The Bible’s Lifejacket

Matthew 21:9

9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”
“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Dear Friends in Christ,

I’ve noticed that though we’ve made mention of these life jackets several times this morning, no one has yet to come up and get one.  I’ll bet things would be different though if our circumstances today were different.  If we were in a boat that had capsized in the middle of the ocean and we were bouncing in 15-ft. waves and clinging for dear life to the hull of our boat, don’t you think our response would be much different?  You bet it would!  We’d be all over those life jackets like a bunch of teenagers all over pizza at a lock-in.

But I wonder if your lack of interest and your indifference toward a life jacket this morning might symbolize the lack of interest and indifference that many people have toward a Savior in their lives.  And I would suggest to you this morning that the reason many people may feel that way about a Savior is because of the view they have of sin in their lives.  Let’s face it, my friends.  Many people today even in the church take sin very lightly.  They treat it as though it’s not such a big deal, as though it’s something to be laughed at or joked about.  But suppose we could see sin from God’s perspective, as the vast ocean of separation and desperation that it really is.  Maybe then we would see things differently.  We might even speak a little differently.  We might even to use the worship word that we’re going to look at today as we continue our study of worship on this final leg of my “Faith Odyssey” sermon series.  It’s a word that was proclaimed over and over again on that first Palm Sunday when Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey and the people lined the streets of the city and waved palm branches in the air to welcome the One whom many believed to be their long-awaited Messiah.  And that word that we’re going to look at today is the Bible’s equivalent of a life jacket.  It’s the word HOSANNA, which means “Save us, Lord!”

But in order to talk about the word hosanna, we have to talk about another subject that’s not very popular today and that is the subject of sin.  And though we may want to simply dismiss our sin or downplay our sin or ignore our sin, we cannot and must not do that because the truth of the matter is that God takes our sin very seriously.

Some of you have probably heard of this fellow here, G. K. Chesterton.  He was a well-known philosopher and Christian gentleman who lived in England back in the early part of the 20th century who grew weary of reading a column in the London Times every week that ended with the question:  “What is wrong with the world?”  After seeing that so many times, Chesterton finally wrote a letter    to the paper that read:  “Dear Sirs: What is wrong with the world?  I am.  Faithfully yours, G. K. Chesterton.”

Mr. Chesterton had been reading his Bible, hadn’t he?  Because according to the Bible, the problem with mankind is mankind.  Is. 53:6 puts it this way:  “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.”  We have left God’s paths to follow our own.  In fact, that’s a good definition of sin.  Sin is an attitude of the heart that says, “You know what?  I think I’ll cut my own path through life.  I’ll go my own way and do my own thing.”  Not always the wisest thing to do however.

It reminds me of the times in my life when I decided to do that, literally.  One time it happened when they were doing some work on Hotze Road in the Beer Can Alley area.  I sometimes take that road to avoid some of the congestion that I encounter on other routes out of town.  Well, on this particular day I had gone west on Boone St. and up over the overpass that spans I-57 and I came to Hotze Road.  But there was a big sign there that said:  “ROAD CLOSED.”  I thought, “Well, we’ll just see about that!”  So I navigated my way around the barriers, drove all the way through Beer Can Alley, and came to the area of construction which was right behind the Assembly of God church.  And you know what I found?  The road really was closed!  There was no way to get through.  So I had to turn around, backtrack, and take another route.  Now you’d think I would have learned my lesson there, but I didn’t.  A few weeks later I was coming from the opposite direction on Mills Cart Road and I found myself face-to-face with another one of those “ROAD CLOSED” signs.  And you know what I did?  I zipped around it, thinking that somehow I’d be able to get through farther up the way, but again it was impossible because it was impassable.

Well, my friends, how often don’t we all do the same?  God posts “ROAD CLOSED” signs all over the place.  But for some reason, we think they don’t apply to us or that we know better so we zip around those signs only to find ourselves in some sort of trouble or mess.  God says:  “Don’t lie.”  But we think, “Well, it won’t hurt to stretch the truth just once.”  But then we find ourselves trapped in this web of lies having to tell more falsehoods to cover up the ones we’ve already told.  God says:  “Don’t engage in sex before marriage.”  But we zip around that sign and say, “But everyone else is doing it and I’m afraid I might miss out on something.”  God says:  “Don’t hate.”  And we say, “But you don’t know what he did to me.”

Now the word that the Bible uses for those times when we disregard God’s signs and choose our own way instead of his is spelled s-i-n.  In its purest and simplest form, sin is an attitude of the heart, an attitude of rebellion, an attitude that says, “I know God has this standard, but I have my own standard and I’m going to choose mine over his.”

And make no mistake about it, my friends, sin has horrible consequences.  Just ask the parents of the child killed by a drunk driver.  Or ask the child whose dad never comes to any of his ballgames because he spends more time at his job than he does with his family.  Or ask the woman who is trying to raise her kids on her own because she found her husband in another woman’s arms.

But my friends, as horrible as those consequences of sin are, none of them comes close to comparing to the eternal consequences of sin.  Rom. 6:23 says:  The wages of sin (which means this is what we earn, this is what we deserve for our sin) is what?  A bad mood?  A tough day?  A financial setback?  No!  The wages of sin is DEATH.  And that refers not just to physical death, but spiritual death and eternal separation from God in hell.  Understand that God never sends anyone to hell.  If a person spends their life saying, “I don’t want to have anything to do with God.  I’m going to do things my way,” there comes a time at judgment when God says to that person, “OK, if you wanted nothing to do with me in this life then you shall have nothing to do with me in the next life.”  Hell then is really the answered prayer and the chosen destination of the hardened, rebellious, disbelieving heart.

Is it any wonder then why God takes our sin so seriously?  For if the wages of sin is death and that word death includes eternal death and separation from God in hell, then God, being the loving, compassionate, and caring Being that he is, is going to do everything possible and everything necessary to spare us from such a horrible state.  And that’s exactly what he’s done.  Oh I wish we took our sin more seriously.  But typically we don’t.  Instead, when we think about sin we usually have one of two reactions.  We either think, “Well, at least I’m better than so-and-so.”  We think of some horrible mass murderer or the absolute worst of humanity and we say, “Yeah, I’ve made my share of mistakes, but boy, you ought to meet my mother-in-law or you ought to hear the language my co-workers use around the work place or you ought to hear what my neighbor did to his wife.”

My friends, that way of thinking is so wrong and so faulty.  It’s no different than 2 pigs standing at the pig trough after a day of wallowing in the mud and the one looking at the other and saying, “I’m cleaner than he is.”  Well, maybe that pig is cleaner, but it’s still dirty, isn’t it?  It’s still caked with mud.  It’s still in need of a bath.  And so it is with us.  We’re all caked with sin.  Listen to these words from Ps. 53:  “God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

So all of us who would seek to save ourselves by comparing ourselves to others, I’m sorry, but that doesn’t cut it with God.  Nor does the 2nd response that we typically have to our sin, which is, “I’m working on it.”  This is called self-salvation or works-righteousness where we treat our sin like         we do our monthly credit card bill.  “Ok, I owe this much to God, so if I can do this many good deeds, then I should get me caught up for this month.”

How would you feel if somebody tried that with you?  How would you feel if you were married and your spouse was unfaithful to you, but they didn’t think it was that big of a deal?  How would you feel if they said, “I know I’ve been unfaithful to you, but don’t forget I did wash the dishes last night”?  Why, you’d want to take one of those dishes and whack ‘em upside the head, wouldn’t you?

You want to know how God feels about the good things we think we do, especially if we’re doing them to impress him and others?  Is. 64:6 says:  “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”  If we pridefully point to our good deeds and try to use them as a way of getting in good with God, then he views them as no better than that old filthy oil rag I have lying next to my lawn mower in my shed.

So my friends, both of those typical human responses toward sin – “I’m not as bad as so-and-so” or “I’m working on it” – really reveal a very light and lackadaisical view of sin because they portray sin as something that we can take care of on our own.  But God takes sin much more seriously than that.  In fact, God takes sin so seriously that out of his incredible love for us he took our sin upon himself so that he could take our sin away from us – finally, freely, and forever.  Listen to how Isaiah puts it in the 53rd chapter of his book.  Referring to the Messiah who would come 700 years later, Isaiah writes:  “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

That’s the good news that is to be found in the midst of all this bad news about sin.  That’s the kind of HOSANNA God we have, my friends – a God who saves, a God who rescues, a God who was willing to take our sin upon himself and be punished in our place so that we wouldn’t have to be.  That’s what this holiest week of the year is all about.  That’s what we’ll be commemorating and celebrating this week.  And when we receive by faith Christ’s sacrifice for sin as our sacrifice for sin, when we trust his death on the cross as the supreme and all-sufficient payment for our sins, you know what God does for us?  He places his heavenly life jacket on us and rescues us drowning sinners from the eternal consequences of our sins.  And he lets us know through the Apostle Paul some of the most incredible news we could ever hear in Romans 8 where he says that “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Hosanna, then, to the Son of David!  Blessed is he – our Savior, our Rescuer, our Redeemer Jesus Christ, who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest!