Series: The Price He Paid for You
Episode: Pollution of the Soul
The fact that God created it all is so obvious. God’s majesty and His love and His wonders shine out through all the things He’s made. There’s no excuse.
Sin By Another Name
This week we’re still doing a retrospective on Easter and I thought we should ask a question. What makes Easter? Why did God do it? Why did God send His Son to die for you and me? Last week we saw that you and I are so incredibly precious to God. The Psalmist back in Psalm 8 asks the question. He says:
“I look up your huge skies, dark and enormous, you handmade the sky, the jewellery, the moon and the stars are mounted in their settings. Then I look at little old me and I wonder, why do you bother with us? Why do you take a second to look our way, God?”
It’s a good question. And the answer is that we’re so incredibly precious to God. And the more precious something or someone is, the more we do for that something or someone.
Sadly in our world today, people pick the wrong things and make them precious. People pick wealth or they pick fame or they pick career or they pick status – always these external things – and they end up sacrificing their lives to them to no avail. But you and I are different. You and I are precious in the sight of God, in God’s heart. And Easter is about Jesus on the Cross. Easter is about the most incredible sacrifice; the Son of God crucified, punished on our behalf.
We’ve had a look at that already on the program over the last couple of weeks. But He was punished for you and for me. And for a long time I wondered, why? I mean, why did God go to those lengths? Look at me, look at you – we’re not that bad. Okay, we’re not perfect, at least I’m not, but isn’t the whole ‘Easter, Cross, crucifixion’ thing just a bit extreme?
Christians talk a lot about ‘sin’. Now for most of my life I thought of ‘sin’ as being this really old-fashioned, stuffy, church concept. I mean, ‘sin’? Really? These days? Old fashioned, moralising, guilt trips. It belongs to a view of religion of the past that’s not relevant today. People are writing books about it. A well known scientist by the name of C. Dawkins wrote a book called ‘The God Delusion’ and someone who was writing that book up said this:
“The God Delusion makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just wrong but potentially deadly.”
And part of that is this notion that we have in the world today, that sin is some man-made religious concept. We live in a society that denies sin, whatever that might mean to you. Right? Wrong? Well they’re fluid concepts, their circumstantial. It kind of depends what works for you. But the word ‘sin’ – which I, for many years thought of as this stuffy, outdated concept – the word ‘sin’ in the Bible literally means ‘to miss the mark’. Today we say ‘missing the point of life’. And because of the society we live in – the society that puts ‘me’ at the centre of my world, puts ‘you’ at the centre of your world – we do whatever feels good to make us better and have more fun and more comfort.
Okay, there’s some social responsibility, but by and large we live in a selfish world. And in that society we kind of don’t notice somehow that sin’s going on. We notice the shotgun murders and that sort of thing, but in our lives day by day people deny the concept of sin.
There’s a wonderful parable called ‘the boiling frog syndrome’. You’ve probably heard of it. The notion that if you have some boiling water and put a frog in it the frog will jump straight out because it notices the water is hot. But if you begin with cold water and you gradually, gently heat the water the frog ultimately will die because he doesn’t that the water is getting hot and it kills him.
Global warming’s a bit like that. I mean, we’ve been denying it for years. Governments and big business have been denying it because it’s politically and economically expedient to keep pumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, slowly cooking the earth. It’s been obvious but we’ve denied it.
A while ago I went to see Al Gore’s movie, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. Whatever your politics, whatever your views of matters ‘green’ are, it’s absolutely a ‘must see’ if you didn’t see it. He makes a point that the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes have almost doubled in the past 30 years. The flow of ice from glaciers in Greenland has more than doubled in the past decade. Malaria has spread to higher altitudes because of warming in places like the Columbian Andes – 7000 feet above sea level and at least 279 species of plants and animals are already responding to global warming by moving closer to the poles.
It kind of paints a picture of a world out of control. It’s so bent on consuming that we’re prepared to destroy the planet. When we look at the facts they’re obvious. The whole consumer treadmill, the economy based on greed, the boiling frog syndrome just denies that reality. We behave as though it doesn’t exist. We do that with a lot of things. In the west where people are wealthy by global standards we ignore poverty, we ignore the wars and the starvation and the thousands of children that die every day of poverty. We just behave as though they don’t exist. They still do but we just ignore them.
The point of sin is that it’s a bit like that boiling frog syndrome. It’s deceptive. Through our selfishness we kind of rationalise; we deny the reality; we stick out heads in the sand and pretend. Well, it’s not my problem. I’m not the one getting things wrong. The Apostle Paul in Romans Chapter 7 verse 11 writes this. He says:
“For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment deceived me and through the commandment put me to death.”
You see, sin is deceptive. In 2 Timothy Chapter 3 verse 13 he writes:
“Evil men and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
And Psalm 36 verse 2.
“With his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin”.
And that’s right on the money. We kid ourselves. We try and behave as though sin doesn’t exist. Just stop and think about the last 24 hours and say, what did I do to hurt someone? What did I do to step on someone? What did I do to ignore someone? What did I do that ruined their lives and my life? Come on, we are masters of self-deception. It doesn’t matter how much we deny it, when we look around the world, around society, around our own lives, sin is alive and well. ‘Missing the point of life’ is alive and well and people are slaves to it like lemmings jumping over a cliff and the price … the price is being robbed of life itself. It’s walking around like a living dead.
“But God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him wouldn’t perish but have eternal life.”
That … that right there is what Easter was all about.
Simply No Excuse
I’m going to ask you, have you ever been pulled over by a policeman for speeding. ‘Driver, do you know why you’ve been pulled over? Do you realize that you were exceeding the speed limit by whatever it is? I have, and it’s a horrible feeling. And you know there is simply no excuse. Speeding kills – it’s as simple as that. Imagine speeding and killing a child coming out of a school, or someone you love or an elderly person crossing the road.
Measured against the consequences, speeding is crazy; it’s ludicrous; there’s just no way you can justify it or you can excuse it, the consequences of speeding is death. Yet most drivers speed every day. That attitude ‘I’ve got to get there, just got to get there. I’ll save 30 seconds, I’ll save 1 minute, I’ll save 2 minutes off my journey.’
That attitude completely misses the point, doesn’t it? And that’s such a good example of sin. ‘Sin’ means ‘missing the point’. Come on, look at our lives, look at the stuff that we want to descend into – being selfish, being greedy, just lying a little bit, a bit of deception, pompous egos, treading on people, crushing them – and then do you know what we do? We rationalize it. We justify it. We say it’s everybody else’s fault. They don’t measure up to my mark, or they did me wrong, or that person over there hurt me and that’s why I had a go at them. Come on! It misses the point and in God’s eyes there is simply no excuse.
We began the program today with the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 8, looking up at the heavens and the stars wondering, ‘God who am I that you should even give me a second thought?’ The Apostle Paul takes that one step further in Romans Chapter 1 and verse 20, and he writes this:
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power, His divine nature, they’ve been clearly seen being understood from what’s been made, so we are without excuse.”
In other words, you look around and you can’t help but come to the conclusion that God is God. It’s like speeding. When we deny God, when we turn away from Him, when we say, ‘No, no, no, I’m going to live my life buddy’, there’s no excuse. It’s blindingly, glimpsingly obvious.
Look around. The fact that God created it all is so obvious; God’s majesty and His love and His wonders shine out through all the things He’s made. I’ve said before, we are masters of delusion and so we are. Somehow for years I rationalised it but in my heart of hearts I knew that God was God, I knew that Jesus was the Son of God, but we get used to the fact that our lives are missing the point. We get used to the fact that we’re off doing stuff and ignoring God. And then we try even harder to have a life of meaning. We work harder to earn more money or more recognition or to get a better career or … even though in our heart of hearts we know it’s never ever going to hit the mark.
It’s like we’ve become slaves to it, we’ve become addicted to this sin, this treadmill, and we’re compelled to keep going in the same direction. Put yourself in God’s shoes for a moment.
He creates you and me out of love, in His own image, and He gives us in this universe on this earth that He’s made for us – He gives us the freedom to accept or reject Him. And this freedom comes from His love too. And He watches you and me take our freedom and reject Him and miss the whole point of creation and then suffer the consequences. And we do suffer.
Missing the point brings suffering. Sin has its consequences. Loneliness, pain, doubt, isolation, a lostness, hurts, no real sense of identity. We get to a point where we’ve completely lost sight of the fact that you and I have been created in God’s image – to delight in Him. And let me tell you, when God sees us in that state His heart aches for us.
I was reading a book in my personal time with God the other day. In the Book of Judges when Israel had rejected God so many times and they came to God because God had sent punishment on them. They were defeated and the Amorites were fighting against them, and God said, ‘No, forget it, you people have rejected me so many times, go worship your gods, go worship your idols, go and suffer the consequences.’ Then God looked down upon His people and He saw them suffering and the Bible says He just couldn’t help Himself. He had to go and help them.
That’s what God is like. He loves us. He wants to bless us. And when He sees us suffering the consequences of sin He can’t help himself. His heart aches for us. And that’s why, just at the right time, when you and I were still powerless to deal with any of that, when we were still busy rejecting God, just at the right time Jesus Christ died for the ungodly. He dragged that Cross to Calvary, He allowed Himself to be nailed to it. He took the burdens, the consequences, the pain of my sin and your sin once and for all.
He paid the price that you and I should pay and greater love has no man than to lay down His life for His friends. And whoever believes in Jesus, believes that’s exactly what happened there on the Cross of Christ at Easter. They’re set free from the burden and the consequences of their sin.
If we believe that with our lives we are free to have a relationship with God. We don’t have to live under the burden of sin anymore, as slaves to sin with our whole lives missing the point. The moment we believe in Jesus its ground zero, it’s a clean slate; it’s a start again fresh. When we look at the Cross of Christ and say, ‘I believe’, God our Father says, ‘My child, I forgive you’. When we put our faith in Him the gates of heaven are flung open wide and there’s a wild party.
You might say, ‘But Berni, I took that step years ago and look at my life!’ And I say to you, have you taken that step with your life. I mean, do you live your life in that reality every day? Come on, that’s what Easter is. It’s Easter every day because by shedding Jesus blood on the Cross, by His sacrifice, you and I have forgiveness every day. Through that empty tomb you and I have a new life every day – today, tomorrow, the next day, for all eternity.
That’s it. That’s Easter.
A Personal Call
Well you know, you and I are looking back on Easter. Here we are, a few weeks past Easter and you might think, why is this guy still yapping on about Easter? Why are we still looking back at Easter? Come on we’ve had the chocolate, we’ve had the long weekend. We’ve moved on, let’s get on with the rest of the year. Let’s get on with something new and fresh and exciting.
But hang on a minute, I just believe that it’s Easter every day. I just believe that God wants us to live and walk and breathe and have our being in the reality of the fact that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ and that He suffered and died to pay for my sin and your sin. He took our death, the death that we deserved, on His shoulders and He died that death for us. He rose again and He gave us a new life – a forgiven life, a life eternally in relationship with Him.
You see, you and I are so incredibly precious in God’s eyes. Do we get that? He loves us so much He’s given us this freedom to choose Him or to reject Him. And you know, every day we have that choice in the way we think, where we put our trust, what goes on in our heart, what we do, what we say, everything. Jesus died for every person who’s ever lived – for you, for me and for billions of other people. That’s a huge thing. He bore all of our sin.
Have you done something wrong and you woke up the next day – maybe you’ve hurt someone, you had an argument, you said something you wish you could take back right? – and you woke up the next day and you realise, you remember back the stupid thing you did and the consequences and the pain and the hurt. You know, you’ve hurt someone you love, whatever it is, and you just have to live through the consequences of that. It’s sin. It’s a terrible feeling. You know what I’m talking about.
Imagine if you could experience it in one time, the consequences of all the mistakes, every sin you have made in your whole life. How would that feel? It would be unbearable wouldn’t it? If we could feel all our sin and the consequences of it in one moment I think it would kill us. It would be unbearable. So now put yourself in Jesus’ sandals for a minute. He bares the pain, the punishment and the consequences of all the sins of the whole of the human race for all time at that one place on the Cross.
My, how Jesus suffered. We just can’t see this as some huge macro act of God in history – it is that but if we restrict it to that we miss the point. Jesus died for the one, He died for me, He died for you to set us free from the slavery of sin, the slavery of living a life that completely misses the point, the slavery of living a life that will end in eternal separation from God.
You know the worse bit about slavery? It’s the fear, it’s the lurking knowledge deep down inside that we’re missing the point of our lives. And at the end of the day there will be a reckoning. That makes the life of sin a true life of slavery. In Hebrews Chapter 2 verse 14 it says this:
“Since we’re human, of flesh and blood, Jesus too shared in our humanity so that by His death He might destroy Him who holds the power of death (that’s the devil) and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For this reason He had to be made like His brothers and sisters in every way in order that He might pay the price for the sins of the people.”
How many people live life in the fear of dying? I used to. I don’t any more because I know I believe in Jesus. I know that when I die I will go to be with the Lord my God, not because I’m such a great person but because I believe in Jesus. No more fear, no more lurking sense of a life without purpose, a life that’s missing the whole point. Paul in Galatians Chapter 5 verse 1 says:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
In other words, the reason Christ did what He did was to give us freedom.
“Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
You know, we can run but we can’t hide. You and I can pretend that it’s not there. We can do the boiling frog thing and say, ‘Sin’s not an issue in my life. There’s no such thing any more in this day and age.’ But sin is a reality, sin is slavery, sin has consequences. We keep on doing those same old, same old, same old things chasing after money or fame, treading on people, hurting people, whinging about people, whatever it is, whatever your brand of sin whatever your Achilles heal is – we keep doing that and it has consequences, it ruins relationships, it ruins our lives and it misses the whole point.
I want to ask you again today, have you given your life over to this truth. I mean day by day do you walk, think your thoughts, make your choices in the wonderful knowledge incredible gift of life. Jesus died for you. Jesus paid the price for you. Jesus, here and now is calling you to be free of the slavery of sin and death once and for all by putting your faith in Jesus. Not just a single one-time act but a life lived in the truth and reality that Jesus died for you, that you might be forgiven. Jesus rose from that grave for you so that you might have a life eternal.
This is not about taking a guilt trip here. It’s about God calling you to Himself through His Son. Do you want that more than anything? Do you want to be close to God? Do you want to be with Jesus for the rest of eternity from this moment forward? Why don’t you pray this prayer with me?
I’ve heard the message of Jesus today. I believe that Jesus died on the Cross for me and I want to accept Him as my Saviour, the one who set me free from the slavery of sin. But not just my Saviour, I want to accept Him as my Lord. I give my life, God, into your hands for you to be the Lord of my life above all other things, all other hopes and dreams and desires. Father, I’m so sorry for the things I’ve done in the past. I turn away from them right now. I want you to fill me up to overflowing with your Holy Spirit. Father give me the new life Jesus died and rose again to give me. I want to know Your peace and Your freedom and Your joy and Your love. I give my life to you in Jesus name.
In Jesus name, Amen.
This is where life is at. Not some rule-based constricting religion – freedom … freedom from all the things that we are enslaved to that ruin our lives. Freedom from wandering aimlessly through life towards a disastrous end, Freedom from the consequence of our sin and into a life with purpose and meaning and joy and wonder and glory, a life that only gets better and better, a life that goes for all eternity.
Will there be trials in this life? Is it tough following Jesus? You bet you. Jesus never promises a bed of roses, He never promises a cake walk. In fact Jesus promises that when we put our faith in Him, there will be trials, there will be people and spiritual forces that come against us. But ultimately putting our faith in Jesus is about a new life.
That’s it. That’s what Easter is all about. That’s what Jesus was doing on the cross for me and you. All we need to do is to hear that message and let it sink into our hearts and hold onto that deep inside and never ever let it go. Easter. Jesus. Freedom. Life.