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Right and Wrong: Who Gets to Decide? September 28, 2014

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Proper 21

September 28, 2014

 

Focus:  God so loved the world that He sent His Son for us.

Function:  That the hearers repent of their sins and live.

Structure:  Here is a prevailing view…but here is the claim of the gospel.

 

Right and Wrong: Who Gets to Decide?

 

As I was going about my week, I had a conversation with someone that went a little different than I expected.  They wanted to talk theology…and I didn’t see that coming.  But, they were adamant about something, they just had to get it off their chest.  “Pastor Steve, I truly believe, with all my heart, that there’s no way God would let someone walk into Hell without having all the information, if they couldn’t make an informed decision for themselves.”

It didn’t matter what I countered with.  They were firmly rooted in that position.  There was no way I was making them budge.  They “knew” they were right.  They even went as far as to tell me that if God would let someone go to hell, that’s not a God they want to believe in.

That’s where we find ourselves in our Old Testament reading today.  That’s what the prophet Ezekiel was dealing with.  What’s just and what’s not?  What’s right and what’s wrong?  And who gets to decide?

The key issue, the main problem in that conversation that I had was that that person said they didn’t want to believe in a God who would behave in a certain way, who would do x, y, or z.  In a sense, what they were saying is, “I’m God.  I get to decide what’s right and wrong.”  That may sound like a leap, but if we think we know what God should be doing, if we think we know right from wrong better than He does, we’re trying to take His place.

Pastor Fritsch’s sermon last weekend looked at Isaiah, how God told us that His ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts than our thoughts.  Sometimes we think we know the answer, we think we know what’s best for our lives.  And then God has another plan.  We’ll pray for one thing, but He does something else.  And everything works out and we’re blessed.  His sermon last week reminded me of Garth Brooks’ country song, “Sometimes I Thank God for Unanswered Prayers.”  I won’t sing it for you, you can Google it if you want.  But, the point is that we don’t always know what’s best, and that God’s plans for us are usually better than ours.

So the problem here really isn’t about whether God is just or not.  The problem here is our sin.  It’s our pride, our ego, our desire to think that we know better than God.  As I was teaching the 6th graders this week, that’s what sin is.  That’s what the whole problem was for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Here they were, living in Paradise, walking with God, had the chance to ask Him whatever they wanted, to learn whatever they wanted.  And instead, they chose to go a different direction.  They chose to find out for themselves.  And so they gave up their relationship with God.  That’s the Fall, that’s when man first fell into sin.  When we decided we could do it on our own, that we didn’t need God anymore.

All of us have done this.  Not only were you and I born sinners, but we’ve been sinning ever since.  Every one of us in here has broken God’s law, has ignored the Ten Commandments. We haven’t lived according to God’s design.  We could go on and on.  We could walk through the commandments this morning.  We could walk through God’s design for families this morning.

All of these, and many others, are ways that we say, “God, Your ways aren’t good enough.  My ways are better, so I’m going to do things my way.”  That’s what sin is, that’s what sin does.  It separates us from God and convinces us that we want to be our own God’s, that we want to be charge of everything.

But what would happen if we take God out of this?  What happens if we start trying to take charge?  Look around you in the world today and you’ll find your answer.  If we get to choose what’s just, what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s the limit?   The majority or the ones in power, someone eventually wins, and then they decide.

I had heard a few years ago that there was only one thing that was illegal in every country of this world.  Anyone care to take a guess?  Incest.  You can imagine what that means about all the other atrocities that we commit!  But the answer’s incest, or at least, it was.  I was just reading this week that an advisory council to the German government has labeled incest as a fundamental right that should not be denied.  Who are we to get in the way of people’s exploration and expression of themselves?

That may sound absurd, but it just happened.  Really, honestly, it did.  That’s what happens when we decide.  You’ve probably heard someone say, “Just follow your heart.”  That’s what happens when we do.  We sin.

Unfortunately, there are groups of Christians out there who are picking and choosing.  Who are taking God’s Word and saying this part works for us, but we don’t like this.  What are they doing?  And then there are others who are saying that we can earn it.  We can do enough good to outweigh our sin.  Our wrongs aren’t really that bad.  We can get to heaven without God’s help.  These are dangerous.

I think the movie Courageous handled this issue of justice well.  A character in the film asked another to think of someone he really cared about.  I’ll ask you the same question.  Who do you care about the most?  Now, imagine that that person was brutally attacked and murdered.  And the cops caught the guy.  And his court date comes, and he stands up and tells the judge, “Look, your honor.  I messed up, I made a mistake.  But I’ve done a lot of good in my life.  My good outweighs my bad.”  And the judge lets him go.  Would that be fair?  Would that be just?

Of course not.  And that’s the result of our sin.  Our sin has made us guilty.  There’s no if’s, or’s, or but’s about it.  We’re guilty.  And if God were to be a just God, if He were to enact justice, He would have to say “Guilty.”  And we’d all be doomed to hell.

But out of His love for us, He’s provided another way.  He’s provided a way out.  Because He loved us so much, He sent His Son Jesus Christ.  Christ, being God Himself, came down to earth, took on flesh and followed the laws perfectly.  He did what we couldn’t.  He was innocent, perfect, righteous.

And then He died.  He died upon the cross to take our place in that courtroom.  He gave of Himself, sacrificed of Himself out of His love for us.  That’s why God says what He says.  That’s why He says “Why will you die, O house of Israel?  For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the LORD God; so turn, and live.”  He says it similarly in Paul’s letter to Timothy, “for God desires all men to come to the knowledge of the truth and to be saved.”

And so now we do as God asked.  We repent.  We turn away from our sins and we turn to God.  And if we sin again, we repent again.  We continue to turn away from our sins, we continue to ask forgiveness, and in His love for us, we continue to receive that forgiveness.

We can’t say it’s not fair.  Because He’s given us a way out and He’s already done the work.  He’s paid the price in full with His own blood.  Our guilt is upon Christ.  That forgiveness is for you and for me.  It’s free to you and to me.  Freely given by our God who loves us.  Paid for by our God who loves us.  That’s why we gather together here.  That’s why we come together at the Lord’s Table.  We are loved, we are saved.

 

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