Maybe itâ€™s because our congregations are coming up to the times of their AGMâ€™s, Iâ€™m not sure but during this week, without meaning to I came to considering my ministry in our parish and what I saw was not enjoyable and though I tried to find something, anything that I could hang my hat on and feel good about, every angle I took led me to the same place and so knowing my inadequacies, I came to TRULY understand the apostle Paul for first time when he says he has nothing to offer those before him other than the truth of Christ crucified.
In his letters Paul tells us time and time again not cling to one shred of self-righteousness because â€œthere is none righteous, not even oneâ€.
It is a message that can sit a little uncomfortable with us and it would seem with our world as we replace biblical words like sin, wretch, lies and iniquities with behavioural disorders, non-truths, unproductive personal habits and compulsive personality types.
Yes, some of these modern descriptive terms do describe medical conditions born in us and thankfully, with modern medicine can be treated. But we are also born in the affliction of sin. Thatâ€™s reality, but a reality that not only does society not want to know, but worse, some of the holders of the mysteries-being the churches and the people of Christ donâ€™t seem to want to preach, teach or talk about and indeed Iâ€™ve been in discussions where the advice I received was not to bring up the law in services where there will be those of in-frequent attendance.
Most certainly, we preach and base every ounce of our well-being on the gospel and the gospel alone, thatâ€™s how it should be and how it has to be but the problem is, that unless we have felt the law, we wonâ€™t feel, know and relish in the true freedom of the gospel.
Without the law there is no sin, without sin there is no need for forgiveness and without the need for forgiveness there is no need for Christ and so in our world where the only reality has become what we decide it to be, unless we as the church talk about the reality of our need for Christ into it, the reality of His atoning works donâ€™t even get a chance to be heard never mind accepted or discarded.
The saying what we donâ€™t know wonâ€™t hurt us does is not always the case and certainly does not cut it in relation to matters of salvation and just as un knowingly we carry around soft drinks going by the label of â€œMonsterâ€ which carry the Hebrew letters for the number 666 and urging us unleash the beast, so too without the knowledge of our sinful state we will find ways to overlook the need for Christ.
Thirteenth century Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev wrote that:
â€œI donâ€™t know what the heart of a bad man is like, but I do know what the heart of a good man is like and it is terribleâ€.
Unfortunately, I would suggest we may have all felt that realisation and unfortunately without a remedy life can become a game of chasing the cure through self-medication and surrounding ourselves with the noise of the world to where we present ourselves to both the person looking in the mirror and those looking on like a photo shopped Facebook page.
Problem is the wolf wonâ€™t leave the door and far from fleeing from it, we draw even closer as we thirst to fill that internal hole that wonâ€™t be filled and continue on a merry go round that while once enjoyable, has now become the substance of our life as we go round and round and though we can see things outside flashing past, they are blurred and though thereâ€™s a feeling thatâ€™s whatâ€™s out there is good, we canâ€™t stop to see it clearly because we canâ€™t let go of the pole we are holding lest we fall and suffer greater injury.
God said he will write the law on our hearts and he has for the religious and atheist alike as we all chase that ever elusive desire of happiness and inner peace and should the Holy Spirit not show us that the cause is sin, we stay on the merry go round chasing our tail but never catching it.
So the Lord does us a favour and humbles us in the knowledge of ourselves up and against the heavy weight of the law and asks that we pass it on to those who donâ€™t want to hear it, but like us most definitely need to.
Many have said that while under the grip of incurable illness they come to see the beauty and smell of a rose like they could never have imagined. So too, that when one comes to see their incurable sin in the law does come the sweet fragrance and taste of the gospel.
The Gospel of our Lord that doesnâ€™t say donâ€™t go on that overseas holiday, but says by all means do it; but do it not to search for happiness but to enjoy happiness.
The Gospel of our Lord that says yes, build your business, buy a house or learn the guitar. But do it not to hide yourself from yourself or because you have you, but because you want too.
And the Gospel of the Lord that came to a Pastor that he not be free of his inadequacies, but that his inadequacies bring him the freedom to serve God and His people in the strength of the Lord and not of his own, and that is the freedom of what John talks of in his gospel where he tells us that: â€œIf the Son makes you free, you will be free indeedâ€.
We all here today fall short, yet in knowing and acknowledging it, in Christ we have never been in a better place. Â For in falling short we have come to know that in salvation, peace and happiness there is only one way that fulfils that aching hole within us and that is to trust in Jesus Christ and in what He done on the cross for us.
So today we stand before God the Father not content in our sin, but content that we know of them and of joyful hearts that though in sin we fall short, we know that in Christ our weakness brings strength, our failures success and though once trapped in ourselves, like our Lordâ€™s body was broken on the cross that He may rise in victory, so to from a crushed spirit have we risen to see to that His victory is ours and know for ourselves how sweet and precious is that grace which we have received. His grace to you that brings eternal life, and His grace to you that he pleads that you know today, to walk in it, to revel in it and most certainly, to find peace in it. Amen.