TO SAVE SINNERS
Do you ever wonder what happened to sin? Doesn't anyone ask why so much has gone wrong with the world? Doesn't anyone see how disordered everything has become? People who were made in the image of God, act like beasts. In the Third World we see political chaos, while in the West we see a cowardly populace worshipping safety, even offering up their liberty on the altar of that worthless goddess. In the Lord's own country we see bitterness and constant fighting. There are many people who consider themselves to be normal who throw away their afternoons watching talk shows, where a clueless studio audience applauds on cue every time the host excuses the inexcusable behavior of one of the guests. No one talks about sin. Psychologists give us bugaboo about freeing the libido from rational control. What they mean is since it feels good to sin why feel guilty about it? A new mythology asserts that our species descended from bestial beings. Some squeaky pseudo-intellectuals have even concocted the notion that bad behavior is caused by a diet of which they don't approve. When there is no light, there is no limit to the number of irresponsible opinions. So turn on the light and see! The real problem is sin.
So far we have been looking at the bad effects of sin, the anti-social behavior, rather than sin itself. Sin is far worse than murder and mayhem. Sin takes root in the heart and poisons all. Our favorite lusts are sin. Our vengeful hearts are sin. Our arrogant assumptions that we are as important as we think are sin. Sin is any kind of commerce that is not wholesome, even in political life. There's nothing smart about trading off legalized sodomy in order to bring government goodies into the district. It is a sin even to tolerate such things. And it gets worse. If you don't know what could be worse than social evil and political chaos, then think about what St. Paul says in Romans 6: the wages of sin is death. We are all mortal because we are sinners. Nor is the physical mortality the worst of it. Everlasting sorrow and pain await those who die in their sins. We might be distracted by good fortune now, but the wheel keeps turning. When it turns bad, sin is no longer the flattering lackey, but the harsh taskmaster. Troubles take away the illusions and force us to face God. That is the moment of truth.
In fact that is the moment of awful truth, awful because sin is real, sin is serious, and sin is everywhere. We finally realize how hopelessly we are caught up in it. The good thing about that is that we stop denying it. That is the limit of our ability to change anything. It doesn't make sin go away, but at least it calls sin by its real name. For the next step, somebody has to help us. Somebody has to come forward and save us. God did that in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. God the Father loved us, sent His Son to take away our sins, the Son willingly accepted this and humbled Himself to carry it out, then revealed the whole plan to us. Yes, the devil knows all this, too. That's why he wants us to avoid using the word "sin." We can never benefit from the work of Jesus if we don't repent. So the devil deceives us into calling our sins by other names. Or he might let us talk about other peoples' sins, enough to distract us from our own. But he does whatever he can to keep us from thinking of anything we do as sin.
Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners! How clearly Paul's words go right to the heart of the Gospel! Jesus did not come to punish, but to pardon. On the other hand, He did not come to bring permission to sin. He came to offer forgiveness. He didn't come to help us save ourselves, as pop-culture Protestantism teaches. We would not even want to be saved if it weren't for the Holy Spirit. Jesus came to act, to act decisively, to save us. He did not come to show the way, but to be the Way. He did not come to advocate peace, but to be the sacrifice for peace. He was the Priest who performed the perfect Yom Kippur, who passed into the holiest place of the heavenly Temple. As He did, the veil in the Second Temple was torn from top to bottom. He died, physically, and He rose again, physically. He paid all the debt of sin that was ever charged to anyone. He conquered Satan and prevailed. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. That's us, the sinners, who no longer need fear sin, death, or Satan. Jesus is the Savior who saved us. Is that so hard to understand?
Of course when something so beneficial turns up we are bound to ask, Is it all true? How can we be sure? St. Paul had thoughts like that, too. He puts this into the strongest language he can find - This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. The entire Bible is that, of course, because it is God's revelation to man, but Paul makes the additional pledge just before he affirms Christ's mission to save sinners. Our times make us cynical, as indeed they must if we have any sense. If major corporations can break contracts, if countries can break treaties, if spouses can take back their marriage vows, we who live among such events will always doubt the word of man, but we must not doubt the Word of God. Only the Holy Spirit can bring anyone to faith. Throughout the ages He has done this. Sts. Peter and Paul and all the apostles turned the world upside-down by preaching a message nobody had ever heard before. That was the Holy Spirit, using it to create faith. Note that Paul here refers to himself as the "chief of sinners." He was keenly aware that it took a miracle to convert him. He had not been disposed to believe anything good about Jesus. Now, today, the same living Spirit who won him over and made him the Prince of Apostles will also convince you that the Gospel is truth. His message and mine are identical - Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners. You can be certain that you have peace with God through Him. AMEN.
~ Rev. Lloyd E. Gross