Jan 232022

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE“The Road To…Going…Going…Gone!”

     A wife came home from Church.  The husband, in his easy chair reading the paper, asked what the preacher preached about today.  She begins setting lunch on the table, and replies “Sin”.  The husband inquired further, “what did he say about it?”  His wife replied quite matter-of-factly-“he’s agin’ it!”  Quite a brief answer for such a voluminous subject!  Today it would be a rare discussion of what did the preacher have to say about sin.  The subject rarely receives a mention in a sermon, let alone a full-blown discussion.  Back in the seventies Karl Meninger noticed the disappearance of sin from our society and wrote his famous book-Whatever Became of Sin?  I think that all of us would agree from our own personal experience that sin is alive and well and an ever-present reality, both in our world and even, to some degree in our own lives!  Matthew 24:7 warns us that in the last days “iniquity shall abound to overflowing…causing the love of many to grow cold”. Though he died in 2003, the greatest theologian that America has ever produced, Carl F.H. Henry, warned us off this very onslaught, way back in 1988.  He said, “We may now live in the half-generation, before all hell breaks loose, and if its fury is contained, we will be remembered, if we are remembered at all, as though who used our hands and hearts, and minds and bodies to plug the dikes against the impending doom!”  I think that since that time we have witnessed the dikes’ dissolution and the flooding of our world with unbridled sin and lawlessness.  We have grown so accustomed to the change that we can’t even remember when things were distinctly Christian and different!  Though we live in the midst of a world that Isaiah warned would call “evil good and good evil, put darkness for light and light for darkness, and exchange bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20), we cannot avoid the devastating consequences of sin. 

     William Barclay, in his commentary on Romans, wrote, “Sin begets sin.  The first time we do a wrong thing, we may do it with hesitation, and a tremor and a shudder.  The second time we do it is easier.  If we go on doing it, it becomes effortless; sin loses its terror.  To start on the path of sin is to go one to more and more” (Romans p.92).  John Henry Jowett wrote words many years ago that still sting with relevance today:  “Sin is a blasting presence, and every fine power shrinks and withers in its destructive heat.  Every spiritual delicacy succumbs to its malignant touch…Sin impairs sight, and works toward blindness.  Sin numbs the hearing and tends to make men deaf.  Sin perverts the taste, causing men to confound the sweet with the bitter, and the bitter with the sweet.  Sin hardens the touch, and eventually renders a man past feeling.  All of these are Scriptural analogies, and their common significance appears to be this-sin blocks and chokes the fine senses of the spirit: by sin we are desensitized, rendered imperceptive, and the range of our correspondence is diminished.  Sin creates callosity.  It hoofs the spirit, and so reduces the area of our exposure to its pain” Jay Adams, Christian Counselor, agrees.  In his book Competent to Counsel, he writes: “One lie has to be covered by a dozen more…The downward cycle of sin moves from a problem to a faulty sinful response, thereby causing an additional complicating problem which is met by…additional sinful responses…making sinful habits hard to break, but if not broken, they will bind you in an ever more tightly binding hold.  You will be held by these ropes…in a downward cycle…and at length you will become sin’s slave”.  He sounds a lot like Jesus in John 8, who said, “He who keeps on committing sin will become a slave to sin”.  To illustrate this truth, let me quote a story told by Charles Swindoll, in his book The Finishing Touch“A bazaar was held in a village in northern India.  Everyone brought his wares to sell or trade.  One old farmer brought in a whole covey of quail.  He had tied a string around each leg of each bird.  The other end of each string was tied to a large ring which loosely fit over a central stick.  He had taught the quail to walk dolefully in a circle around and around, like mules in a sugarcane mill.  Nobody seemed interested in buying the quail.  A devout Brahma came along.  He believed in the Hindu idea of respect for all life.  His heart of compassion went out to those poor little creatures walking in a monotonous circle, when they were created to fly.  I want to buy them all, he said.  The merchant was elated.  After giving him the money, the Brahma told him-now set them free.  The farmer said-what?  Set them all free at once!  The farmer snipped the strings off the legs of each bird.  The birds still continued to walk in a circle.  Even after they were shooed away, they landed a few feet away and resumed their predictable march!  Free…unfettered…released…they kept going in circles as if they were still tied to each other!”  So are the destructive and paralyzing consequences of sin on every one of us.  That is why the Scripture records over nine Hebrew words for sin in the Old Testament and over 13 Greek words for sin in the New Testament.  God, in his Word, paints an accurate picture of what sin is, and clearly shows us what sin will do if we do not avail ourselves to the one they call the Savior.  He is the only one who can “set us free” from sin.  He is the only true and faithful deliverer.  He is the only true answer to the sin question!  If we fail to trust Him, and the power of His cross, to transform us and set us free indeed the results will be eternally devastating!

     Let me illustrate the reality of this with a true story.  Though this story happened many years ago, it is repeated daily in our modern era as well.  “A man was admitted to the Bellevue Hospital in New York City.  He was a charity case-one among hundreds.  A drunken bum from the Bowery, with his throat slashed.  The Bowery…the last stop before the Morgue.  Synonym of filth, loneliness, cheap booze, drugs, and disease!  The derelict’s name was misspelled on the hospital’s form, but then what good is a name when the guy’s a bum!  The age was also incorrect.  It was listed at 39-thought he looked twice that age.  Someone might have said how sad for someone so young to be in such a condition.  No one did because no one cared!  The details of what happened in the predawn of that chilly winter morning in New York were fuzzy.  The nurses shrugged it off. They had seen thousands like him, and would likely see thousands more.  His health was gone.  He was starving.  He had been found in a heap, bleeding from a deep gash in his throat.  His forehead badly bruised and he was semi-conscious.  A doctor used black sewing thread to suture his wound.  He was taken back outside and dumped near the Bowery again.  There he languished and died.  Nobody really cared.  He was just another bum!  A friend came seeking for him at a later time.  He was directed to the morgue.  There among dozens of other nameless corpses, this man was identified.  They scraped together his belongings.  A ragged dirty coat.  38 cents from his pocket.  A scrap of paper from his other pocket.  All his earthly goods!  Enough money perhaps for one more night in the Bowery, at that time, and a paper with five words-‘Dear friends and gentle hearts’.  Almost like the words to a song, someone may have thought-and they would have been right!  Once upon a time this man, this victim from the Bowery, had written songs that literally made the whole world sing!  Songs like-Camptown Races; Oh Susanna; Beautiful Dreamer; Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair; Old Folks at Home; My Old Kentucky Home; and over two hundred more that have become deeply rooted in our rich American Heritage.  The victim of his own sin was Stephen Collins Foster!  An American Treasure thrown away to sin’s destruction”.  Makes me think of an old poem that preachers have quoted for years: 

     “And many a man with life out of tune,

     And battered and scarred with sin,

     Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,

     Much like the old violin.

     A mess of pottage, a glass of wine;

     A game and he travels on.

     He’s going once, and going twice

    He’s going and he’s almost gone!”

     The sad truth of human experience is that the story is repeated ad infinitum ad naseum.  Only the names and faces have changed.  Tragedies of sin!  That is why they call Jesus Savior.  He alone has the power to rescue and save.  He alone is the Answer to the Sin Question.  Today’s message shows how He is the Answer for anyone who is willing to invite Him in to rescue from sin’s destruction. 

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