Sunday, November 22, 2009

Two Sermons on Sin

Well, often you hear people complaining that preachers never preach on sin, they just keep it light and fluffy and entertaining. Well, without consciously setting out to do so, I have preached the last two Sunday mornings on sin. The first was on 2:Kings 5 @ Waiheke Baptist and today's was on Acts 5:1-11 @ my home church, Mount Wellington Community Church.

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2 Kings 5
, I did this one following the flow of the three sections of narrative calling attention to the "small things" on which the story turns:

Vs 1-7. The contrast between the mighty military commander Naaman afflicted with a nasty skin condition and the nameless Israelite slave girl who takes pity on him. And the contrast between the King (Jehoram?) of Israel's poverty of faith and that of the slave girl.

Vs 8-19. We then have Naaman learning about the god of Israel. A God who is no respecter of persons. Who cannot be bought. And yet who gives his grace and healing in return for the simplest of obediences. It is another nameless servant who convinces his master to humble himself to such a small deed. And Naaman is healed and is converted to the worship of the God of Israel.

Of course this is a great point to talk about how God saves us in Christ, something we could never buy or acheive but that is given to us in the simple act of obedience when we come to Christ to be cleansed of our sin - so that's exactly what I did.

So far so good, God at work in the little people and the small things, and an OT gospel message as an added extra. At this point we are all feeling pretty good. But this story has a sting in its tail . . .

Vs 20-27. Gehazi, Elisha's servant, doesn't get that Naaman is being taught about God and doesn't want him to get let off lightly. He tells a little lie and gets a little treasure. in doing so he undermines the lessons Naaman has been taught, makes out that God's grace is something that can be bought, and on the cheap at that. Then he tells another little lie to Elisha. His punishment, he gets stricken with Naaman's skin disease.

So, the small things matter, both the good and the bad. Don't despise the little people and the small deeds, and don't imagine the small sins don't matter either.

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Acts 5:1-11, I did a little differently to normal as it is one of those texts where I think we need to acknowledge our discomfort and difficulty.

First I talked about the contrast between our cuddly domesticated God and the "wild God" of the Bible, who is dangerous and does things we don't expect or like. Christian maturity comes when we still seek to know and serve God when it turns out he is not tame and may allow or even cause bad stuff to happen to us and the people we love.

Then I pointed out that most of the questions we tend to come to this text with simply aren't answered here. E.g. why did they die? or, why didn't Peter try to warn them or intercede for them? Instead we are really told two things with certainty.

Vs 3 & 9. As Jews who had the history and scriptures, they knew about their "wild God" and as Christians they knew they and the community had received the Holy Spirit, and yet they still lied. In that moment they were acting as atheists, as if God were not dangerous and as if the Holy Spirit were not in them. In many ways the surprise is not that they were treated so harshly but that the rest of us get off so lightly.

Vs 5 &11. What happened to Ananias and Saphira had the effect of inspiring reverent fear in the church. I took some time to explain the difference between that sort of fear (fobos - terror awe, respect, reverence) and the fear described in 2 Tim 1:7 (deilia- cowardice, timidity, weakness). It should not be so much a case of, “God is watching you so don’t do anything naughty!” but instead of, “God is with you, wow! Live a life that is holy!”

I finished up with the suggestion that the issue is what we fill our hearts with (vs 3) and that we need to cultivate our sensitivity to and awareness of the Spirit and guard against getting filled up with sinful desires. I almost used the Native American illustration of the two wolves but didn't at the last minute. I also majored on the importance of being a people of truth and scrupulous honesty. I felt the application of this one needed more work, it seemed to go a bit flat at the end, (although it may just have been me running out of blood sugar) but hopefully that is something people can do for themselves anyway, I just dig for treasure it is up to them how they spend it . . .

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So, there you go, two sermons on sin, exactly what it said on the tin.

Let me know what you think :-)

1 comment:

  1. Enormously challenging sermon that was great to listen to. I think that as Christians we possibly have swung too far back towards the God is our friend approach and sometimes fail to take our sin seriously enough.
    Certainly the honesty issue is one that everyone seems to struggle with; Christians included.
    In the workplace, the two main attributes that I see distinguish Christians from non-Christians are:
    a willingness to forgive the mistakes of others; and honestly taking responsibility for their own mistakes.
    Whenever I see examples of this, I am encouraged in my Christian walk.

    Cheers,
    David.

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