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“God looks down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.  Everyone has turned away…There is none who does good. No, not one”  Psalm 53:2,3

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”  Romans 3:23

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us”  2 Corinthians 5:21

“Their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.”   Hebrews 10:17

Strange title? Possibly.  In fact, there are some who might follow this site or who will come across this post who will skip reading it just because of that one word “sin” in the title.  The reason I fashioned the title the way I did is I find that this word and the concepts that accompany it are filled with confusion and conflict in our world today.  In fact, depending on the perspective we are coming from, even if we are going to use the word at all, the additional words that we would use after it, the fill in the blank if you will, may be amazingly different and contradictory.  Sadly, this is true not only in the world but among those of faith as well.

For there are some who have a humanist view that would say that sin does not exist.  They do not believe in a concept of fallen humanity.  Quite to the contrary, they believe that all human beings are innately good and circumstances and errors in judgement are where difficulties  come from but not from evil intentions.  Sin they would tell us is a concept devised by one sect of human beings to exert control and power over other human beings.  Additionally there is the worldly concept summed up in the lyrics of a song that says “I’d rather laugh with the sinners then die with the saints”.  That is to say what is the problem with a little sin.  Sinners are the ones having all the fun.  It is the saints who have all the hangups; who have the miserable life.

In our faith communities there seems to be a great division about the use of the word sin.  For some it is an anachronistic term used to describe an archaic concept that is too judgemental and driving many from the church today.  They fear the use of the term and would use terms like problems, challenges, obstacles and the like in it’s place.  Others have no fear of the term and wield it like a formidable weapon pointing at others saying: “I know sin when I see it and I see it in you, and you; in this group and that group!”  Interestingly enough though, the finger they spend so much time pointing outward, never makes it around to pointing at themselves or anyone within their own organization.

Thus sin, across the whole of the human, spectrum, if it exists at all, is a highly enigmatic principle.  Well let there be no doubt Dear Sisters and Brothers, sin exists.  God knows sin exists.

You see for those that doubt sin’s existence and to a certain extent for those who seem to think sin is the fun and successful way to go;  I can’t see where the world bears their point of view out.  If we are basically good people, how can circumstances be so far out of our control to allow for the amount of war, violence against the innocent, corruption, greed, terrorism, rape, murder, hatred, suicide, abuse-especially of children and I could continue this list for many pages?  As to those who would extol the virtues of sin as the preferred lifestyle, for those who actually seem to be living into that notion, I don’t often see a lot of laughter.  What I do see is broken relationships, substance abuse, multiple health problems, litigation against them, fear of losing what they have, a constant striving to have more, hatred from others, hatred from themselves; death.

For people of faith; God knows, sin exits.  Please don’t take my word for it; look to the source; God’s word.  Depending on the translation your using, the word appears upwards of 500 times.  If you add onto that, the concept of the fallen nature of man, then the count rises into the thousands.  And Jesus Christ makes two things abundantly clear; first, we are all sinners.  Secondly, that sin comes from within, it comes from our hearts.  It is in our hearts that we finds ourselves getting angry enough to do harm, it is in our hearts where the lust resides that causes us to want to lay with another.  Covetousness, selfishness, greed and countless other manifestations of sin originate from our hearts.  Thus we have right to judge another.

Then is that where we are left? Sin exits and we are all sinners?  Satan would want it left there.  Either with idea that there is no sin or our sin is so devastating, we should be so gilt ridden as to separate from God and go our own way.  You see that is the impact of sin, separation from God and from each other.  Leaving us alone, isolated, hopeless, helpless.  Please I implore you, DON’T STOP READING!

God knows sin exists.  God knows we are all sinners.  God can not have an eternal relationship with sinners.  God could have stripped us bare and flogged us for each of our sins until we promised to stop.  God could have hung us on a tree with nails until we pledged to never sin again.  God knows neither of those would have worked.  And here’s where I apologize for I have neither the wisdom or understanding to truly communicate the length and breadth of God’s love.  I don’t believe that the vocabulary exists to adequately describe the Grace, Mercy and Love of God’s redemptive plan.  For God loves His creation, loves you and I so much that He was not going to allow sin to separate us for eternity.  God was not going to leave us to the wiles and power of Satan.  So God did what we could not.  He sent Jesus Christ to earth, to a human existence.  Human and God, knowing no sin Jesus Christ took upon himself every sin we will ever commit.  Please try to understand.  We’re not just paroled, our record had been made clean, all sin washed away in the and through the blood of Jesus Christ.  When God see us now, He does not see a sin riddled, fallen person, He sees a redeemed person made perfect by His son.  So you see things don’t end with sin, they begin with the new life in Jesus Christ.  A life filled with togetherness,  not isolation.  A life of hope and love, an eternal life of victory over sin, not by our own strength, but God’s grace.  Accept that sin exists.  Accept that you and I are sinners.  Then accept the redemption offered through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ becoming a new person and braking the bonds of sin forever.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we ask for the aid of the Holy Spirit for we do not have the words to adequately express our gratitude for the wonderful love which you manifested to us through the life and sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ.  Forgive us when we choose to allow earthly temptations  to lead us to sin and separation from You.  In Your Mercy, lead us to resist the temptation and turn away from the sin that we may return to a loving, eternal relationship with You.  That the world might see the path to redemption and sing praises to Your Holy Name.  We pray in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord.

 

“And from the roof he saw a woman bathing and the woman was very beautiful………”  2 Samuel 11:2

“Then David sent messengers, and took her and she came to him and he lay with her……”  2 Samuel 11:4

STOP!  If you do not plan to read this post all the way through then I ask you to not go beyond here.  It is my hope that at the end this message will be uplifting and very positive.  However, if you stop part way through you may come to a completely different and unintended conclusion.

David, a brief recap to this point.  Youngest son of Jesse, he is said to possess a heart that belongs to God.  Time and time again David calls on God and praises God.  David, defeats Goliath, survives King Saul’s murder attempts, wins victory after victory, brings the Ark of God into the city of Jerusalem dancing widely in the streets.  David has many wives and is adored by the people.  A man that seems truly after God and what God wants.  Seemingly he can do no wrong.

David, it was spring.  David got up one warm night when others were normally resting.  He was on his splendid roof of a palace that he has earlier declared comes from a blessing from God.  David saw a woman; Bathsheba.  She is bathing.  It was not that she was being immodest but that from David’s vantage point he could see many things.  We are told that she is very beautiful.  David wants her.  David is so smitten with her that he does not wait.  He immediately inquires and finds out two things; who she is and that she is married.  David, King of Israel, a man after God’s own heart, a man who has received so many blessings from God; this same David, does not care.  He can’t even wait until the next day.  David immediately sends for her and then sleeps with her.  His sin produces a son which will cause David to eventually have Bathsheba’s husband killed to try and cover up his crime.  There can be no doubt.  David is Evil.

“Hold on just a second Doug!”: the world exclaims (and perhaps you).  It’s not his fault.  It is a result of the stress of battle.  It was the bullying of the Philistines.  It was really Bathsheba’s fault; she lured him into it!  Some others are reacting smugly.  Darn right David is evil.  No good kings, you can’t trust anyone one in power.  Some are saying: “If I had been David, I would not have done that!”  So two worldly responses; one, that evil doesn’t really exist.  The other response, yes there’s evil but it is always the other guy who does it, I’m certainly not evil.

God sighs.  For the bible is very clear; evil does exist.  And the bible is equally clear, we all succumb to it.  We all think and do evilly (remember please don’t stop at this point).  The world blasts back: “Not true! Not true!”  Let’s take a look.  In so many parts of the world; that a person is a woman means it is acceptable to perform horrible mutilations on her body.  To stop people from having basic freedoms it is acceptable to slaughter hundreds of thousands.  “Not in my country!” You say.  All over the world, children are killing children, senseless acts of violence are perpetrated over sporting events. Neighbor prays upon neighbor.  “Not me, I’ve never done that!” is the last vestige of our argument.  Jesus asks: “In your mind, have you ever been angry?, have you ever wanted someone or something that wasn’t yours?, have you ever passed by someone in need of help and completely disregarded them?, never once?” Well…….maybe.  Sadly, we are all fallen.  As in David, even the seeming best of us are capable of terrible things.

Wow Doug, way to go, really uplifting.  But wait here it comes.  If nothing else please, I implore you, let these next two statements sink in.  Our Heavenly Father knows me.  Our Heavenly Father loves me; just as I am.  Say those two statements out loud and take a moment or so then to be silent and let them soak in.  My Heavenly Father knows me.  My Heavenly Father loves me; just as I am.

You mean even in my evil state, with my fallen nature; My Heavenly Father loves me? Yes! A hundred thousand times yes!  How do we know?  How can you say that?  Look at the bible.  It’s not just David; Abraham lied, Peter denied, John pridefully argued about being great, Moses stumbled.  On and on, each person committed some evil.

What was God’s response?  “I have a plan.” He said.  “I will make you my people and give you laws about how you should treat one another to live in harmony.”  His plan was not a failure in that He knew and He spoke through His prophets that we as humans would not be able to follow them.  So what is Our Heavenly Father to do?  After a while people would turn throw up their hands, turn their backs and frustratingly exclaim: “I’m done with them!”

Our Heavenly Father instead said: “I love them so much, they are so important to me, that I will do for them what they can not do for themselves.  I will lay down something so precious, that it will once and for all remove the evil that they will do from my sight.”  So a star rose in the east and a virgin gave birth.  Our Heavenly Father calls out to us proclaiming:  “Out of love for you; yes you: (insert your name here) My Son Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ,  God, Perfect, came down to die for you.  So that I will see your sin no more, your evil will no longer separate us.”  And if that is not joyously reaffirming enough He adds: “What do I want in return?  Simply that you believe.  That you believe that I love you and that I sent my son Jesus Christ to die for You and having been resurrected, He is now here with me.”

Dear brothers and sisters, in the end it is no downer.  The world is evil and yes without Christ we would be left to the world and its evil.  Yet Christ proclaims that we while we may be in the world we are not of the world!  We are new in him.  We are loved and in our best attempts we will try to live in that love but we will fail.  We will do evil.  We are imperfect.  But be of great cheer, He who is perfect has taken our punishment for us freely and out of love.  We have a sure promise of redemption and eternal relationship through the flesh and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We shall go forth in Joy, Peace and Confidence loudly proclaiming we are not better in and of ourselves, but we are saved in the Name of Jesus Christ!

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, hear this simple prayer.  Give us the strength to carry forward the message of Your Love, Your Redemption, Your Salvation, Your eternal victory over evil, to all people.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Simon, Simon!…Satan has asked for you…..But I have prayed for you, that your faith shall not fail and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brothers.”    Luke 22:31-32

Can there be anyone one worse than a betrayer?  Don’t we call those people traitors and think of them as the worse kind of villans?  Think of the names down through history, Brutus, Benedict Arnold, Judas.  Isn’t it interesting that Peter’s name is not one of those whom we name?  Isn’t betrayal even that more heinous when it comes from your very closest friend, one in whom you have put so much trust?

Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter:  “the Rock”.  Peter had been the first one to openly and definitively declare among the disciples that Jesus was the Son of God.  Peter had been one of Jesus’ three disciples in his inner circle; James, John and Peter.  There seemingly would have been no one on earth closer to Jesus than Peter.  And we all know the story.  Jesus has been taken by the mob to the residence of the high priest.  They take Him into the high priest’s house but Peter does not follow.  Instead he stays outside in a courtyard warming himself by the fire.  Then it happens; this man, the closest friend, this man who had seen the power of Jesus first hand as he, himself walked on water at Jesus invitation.  This man who had pledged to die to defend and protect Jesus.  This man is approached and pointed out as being a follower of Jesus.  Once, then a second time and finally a third time, with one gospel saying that he became mad and started to curse, Peter vehemently denies that he knows Jesus.  A roster crows, Peter realizes what he has done, Luke even says Jesus turns and looks at Peter and Peter leaves, totally dejected, totally despondent, weeping bitterly.

Here’s the thing.  Jesus wasn’t shocked by this.  Jesus knew that it was going to happen.  AND, Jesus knew that Peter would return, in faith to Jesus, thus Jesus forgave him.  Jesus forgave Him ahead of time.  The difference between Peter and Judas?  It seems to me it was the fact that Judas never returned to Jesus in faith.  Yes he felt remorse, but it was remorse for being a part of the condemnation of an innocent man.  Peter knew he had betrayed the Son of God.  Jesus knew that Judas would never return to him in faith.  Jesus knew that Peter would return.  Jesus also knew where Peter’s downfall was going to come from; Satan.  Jesus could have told the other disciples to never trust Peter again.  Jesus could have given Peter a lengthy set of tasks to accomplish to prove his worthiness to be trusted again.  Jesus didn’t.  Jesus simply asks him to be Peter; the Rock; and to use his strength as the Rock to strengthen his brothers.

Okay, fine for roughly two thousand years ago and yeah for Peter!  But what does that have to do with now?  Perfection, Jesus Christ was and is and we are not.  Jesus knows.  Jesus knows ahead of time that we are going to fail.  He knows the power of Satan to deceive and tempt and that we are going to willfully choose the wrong path.  Peter was nor forced to deny Jesus, he did that of his own free will.  The same way today, He knows we are going to sin.  And, this is crucial to understand, Jesus knows that we will return and thus He has already forgiven us.  He does not half way welcome us back:  “Now I’ve got my eyes on you!”.  He does not give us arduous tests to complete to get back in His good graces.  No that is what the world requires.  He tells us ahead of time, “You are completely forgiven, come back.”

Think about this in comparison of how the world (Satan) would handle this.  If you mess up, make a mistake, somehow come up short of perfection; you need to be punished.  If you have betrayed, you can probably never do anything to receive complete redemption.  We have a right to judge people and hold them to that standard.  Now the other side of the perfection coin that we use to judge ourselves is quite different.  Satan tells us and we sometimes act upon, perfection is impossible to obtain so don’t bother trying.  Good is good enough.  Then, good is impossible to obtain so not bad is good enough.  Finally, bad is okay because everyone is being bad so why shouldn’t I?  (Don’t believe me?  Try driving the speed limit on the interstate) .

We have an amazing Savior!  He knows perfection because He is perfection.  Yet He knows us.  He asks us to try for perfection because He knows, every time we try, every time we are generous, every time we love unconditionally, every time we decide not to judge, every time we forgive, we get closer.   Jesus Christ knows that we won’t always do what is perfect.  He knows we will sin.  AND Jesus Christ, in perfect love, has forgiven us already.  AND because Our Heavenly Father’s plan was for Jesus Christ to sacrifice His life for ours, Our Heavenly Father has forgiven us as well.  May it always be that in our striving, there is turning, as well as in our falling, there is always returning to Our Heavenly Father, through the Grace and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father we proclaim that You are perfect.  We further testify that You created all things in perfection.  Yet we humbly confess, Dear Father, that we, Your Creation, have fallen short of perfection.  We acknowledge that we are sinners and are deserving of Your judgement.  Yet, Most Merciful Father, we are so exceedingly thankful that instead of the judgement we deserve, You saw fit to send Your Most Holy Son Jesus Christ to die as a sacrifice in our place that we might be forgiven.  Pour out Your Spirit on us, we pray, that we might strive to live a life worthy of that sacrifice.  That we would not do as the world teaches but do what Jesus Christ taught.  We can not express adequately, Most Gracious Father, our gratitude that when we fall, You are there to pick us back up and welcome us back through the body and blood of Your Most Precious Son.  And although, in this life, we may not perfectly attain it, may it be that we live a life of obedience and praise  to Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

Do not be afraid, from now on you will catch men.  Luke 5:10

He said to him:  Feed my lambs.  John 21:15

Peter, a fisherman by trade.  We don’t know how successful a fisherman he was, but we do know that he thought of himself enough of a fisherman to question Jesus.  In the story in Luke when they first met, Jesus told them to let down their nets, to which Peter replied, that they had been fishing all night and caught nothing.   The implication being, if we’ve been at this a long time with the results that we have why should we listen to you?  But they do and have a miraculous catch of fish.

Redemption.  Jesus then calls Simon (whom he, at that point had not surnamed Peter “the Rock) to come to be a ‘fisher of men” (used in other gospels).  And Peter follows.  I think that it is interesting in the account of Luke, that Simon’s first response to the extremely large catch of fish is to know that he did not have anything to do with it.  Simon is confronted with the power of Jesus Christ, which Simon can see as a righteous power and his initial response is to ask Jesus to depart for he says, “I am a sinful man, Oh, Lord”.  Yet Jesus knows that Simon is a sinner and redeems him; calls him to join Jesus.

Of course, one might think that once redeemed, the journey becomes easy.  Well, maybe not.  Let’s see; Jesus names Simon, Peter (good thing).  Jesus calls Peter, Satan (not so good thing).  Peter asks Jesus and Jesus calls Peter to walk on water; which he does (good thing).  Peter almost drowns and Jesus asks him why his faith is so little. (Not so good thing).  Jesus tells Peter that Peter is going to be the rock, the foundation on which he is going to build the church (great thing).  Jesus tells Peter that Peter will deny knowing Jesus three times (terrible thing).  So we can see, that even once redeemed, Peter goes through trials in his faith walk with Jesus.

And as we might expect; Peter is mortified at his last failing of Jesus.  When he denies knowing Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times; we are told that he left and wept bitterly.  I wonder if his mind harkened back to their initial meeting and he found himself saying:  “See I told you, you should have left, that I was a sinful man!”

Jesus, could have left Peter there; in the bitterness of his failure.  Yet what does Jesus do with and for Peter?  He restores him.  In a sense, Jesus tells Peter, it is okay, I still have need of you and still want to work with you; as He tells Peter; “Feed my lambs.”  For they are Jesus’ lambs and they all knew how precious were Jesus’ lambs to him and Jesus was entrusting the care and feeding of the lambs to Peter.  And Peter did not disappoint.

So what are we to take from this?  First the enemy will try to keep us from Jesus Christ at all costs.  He will try to convince us that we are not good enough to come to Christ so don’t even try.  Jesus Christ tells us, do not be afraid, I know you, I love you and take you just as you are and I will redeem you.  The enemy will say, maybe you have confessed Jesus Christ the son of God but look, look at the sin you’re committing, you must leave the presence of Jesus Christ as you are no good.  What does Jesus Christ say?  I not only know of your sin but I did what you can not.  I took your sin upon myself so that I can restore you, if you will believe on me and repent.

Dear Heavenly Father, may those who do not know you, hear the call of redemption offered by Your Precious Son, Our Savior Jesus Christ.  May those of us who have declared Jesus Christ as ou personal savior, call upon Jesus Christ to restore our relationship when we have stumbled.  That in the both the redemption and restoration, brought through the death and resurrection of Your Only Son our Lord, Jesus Christ.  That Your Most Holy Name will always be praised Above All others.

Amen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUJ-kqpCppM

 

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