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Summary: A sermon based on both the Law and the Gospel. Jesus explained what sin was. We need to head His command and turn away from temptation.

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Introduction

In Thomas Costain’s history, “The Three Edwards”, he describes the life of Raynald III, a fourteenth-century duke in what is now Belgium. Grossly overweight, Raynald was commonly called by his Latin nickname, Crassus, which means "The Fat." After a violent quarrel, Raynald’s younger brother Edward led a successful revolt against him. Edward captured Raynald but did not kill him. Instead, he built a room around Raynald in the Nieuwkerk castle and promised him he could regain his title and property as soon as he was able to leave the room. This wouldn’t have been difficult for most people since the room had several windows and a door of near-normal size, and none was locked or barred. The problem was Raynald’s size; he couldn’t fit through the door. To regain his freedom, he needed to lose weight. But Edward knew his older brother, and each day he sent a variety of delicious foods. Every day he wheeled before Raynald on a cart, the tastiest of foods. But instead of dieting his way out of prison, Raynald grew fatter from the food. When Duke Edward was accused of cruelty, he had a ready answer: "My brother is not a prisoner. He may leave when he so wills." Raynald stayed in that room for ten years and wasn’t released until after Edward died in battle. By then his health was so ruined, he died within a year, a prisoner of his own appetite.

There are many of us who are like Raynald, trapped by our own sinful desires. We wish we didn’t have these desires, but often the delicious temptations that are wheeled before us, are too hard for our flesh to resist. We each have an appetite for a certain sinful pleasure, that whenever we’re tempted with it, we give in. And it’s a cycle of feast and famine, pleasure than guilt. Jesus mentions two specifically: anger and lust. But there are others just as damaging. Perhaps that temptation is gossip, gambling or pornography. Maybe drugs or alcohol. Maybe your irresistible temptation is fatty foods or overspending on your credit card. But whatever it is, many of us lack the willpower to overcome it. The temptation is just too strong. (adopted from Burgess, Aaron. “Tackling Temptation.” Available on-line at http://www.sermoncentral.com/print_friendly.asp?ContributorID=&SermonID=42369)

Today’s gospel lesson talks about that type of temptation. It talks about sin that’s ingrained in our lives, that we have difficulty avoiding. Jesus talks about sin that gets into our system; it gets into our heart. This morning, I want to take a closer look at the sin we allow into our lives: the source of our sin, our response to God’s grace, and the idea of a contrite heart.

The Source

Let’s start by taking a closer look at the source of sin in our lives. All of here today are sinners. We have our own struggles and successes. But, sometimes we knowingly allow sin to get into our life. We choose to put ourselves in situations that set the stage for us to continue our bad habits. A gambler might look up the statistics of his favorite horse race, only to fall prey to another bet. A pornography addict might rent an R rated movie filled with sex scenes, resulting in unpure thoughts and perhaps unclean actions as well. A substance abuser might continue to frequent bars, opium dens or crack houses. The location itself isn’t the problem. But, allowing that temptation into their life might result in further abuse.

Some might think these are acceptable practices. Looking up statistics isn’t actually gambling. Renting a movie isn’t cheating on your spouse. Going to a bar isn’t the same as drinking. But, is that assumption correct? Placing these temptations in our lives leads to the thought and actions that Jesus condemns in the Gospel message. Unclean thoughts lead to unclean actions. The thoughts themselves are part of the problem. The thoughts themselves are a form of sin.

The simple fact is that people like to put themselves in these situations. Take pornography for example. The economic effect of pornography in the United States is well into the Billions per year. The cost is estimated to be greater than the sums of the National Football League, National Basketball Association and the National Baseball League combined. That’s a lot of money, that’s a lot of sin.

Jesus spoke about this problem directly. Just thinking lustful-thoughts puts you into the adultery category. With billions going toward images designed to spur this feeling of lust, that’s a lot of cheating going on.

But, these are not the only sins that plague the American landscape, or the Christian pews across the nation. Anger is another common problem that has infected our communities. We find it easy to find fault, hard to find a forgiving heart. Getting cut off in traffic might offend our sensibilities. Perhaps we even are the aggressive driver forcing our way through the maze of cars and trucks. Anger on our roads has become a big problem. There have even been reported shootings in California due to situations on the road.

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