Summary: It is impossible to really know God and not live a life of repentance
Most of us tend to categorize all sin into two categories – my sin and your sins. And of course when I do that I always think that your sins are so much worse than mine. Since it’s really important that all of us recognize that tendency in our lives in order to make a proper application of today’s message, let me begin by pointing out three ways that we can exhibit this tendency to condemn the sin of others without recognizing the seriousness of our own sin.
1. We are spiritually blind when it comes to our own sin.
One of the best Scriptural examples of this tendency is when Nathan comes to David to confront him about his sin with Bathsheba. Nathan described to David how a rich man took a poor man’s only lamb in order to prepare a meal for his guest. And when David’s anger was kindled against that man and he declared that the rich man deserved to die, Nathan turned to David and said, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12).
While David was quick to condemn the sin of others he had a blind spot when it came to his own sin. And unfortunately that is probably true of most of us, too.
2. We tend to Ignore our sins
We might recognize our sin at the time, but rather than deal with that sin by confessing it to God and repenting, we have a tendency to just ignore our sin and hope that it will go away. For some reason we have absolutely no problem remembering the sins of others but we get spiritual amnesia when it comes to our own sins.
3. We rationalize our sins
One of the most common ways we do that is to rename our sins.
Other people lie – I just stretch the truth. Other people steal – I just borrow something that doesn’t belong to me – without asking. Other people have an anger problem – I’m just letting off a little steam. Other people have prejudices – I have convictions. It’s not pornography - it’s art. It’s not adultery - it’s an affair. We even take gossip and call it a “prayer request”.
If you’ve never done any of those things, then I guess this sermon is for everyone else but you. But if you have, then Paul’s words at the beginning of Romans 2 are relevant to your life and this message is something you need to hear and apply in your life.
Before we read our passage this morning, I want to ask you to take your Bibles and open them up to Romans 1. I’m certainly not going to review that entire chapter, but I do want to point out one significant feature of what Paul wrote in the last part of that chapter. Take a look at the pronouns that Paul uses beginning in verse 18. As you scan from verse 18 through the end of the chapter, notice that Paul consistently uses third person pronouns – their, them, they, and themselves. I did a quick count and there are at least 20 uses of those third person pronouns in those 15 verses.
In that section, Paul is writing primarily about the Gentiles who engage in those pagan behaviors. And there is little doubt in my mind that as Paul’s fellow Jews read those words they were responding with a hearty “amen” figuring that those sinning pagan Gentiles were getting the wrath that they deserved. But Paul is about to turn the tables on them. Turn to chapter 2 now and follow along as I read beginning in verse 1:
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
Before I go any further, what evidence do you see that Paul is now addressing a different audience than the one to whom he was writing in the last part of chapter 1? That’s right, he is now using second person pronouns – you, yourself and your. With that in mind, let me go back and read the first five verses of the chapter from the beginning.
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.