universe was the basic temptation of Satan that led our Fore parents Adam and Eve into sin in the beginning. Satan told Eve in Genesis 3:4, “For God know that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” and from that time on each of us has “wanted to be like God.” “Sin is pretending that we are the center of the universe.” Instead of being God-centered, we are self-centered.
Sin separates us from fellowship with God. The New Testament word for sin is an archery term that means “to miss the mark or target.” Sin is any obstacle that cause me to miss the target of God’s will for my life, anything that would separate me from loving God and my neighbor as commanded by Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor ad yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’’