Frail and faltering follower of Jesus

Sermon at the Open Door, January 2018

By Gavin Davies

I was asked to speak at a church service in Cardiff. Here is the message I gave. I’m not a trained preacher but did my best to speak the truth as I understand it.

Hello everyone, My name’s Gavin

There’s nothing special about me, I stand here in weakness, I’m just here to tell you the truth as best I can - because you matter, and the truth matters.

God of Justice

I want to talk about who God is. We Christians often say that God is love, and that is 100% true, but it’s not the only thing about Him. He is also a God of justice.

We need justice, don’t we? Something in us cries out for it. The Bible says of God that “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?” - Habbakuk 1:13.

Just look at the mess of the world! How much evil goes on out there? It can seem to go on forever and the Bible is full of people crying out to God for justice - oh, God, when will you stop the badness?

However, the Bible also teaches us that no-one “gets away with” the wicked things that they have done. God is going to make everything right. We’ve said that God is just, so it follows that God must judge us. He’s the perfect judge. The Bible tells us that:

it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, (Heb 9:27)

And this is a good thing - can you imagine if God just let wickedness go unpunished? That would not be a God OF JUSTICE!

Our problem as humans

Now I want to talk about who we humans are. We are created by God, and in His image - in that, we have some of His nature. We know right from wrong - to an extent. The Bible describes us like this: “their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” - Rom 2:15. If we are honest, we can see that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Rom 3:23 - I certainly have.

So why would God care about this? I’m only human, right? Well, any sin is offensive to God. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” Psalm 51:4. God is utterly perfect and Holy. When we break one of His commands, it’s not just going against a rule, it’s going against the very character of the all-powerful creator of the universe, and this is SCARY. And His commands aren’t random. All of God’s commands are for our benefit! There’s nothing He asks us to do that isn’t good for us!

As we have seen before, we know that justice is coming. God is going to judge us. What’s the charge? We know that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Rom 3:23. So what’s the sentence? “The wages of sin is death” - Romans 6:23a. And not just physical death, it’s more severe than that. Remember, all sin is ultimately an insult to God. If I hurt a human being, I am hurting someone made in God’s image, and therefore I am offending God. When you or I sin, we don’t just break rules, we go against the personality of the creator of the universe! We stand in opposition to Him!

Let’s consider crime. The punishment for a crime depends a lot on who the victim is.

If I kill a cat, I might get a month inside

If I killed a person, I might get a life sentence

Now, imagine I’d set myself against a perfectly holy, pure and eternal God. What would the sentence for that be?

The Bible says that “we (are) by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Ephesians 2:3. due to our following our sinful desires and not God’s ways of love and purity, we are under God’s wrath - His righteous anger - and this is justice - we’ve violated the very character of a Holy loving God.

Jesus spoke about eternal punishment being the consequence of sin. “Then also He will say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, those being cursed, into the eternal fire, having been prepared for the devil and his angels.” - Matt 25:41 Away from the presence of God, no light, no relief, alone with guilt and punishment.

Now, of course, we want to make an effort to fix things. We can try not sinning! Well, Jesus said to the people who thought they were the “least sinful” “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” Matt 23:27. You see, if we are honest, there is something broken in all of us, something that is in opposition to God’s ways. “If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” 1 John 1:8. So we need to be honest and say that even the “best” of us are sinful. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Mandela… they all did some shady stuff. None of them were without sin.

So, the next thing we humans try is good deeds. This is our default setting. Islam, for example, talks about weighing good and bad deeds on a scale but this makes no sense to me - if I build an orphanage and rob a bank, I’ve still robbed a bank - building an orphanage doesn’t erase the crime. How can a Holy God of justice overlook sin on the basis of a few “good” deeds? “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” Isaiah 64:6

George Whitfield put it beautifully - trying to save yourself from God’s judgement by your good deeds is like trying to climb to the moon by building a ladder of sand!

Sounds hopeless, right? Here’s where it all changes. Are you ready for this? “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

God’s solution

We’ve seen that God is Holy and cannot let sin go unchecked and unpunished - He cannot deny Himself. There is NO WAY that God could remain completely just and not punish sin. However, because of His love, from the beginning of the Bible, He promised a rescuer!

What happened is so amazing I can hardly take it in. I won’t get into the theological technicalities, but the word of God became flesh, was born as a tiny baby called Jesus, grew up, lived a perfect life, and then Isaiah 53:5 “ he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed“. Jesus was killed on a cross, and this paid for sins! God put what He loved the most in the place of what He hated the most - He took it all on Himself. He said “these people have sinned, but because I love them, I will bear it myself, only I can do this”. We cannot imagine the horror of Jesus’ death, it wasn’t just the physical torture, it was the separation from His Father, as He cried out in agony. This is what love looks like!

This is amazing! Romans 5:7-9. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

Not only did He die for us, but He rose from the dead, demonstrating victory over sin and death. In the cross, justice and love are BOTH satisfied! The way is open! You can be saved from judgement and live a new life!

“What then must I do to be saved?”

Two things:

1. Repent

Realise that you are, by default, in opposition to God Admit that you can’t do it by yourself. Admit that you need a rescuer. James 4:10. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up” Turn from doing things your way to doing things God’s way, ask Him to help Recognise Him as the rightful Lord of your life

2. Believe

Accept that only His sacrifice is enough to pay for your sins Trust Him to rescue you.

  • Romans 3:28 “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”
  • Romans 10:8-10 “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” … ; 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. He will give you a new nature,
  • “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26”Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27”I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinance -Ezekiel 36:25-27

Joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self control will grow in your life as you follow Him Galatians 5:22

  • “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” Luke 12:32

Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough, “we all stumble in many ways” James 3:2, but Jesus Christ is the most precious thing there is. He’s like a pearl in a field. It’s worth everything you have to follow Him. .

Seek Him out! God bless you