Greetings! Welcome to Lechem Panim! Our passage today is…
Romans 3:23-26 (NIV)— 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[a] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Bandaids on a Mirror— Once there was a husband who, having too much to drink, stumbled home late one night. After entering the house, [The drunk husband snuck up the stairs quietly. He looked in the bathroom mirror and bandaged the bumps and bruises he'd received in a fight earlier that night. He then proceeded to climb into bed, smiling at the thought that he'd pulled one over on his wife. When morning came, he opened his eyes and there stood his wife. "You were drunk last night weren't you!" "No, honey." "Well, if you weren't, then who put all the band-aids on the bathroom mirror?"]
We cannot cover our sins, no matter how hard we try. The fact is, the more we try to cover our sins the more our sinfulness is revealed. It’s as it says in Numbers 32:23b (NIV): …you may be sure that your sin will find you out.
Sin Grows-- Why is this? Because all sin (if left untreated; unconfessed; un-repented of) grows. It’s like a seed; you can bury it in the ground; you can hide it in your heart but it will soon take root; it will sprout; it will grow. And it will take up more and more real estate in your heart until it will bear fruit in your life; but not the kind of fruit you want. And it will eventually find you out. In talking about false prophets, but it can really be applied to any sinner, Jesus says…
Matthew 7:16-20 (NIV)-- 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God-- Your fruit (your behavior) reveals the condition of your heart; what seeds you have buried there. And the fact is that we all at one time have sown the seeds of sin in our hearts. As it says in…
Romans 3:23 (NIV): 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
A Monster of Depravity-- [Somerset Maugham, the writer, once said, “If I wrote down every thought I have ever thought and every deed I have ever done, men would call me a monster of depravity.” What would people call you or me if they knew your every thought and deed?]
The Savior Gardener-- No matter who you are; young or old, rich or poor, white or black, Jew or Gentile, we have all fallen into sin. And that sin that has taken root and spread throughout the garden of our hearts must be dealt with. We need more than forgiveness for planting the seeds; we need someone to actually help us to remove those weeds of sin from our hearts so that the fruit of righteousness can grow. We need the abiding presence of Christ, who not only forgives our sin, but brings the Holy Spirit to help till our hearts and remove our sin and change our nature. How fitting it was that Mary, outside the empty tomb, mistook Jesus for the gardener. That’s exactly who he was. The Gardener who now, because of what He just did on the cross and in that tomb, could now enter into her heart, fill her with His Spirit and purify and sanctify her from all sin. Christ’s redemption is a total redemption.
We Must Recognize our Need for Redemption-- But the reality is, before you and I can even begin to approach God, we must come to terms with the fact that we, because of our own sinfulness, deserve the wrath of God’s judgment.
All Innocent-- But [“A prison chaplain writes of a study in which he talked with twelve inmates in the penitentiary. He asked each “Why are you here?” The answers were instructive: “I was framed.” “They ganged up on me.” “It was a case of mistaken identity.” “The police had it in for me.” Not one said he was guilty of something. They were all innocent. An insurance adjuster said that he would estimate 90 percent of the people involved in automobile accidents see themselves as blameless”. (Emerson Colaw. Beliefs Of A United Methodist Christian. Nashville: Tidings, 1972, pp. 44 - 45). The truth is that there is no one who is without sin because we have all sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). There is only one who is without sin because He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and His name is Jesus Christ (John 1:29)!] We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And we will never be able to receive the grace He offers us until we first recognize our need of it. Then and only then will we accept it. And that salvation in Christ is offered solely based on His mercy and grace. It says in…
Romans 3:24 (NIV)-- 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
The Man Who Refused His Pardon-- But even though it is free, not everyone is prepared to accept it; not everyone truly wants to be free of their sin. Once there was a man named George Wilson. [Back in 1830 George Wilson was convicted of robbing the U.S. Mail and was sentenced to be hanged. President Andrew Jackson issued a pardon for Wilson, but he refused to accept it. The matter went to Chief Justice Marshall, who concluded that Wilson would have to be executed. "A pardon is a slip of paper," wrote Marshall, "the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged."]
It’s Not That Serious-- You know, that man’s predicament sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it. Why, if offered freedom from death, would you not take it? But the reality is that we are susceptible to doing the very same thing. In the midst of being offered life, we can still choose to do those things that produce death in us and separate us from the One who is our salvation. And most of the time this happens when people fail to recognize the seriousness of the sins they are handling. We are always shocked when Jesus says…
Matthew 5:29-30 (ESV)-- 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Why does hell have to be unpleasant?— Now modern churches don’t typically like to talk about hell very much. This is often because we have divorced the concept of God’s love from His holiness, and the necessary judgment that must comes when we sin against a holy God. And hell seems extreme to us. Why would God allow anybody to go to such a place? And the response to that is this: Anywhere God is absent, hell is created. Anywhere God is absent, hell is created. The agony of hell is the agony of separation from Life. As we said before, Jesus calls Himself “THE Life”; He is the definition of life. And you cannot be separated from He who is Life and still expect to remain alive. It’s not that God is unfair or cruel; but it is simply a logical impossibility.
Aladdin and Jafar— Its like that final scene in the Disney movie Aladdin, when Aladdin tricks the wicked sorcerer Jafar into wishing that he might be an all-powerful genie. And Jafar gets his wish and turns into a genie, but then is instantly shackled and bound to a lamp. And Aladdin says, “You want to be a genie, fine! Then you get everything that goes along with it.” Well, the same is true if you want complete separation from God. Suffering is part of the disease of being separated from God. And if we choose sin over God, we choose the absence of God. And therefore suffering is the natural and unavoidable result. And it is an eternal one.
The Severity of Sin-- That is why Jesus is saying here that there is no physical cost too great that you can pay to make sure that sin is removed from your life. At any cost, remain free from sin. It is worse than blindness; it is worse than losing a hand. Why? Because it will bring death to the soul; and not only death, but eternal death. Jesus is warning us to ensure that you and I don’t ever downplay the seriousness of sin and where it will ultimately lead us.
Susannah Wesley and Sin— Well, what is sin? Susanna Wesley (the mother of Charles and John Wesley gave perhaps the best definition of sin I have ever heard. And you may want to write this down; maybe scribble it in the margins of your Bible. [This was how Susannah Wesley defined "sin" to her young son, John Wesley: "If you would judge of the lawfulness or the unlawfulness of pleasure, then take this simple rule: Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, and takes off the relish of spiritual things—that to you is sin.”]
Boundaries-- And notice how that makes some things that might be good things okay for others but wrong for you because it may cause one of those symptoms in your life. I myself know what things in my life cause distance in my relationship with God; that lead me astray. And I am trying to limit or cut them off from my life. Some might laugh at some of the boundaries I have set, but I know those things that have the potential of robbing me of the nearness of God. And we need to prune our lives of those things if we want to bear fruit. Because one compromise leads to another, which leads to another and another, until soon we find ourselves in bondage to something we once though we had control over. God doesn’t want you to live in bondage. And so He provided you and I with an escape in and through His Son Jesus. If place our faith in Him and follow Him, we can and will be brought from death to life. If you have never done that, I encourage you to do that today. Embrace the One who is Life (embrace Jesus) so that you can have life and have it abundantly. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.