What: Sunday Morning Message
Where: Gateway Community Church
When: March 27, 2011
Pastor: Randy Hageman
Last week we began our series on the cross and discovered that the cross was rejected by the world’s wisdom, but it became the central symbol of the Christian faith.
1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT2): “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” And, in fact, God took this “emblem of suffering and shame” and demonstrated through it His love and grace that has the power to save us… but save us from what?
A lot of people would probably say they don’t need saving.
And even many Christians today wonder what all the fuss is about.
Why do we need the cross?
That’s a really important question, and the short answer is because of our sin. Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins. But that statement gets repeated so often that for a lot of folks it’s little more than “a glib response, and even something I don’t really understand, rather than a truth I actively live every day.”
You see, a lot of folks aren’t comfortable talking about sin. Maybe I grew up in a religious setting where it seemed like all folks ever did was talk about how bad we are, how bad I am and sinful I am, and that not only depresses me but leaves me feeling almost constantly guilty.
I hear this a lot, and it’s why a lot of folks who grew up in church have turned away, because they’re just tired of being beat up with little or no hope.
I spoke with someone a while back who was so down on himself and believed he was just no good and God had to be mad at him all the time. I felt sad as I listened to this guy talk about feeling like he was condemned by God.
I believe God is much more interested in loving us into heaven than scaring us out of hell.
At the same time, we bounce too far the other way, throwing the baby out with the bathwater and dismissing this whole idea of sin, if not from our language, at least from being anything we’re really concerned about. And so, all too often we settle for an Oprah Winfrey approach to life that denies the reality of sin & tries to solve all our problems through psychoanalysis.
I’m just misunderstood, or had a poor upbringing, or just need to think more positively about my life and circumstances.
I don’t doubt that there’s some value to this, but I’ve also discovered what the Bible affirms – that there is something more going on here. So, I hope you don’t hear today’s message as a downer or as condemning.
But the other part of all this is that if we don’t understand the problem with our sin, we can’t understand why we need the cross, and why we must never lose sight or take for granted what God did for us through the cross.
The New Testament uses several different Greek words for our word sin, and each one gives us a different nuance.
It may have the sense of missing the mark or failing to attain a goal, or a trespass or stepping over a known boundary, or disregarding or breaking a known law. So, we can see that a part of sin are the acts of disobeying God and His standards by thought, word or deed. There’s this sense of some objective standard or criteria that we fail to reach, or, a line we deliberately cross. (ibid.)
The Bible teaches us that God has established an objective standard. It is, in fact, God’s moral law, an expression of God’s own righteousness or inherent rightness and integrity and holiness and goodness. In other words, God is perfect and just and, therefore, His laws are not just laws, He has to abide by but the very expression of His nature – the way He is.
But, they are also our laws.
Genesis 1:27 (NLT2): “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
That doesn’t mean we look just like God, but it does mean that at our core we are like God in many ways, including our abilities to love and to create.
God didn’t create us because He wanted to catch us doing wrong, but because He desired a relationship with us and loves us.
The coolest picture of this comes in the Garden of Eden where we see God’s intent to simply walk and talk as a loving Friend and Father with us throughout our day. This is why the Bible and Jesus tell us that all the laws and commandments are summed up in this idea to love God & love our neighbors – we were created for healthy, whole relationships with each other and especially with God.
And so, if you and I – in fact, all human beings – are created in God’s very image, and I understand that that will be debatable to some folks, but if you accept the existence of God, then the Bible teaches that His laws have become our laws.
God gave them to us as an expression or model of how we are to live rightly in our relationship with Him and with all the people around us, and not to rob us of fun or make life unnecessarily hard. And people everywhere have some sense of this, the Bible tells us.
Romans 2:14-15 (NLT2): “(14) Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. (15) They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.”
There is a general sense of right and wrong that crosses all cultures and countries and even religions – we sense some things are just always wrong in this world.
And so, when we sin, in any of the ways we can sin, we are going against our God-created nature, causing harm to ourselves, as well as going against God’s authority and His love and best desire for us.
1 John 3:4 (NLT2): “Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God.”
But sin is more than just these actions, the breaking of God’s Laws and standards – these actions are an indication that our very created nature, which was to love God & others fully, has been corrupted, so that we put ourselves ahead of others.
This is what I’m calling capital “S” Sin or our sinful nature, which leads us to put ourselves first in life over God or anyone else, to be self-centered.
Remember that the serpent’s temptation of Eve in the garden wasn’t simply to break God’s law – it was to be like God. The Serpent:
“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.’” (Genesis 3:5 NLT2)
We are created in God’s own image, but we are created – we are the creatures of the Creator, and for the creature to aspire to be like the Creator, like God, is the height of arrogance and self-centered pride.
You see, sin isn’t just the rejection or breaking of God’s laws, it’s the rejection of our created place and the rejection of God as our Creator. (p. 92). We reject the idea that we are dependent on God, or anyone else for that matter. In fact, we have declared that we are self-dependent & lord & master of our lives. We have placed ourselves in the place God designed and created for Himself alone, as the ultimate arbiters of what’s right and wrong for us.
That’s why when we’re in that role as our own god or lord, we may talk about how something may be wrong for you, but that doesn’t make it wrong for me.
Judges 21:25 (NLT2): “…all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”
We put ourselves in control and turn away from God. In fact, while we may not consciously think it, our sinful nature is so bought into living life our way that we really oppose God.
Romans 8:7 (NLT2): “For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.”