Monday, September 28, 2015
Every sin in the world is present in the pews. . .
Every sin in the world is present in the pews (like every heresy). Even in the pulpits of those churches. We are sinners. We do not toy around with sin but are sinful by nature and unclean in heart. Within us lies a deep cesspool of dark, stinking, death causing sin that has been forgiven by the blood of Christ but which remains to afflict us, tempt us, and taunt us until we shed this mortal flesh and Christ's work in us is completed.
Every sin in the world is present in the pews. Those are words that none of us wants to hear but we know the truth of those words even though we regret admitting them. The Church is not made up of sinners who commit the safe, understandable, and acceptable sins we feel comfortable with -- no sirree!! The Church is made up of people who are tempted to, taunted by, and troubled with every sin in the world. And who do those sins -- sometimes without shame but mostly with guilt, remorse, embarrassment, and fear of what others will think of them. And sometimes with despair worried that the sin they harbor in their heart is too big or too bad for Christ to forgive.
The challenge in preaching and the challenge to the sinful preacher is to preach the force of the law on this but without so wounding the hearer that they cannot hear the Gospel. For as terrible as the sins are that live in the hearts and lives of God's people, Christ is also at work in them. He who redeemed them once from sin and its death by the power of His suffering and death will not willingly relinquish them to Satan or to his voice either justifying and excusing those sins or making them more than the injured soul can bear.
As a pastor I have been called to jails, kitchen tables, hospital rooms, coffee shops, and offices to sit down with people whose secret sins have hit the papers or been revealed to family members in such way that they have no place to turn and no one else to which to turn. . . except Christ and His blood that cleanses us from all sin. I know my own heart and that is hard enough for me to reconcile to the person Christ claims me to be in baptism. I do not even need to hear all the details to know how sin destroys, tears down, and wounds us sinners. Sin is dangerous. Satan is dangerous. But we are not alone. Every sin in the world is present in the pews and the story would end right there were it not for Christ who is wounded with us, for us, and to redeem us. All our shame, our regret, our fear, our darkness He has borne in love for us to redeems us that sin's prison may not keep us. Part of the great fear for the sinner is having these sins dragged into the light but unless they are brought from their hiding places into the presence of Him who is the Light, they will choke off faith, condemn us beyond hope, and seal us into death forevermore.
Every sin in the world is present in the pews. . . but Christ is there. He stands with us sinners in our sins to reclaim us by the power of His blood. . . to forgive us of those sins. . . to break sin's chains that hold us in the prison of death. . . and to restore us. No, the earthly consequences of our sins do not magically disappear when we make the good confession but even there Christ is with us and works for us.
Every sin in the world is present in the pews. . . but we better work to make sure that preaching this truth does not lead these sinners to believe that there is no room for them under the cross, no blood strong enough to pay their cost, and no mercy powerful enough to rescue them. For it is precisely God's rescue that we speak to sinners in the pews and to those not yet of the Kingdom. If there is one man, woman, or child who hears the preaching of the Law and despairs that they do not belong, we have done something wrong. For Christ came for sinners. For safe sins the world does not notice and the terrible sins that make it so hard to love the sinner at all.
At the same time, we bid them not to sin but to struggle against sin and to live as those who wear Christ's righteous by baptism. For Christ's rescue is not license to live without shame or regret in our old sinful prison but to use His gift of freedom to love righteousness, to seek goodness, and to live holy.