February 3, 2013
Sermon, February 3, 2013
The Misery of Sin
Psalm 71, Genesis 3
February 3, 2013
If you talk to contemporary people about the misery of sin, you will probably receive shocked looks, and maybe even anger and hostility. "Who are you to tell me what is right for me?" they will say. And they will accuse you of being ignorant, backwards, even a criminal on the same level as mass murderers and dictators. There is a very active movement that says Christianity is oppressive, faith is mental illness, and what the Bible calls sin is actually liberation and freedom.
But let's briefly look at the results of non-Christian views in history. Think of the mass murders in the French Revolution, and in the rise of communism in Asia, and Europe. Millions of people died in these movements for "freedom." Let's look at the deaths in America due to the decline of respect for faith, morality, and human life; again, millions have died here. I know that the "church" has been guilty of crimes as well, but everyone knows they are are the result of corrupting and deviating from Biblical faith, not from believing and following it. In reality, sin is misery, and, going toward Lent we begin to think about that misery, because, unless we understand it and its cause, we will never understand God and His mercy.
A major part of the misery of sin is seen in our relationship to the Creation. We were formed from the dust of the earth, and, at first, we lived in harmony with it. But in the Fall that harmony was ruptured. Yes, the earth still brings forth its fruit, the sun still shines and the rains still fall. But the earth also brings forth briers and poisonous plants, and droughts and floods. Many, believing they have silenced Christians, proclaim they could never believe in a God who allows tornadoes and earthquakes and suffering. And many Christians ask themselves why these things happen. The answer is found in Genesis 3:17-19, "cursed is the ground for thy sake... in sorrow shalt thou eat of it... thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth... in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground... for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
Simply put, when we, by sin, became enemies of God, we also became enemies of nature. And nature has turned against us. That is why we have killer storms and devastating floods. It is why we have illness and suffering and death. It is why nature often destroys what we build. It is why buildings crumble, cars rust, and our physical bodies wear out.
A second part of the misery of sin is found in our relationship with other people. At the very beginning we see Adam and Eve in perfect love and harmony. But after the Fall we see Adam blaming Eve for his sin. It wasn't Eve's fault that Adam ate the fruit. It was his. Before the Fall he would not have accused her before God. He would have defended her, for his love for her had been perfect. But, now, being a sinner, and being corrupted in his nature, he is alienated from his wife. Their perfect love is now defective and polluted with self love, so he blames her for what is obviously his fault. God Himself pronounces that this will continue, telling Eve her husband will rule over her and she will desire her husband's authority (Gen. 3:16). Sin has ruptured their relationship.
It did not end there. Cain murdered Abel, and it wasn't until the time of Enos, Seth's son, that people began to seek God again. And the Fall continued to wreck human relationships. The mighty men of Genesis 6:4 were warriors. Their presence shows that mankind was already forming armies to kill one another. Genesis 6:11 says, "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence." It became so bad "it repented the Lord that He had made man upon the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart" (Gen. 6:6).
Have things improved? Have education, revolution wealth redistribution, the United Nations, constitutions, kings, parliaments, presidents, congresses, treaties, technology, or even religion changed things? I think not. I think the words of Moses in Genesis 6:5 are as true today as when he wrote them nearly four thousand years ago, "the wickedness of man was great in the earth... the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." I think of the words of James in the fourth chapter and first verse of his book continue to be true, "From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your own lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not."
I agree with Thomas Jefferson that all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. I agree that these are self evident truths, but there is another truth I consider more self evident than these. Simply stated, that truth is, all are sinners. All have neglected much of the good they ought to have done, and have done much evil they ought not to have done. And no where is this sin more evident than in our ruptured relationships with other people.
A third part of the misery of sin is found in our ruptured relationship with God. Frankly stated, we have become God's enemies. Notice I did not say God has become our enemy. It is we who have turned against God, not God who has turned against us.
The result of this rupture is the alienation and emptiness of the soul that often grips us. We have lost our identity, we have lost our meaning, we have lost our purpose, because we have lost our God. Young people used to spend much time and effort trying to "find" themselves. I don't see that much any more. Today's youth spend their efforts inventing themselves. If they don't like the identity they create, they simply re-invent themselves. And they keep re-inventing themselves whenever they want to change. But it is not only young people who do this. People of all ages re-invent themselves many times during their lives. Part of this is thrust upon us as we go from children to adults, to parents and grand parents. But part of it is simply because we don't know who we are in the first place. We don't know we are created in the image of God to know, love and enjoy Him. Therefore we are constantly trying to re-invent ourselves according to other images. This is all part of our ruptured relationship with God. In short, we have rejected God's call and purpose for us, and have invented our own. But our self-invented identities cannot fulfill our need to be right with God, and so we are miserable.
But there are worse consequences of this ruptured relationship. We have come under God's justice. We have been measure by the standard of God's perfect righteousness, and we have been found wanting. We have become criminals against His righteous law, and are liable for the penalty our crimes deserve. We have become children of wrath, and the wages of sin is death.
Fortunately sin is not the end of the story. Grace is. We see fallen humanity and we learn that we need a Saviour. We look at Christ, and we see that we have one. By grace nature will be restored to its original state. It will become our friend again. The storms will cease. Disasters will end, as will hunger, illness, and death. It will become Paradise again, restored by the power and grace of God.
By grace human relationships will be restored. We will be delivered from our sinful lusts, to live in perfect love and harmony. There will be no more crime, strife, or hate. We will finally be able to beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks, and study war no more. We who are in Christ already live in the restoration. It is not complete yet. It will never be complete in this present age in which sin and violence prevails. But we have the hope of peace and we have the taste of peace. Our natures are being transformed by God through the means of grace. So we are able to live among each other in a way that approaches the way we shall live in that great day of Peace.
By grace our relationship with God is restored. Our sins are forgiven. His anger is appeased, and we are turned to Him to love and serve Him in joy forever.
The misery of sin is great. There is not one problem or sorrow of this life that cannot be found to be the result of sin. But the grace of God is greater than our sin. His grace will win.