Our Sinful Nature
However, when they persisted with their question, He raised Himself up and said “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 (NIV)
I’m gonna let you in on a little secret…
All of us are sinners. Every one of us, at some point in our lives, has sinned. Jesus knew it. Why else would He extend an open invitation for someone, anyone in the temple court to stone a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery? He knew it then, and God knows it now. We’re all sinners.
I’m gonna let you in on another secret; one of my personal secrets. Never shared this with anyone…never felt the need to, until now…
For the longest time (if you consider 56 years to be a long time) I thought that I was the only person in church that was a sinner. Well, that may be a bit extreme…I didn’t really believe that I was the only one with sin, but in my mind, no one else’s sins were as bad as mine. And everyone else’s sins paled in comparison…
What made me feel that way? My sins were worse than his, or hers, or yours, because I committed them! I was ashamed of my transgressions against God…all of them. That’s why I always opted to sit no closer to the front of the church than the middle! I didn’t think that I was worthy of sitting in the front, right under the Pastor’s nose, right there in front of the congregation. I wasn’t good enough. I figured that the first few rows were reserved for the “good” people.
It’s not that I wasn’t a good person. I’ve always tried to be a good Christian, and tried to treat people the right way. I didn’t steal, or take a life, or anything like that. I just kept “falling down”, in a spiritual sense. And I just didn’t “get it” about forgiveness.
I want to talk about sin for just a moment. Well, not necessarily “sin”, by its definition, but more about my perceptions of sin that I brought with me from childhood.
Without mentioning a specific Christian denomination, I’ll tell you that I was taught that there were two different categories of sin. There were mortal sins, which were willful, extreme offenses against God. Some examples of mortal sins were murder, adultery, and theft. Then there were venial sins, which, while being offensive to God, weren’t as serious as their mortal counterparts. Examples of venial sins might include cursing, lying, or gossiping. You could probably still get into heaven if you died with a list of venial sins, but those mortal sins could give you a one way ticket to Hades!
The whole concept never made a lot of sense to me. God gave us a list of commandments…ten of ‘em. Do you think that He divided them into two categories, or ranked them in order of severity, from one to ten?
Okay, I can see where the First Commandment, I AM the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before Me. would be the most important one. I mean, if you don’t accept God, why would you follow His commands?
Apart from the first one, how can we say that one of the remaining nine is more important than the other? Well, we can’t, but I believe that many of us try to justify taking “liberties” with certain ones. It’s kind of like the “selective hearing” that my wife Jackie accuses me of having from time to time!
If money, or a fancy car, or a new home, or a new job, or your children, or even your spouse is more important to you than God, you’re not in accordance with Him. The same can be said for hating someone that may have hurt your feelings, or being prejudicial towards anyone. Hiding some of your income to avoid paying more taxes…lying to dodge an embarrassing situation…turning your nose up at someone that may be less fortunate than you are. All of these are offensive to God. The list of things that we do, individually and collectively that is not Christ-like is, well, is too long to list.
Take a close look.
This is how I see it: When examining your conscience, you have to examine all of it, not just the “safe” zones! You want to know if you’re in good standing with God? At the end of each day, take stock of your every thought, word, and deed. You’ll know.
Look, I’m not trying to save your soul; God sent His only Son to do that.
This is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10 (NIV)
Neither am I sitting in judgment of you.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be used to measure you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye, and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:1-3 (NIV)
I guess that what I’m trying to tell you is this:
All of us (yes, that includes you) are worthy of sitting in the front row of the church, right under the Pastor’s nose, right there in front of the congregation. We’re all God’s children, and because of that we’re all the same in His eyes. While some of us may live the life that’s more in keeping with what He wants for us, that doesn’t mean that the rest of us aren’t His “kids”. And it doesn’t mean that He will stop loving us. (I invite you to read the parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32)
Don’t be afraid to stand before God, baggage and all. I believe that many of us don’t want to face Him because we’re ashamed of what we’ve done, or because of the accountability that comes with knowing that God is looking.
You don’t really think that He’s not looking at you because you’re not looking at Him, do you? Come on! He knows everything, sees everything, and is everywhere. He is our omniscient, omnipresent, amazing God!
Our forgiving God
Here’s the thing, and I believe this with all that is in me: If you ask for God’s forgiveness, with a heart filled with regret for what you’ve done, He’s gonna forgive you. Even if you’re falling into the same trap, time after time. I don’t care what it is; He will forgive you.
There was only one sin for which He couldn’t forgive you, one that would keep you from spending eternity with Him, and He sacrificed His only Son to pay the price for that one.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Look, you’re gonna have to face God one day; we all do. I’m asking you not to wait until your judgment day to do it. If you will begin each day by standing before God and asking Him for forgiveness, I believe that at the very least, four major changes will occur within:
· Your relationship with God will soar to new heights.
· Your outlook towards life and everything in it will change.
· You will find yourself examining your every thought, word, and deed because you’ll realize that removing sin from your life makes room for more of God’s blessings and His love.
· You will have more peace in your heart and in your soul than you ever dreamed possible.
See you next week!