Sunday, October 10, 2004

Sin is a Three Letter Word

Intro:  In the early 1700's there was a young preacher who felt called to missionary service.  In 1735 he traveled to Georgia to begin what he thought would be his life work.  Three years later he returned to England, a failed engagement, discouraged and feeling very alone and  unloved by God.  But he began attending a Bible Study at Aldersgate Street in London.  As the group studied the book of Romans they were reading Martin Luther's Preface to Paul's epistle to the Romans.  But something happened in that preacher's heart that night.  Later that evening, he returned home an wrote in his journal: 

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

John Wesley spent the next 40 years preaching the gospel that had changed his life.

In 57 AD Paul writes a letter that is carefully passed down to the church till Martin Luther reads it in 1521 and writes his Preface to the book of Romans.  This too is passed around the churches until in 1738 John Wesley is sitting in a small Bible Study and hears Martin Luther's words.  And then we can move to 2004, where we listen to the story and again begin a study of Paul's Epistle to the Romans.

Read  Romans 1:13-32


  1. Sin is real
    1. As I read this passage we can come to no other conclusion.  Sin does exist.
(Ill.) It was in 1973 that Dr. Karl Menniger wrote the book “Whatever Became of Sin?”  Dr. Menniger's point was that we live in a world of moral confusion – where people do not know the difference between right and wrong.  A psychiatrist, Dr. Menniger, was writing to call his colleagues and his generation to a recognition that we do live in a moral universe.  Now, 21 years later, I do not think things have gotten any better.  
    1. I suppose I could spend the remainder of our time this morning giving a list of sins.  I could list the seven or eight that are listed here or I might choose my favorites.  But that would lead to two problems:
      1. I may miss your sin and because I did not mention it, you might assume (or want to assume) that because pastor did not call it a sin, it must not be.  If God is telling you that something is sin, it is sin!
      2. I don't need to do it, I don't want to play God.  God is very good at making you aware of your sin.  If there is something in your life that needs God's attention, he will point it out. 
    2. Having said that, it may be appropriate to give a brief definition of sin.
      1. Wesley defined sin as a “willful transgression of a known law of God”. 
      2. Others defer to the root meaning of the Greek word for sin - “amartia.”  The word has its roots on the archery range.  Anytime an arrow did not the “bulls eye” of the target, it was said to be “amartia.” 
    3. It really doesn't matter which definition you decide to follow – as broken people we do sin.
    4. Let me repeat the first point – sin is real.

  1. Sin is not only real, it is also progressive
(Ill.) Do you remember the slogan for Lays Potato Chips - “You can't eat just one.”  And once we heard that, it was certainly true.  You had to have another.
    1. Sin is too often like that – we choose to cross the line once, but then find it easier and easier to do so again.
    2. What seems like a minor problem to is never minor in God's eyes. 
    3. But too often what started out as something minor to us does not remain minor even to us. 
(Ill.) Do you remember those old TV cartoons.  Some kid is beginning to build a snow man, but something gets out of hand.  The snowball starts going down the hill.  The kid realizes that something has to be done.  He tries to stop the snowball, but then he gets wrapped up in it and starts tumbling down the hill with the snowball.  And the snowball grows larger and larger.  Family members try to stop the damage caused by what is now a gigantic snowball.  And they find themselves trapped in this mess as well.  And in the cartoon, homes are wrecked, people are injured (do you remember the cast and crutches everyone has to wear).  And none of it stops until you get to the bottom.
    1. That snowball is a pretty good picture of sin.  What seems like an innocent activity really becomes a nuisance.  The nuisance becomes a habit.  And, for some, the habit becomes an addiction. And for those of you that have had to deal with addictions, either in your own life or in the life of a loved one, know how what started out as an innocent activity, ends up being a family problem.
    2. Sin is progressive.

  1. Sin has consequences
(Ill.) Sin has ruined men, ruined women, ruined angels. Sin has occasioned every tear of sorrow, every sigh of grief, every pang of agony. Sin has withered everything that is fair, blasted everything that is good, made bitter everything that is sweet, dried up springs of comfort, rolled far and wide tides of sorrow. Sin has dug every grave, built every coffin, woven every shroud, enlarged every cemetery … that the world has ever seen. —Robert G. Lee*
    1. Sin's consequences are personal, corporate, and eternal -
    2. Theologians distinguish between sins and sin – sins are those behaviors that we think of as sin.
    3. But sin is something else – it is part of being human.  When we speak of the fall, we say that every area of our lives is tainted by the fall.  It does not mean that we are as bad as we could be, but it does mean that I can do nothing, I can say nothing without knowing that it in some way is impacted by that thing we call sin.  Whether it be my weird jokes or my singing or even my sermons. 
    4. And here is the kicker – there is nothing I can do about it.  NOTHING.
    5. And, I suppose, if I were to end this sermon at that point, it would be the sadist sermon I have ever preached.  It would offer little hope.

  1. Jesus Christ is the God's response to our sin.

    1. In my sermon I have put the answer last – but Paul starts with it – look at vs. 16-17:

      16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[1] just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith.”

    2. Three words stand out:
        1. Power of God – you see I can do nothing about my sin.  But God can.  The gospel is God's answer to our sin.  He loves us enough that he has done exactly what we cannot do.
        2. Salvation – The Nelson Bible Dictionary defines salvation as the “Central act in the life of a Christian by which he or she is brought into a right relationship with God through the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ, forgiven of sins, adopted as the child of God, and given eternal life.”  God takes what broke our relationship with Him deals with it. 
        3. Believes – God did the work.  But we have a responsibility as well.  Christmas is coming.  And my wife will have presents under the tree and she gives them to me.  But if I refuse open the presents, I never get the benefits of their being mine.  In fact my life is the same as if I never received them.  Faith is both something in the heart and something in our lives.  “The righteous shall live by faith.”

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