Summary: The call of John the Baptizer still rings true in the 21st century. Our culture seeks to do away with sin by calling it a "privacy" issue. The scriptures call our acts of disobedience againts God and our fellow man....sin.
In Jesus Holy Name December 3, 2005
Text –Mark 1:1-4 Advent I – Redeemer Lutheran
“The Call of the Prophet—Repent”
Christmas is coming! People are shopping! Decorations are being hung. Christmas trees are purchased. Dinners are being planned. In the early part of the 19th Century Benjamin Franklin made this statement about the season of Christmas. “How many observe Christ’s birthday, how few His precepts! O, tis easier to keep holidays than commandments.”
How true. When we break the commandments it is called “sin.” Rev. John Stott in his book “Basic Christianity writes: “Several words in the bible are used to describe sin. They fall into two categories. One word represents it as a shortcoming, a lapse, a slip, a blunder, a failure to hit the mark, as when shooting at a target. Another is an inward “badness”
A disposition which falls short of what is good.”
Both of these groups of words imply the existence of a moral standard. It is either an ideal which we fail to reach, or a law which we break. “Who ever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin,” says James.
The Bible accepts the fact that men have different standards. The Jews have the Law of Moses. The Gentiles have the law of conscience. But all men have broken the law they know and have fallen short of their own standard. What is your ethical code? It may be the Law of Moses or the law of Jesus. It may be the decent thing, or the done thing, or the conventions of society. It may be the Buddhists’ noble eightfold path or the Muslin’s five pillars or conduct. But whatever it is, we have not succeeded in observing it. We all stand self-condemned. (Basic Christianity p. 64 John Stott)
Sin is an unpopular subject in a culture that tolerates most every behavior under the guise of “privacy”. This is a trick of Satan that has grasped the whole culture under the guise of “it’s not my fault”. People who are saturated by issues of “privacy” have a hard time admitting there is evil in this world. Therefore “if it is an issue of privacy…then I’m not guilty of “sin”.”
This is the cultural battle. But it is not new. In the 19th century a liberal optimism flourished. It was widely believed that human nature was fundamentally good, that evil was largely caused by ignorance, and bad housing. Education and social reform would enable people to live together in happiness and good will.
This view came to full fruition in the “great society” housing projects…which 20 years later became high rises of terror and destroyed the authority of the family.
In the past 100 years or so many people have become convinced that the problem of evil is in the heart of individuals, not merely in society.
Jesus did not teach the fundamental goodness of human nature. He undoubtedly believed the O.T. truth that humankind, male and female, were made in the image of God, but he also believed that that image had been marred. He did not deny that we can give ‘good things’ to others, but he added that even while doing good we do not escape the designation of evil.
In his conversations with refined, righteous, and religious Pharisees he noted that the human nature is self centered and evil. Jesus summarized the moral imperative of God when he explained the Ten Commandments in terms of “love for God and neighbor” and that every sin (act of disobedience) is selfish revolt against God’s authority and our neighbors’ welfare.”
Sin is simply hard core selfishness. We are all guilty. James writes: “with the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing. This should not be, we all stumble, in many ways.” (James 3:9-10,3)
Billy Graham in his book “World Aflame” tells this story: “A woman in India had learned that she was a sinner and that God is holy and cannot over look sin. She often said. “I need some great prince to stand between my soul and God. Eventually she heard that the bible contained the account of a savior who had died for sinners, so she asked some one to read the Bible to her.
He began reading in the 1st chapter of Matthew. As he read the list of names in the genealogy of Christ, the woman thought, “What a wonderful prince this Jesus must be to have such a long line of ancestors.” Then the reader continued. “You shall call his name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” The woman exclaimed: “This is the prince I want! This is the prince who is also a Savior!”