764) Bringing Sinners to God (part one of two)

The Seven Deadly Sins

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A SERMON ON SIN

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I Peter 3:18a  —  For Christ died for sins once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

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     Jesus died so that he could bring sinners to God.  We have come here this morning to respond to that call to be brought back to God.  Those who come to church are sinners, for whom Christ died.  SINNERS.  It is a word that is used less and less these days, but it is what the Bible calls us, and that is what we are.

     Even the littlest among us are sinners.  When those little babies are brought up front to be baptized, we pray that God would “wash away their sin.”  Sin?  What sin?  What can a baby do wrong?  But think about it.  Though outwardly they are cuddly and cute, is there anything more self-centered and ill-mannered than a baby?  Every once in a while the peace and quiet of our worship service is interrupted by the cries and squawking of a baby.  It is great to have the babies here, and they are cute, and they are important to the future of a congregation.  But they don’t care if we are trying to have a church service.  If they want to make a racket, they will make a racket.  And when they are at home want to be fed, they don’t care if you are busy with something else, or if you are trying to sleep; they will demand your attention NOW.  All babies think about is themselves.  Sinners, they are, even if they don’t know it yet.  So even if they are only two weeks old when they are come to church, they are coming to the right place, because Jesus calls all sinners unto himself.

     But babies can’t help it, can they?  They are babies.  They don’t know what is going on.  Are we really ‘sinners from our mother’s womb,’ as the Bible says?  Well, what happens as soon as those cute little babies do know what is going on?  Immediately, they begin to resist you, and they continue to be demanding, even when they know they are irritating you, and sometimes, especially then.  Rebellion and selfishness, two of the central characteristics of our sinfulness as described in the Bible, are there right from the beginning.  Two of the first words every child learns are NO, which comes from a sinful rebellious spirit, and MINE, which shows a sinful selfish spirit.  Does anyone ever have to teach their children to fight over the same toy?  Did any of you ever have to teach your children to defy you and stomp their little foot on the floor and say, “No, I won’t do it!?”  You don’t have to teach them any of that.  Rather, you have to teach them to obey and how to share.  Where do they get that defiance, selfishness, and disobedience?  They are “sinners from their mother’s womb,” just like the Bible says.  There is something wrong with us right from the beginning.

     So these little sinners are carried to church; and then in a couple years are led by the hand, perhaps even pulled along a bit.  An hour ago, they might have been putting up a fight, but a rule is a rule, and here they are.  As they get older, some of them might have even, at times, said they hate church.  So they sit here, sullen, determined not to get anything out of it, muttering to themselves that when they are parents, they for sure aren’t going to put their kids through this.  Ten, twelve years old, they are, and they lack experience and expertise in so many areas of life.  But in one area of life, they are already masters.  They are expert sinners; defiant, rebellious, selfish sinners.  They know how to defy you and irritate you and wear you down, and it is their parents’ job to teach them how to resist the sin that is in them and do what is right.

     When they get to be a few years older they are still sinners.  But now they are more aware of their sin than any time previously in their lives.  Perhaps they have been out with their friends the night before, and the contrast between the conversation and the activities of the night before, and the Sunday morning worship is striking, and they know it.  And they know about the sin within themselves; deep dark sin, dirty thoughts, mean thoughts, defiant thoughts, thoughts about things you aren’t supposed to be thinking about at all.  They are looking at things on their computer that they know they shouldn’t be looking at.  Conversations with friends grow more crude, and they might even be ashamed of themselves at times, but they would not admit that to anyone.  Sin?  Yes, they know about sin.  They could even tell you that Jesus forgives sinners.  They remember the formula from Sunday School.  But they don’t want any part of that now, and that is the very worst part of their sin.  They want to turn away from what they need most of all, and in that crazy confidence of youth, they think they can manage just fine without God.  They are sinners, through and through.  But Jesus keeps the door open for them, too.  That door that is always open– to all sinners.  (continued…)

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Lord, in your mercy, do not hold my sins against me, but forgive what is in the past and give me grace to amend my life; so that I may decline from sin and incline to virtue, and walk before you with a pure heart, now and forevermore.  Amen.

–16th century