Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.
Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. (Psalms 33:1-5)
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”
And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”
He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate. (Genesis 3:1-13)
It was Tuesday when Henry ran into Zeke in Salem, Arkansas. Henry had been doing business that took him into Little Rock for the weekend, so he missed Sunday worship at the Church in Salem.
“Hullo, Zeke, how was that visitin’ Preechur, standin’ in fer Pastor Michaels?”
“What’d he preach on?”
Frustrated with Zeke’s uninformative one-word answers, Henry asked, “Well, what’d he say about it?
“He’s a’gin it.”
I hope we are all “a’gin it.
The Officers Candidate School was at Fort Benning, GA. In the south they have a much greater problem with bugs than we do. During our orientation one of the strong prohibitions was no food in the barracks. They called it “pogey bait”. If we received cookies or cake from home we had to eat in completely before lights out. It was also forbidden to order in any delivery food.
Each of the four platoons in the company was under a “Tactical Officer”, a Lieutenant who was permanently assigned to shepherd each platoon through the course.
In violation of orders, we officer candidates in 1st Platoon decided to have a “Pogey Party”. Now we had to have the pizza and soda delivered in such a way that it was not discovered by the on-duty Tactical Officer. We planned to have the pizza driver pull up by the dumpster in back of the barrack building. Another candidate and I would take out our garbage can to dump it in the dumpster. Meet the driver, pay him and carry the pogey bait concealed in the garbage can back into the barracks, distribute it and pig out. A great plan!
Except the stupid driver did not get the delivery instructions. He pulled up in front of the barracks and honked his horn.
I raced out and told him to go around to the back. We then proceeded with our original plan. We met and paid and loaded the pizza into the can and began hotfooting it back into the barracks. Then we heard “Halt!” We had been discovered!
The other candidate said, “What do we do?” I said, “We didn’t hear anything!” and we kept on. But then, close enough so we could not ignore it, “Halt! Ground that garbage can!” It was 2nd Platoon’s Tactical Officer. He looked me in the eye, and said, “Take off the lid!” There for all to see were stacked boxes of pizza and containers of soda. We were busted! I had been disobedient to a lawful order of a superior officer. In other words, I was guilty of sin.
Then the officer ordered, “Put the lid back, bring the can and follow me.” He marched us into 2nd Platoon’s bay, had us set the can down, stand at attention while he said to his candidates, “Men you get a pogey party, courtesy of your Tactical Officer.” We left much humiliated amid the cheers and jeers of the other Platoon.
Satan is like that. He leads you into sin, promising a great reward for your violation, and then snatches the pleasure of the sin from you.
He offered Eve an expanded understanding of life.
“You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4,5)
Adam and Eve did get the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but the enemy of our souls failed to make full disclosure. He did not tell them that the disobedience would break, irreparably the intimate relationship with God. And for them the shock of loss of righteousness, and the death of their spiritual connection with their Loving Creator. He did not reveal that the cost would be thousands of years of misery. Eve had no conception that God Himself, the Messiah would have to become a man and die to redeem the consequences of one little bite. Such a little thing to have such great consequences.
What is sin? It, too, is only a little word, but has world-shaking consequences. Paul defines sin,
“for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;” (Romans 3:23).
Falling short of the glory of God is essentially not being God. Adam and Eve were created in perfection, and knowing nothing else, they lived robed in God’s righteousness and lived in perfect harmony with one another, with animals, with vegetation and with nature.
In considering the temptation offered by Satan, Eve fell short of God’s glory. Adam followed Eve’s lead. He, too, fell short. The result was they were no longer perfect, and they fell out of God’s righteousness and were naked and ashamed.
We have a hard time conceiving perfection. God is eternally perfect. He is righteous in all He thinks, says and does. His words had the power of Creation and His creation was perfect until Man, to whom God had given dominion, broke faith and disobeyed. Because man obeyed Satan instead of God, man’s dominion changed hands, giving Satan dominion over the world. Thus, the broken Creation became the world of natural disasters, pestilence, and entropy. It cannot be fixed. It must be discarded and God must start over.
If sin is falling short of the glory of God, what makes a sin? Well, certainly, the murder of another man, because it destroys God’s treasure that is life. Theft is sin, because it deprives another of what God has provided for her. Disobedience of parents is a sin, because in flaunting their authority it is thumbing one’s nose at God Who gave them their authority.
Every sin is in some way a sin against God.
A husband answers his wife’s question, “How do you like my new dress?” with a white lie, “Oh, darling it is lovely,” even though the color makes her look pale and sickly. That is just a little lie. But that mistruth is an affront to the Majesty of Almighty God.
God is truth and in Him is not a shadow of untruth. He is righteous, perfectly righteousness. Any one of the people He has created that does the slightest thing that is not perfect, is saying to God, “I know a better way than Yours.” That translates into “Move over, God, I’m taking control!”
God is a jealous God, and will allow no one or nothing to usurp His place. Thus, there is no such thing as a little sin. Every thought, word or deed that is not perfectly righteous, is a heinous sin and punishable by being eternally assigned to Hell to burn forever in the fires of condemnation. Remember, Jesus made it clear,
“but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:22)
Yes, God is punctilious. He’s a knit picker, and nothing escapes His eye.
“Thou that art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and that canst not look on perverseness, …” (Habakkuk 1:13)
In the following thought in the quote from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us both instruction and a warning.
“If therefore thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art with him in the way; lest haply the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.” (Matthew 5:23-25)
Jesus is the God-man, who came to Earth to be our Savior. He died to free us from sin, death and Hell. But He gave us instruction both directly and via the Holy Spirit. Jesus is quoted in the Scriptures, so we must pay attention to His teachings. The Holy Spirit has delivered the Scriptures to us. They are given that we might learn to avoid sin.
“But abide thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a babe thou hast known the sacred writings which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
Here we’ll deal with Jesus words. Jesus is admonishing us “to keep short accounts”. In the days before credit cards, the general store in a village had accounts for all the folks in the vicinity, who were mostly farmers. Their income came when they sold their harvest. They had an account at the store and were “carried” until they sold their crops. Then they paid their general store bill in full, hoping they had enough left over so they would not have to add much to their account, until they needed to buy spring seed. They wanted to keep “short accounts”.
Jesus is advising us to keep short accounts of sin. If you come to worship and know there is an unresolved disagreement, a complaint, an offense given or taken, between you and a brother or sister in Christ, Jesus wants you to resolve that difference before you worship. God knows our hearts. He will not respond to our prayers or our praise because the sin in our hearts.
They have labeled the younger generation “the Snowflake Generation” because they are so easily offended, they easily meltdown at the slightest thing. Colleges now have to have “safe rooms’ where they can “recuperate” from some offense.
Because we live in a world populated, not by perfect angels, but by sinners, God exhorts us to be reasonable and give one another some latitude. Paul teaches:
Love “Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; (1 Corinthians 13:5)
Believers are to be tolerant of offense, affront, to “turn the other cheek”. We are to be peace makers (as someone has said) not peace breakers. God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. We are to live reconciled with one another.
It is amazing how the words, “I love you” can make relationships easier. Ruth and I have been married for 59 years June 18th. We are very different people. God has had to work very hard to make us one, and sadly we are still not one flesh. But we love one another and we say it many times a day. That smooths over the hard times, because despite our disagreements, I know Ruth loves me. And she knows I love her.
In church, we do not tend to say, “I love you,” to one another, but perhaps we should. We are, after all, brothers and sisters of one another. Besides, saying, “I love you,” won’t break the COVID-19 protocol, which currently frowns on hugs.
So, what do we do about sin? Well, first of all, DON’T. If you do sin, make a quick confession and seek forgiveness. If you believe someone has sinned against you, keep short accounts. Speak to that person and to no one else. Seek to get it resolved between you. If you cannot resolve it between you, do not allow your emotions, your wounded pride, frustration break fellowship. Initially agree to disagree. Then seek a disinterested third party to reconcile the disagreement.
When you have sinned against another, the Holy Spirit will let you know it. If you have to justify your words or actions, you can be sure it is your soul trying to cover up your sin. That is the time to get honest before the Lord, asking his forgiveness, first; and then go to the one you have wronged, and seek his or her forgiveness. There is nothing in this that you do not know. It is all old stuff. But it is hard stuff to do. Our soul wants to project the perfect image, despite the reality of our flaws.
All relationships require humility. Coming together, knowing I might do something offensive, or you might, too, will make anything negative that happens have less impact and importance; therefore, it can easily be smoothed over, if both are committed to act quickly. The ideal is that the two, each eagerly, hurrying to make things right between you, meet in the middle with apology and forgiveness.
What do we do about sin in the world? We can’t do anything directly. Sin in the world is everywhere we look. The sin problem is too big for us to handle. It is a God-sized problem. Our role and responsibility are to pray that the Holy Spirit will come with His revival fire and purge hearts as He has done periodically throughout human history. At times it has been a drastic purging as in the Noachian Flood and the Babylonian captivity. At other times God’s dealing with sin has taken the blood of war, as in the American Civil War, which cleansed our nation of the sin of slavery.
While we must leave reconciling sin in worldly people to our Almighty God; we have a responsibility to warn them.
What do we know about our neighbors across the road, or on either side or behind the Church? What do we know about those living on this road or nearby in our area? When was the last time any of us visited them? We need to get to know them, their families, their successes, their problems. To pray for them effectively, we need to know what is their relationship with Jesus, or lack thereof. In Ezekiel 33:1-9 God says that we are “the watchman on the wall”, with the duty to warn the people when God is coming with a sword to judge the people. He said that if we did not warn them, their condemnation would be on us!
Our main focus this morning is dealing with sin in our own lives. That begins with humility:
Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalms 139:23-24)
Did I say, “Humility”? Yes. One of the spiritual exercises each morning before you get out of bed, is pray, “God guide through this day and make me a worthy servant, giving You glory in all I do.”
And then each night, before you get into bed, pray, “Search me, O God, see it there be any wicked way in me.” That starts and ends each day in humility.
God has made us ministers of reconciliation,
But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
Since we are brothers and sisters in Christ, we cannot say with Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer is, “Yes, we are!” I quoted Jesus who said reconciliation with a brother is more important than worship, “leave your gift and be reconciled with your brother.”
Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. (Matthew 18:15)
Paul taught, it is better to suffer personal loss than to take a brother to court.
but brother goeth to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? Nay, already it is altogether a defect in you, that ye have lawsuits one with another. Why not rather take wrong? why not rather be defrauded? (1 Corinthians 6:6-7)
Jesus said the 2nd Commandment was
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (Matthew 22:38)
Again, Paul taught,
doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself. (Philippians 2:3)
We may not be able to eradicate sin in this congregation, but we can work at it by inviting the Holy Spirit to look into our hearts. As we look on diligently and honestly, then we confess the sin that lurks in the dark corners. We can rid ourselves of burdens that without our knowledge suck up emotional energy and, wear us out with their additional weight.
So, my summery is: Sin – I’m ag’in it! In me and in you.
Please pray for me and with me.
Lord God, Holy Spirit, Jesus sent You to be our Comforter and to convince us of our sin. Give us honest, humble hearts to throw them open to Your purging, no matter how painful. Make us see ourselves as You do and as others do, too. Give us the joy of a spring cleaning. Bring us together to reconcile differences and to bind us together with cords of love that cannot be broken.
We acknowledge that we are too often agents of the enemy of our souls. He is Hell bent on dividing us from other believers, and uses us to do it. Give us the spiritual vision to see ourselves as You do, so we can reject our enemy’s temptations to separate us from the love of one another.
Father, John tells us that You are love. So, infuse us with your love that we become impervious to all attempts to separate us from any brother or sister in Christ.
For Your glory we surrender our hearts once more. Amen.
“Unto him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins by his blood; and he made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (The Revelation 1:5-6)