Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The basic problem of man is sin.

If I were to go to the doctor and say, “doc, I need a complete physical examination. I want to be as healthy as I can. So check me out and tell me if anything is wrong.” I would expect him to check my cardiovascular system (blood pressure, breathing, heart beat); I would expect him to take a sample of blood and run a battery of tests on it; I would expect him to test my reflexes and strength, and perhaps several other tests that would indicate early signs of serious problems.

Suppose that doctor ran his tests and did find something wrong – something seriously wrong! But when he came back into the examination room he said something like this. “Matt, I find that your bones are connected in such a way to give you freedom of movement. I found that your blood is made mostly of water and it contains nutrients and oxygen which travels to your muscles, brain, and other places to provide what they need. Your heart beats about 75 times per minute and exerts a certain amount of pressure upon your arteries and veins.”
– I might respond by saying, "OKAY...That’s not very helpful but thanks...I think."

When we go to doctors, we expect them to tell us if something is wrong. Why? Because it is ultimately for our good. When we are buying a house and hire someone to do an inspection, we expect him to disclose everything he finds, right? If not, he has not faithfully done his job. In the same vein, when we come to church to hear the Word of God proclaimed, we should not come expecting the preacher to sugarcoat the medicine, water down the message, or elevate the man. Why? Because to do so puts you in grave spiritual danger. We expect the man of God to lay out the biblical facts, make a diagnosis, and prescribe a cure! Failure to do so is an outright abandonment of the call of God!

In a sense, the past few weeks we have been at the doctor’s office learning about man made in the image of God, and both the material and immaterial aspects of man (body, soul, spirit, heart, conscience, etc.). But the Bible says more than that. It says that we are desperately sick and in need of cure. It is my job today to share this with you.

You are aware, however, that not every pastor feels this same way. The reasoning goes like this: People know what they are doing wrong. Why do we need to beat them over the head with it. Jesus didn’t come to condemn people. He came to save them. I just try to focus on what is positive.

[transcript from Larry King Live.]

KING: How about issues that the church has feelings about? Abortion? Same-sex marriages?
PASTOR: Yeah. You know what, Larry? I don't go there. I just ...
KING: You have thoughts, though.
PASTOR: I have thoughts. I just, you know, I don't think that a same-sex marriage is the way God intended it to be. I don't think abortion is the best. I think there are other, you know, a better way to live your life. But I'm not going to condemn those people. I tell them all the time our church is open for everybody.
KING: You don't call them sinners?
PASTOR: I don't.
KING: Is that a word you don't use?
PASTOR: I don't use it. I never thought about it. But I probably don't. But most people already know what they're doing wrong. When I get them to church I want to tell them that you can change. There can be a difference in your life. So I don't go down the road of condemning.
KING: You believe in the Bible literally?
PASTOR: I do, I do.

What does the Bible mean when it speaks about sin?
If you haven’t noticed, I am big on definitions. I like to know what words mean in the context they are being used. I don’t like throwing around words where I don’t know what they mean. A word like sin is easier to illustrate than define, but we need to define it. What does the Bible mean when it speaks about sin?

Very simply, sin is any act originating from the heart that fails to live up to the perfect standard of God's holy character.

Sin is missing the mark of holiness. Rom 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

When I was a kid, my dad and I used to shoot bow and arrows in the back yard. We had hay bales stacked up against a backdrop and would place our targets on that. I had one of those red, plastic bows that you buy at K-Mart for $10. My dad had a compound bow and it had some real power behind it. When I was learning to shoot an arrow, many times I would let my arm come down just as I was releasing the fingers. The result was an arrow that fell short and skidded into the dirt. My dad, however, was much more consistent; very steady and controlled in his release. One day I was in the house while he was shooting. He came in and said, son, you’ve got to come outside to see this. My dad had shot an arrow in the bulls eye, but that wasn’t why he came to get me. My dad had shot a second arrow after that one. At the time, we were using hollow, aluminum arrows. This second arrow had actually struck the first arrow and lodged itself in the hollow core of the first arrow. A more perfect shot has never been made. My arrow fell short every time. His was perfect!

Sin is transgression of the law. Rom 5:12-21;
Transgression simply means going beyond the limits set by law. When God gave Moses the law, it set limits on what man could and could not do. Interestingly, this passage focuses on the sin of Adam. We know there was not a written law at the time of Adam, but Adam had God’s command, “do not eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. Paul says that when Adam sinned, all of the descendants of Adam became sinners (v. 19). Adam transgressed; his descendants became transgressors by default.

Sin is rebellion against God and lawlessness. 1 John 3:4, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.”

Another way to describe sin is by calling it rebellion. Rebellion casts off law as if it were a yolk of burden. It lives by the credo “Laws were made to be broken.” You’ve heard me say this before: we tend to think that the very young and the very old are more godly because of their behavior. However, one hasn’t found the capacity to show his sin nature while the other has lost the desire. When children turn two years old they find the capacity to express their sin nature. They rebel at sitting in the grocery cart; they rebel when they can’t climb on the kitchen counter; they rebel when you tell them all the bathtub water is supposed to stay in the bathtub. I don’t want to be hard on those who are two, but that is when we begin to notice it, and it stays with us until the Spirit of God can subdue it and break its power.

How does sin affect me?
A. You are totally depraved.
1. Sin has touched every part of you.
2. You can do nothing on your own that earns meritorious favor with God.
3. An unbeliever can do good deeds but nothing that can make peace with God.
B. You inherited Adam's guilt. (Romans 5:12-21)
C. You live in a world that is corrupted by sin. (Romans 8)
D. You will hurt others and protect yourself because of sin. (Genesis 3)
E. You are a person of pride.
1. Pride of power
2. Pride of knowledge
3. Pride of virtue
F. You will die from your sin.

[From here I went on to describe what I feel are the particularly prevalent sins at the church where I serve. We looked at Richard Owen Roberts Backsliding Index and other sins which seem to show up frequently.]

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