New Life Chapel

Where ALL are Welcome!

Sermon Sunday March 7, 2010 Pastor Stac

Making Pancakes

Well, believe it or not, it’s that time of year again. I’ve been out taping Maple trees for sap and I’ve been making syrup. I’ve tried a lot of the store bought, commercial brands, I’ve tried fresh honey and fresh sorghum molasses and as good as they are, I’ve got to tell you, in my opinion, there just is not a better tasting syrup in all the world than good ol’ fresh, all natural maple syrup for pancakes. But you know, it’s a funny thing about making syrup, no matter how many times you strain it and filter it, there just always seems to be some little bit of  impurities that settle to the bottom of the jars. Now they wouldn’t hurt you if you ate them, but who wants to? But as I was making syrup this last week, I got to thinking, that’s kind of like life.

No matter how hard you try, no matter how pure you try be, you still wind up with those little impurities that seem to settle into your life. It’s frustrating. It’s really frustrating, for as Christians, as children of God, we want to do what pleases our Father in heaven, but no matter how hard we try, we still wind up with those little areas of impurities in our lives.

Now I know there are those who think they can live a totally sin free life here on earth. I’ve attended denominations that teach that, but you have to understand – it’s a matter of semantics – of how they define things. When they claim to be able to lead a totally sin free life, this side of heaven, due to some “second blessing” as they define it or whatever, they’re really restricting the definition of sin. For the simplest definition of sin is anything that comes be between you and God, namely disobedience. One of the best ways I can illustrate it is “missing the mark” as an archer might do with his bow and arrow. His goal is to hit the bull’s-eye, but if he fails to do that, he has missed the mark, he has failed to reach the goal set before him.

In like manner, whenever we fail God, we miss the mark He sets before us and the result, my friends, is sin. So to marginalize or minimize the definition of sin by saying it’s just the breaking of the Ten Commandments, or it’s only “not believing”, is far short of the true definition of sin. And sin has a source…well a couple of sources. Yes, one is the devil. He tempts us in many ways, but you can’t blame it all on him, for each and every one of us have a free will, we have the God given ability to choose. We have the ability to give in to temptation, as Adam and Eve did or we can say “No” and resist it. So, along with Satan’s temptation, we must take responsibility for and face the fact that we have a natural inclination to sin. The Bible calls it “our sin nature”. And that sin, seems to stem from the little impurities we find in each of our lives. That, folks is what we’re going to read about today, from Paul’s letter to the Romans, so turn in your Bibles if you would to Romans 7, beginning with the 14th verse – Romans 7:14.

For even though there are a lot of very pious folks out there – not that there’s anything wrong with being pious, but if they think they’re living totally sin free lives, they’re going to be in for a rude awakening when they stand before their Maker. For there was only One who led a sin free life and it sure wasn’t them. Only Jesus was able to live sin free and therein lies our problem, which is what Paul addresses here in Romans 7:14 and following:

Romans 7:14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Poor old Paul. He is really in a quandary. He wants to live like God wants him to live, but he keeps finding himself battling the same old temptations, the same old sin nature. You can just picture the agony he’s putting himself through. Perhaps you’ve gone through that same agony. I know I have. We all want to live to please God. We want to live in a way that reflects Christ to all the world. We want to be good witnesses for Him by the way we live, yet time after time we fail.

Now, notice Paul wasn’t specific about whatever issue or temptation in his life he was struggling with and I think he purposely left that little bit of information out. Paul understood that the sin we wrestle with is as varied as the people in this world are. So I think Paul wanted to make sure whoever read this passage would be able to apply it’s principles to their lives, regardless of whether the struggle was the same as Paul’s or not.

Earlier in this chapter, Paul had written about how the Law, the Law of Moses had been his teacher. That he had not known what sin truly was until he had read the Law. That almost begs the question, wouldn’t Paul have been better off to have not known the Law, so as to not know the sin in his life? Well, look at it this way. What would be better, to know that you have cancer so you can do something about it, pray about it, seek medical attention to deal with it, or not know about it – just go on in ignorant bliss…all the way to your grave. You’ve heard me before liken sin to cancer, for it infects and destroys our spiritual life, just as cancer can destroy our physical life. Sin, like cancer must be dealt with and the first step in dealing with it, is to recognize it and then find the best way to deal with it. 

Now it needs to be noted that many see this passage as illustrative of Paul’s life before and after conversion. For in the opening verse of our passage, verse 14, he writes about being “unspiritual”, “a slave sold to sin”, but then he comes to a realization of the sin in his life and he tries to change. The next verses say, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.”

The other day, I ran across an illustration in an e-mail about a man who borrowed a book from an acquaintance. As he read through it, he was intrigued to find parts of the book underlined, along with the letters YBH written in the margin. When he returned the book to the owner, he asked what the YBH meant. The owner replied that the underlined paragraphs were sections of the book that he basically agreed with. They gave him hints on how to improve himself and pointed out truths that he wished to incorporate into his life. However, the letters YBH stood for “Yes, but how?” Those three letters could be written on the margins of ours souls: “I ought to know how to take better care of myself, but how?” “I know I ought to spend more time in Scripture reading and prayer, but how?” “I know I ought to be more sensitive to others, more loving of my spouse, more understanding of the weaknesses of others, but how?”

These are all good qualities and we know that, but how can we acquire them? As Christian people we know the kind of life we ought to live, and most of us have the best of intentions to do so, but how? We are afraid because we know where the road paved with only good intentions leads! We know what the Christian life requires of us and yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we also know how far short we fall. So the question that confronts us this morning is: “Yes, but how?”

It’s a dilemma that has confronted God’s people throughout the ages. Even Paul found himself trapped. Worded a little differently, Paul says in our passage for today that, it seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love to do God’s will so far as my new (redeemed Christian) nature is concerned; but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me
a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind, I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself enslaved to sin. So you see how it is; my new life (the redeemed life in Christ) tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me (my sinful human self) loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from this slavery to sin.

 None of us is without fault. And yet how difficult it is for us to admit that. We know better than to openly admit our wrongs. If we want to get ahead in this world and be accepted by others, it’s generally better to conceal our shortcomings and put on a good front for others.

Who goes into a job interview and declares, “I have to tell you. I have a habit of missing work, of criticizing my supervisors and others, and I enjoy listening to office gossip?” Who goes on a date and confesses to the other person, “Listen. I have to tell you I tend to be difficult to live with and I can be a real bore at times”? However imperfect we may be, we’ve learned from life around us that it’s better not to parade our imperfections out in public. As the little girl said to her classmate who had to sit in the corner, “To err is human, but to admit it is just plain stupid!”

How ironic it is then, that Jesus would teach us to repent. Instead of offering a word of support and understanding for our all-too-human tendency to cover up our wrongdoings, Jesus tells us to disclose the evil within us, to admit that we have failed.

The apostle John tells us the same thing very clearly when he writes, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Whoever we are, whatever we do, we all share one thing in common and that is that we are sinful. Saint Augustine once wrote, “Whatever we are, we are not what we ought to be.” 1

Paul acknowledges his sinful nature, just as each and every one of us need to do. For not to do that, is being like one who has cancer, but thinks if he ignores it, it will just go away. Cancer, nor sin will just go away. It must be dealt with. But how?

In verse 21, Paul states plainly the condition of every born again believer, “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.”. Yes it is. You may try to delude yourself that you have no sinful nature, no inclination toward sin, but just like I’ve said so often, you can stand out there in the middle of Lee Road and think that the semi that’s roaring straight at you won’t hurt you, but when it hits, you’re still gonna be dead.

Paul continues to wrestle with the war between good and evil, between sin and righteousness and finally cries out in desperation, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” I really feel sorry for Paul at this point. You cannot help but feel his pain, his suffering, trying so hard to please his Master, only to find himself a failure. Paul’s problem, our problem is simple, we are human.              

Six year old Brandon decided one Saturday morning to fix his parents pancakes. He found a big bowl and spoon, pulled a chair to the counter, opened the cupboard and pulled out the heavy flour canister, spilling it on the floor. He scooped some of the flour into the bowl with his hands, mixed in most of a cup of milk and added some sugar, leaving a floury trail on the floor, which by now had a few tracks left by his kitten. Brandon was covered with flour and getting frustrated. He wanted this to be something very good for Mom and Dad, but it was getting very bad. He didn’t know what to do next, whether to put it all into the oven, (he didn’t know how the stove worked). Suddenly he saw his kitten licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push her away, knocking the egg carton to the floor.

Frantically, he tried to clean up this monumental mess, but slipped on the eggs, getting his pajamas white and sticky. And just then he saw Dad standing at the doorway. Big crocodile tears welled up in Brandon’s eyes. All he’d wanted to do was something good, but all he’d managed to do was make a terrible mess. He was sure a scolding was coming, maybe even a spanking. But his father just watched him. Then, walking through the mess, he picked up his crying son, hugged him and loved him, getting his own pajamas white and sticky in the process.

That’s how God deals with us. We try to do something good in life, but so often, it just turns into a great big mess. Our marriage gets all sticky or we insult a friend, or we can’t stand our job, or our health goes sour. Sometimes we just stand there in tears because we can’t think of anything else to do. That’s when God picks us up and loves us and forgives us, even though some of our mess gets all over Him. But just because we might mess up, we can’t stop trying to “make pancakes” for God or for others. Sooner or later we’re gonna get it right, and then they’ll be glad we tried. 2  Even despite the little impurities in the syrup.

We like Paul find ourselves in quite a pickle, given our sin nature, but you know, we never got around to allowing Paul to answer his own question, for he does. Remember the question, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Well, his answer is in the very next verse and on into chapter 8…like we didn’t know already!

25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. NIV

One commentator once wrote of this passage, “This is more than a cry of one desperate man – it describes the experience of any Christian struggling with sin. We must never underestimate the power of sin. Satan is a crafty tempter, and we have a great ability to make excuses. Instead of trying to overcome sin with human willpower, we must take hold of the tremendous power of Christ that is available to us. This is God’s provision for victory over sin; he sends the Holy Spirit to live in us and give us power. And when we fall He lovingly reaches out to us and helps us get up again.” 3

Are the impurities still there in our lives? Yes, but we don’t have to give into them. And we don’t have to live defeated lives when we do. When we fall, just get back up, dust ourselves off, confess our sin and try to do better next time. For as the Apostle John tell us in 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1John 1:9 KJV

Why would He do that? Why would He go to such extraordinary lengths to save us? What are we to Him? Well, we are His creations and He wants to have a relationship with us – each and every one of us, because He loves us. He loves us so much that He willingly went to the cross on our behalf. He willingly died to defeat the power of sin and death over us. He knew we couldn’t adhere to the Law, so He came up with a plan, a better plan, a plan that was even more powerful than the Law, and that plan has a name. It’s called Grace.

God’s Grace is what saves us and all we have to do is believe in it, have faith in it, have faith in Him! “By Grace we are saved, by faith.” Paul wrote. We are saved by our faith in God’s Grace, made possible by the love of Jesus.

            “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 KJV

It is the most powerful force in all the universe, the Love of God. He loves you. He loves me! Doesn’t that just light you up inside??? That the God of all creation loves you? Love is that important.

Somebody sent me an email recently……. “suppose one morning you were called before God and He asked you, “Do all your friends know you love them?” Well, that got me to thinkin’ … and I wondered – I wondered if I had any wounds that were needing to be healed, friendships that might be in need of rekindling or three words needing to be said; sometimes, “I love you” can heal & bless.

You know, we are not guaranteed tomorrow. What a shame it would be to leave this aspect of life without telling those closest to you, your friends that you love them. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to tell God you love Him too. I have to believe He likes to hear it too. And never stop making pancakes!

Pastor Stac

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March 7, 2010 - Posted by | Sermon

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