Biblical Foundations 12: Preparing For Easter 2 (Sin 2)
Holy Spirit—please give us grace to teach what is encouraging from the Bible
& give us guts to teach what may be excruciating from the Bible.
We are continuing to look to the Bible to examine the Bible-foundation and cornerstones of this local church—why does God have us attending here? Where is He taking us, and what route is He using to take us there? What does it really mean to elevate God, community and others?
We are also preparing for Easter which, along with Christmas and Good Friday, is the foundation of Christianity…Last Sunday we began to take an in-depth look at what the Bible teaches about sin to begin answering the questions:
- Why did Jesus have to die?
- Why did He have to die so brutally, so painfully?
- How do we respond to Good Friday & Easter? What do we DO with it?
Last post (please click HERE) we looked at the Bible terms “iniquity” and “transgression” to understand more fully how terrible our sin is, to understand that the cure for our sin was so terrible for Jesus because our disease is so terrible!
We also spent much time learning last post that God brings up sin, judgment, hell, wrath, punishment, etc. in the Bible as often as He brings up love, grace, mercy, heaven, forgiveness, etc. BOTH are important to God, and God is being loving when He points out our sin, when He shows us how nasty our sin is, because in doing so He is helping us to cry to Him for salvation, for new life, and not just for a little moral enhancement.
- Friends, if we think that God is NOT being loving when He convicts us of our sin and we quickly change the channel, so to speak, we will either miss out on eternal life entirely—only going to Jesus for cosmetic surgery when what we need is a heart transplant—or we will miss out along the way on the joy of the LORD which is our strength…we won’t be amazed at the cross because it will seem like overkill, like using a shotgun to get rid of a few ants in the kitchen…
- “God demonstrates His own love in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This verse is God’s neapolitan ice cream: God’s love, our sin, Jesus’ death in our place. All three are important, all three are connected, all three flavors must be eaten.
- By showing us the thorns of our sins He is helping us to be amazed and in awe of the roses of His grace…being un-amazed by the LORD is a SERIOUS spiritual problem for Christians, my friends, just like shooting pain in your left arm…there is something much deeper going on when we go for months and years being bored by God, the Bible, the Cross, etc., barely giving any attention to Him, barely growing closer to Him, barely living out the mission that He gave us, and enthusiastically giving much attention and energy and delight to the beliefs and activities of this sinful world…over time, when we find ourselves agreeing more with the pop culture and less with the Bible, we have a SERIOUS issue going on that can only be fixed by going back to the foundation of understanding our sin and repenting of it…
This post we will continue trying to understand what the Bible says about our sin so that we can understand how to respond to Good Friday & Easter—what do we DO in response to the fact that God became human and died a criminal’s death in our place?
Loves ones, today’s sermon is not meant to be discouraging for long! You are hearing the message that tens of thousands heard in the Bible, that hundreds of millions have heard over the last 2,000 years!
- We’re like people with an amazing telescope (the Bible) staring intently at the sky looking for the amazing stars (Jesus’ grace & love) BUT IT’S NOON OUT! We always want it sunny (positive & pleasant & sweet words/thinking)—we only want others to talk about God’s love and we don’t usually want pastors or anyone else to talk about our sin (midnight)…but midnight is the BEST (and in some ways the only) time to actually see and appreciate the stars (Jesus’ grace & love)!!! Not that we sin in order to see God’s grace, but we look to the Bible to point out our sin in order to appreciate His grace more and more!
Here is another word the Bible uses to help us understand our sinfulness…
Wickedness: “Wickedness like all forms and thoughts of wrong, kept warm in mind, seems to be a thing of growth; it begins with a thought, then a deed, then a character, and finally a destiny. Even in this life men increase in wickedness till they have lost all desire for that which is good in the sight of God and good men; the men in the vision of Isaiah seem to be in a condition beyond which the human heart cannot go: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20).”
- Wickedness is like a mold that spreads in us and chokes out love, an infection that spreads throughout us decreasing health that we pass on to others, like a field of weeds that steals the nutrients so that the other plants wither and die and cannot bear fruit.
- In such a field, it is not enough for the sun to shine, for the rain to fall, and for fertilizer to be spread! The weeds must forcibly be pulled up by the ROOTS! If not, the weeds will continue to steal the nourishment and nutrients and the other plants will die! Thus we need more than the blessing of God, we need more than just trying to get non-Christians to apply a few Bible verses to their lives to help them be more polite…we need the blood of Christ to uproot our heart of stone (WICKEDNESS & SIN!) and replace it entirely with His heart of love & Truth. That is the invitation of Jesus through Good Friday & Easter…
Matthew 24:10-13 (NIV)
10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
[Look at the terrible toll wickedness takes in the lives of Christians! In the above verses, Jesus is talking about those who profess to be Christians! Why WON’T those verses be true of you and me? Why WON’T our love grow cold? Not because of any inherent “natural” goodness that we have but only through the grace & perseverance of Christ Himself in us…]
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?
[Our sinful hearts can’t be cured; we need a NEW heart—Jesus’…that is His gift through Good Friday & Easter!]
19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
You don’t have to plant weeds; they naturally (or unnaturally!) grow in fields. Weeds grow & spread by us doing nothing. You don’t have to do anything for mold to grow—it spreads naturally (or unnaturally!). Mold grows & spreads by us doing nothing—leaving it in the dark, not exposing it to the light. Thus we don’t have to do anything for wickedness to grow in our souls—we simply need to do nothing, not exposing our hearts to light of God’s Word regularly, not receiving Jesus as Savior so that the Holy Spirit can live inside us and over time (sanctification!) remove the mold and uproot the weeds that choke out our growth, our intimacy with Jesus (our amazement of Him!) and our love for Him & others.
Here’s another word the Bible uses to describe our sin…
Rebellion: The Bible doesn’t call humans mistakers—we don’t accidentally sin like accidentally stepping on someone’s foot. The Bible calls us Rebels, actively treasonous against God. At war against God, whether we realize it or not. Actively resisting and fighting against His sole right to be in charge of you, “your” life which isn’t really yours. Being a sinner isnt being clumsy—it’s being a rebel against God. Sin isnt “accidental” any more than treason is, any more than adultery is. “Rebel” occurs 170x in the Bible.
But you might say, “I’m not in rebellion against God; I’m not even sure I believe in God! How can I be at war with someone/something I don’t even believe in?”
- Fair question. If you don’t recognize the authority of the U.S. government and local police, what happens if you ignore a police car that flashes its lights at you? What happens if you simply ignore or don’t believe in the authority of the cop car and continue driving? Eventually about half a dozen police cars will corner you, pull you out of the car and drag you to jail! Why? You didn’t do anything except drive! But to ignore authority is the same as to attack authority. If you are summoned to court (subpoenaed) and ignore it, you will eventually be hunted down and arrested. We understand this with earthly authority, but how much more true is it with Eternal Authority!?
We often think, “Well I haven’t done anything like MURDER or beating up senior citizens or torturing puppies or abusing children; I know I’m not perfect but I’m basically a pretty good person.”
Culturally, YES! Biblically, NO!
Most people are willing to admit that they are “broken,” as if sin is like a broken arm; their body is basically healthy and working fine, but they have a part or two of that body that is broken—in that sense most people are willing to admit that they are sinners.
But that is NOT how the Bible describes humans! It isn’t that we are basically good but have a few broken external parts—the Bible says our very SOUL is poisoned, our very core/heart/internal foundation is dead and dark and wicked and nasty and is an enemy of God Himself! Most people would be offended to be told that! Most people would walk away—or punch you in the face!—if you told them that the Bible says that about them!
Let’s look at this as practically as possible:
1. Jesus revealed that obeying Him is loving Him (John 14:23). Obedience to Jesus out of a heart of faith (Romans 1:5) = loving Jesus, is a spiritual intimacy with God! Thus, disobeying is not loving Him; but disobedience (sin!) is more than that: it’s loving someone/something else & treating that person/thing as if it were God. Sin = spiritual adultery, and we do it hundreds of thousands of times over our earthly lives! The book of Hosea teaches this powerfully. THAT is how bad sin is.
- Think about what would happen to your marriage if you flirted with other people dozens of times per day in front of your spouse. Unrepented sin damages our relationship with the LORD.
- Sin runs DEEP, even for God’s people: “Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols” 2 Kings 17:41. LORD help us! That’s like snuggling up to your spouse and romantically texting someone else at the same time! Oh how terrible sin is…
2. If you have ever had your house broken into & robbed, you know how it feels. Even if only things/stuff were taken, you personally feel attacked & violated! Even the law understands that the crime is more than just a taking of stuff; the stuff usually is replaced by insurance, but if the robber is caught their freedom is taken from them for an extended period of time.
- How much more is GOD Personally attacked when we sin? Out sin is more than just the literal thing we did or didn’t do—it is an attack against God! He created the world, He created every living creature, everything belongs to Him! How much more should we lose our freedom—separation from God!—when we attack Him daily through our sin over and over and over again? If a person were to rob houses 1% of the amount of times that I will sin in my life, that person would be locked in jail for the rest of their earthly lives!
- This is why humans live no more than 120 years! Because our sin is attacking God, it is contending against Him! Genesis 6:3: Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal [corrupt]; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.” Contend: what we call a boxer who wants to take the belt away from the champion–we call such a fighter a “contender.” THAT is what we try to do against God…
3. If a person comes over to your house and deliberately walks all over your couch with muddy shoes, it’s just a couch, right? No big deal! Yes…and no! On some level we would realize that more is needed than just a cleaning of that couch—we need to give FORGIVENESS to that person! More than a couch has been stained—the friendship/relationship has also been stained—it is disrespectful to do that to someone else!
- How much more serious then when we sin against God and stain His character by breaking His laws? How much MORE do we need to receive FORGIVENESS from God through believing in the death of His Son Jesus!
4. Much artwork in museums around the world is seriously protected to keep people from accidentally or intentionally damaging the artwork. The government of France has declared the Mona Lisa to be a priceless work of art and national treasure—it won’t sell the painting for ANY PRICE! Thus, if you were to sneak in and spray paint the Mona Lisa, if you were to graffiti it, you would be sent to jail, and probably for a VERY LONG TIME! You would, at least for a while, lose your freedom for such a crime.
- When we sin, we aren’t ONLY breaking God’s rules/laws. We are doing that when we sin, but we are doing more: God’s rules/laws are extensions of His character, Who He is. God’s laws/rules are the way He acts because they reflect His nature/character, just as you cannot separate the rays of the sun from the sun itself—the rays are an extension of the sun! Thus, when we sin & break God’s laws, we are spray painting and making graffiti on the character of God Himself, we are defacing HIM! If damaging the Mona Lisa one time causes you to lose your freedom in jail for a certain amount of time, how much more should we lose our freedom infinitely by defacing the character of the infinite God HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of times through our sin?
5. If a foreign country were to attack one U.S. city, even a small town—invading, taking over, using guns, setting up its own laws and so forth—the U.S. government would consider that an attack against THE ENTIRE UNITED STATES and would respond with quick and powerful force. The U.S. government wouldn’t say, “Well, it’s just a small town, and it’s in the middle of nowhere, so we’ll let it slide this time.”
- How much more is even the “tiniest” sin an attack against God, not just a little part of God but ALL OF HIM!? Should God just look the other way and do NOTHING, especially when we do this hundreds of thousands of times—maybe even MILLIONS—in our lives? Taking control of our own lives, doing what WE want, setting up our own laws (opinions!), etc.
- James 2:10: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” Stealing a pack of gum has the same ROOT as murder—different branch/fruit but same root: it is an attack against God Himself.
- Not all physical infection causes physical death, but SOME infection does! That’s why we are ruthless in getting antibiotics into a person with an infection—we don’t want it to lead to death! Same with the “small” sins…let’s not consider any sin “small” but bring it to the LORD in humble confession immediately!
- “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight; so You are right in Your verdict and justified when You judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:4-5).
- Every time we sin we are claiming to be the god of our own lives—we are pushing God out of the oval office and sitting down to make executive decisions for ourselves that we have no authority to do. We are committing treason against God when we sin, sin is an assassination attempt against God because it—even temporarily!—seeks to be in charge in ways that only God is qualified for. This is EXACTLY what Adam & Eve did in the Garden of Eden—asserting their independence from God to do what they want to do, to learn what they want to learn, to be in charge of themselves, to be god! If you go into the oval office and physically try to push the president out of the chair, what will happen to you? If you commit treason ONCE against the United States, what will happen to you? How much more when we do this hundreds of thousands of times in our lives to God?
6. God can no more wave a wand and forgive us rebels anymore than a judge can simply release convicted murderers from prison, any more than the president can simply release convicted terrorists back into U.S. society! Doing so isn’t merciful, it’s unjust, and God is just…
- If a person truly killed 17 people—a serial killer—that person will never, should never be simply released back into society! They have a life-sentence in jail; their crimes are too terrible to be given freedom. How much more true of all humans who killed the Son of God with our sins—we nailed Jesus to the Cross, not just the Roman soldiers who physically hammered in the nails. We did that to Him!
7. When someone commits a crime in the U.S. and they serve their sentence in jail, we say that they have “paid their debt to society.” Committing a crime is having a debt that needs to be paid. The same is true for sin against God! Committing sin causes us to be in moral debt to God…we owe Him! But we are so fully sinful that we cannot pay our debt! No amount of good deeds can pay it off because not only are our actions sinful but our SOULS are sinful!
- That is why Jesus on the cross said, “It is finished.” That phrase is literally an accounting term used by business people 2k years ago that means, “Paid in full.”
- Matthew 20:28: “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Ransom, a payment that is made to set a hostage free. We’re the hostage, Jesus Himself is the ransom. Amazing grace indeed…
- Our sin is so terrible and our debt is so high that only the death of God Himself can pay it!
8. A friend of mine said years ago (paraphrase), “Someone ALWAYS has to pay when a crime is committed. One way or the other, someone pays. If a child throws a ball through a neighbor’s living room window, either the child pays for the new window, or the neighbor pays, or the parents pay, or the window company donates a window in which case they pay—someone has to pay for that broken window (it cannot be left broken forever!). The child can (and should!) apologize, but even still someone has to pay for that broken window.”
- Same with our sin—we are breaking God’s law, we are defacing the character of God, like spray-painting the actual Mona Lisa only a billion times worse. SOMEONE has to pay for that—either Jesus on the cross or us eternally separated from God.
9. When the source of a river is deeply polluted, it does no good to try to clean the river downstream—it will constantly get polluted again and again! One pastor said it well, “Apart from Christ, trying to get to heaven through good deeds is like mopping up the floor when the faucet is still on.”
- Thus we need the SOURCE of our sin to be removed and replaced with the Holy Spirit Himself.
BUT THERE IS HOPE!!!!!
Exodus 34:5-8: HOPE! God offers forgiveness for the worst wickedness, rebellion and sin!!! God is loving AND just…
5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
8 Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped.
Look at Moses’ response—reverent worship. No arguing with God, no justifying Moses’ sin, no challenging why God would punish sin, no denial of Moses’ responsibility…Just beautiful, old-fashioned, fall to your knees awe of God…for His love AND His justice. And so for us—our proper response to a message like this, our only true response to Easter? Repentance, confession, crying out to Jesus for forgiveness & salvation, fear, trembling and worship—THESE are the Biblical responses to Christmas, Good Friday, & Easter…
Loved ones, on t.v./movies you see many defense attorneys advising their clients NOT to admit guilt (even if they ARE GUILTY!), not to sign a confession because the lawyer may be able to get them off the hook through a technicality or a loop hole.
I wonder if this is why so many bristle at or ignore Christ, why so many are offended that the Bible describes us humans as wicked and rebellious—we don’t want to admit our terrible guilt and sins, our rejection of God and our desire to be our own god—because we are hoping for some kind of loophole/technicality in the end:
- I’m not perfect but I’m not THAT bad—certainly not bad enough to deserve hell!
- I was never TOLD about Jesus!
- I was mistreated by the church!
- I was raised poorly!
- God’s not fair!
- God’s being too harsh! etc.
Oh loved ones, there will be no loopholes or technicalities with God! We have no excuse (Romans 1)! But why do we try to sneak out of God’s Court House through a bathroom window when the death of God’s Son & His empty tomb open up the FRONT DOOR of the Court Room for us to walk out in freedom, in forgiveness, in adoption, in new life, in a FULL PARDON FROM ALL OUR GUILT!? God has rolled out the carpet of freedom for us, stained red with Jesus’ blood…
Our sinfulness—and yes the devil—wants to frighten us: “If you make a full confession of your terrible guilt and sinfulness, then God has the power to NOT forgive you, to send you to hell! DON’T GIVE HIM THAT POWER! Wait for a loophole, look for the technicality, search through the BIBLE for such a back-door!”
Yes, if we do sign our confession to Jesus, He DOES have the power to send us to hell, He alone has the authority to judge us and condemn us…BUT HE WON’T!
EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved…(Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13)
- Have you called on Christ, or just given Him a brief wave/head-nod across the room of your busy life?
- Have you called out to Jesus for eternal salvation, or just some earthly blessing/behavior improvement?
Salvation from sin is His gift through Christmas, Good Friday & Easter…soak in that, loved ones, to soothe the terrible burns of our wickedness…