OUR SINS VERSUS THE GRACE OF GOD
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
United Methodist - American Baptist
13 OCTOBER 1996
BY Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23
The wrestling match between our sins and the grace of God has been going on ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden.
In a physical wrestling match, like those we saw in the Olympics, the winner is the one who is stronger or who can out-maneuver the other wrestler.
When it comes to wrestling with God, the determination of a winner and a loser is quite a different matter.
First, we must remember that God is always the winner.
But, when we wrestle under His rules, there can be two winners.
When we wrestle with God over the sin in our lives, it is only the losers who become the winners.
If we wrestle with God and we win, we lose; but if we lose, we win.
Have I confused you?
I hope not; but just in case, I'll explain further.
When we wrestle with God over the sin in our lives, we should really be wrestling to be free of these sins, or have them disappear from the sight of God.
This is because sin in the sight of God brings death.
Thus, if we lose our sin in the process of wrestling with God, we win eternal life.
But, if we win the wrestling match by retaining our sins, we die for eternity.
And even if we cannot lose all our sins, there is still a second way to win eternal life: and that is if we are willing to lose our sins, and someone else is willing to cover our sins or stand between our sins and God.
In this case it requires the two to work together.
Let's take a look at how this process works, or doesn't work, by looking at Psalm 106:1-6:
1. Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
This is acknowledging who God is.
It is acknowledging His holiness or goodness, and it is acknowledging His grace or lovingkindness.
But then the psalmist asks a curious question:
2. Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord,
Or can show forth all His praise?
Who can do this?
Everyone should; but in order to speak of God or someone else in this way, you have to personally know them.
So the psalmist answers his own question:
3. How blessed are those who keep justice,
Who practice righteousness at all times!
Have you heard the expression, "It takes one to know one"?
We cannot hope to understand the righteousness of God, unless we come to understand our own unrighteousness in comparison and then desire to be as righteous as God, realizing that no matter how hard we try, we always seem to fall short.
It is only then that we can really speak of the attributes of God, for it is only then that we can appreciate the true extent of being wholly righteous.
It is then that we can pray as the psalmist says next:
4. Remember me, O Lord, in Thy favor toward Thy people;
Visit me with Thy salvation,
5. That I may see the prosperity of Thy chosen ones,
That I may rejoice in the gladness of Thy nation,
That I may glory with Thine inheritance.
In other words, that my fellow believers and I may be with God in heaven.
But God's inheritance also includes our physical created world, which we pass on from generation to generation.
Are we being truly righteous, loving, and compassionate to our fellow human beings, the animals, and the environment?
Or, are we just concerned with our little piece of creation, and exploit and destroy what ever else we can?
And as we said, we must continually recognize who we are before our righteous God:
6. We have sinned like our fathers,
We have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly.
Now remember, this repentant attitude is only half of the equation.
This is our willingness to submit, but we also need God's grace and someone else to stand between the remaining sins in our lives, to cover them from His sight.
But if we are unwilling to totally submit, and we desire to retain some of our sinful ways, they cannot be hidden from God's sight.
If we now jump ahead to verse 19, we are given an example of past sins and how God's grace works when someone steps in the gap, as when the Israelites were in the wilderness: (Psalm 106:19)
19. They made a calf in Horeb,
And worshiped a molten image.
20. Thus they exchanged their glory
For the image of an ox that eats grass.
21. They forgot God their Savior,
Who had done great things in Egypt,
22. Wonders in the land of Ham,
And awesome things by the Red Sea.
23. Therefore He said that He would destroy them,
Had not Moses His chosen one stood in the breach before Him,
To turn away His wrath from destroying them.
Here we have another side of the equation.
God was going to destroy the sinners, but Moses stood in the gap between God and their sins, and thus saved their physical lives.
The righteousness of Moses shielded the eyes of God from seeing the sins of the people.
This doesn't mean that they are forgiven, or that their sins are removed.
The sins in their lives are still there.
And this is not saying that this saved them eternally, either.
This is only showing God's grace being extended to Moses, and through Moses, to the people.
The other half of the equation still must be fulfilled.
Listen to what Moses said of this event as recorded in Deuteronomy 9:22-29:
22. "Again at Taberah and at Massah and at Kibroth-hattaavah you provoked the Lord to wrath.
23. "And when the Lord sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, 'Go up and possess the land which I have given you,' then you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God; you neither believed Him nor listened to His voice.
24. "You have been rebellious against the Lord from the day I knew you.
Have you noticed that Moses mentions nothing about repentance?
He talks only about their rebelliousness.
They are trying to win the wrestling match with God, not to get rid of their sins, but to keep their sins; and because of this, as we read previously in Psalm 106, the Lord was about to destroy them.
Thus, Moses reminds the people: (Deuteronomy 9:25)
25. "So I fell down before the Lord the forty days and nights, which I did because the Lord had said He would destroy you.
Think about it.
How many people do you know who would be willing to pray like this for stubborn and rebellious people, as did Moses?
26. "And I prayed to the Lord, and said, 'O Lord God, do not destroy Thy people, even Thine inheritance, whom Thou hast redeemed through Thy greatness, whom Thou hast brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
27. 'Remember Thy servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look at the stubbornness of this people or at their wickedness or their sin.
28. 'Otherwise the land from which Thou didst bring us may say, "Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which He had promised them and because He hated them He has brought them out to slay them in the wilderness."
29. ‘Yet they are Thy people, even Thine inheritance, whom Thou hast brought out by Thy great power and Thine outstretched arm.’
God did not destroy them at that time; but as we are told elsewhere, none of those original rebellious people lived through the next 40 years, to enter the Promised Land.
They all died in the wilderness.
Only the next generation entered the Promised Land.
There are no half-right ways to get into heaven.
Of the adults, we are told of only two men who lived to enter the Promised Land; only two out of more than 600,000 men.
As an example to others of the absolute righteousness of God, even Moses, who obviously was saved, was forbidden to enter the Promised Land, because once before the people he had expressed his anger and frustration in a manner that seemed to be blaming God.
What we are talking about here are the spiritual conditions of justification.
Even though the person still may sin, they can still be justified.
We are told in Genesis 15:6, more than 400 years before the Law came into existence, that Abraham believed in God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.
It wasn't that Abraham was sinless, only that because of his faith in God, and his desire to be all that God desired of him, the Lord considered his faith to be equal to righteousness.
Once we had the Law, however, we were committed to obeying the Law; and since none of us can totally fulfill all aspects of it all the time, even though we may sincerely want to, we need Someone to stand in the gap for us.
And that One is Jesus Christ.
And unlike Moses, who just blocked the sight of God, Jesus paid the price of our repentant sin.
If we believe that Jesus is the Son of God; if we believe that He died to pay the price of our repentant sins and that He rose from the dead; and if because of this belief, we really are sorry for our sins and desire to change, then God's forgiveness is for us, and our sins are not only covered, but they are removed.
And we are justified as being righteous, for we have died to our pride and the sins in our lives.
In essence, we win eternal life because we lost the wrestling match to retain our sins.
Jesus is our only hope.
Put your faith and trust in Him.
Bless His Holy Name.
Your Comments are welcome
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