Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Life's Surprises

Intro.: This week I found myself in tears as I heard the story of Charles Carl Roberts IV.

  1. You see it this man who attacked a small Amish school near Lancaster, PA.

  2. Five young girls have died, one is said to be near death. Four others remain in the hospital.

  3. I felt tears run down my face.

  4. But it was not just the events of last week.

  5. In Colorado another school had been attacked a week earlier – killing one girl.

  6. The next Wednesday a high school student arrived at school and end up shooting and killing his high school principal.

  7. During the last two weeks there have also been bomb threats and schools closed down because of the fear of a police murderer. It has been a tough month.

  8. In the midst of this, there are somethings I do not understand.

  9. As the week came to an end, I was left confused.

Read: Luke 5:17-26


T.S. Two things confused me this week. I would like to spend the next few minutes looking at my confusion.

  1. I found myself confused by the horror of man's sinfulness.

    1. I was confused by the extent to which mankind can fall.

    2. I choose to not attend horror movies. I choose to not read novel which focus on horror.

    3. Yet as I followed the news on Monday morning, I felt that I was living through a horror story – over which I had no choice.

    4. How do I understand the events of the past few weeks.

    5. One way I can do that is by understanding how scripture

    6. I want to look at two words scripture uses to describe the sinfulness that seems to be so pervasive in human nature.

    7. The first word is the “Awen“-the root of this word focuses on the doing of sin.

      1. Isaiah 55 uses this word:
        Let the wicked forsake his way
        and the evil man his thoughts.
        Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him,
        and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

      2. The word reminds us of John Wesley's definition of sin – “A willful transaction of a known law of God.”

(Ill.) Wesley understood that there are times when men and women are held responsible for sin when they know what they are doing – but are less responsible when they do not understand what they are doing. In law, this is the basis for an insanity plea. In theology, we speak of the age of accountability. The point at which a child understands what sin is and makes the deliberate decision to sin.

(Ill.) A very little girl, who often read her Bible, gave proof that she understood her obligations to obey its precepts. One day she came to her mother much pleased to show her some fruit which had been given to her. The mother said the friend was very kind, and had given her a great many. “Yes,” said the child, “very, indeed; and she gave me more than these, but I have given some away.” The mother inquired to whom she had given them, when she answered, “I gave them to a girl who pushes me off the sidewalk, and makes faces at me.” On being asked why she gave them to her, she replied, “Because I thought it would make her know that I wanted to be kind to her, and maybe she will not be so rude and unkind to me again.” How admirably did she thus obey the command in (Romans 12:21) to “overcome evil with good”.1

    1. The Greek NT uses a different word for the concept of sin – the word is “harmartia”.

      1. The word literally means “missing the mark.” We have discussed this word before. Before moving to NY my family and I would attend “family camp” over the Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. One of the activities available to us was an archery range. None of us was very good – but we try our best. We would aim for that little circle right in the center of the target – but, you know, we would miss the mark.

      2. Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. We have all hamartia – we have all “missed the mark.”

(Ill.) A dear pastor friend of mine used to say, “there is no sin so vile, so dark, that we, except for the grace of God, could not fall into it ourselves. Amazingly, he said it only a few years before he fell himself was forced to leave the ministry because of “conduct unbecoming a pastor”.

    1. I don't understand it all – but I have a glimpse of what is behinds this months events. Sin is so pervasive, sin is so ingrained into the human race, that I should never be surprised at how far man may fall, I should never be surprised.

  1. I found myself confused by the ability of some to offer forgiveness to a broken world.

    1. It was not just the sinfulness of man that surprised me this week.

    2. The reaction of the Amish to the events of Monday surprised me as well – their ability to offer forgiveness to the man who did this horrible deed and to his family should astound all of us.

    3. Three dozen people attended Charles Carl Roberts IV's funeral – half of them were Amish. They were not there to protest, they were not there to rub in their pain. They were there to offer grace to his family.

    4. They invited the family to join them as they said good bye to their own children. I don't know if it occurred, but it took a great deal of grace to make the offer.

    5. Real grace is offered to those who feel least able to ask for it.

(Ill.) I read a news story this week about Kris Philips, a young boy who was born with a weakened back bone. Kris lives in the Knoxville, TN, area and when he was born, his parents were told that he would never walk. A steel rod had to be put into his back bone, just so he could sit straight. Today he is in middle school running cross country. He is not fast – in fact he comes in dead last. But the crowd does not leave until he crosses the finish line. His team does not leave until he crosses the finish line. In fact, the opposing team does not leave until he crosses the finish line. You see, though both teams have finished the race, the runners of both teams join Kris as he runs the last 30 yards of the race. The crowd cheers and his parents are there to meet him at the finish line. Knoxville was showing Kris Phillips what grace is all about.2

    1. The Amish know something that we do not know or understand. God is in the business of showing grace – whether it is to you and I sitting in relative luxury, or to a young man who was never supposed t walk, or to man who had murdered five of their children.

Conclusion: I was confused this week.

  1. I was confused by the sinfulness of man

  2. I was confused by the offer of forgiveness made by the Amish community in Lancaster.

  3. But I better understood Jesus' question we heard in Luke 5 - “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?

  4. This week, I saw, we all saw, the grace of God working the lives of truly broken people.


1AMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.


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