Title: Truth and Repentance
Text: Mt 11:2-15
Third Sunday in Advent, December 15, 2013
Throughout his ministry John was faithful doing what God called him to be about; preaching law so that through its crushing accusation people may flee to Christ for forgiveness. When doing something wrong there is always guilt. And there are only two ways guilt is removed. Either, it is removed by removing those people and the message which speaks the truth making you feel uncomfortable. Or, this guilt is removed through repentance, a confessing of sin and fleeing to Christ for mercy.
John was now in prison numbering his days. His only crime was to speak the truth. No doubt his adversaries said John’s temperament was unstable, or, he could have spoken in a kinder manner with a less judgmental tone. All these responses and more focus on the delivery as opposed to the truth of what is delivered. And don’t kid yourself, these criticism are leveled in attempt to silence the message.
He had dared to call adultery sin, which it is. We live in the age of euphemisms and so we call sleeping together, co-habitation. But no, it is adultery. A little known statistic is that those who commit adultery prior to marriage through cohabitation are more likely to commit adultery while married compared to those who did not act on their sinful impulses. The only remedy, for all of us, regardless of what specific sin it is, is to confess it as sin, receive holy absolution, and make that manly and womanly effort to live a life that comports with the Ten Commandments.
From a worldly standpoint John’s “mistake” was to call Herod on his adultery for sleeping with a woman not his wife. Herod’s anger landed John in prison for Herod sought to remove the tension of his guilt by removing the messenger. God would have us remove the tension of guilt through repentance. Even if a person “feels,” or “experiences,” no guilt, they are guilty when having departed from living the way God made us to live. Any time we do not live as God meant us to live we are guilty, whether we feel it or not.
Jesus calls John the greatest of the prophets, but not because John was somehow less sinful than you and me. He needed the Savior as well to forgive him his sins; like any of us. John’s greatness has to do with his place in history and the message he proclaimed. John was the bridge spanning the Old and New Testaments as he proclaimed the coming Christ. No other prophet had this honor or responsibility, hence, John was the greatest.
As a sinner John was no different from you and me and he had his doubts, fears, and questions while behind bars. Having doubts, fears, and questions makes you no-less a Christian. When you deny the faith, ah, that is where you lose salvation, but not, through doubts and questions.
So John sends his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Christ?” Our Lord graciously tells the disciples and John to look at the pudding, for the proof is found therein. See the miracles, hear the Word, measure the promises of the Old Testament fulfilled in the ministry of Christ.
At this point in time opposition to Jesus by the religious establishment was mounting. Soon John would be beheaded for the faith, and it would not be too long before Jesus was arraigned before a kangaroo court to die for the sins of the world.
And you as well face that opposition. It is on the rise. When you gently and lovingly speak words of truth that go upstream in our culture; what is the typical reaction? Do people normally respond saying, “thank you for speaking,” or, “how dare you speak?” From Rom 1:32,
“Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Rom 1:32).
… which means the world will not give approval to you for following Christ. And from 1 Pet 4:3-4,
For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4 With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; …” (1 Pet 4:3-4).
As Christians we need to re-capture the high ground and let people know that following the law—while it does not save for it cannot be followed perfectly—but following the law does bring joy, happy, gladness. Yes it does.
Because the Law is God’s Law and therefore good, righteous, holy, and of the Spirit, Christians delight in it. Furthermore, “obedience” is not a dirty word.
Contrary to Billy Joel sinners do not have the all the fun. Perhaps you remember his naughty song, “Only the Good Die Young” which came out in 1977. Mocking the church and that which is of Jesus he croons:
You got a nice white dress and a party on your confirmation
You got a brand new soul
And a cross of gold
But Virginia they didn’t give you quite enough information
You didn’t count on me
When you were counting on your rosary
They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
Sinners are much more fun…
You know that only the good die young
Yes, the song has catchy lyrics. True, it was number one on the charts for quite-a-while. But do you hear Satan lying to you through these lyrics as the adversary packages them in the glitter and dazzling light of the chase and fun? When I was a teenage know-nothing my mom and dad gave me an earful one day for listening and laughing at such filth. And it was not necessarily because we were Catholic. It was because the message was immoral and led one away from Jesus.
Sinners do not have all the fun. Actually, sin is quite boring and tiresome. [The folks in broken relationships and jail can attest to that.] Fun, excitement, and real action are in the daily adventure of obedience and service to Christ. To live under the end-time rule of God inaugurated by Christ is to live in an alternative universe in which what is “right” is good and delightful and what is “wrong” is bad and boring.
People who commit adultery prior to marriage increase their chances of being repeat offenders while married. If the Word of God is not your thing, and reason and logic do not interest you, try statistics. Fifty percent of marriages in our land end in divorce. And among those who committed adultery prior to marriage through cohabitation the rate jumps up to an astounding 80 – 85 percent. Talk about boring and tiresome. Would any of you enter an airplane where 80 – 85 percent of the passengers didn’t make it?
Severe, serious Godly sorrow and repentance can and does break this bondage of sin. This season of Advent and all through our lives we are to confess any and all transgressions against Christ’s loving gift of the law—the Ten Commandments. Before Christ confess and ask for forgiveness for your rebellion. If necessary ask forgiveness from the one you have betrayed. If need be seek out your pastor, or a dear friend who knows how to be quiet and ask them to hear your confession. Confess your sin to him or her and receive Christ’s gift of pardon, mercy, and love. For Jesus loves sinners. From then on do not allow yourself to be placed into compromising scenarios either through substances, books, movies, or situations. Flee, flee to Christ, and focus on him.
But surely know your sin is forgiven for Jesus took your sins upon himself; whatever that sin may be. That is why Jesus came to earth, born of the Virgin Mary. It was to be your substitute under God’s righteous frown, and to receive your lashes, my punishments, and our eternity of suffering in hell for all our sins. Jesus underwent all this torment for you because he loves adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, liars, and all the descendants of Adman and Eve.
But here is the thing about Jesus’ love. Tis true that Jesus loves us where were are; adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, gossips, lazy sloths, whatever is our pet sin. But Jesus’ love is so great that he doesn’t leave us where we are. He calls us to forsake sin, not rejoice and continue in it. He call us to higher ground, to joy and happiness found in repentance and letting go of all that is harmful which are those things contrary to the Ten Commandments.
Such is the glory of holy Advent where we celebrate again Christ’s coming into our world. He came as our scapegoat to judge sin but not against you and me. Jesus received judgment against himself as he bore all our sins upon himself on Mt. Calvary. Amen.