Here I Go Again Sermon Illustrations

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Here I Go Again


Here I Go Again

Introduction:

Calvin Coolidge was the 30th President of the United States serving from 1923-1929. He was a very intelligent person and was also known as a man of few words. One Sunday Coolidge visited a church and when he came home his wife asked him what the sermon was about. Coolidge responded with one word, “Sin.” His wife pressed him for more information so she asked him, “What did the minister say about sin?” Coolidge replied, “He was against it.”

Now I’m sure everyone in this room would agree with that minister. We are against sin. But the reality is everyone of us struggles with sin. And, truth be told lots of us struggle with a chronic sin, a sin that continuously trips us up in life, a sin that seemingly has us in its grasp. Some have called it “besetting sin,” sin that we can’t seem to overcome.

For some of us our besetting sin is explosive anger that injures those around us with hurtful words and cruel actions.

For others our besetting sin is envy . . . the desire to have what others have . . . looks, talent, job, and it robs us of the ability to be happy about others success..

For still others our besetting sin is lust, which is a perversion of love. And so, we give in to immoral sexual desires and fantasies ignoring the truth that lust never delivers what it promises, and the more one gives in to lust, the less one is satisfied; sort of like the law of diminishing returns.

For others, our besetting sin is sloth – laziness, not necessarily in terms of a job, but in terms of relationships. We get lazy in doing the work required to have a healthy marriage, the work required to nurture children, and even the work required to do God’s will, what God wants us to do.

For others, our besetting sin is profanity and coarse language. Profanity comes out regularly, sexual jokes are the norm until there is no distinction in our language from the culture around us. We disobey God who tells us “to not let any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths.”

So what can we do about overcoming chronic sin in our lives? How can we gain victory over it? What can we do to stop stumbling over sin? How can we escape the sin that so easily entangles us? Fortunately, the Bible and the experience of Christians through the centuries provide help and hope for us.

 

And the place for us to begin is to acknowledge the truth that sin is real.

Truth #1: Sin is real

It is amazing to me that some people and some religions deny this truth. Whether they deny it because they simply choose not to accept it or because they create a false belief, it is amazing that people deny the reality of sin and evil today. Just think back to terrorist attacks of September 11. If we were to make a list of the lessons, or outcomes of September 11, right at the top would be, evil exits, sin is real.

But the truth is, pick any period of human history, read about the events of the day and you will be confronted with the truth that sin is real, that evil exists. Every era, every time period has its share of evil acts and sinful behavior.

So, the Bible is completely true when it says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

And, for me, that raises a question, “Why?” Why do we sin? Why do we continue on the destructive path of sin, knowing the path brings pain, heartache, destruction?

There are probably many answers to the question, Why? But when we look at them all I think there are two fundamental reasons we sin: 1) We sin because are imperfect, and 2) We sin because we choose to. As imperfect people we “miss the mark”, not because we aren’t shooting at it, but because we aren’t skilled enough to hit it. Our aim is poor so we miss.

Illustration: A couple years ago Kris and I were out to dinner celebrating

her birthday at Rudolph’s BBQ, our favorite place to eat out. I was feeling quite proud of myself for arranging a special night together to celebrate her birthday. During dinner, however, Kris told me that while she enjoyed eating at Rudolph’s, it really wasn’t her favorite restaurant. She told me that while she always enjoys the chance to be together for a special evening, Rudolph’s wasn’t her first choice. I was surprised and stunned . . . until I realized that I had allowed my enthusiasm for Rudolph’s, - home of the world’s greatest potato skins, - to overwhelm her choice. In my mind, my choice had become her choice. So give me an “A” for effort, but an “F” for execution. I tried, but I missed. I’m imperfect! Do you want to know where we go now to celebrate Kris’s birthday? That’s a future sermon!

We sin because we are imperfect. We also sin because we flat out choose to. We seek personal pleasure, we want power, we desire things, we dislike someone and as a result we sometimes act in a way that is sinful, sometimes knowing full well what we are doing is wrong.

 

So, we sin because we are imperfect, we sin because we choose to. By By now you’re probably a little depressed by this talk. You’re asking yourself, “Isn’t there some good news this morning? I came here to be encouraged, not discouraged. Tell me some good news!”

The good news, THE GREAT NEWS IS a second truth about sin . . . and that is . . . forgiveness is available.

Truth #2: Forgiveness is available

C.S. Lewis was one of the most influential Christians of the 20th century. His book, Mere Christianity, which has literally helped millions of people understand Christian faith and believe in Jesus Christ.

 

During a conference on comparative religions Lewis attended, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. The incarnation? – God becoming man? No! Other religions had versions of gods appearing in human form. The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death. The debate went on and on until C.S. Lewis weighed in and said, “That’s easy. What is unique to Christianity is grace.”

Every world religion says you must be good enough to earn God’s favor,-which really connects with our common belief – you get what you earn. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law, each of these offer a way to earn God’s approval, based on what you do. Only Christianity teaches that God’s love is unconditional, that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s favor, to be good enough for God, to be accepted by God.

 

That’s what makes God’s forgiveness so amazing, so wonderful. It is offered to us freely, it is available to us unconditionally.

All we have to do is admit what our conscience already reveals to us, - that we sin. The Bible says that if we simply admit, agree with God that we sin and ask Jesus Christ to forgive us, he will. It’s a promise God makes to us in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Forgiveness is available to sinners, to all of us. But to experience forgiveness we need to ask for it. We need to acknowledge to God that we are sinners in need of his grace, in need of his forgiveness, in need of his mercy. The wonderful and amazing thing is that God will forgive us and he will take our sins from us and do what the Bible says, “remove them as far as the east is from the west,” which, last I heard, was a really long, long way!

Several years ago I learned a song that speaks about this truth . . . “He paid a debt he did not owe, I owed a debt I could not pay, I needed someone to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song, Amazing Grace all day long, Christ Jesus paid a debt I could never pay.”

Sin is real. We all sin. Forgiveness is available. But we need to ask.

There is a third truth about sin . . . and that is victory is possible. In other words, we can overcome the besetting sins that trip us up in life; we can gain victory over chronic sin.

Truth #3: Victory is possible

So how do we? How do we gain victory in our battle against sin? How can we experience true life change when it comes to sin? Fortunately, the Bible and Christians from the past point the way. The way to change includes several important commitments. The first is to decide you want to change.

Decide you want to change

Educators know that ultimately, all learning is self-learning. We learn when we decide we want to learn. No one can force us to learn. The same is true when it comes to change and overcoming sin in our life. We will begin to overcome chronic sin when we decide we really want to; when we really want to stop being an angry person, being sexually immoral, or greedy, or envious, or profane, lusting, or whatever. Change begins when we decide its time to change and that our behavior is not leading us to life but instead is a pathway to death.

 

IN the Bible, Romans 6 and 7 are some of the best passages that talk about dealing with and overcoming sin. They are worth reading. Romans 6:11- 13 is especially helpful. Listen to them,

“ . . . count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”

In other words, we are to offer our minds, offer our lips, offer our bodies to God as a place for his righteousness, his holiness to grow. We are to tell Go we want to be more holy, to move more decisively in the direction of obedience to him. We need to tell God we are ready to give our 100% to do so, but we need his help, too . . . which is another important commitment to make in overcoming chronic sin.

Depend on God for help

Because we are dealing with spiritual issues, overcoming sin and changing our behavior we need God’s power to help us. Overcoming sin is a combination of God’s power and our will. It’s a partnership. We must want to change, we must choose to change . . . AND we must depend on God for the power to bring about change. Overcoming sin is not 80% God, 20% us, it’s not even 50% God, 50% us. Its 100% God, 100% us. God’s power and our will need to be activated together to enable us to overcome sin.

Galatians 5:24, 25 are some of my favorite verses in the Bible. They

say, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature along with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

I think these verses are quite clear in what they say about what is my responsibility and what is God’s responsibility in overcoming sin. My responsibility is to say “no”, N . . . O . . . to sin, and God commits his Holy Spirit to help me when I say no. You see, God doesn’t deliver me from temptation but he does enable me to overcome it, to stand against it, to not give in. Through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our life we can beat overcome chronic sin.

Another commitment to make in overcoming sin is to renew the mind.

Renew your mind

It’s been said that the best defense is a good offense. Coaches of sports teams say it, military leaders say it . . . and I think it’s also true facing temptation. The best defense is a good offense. Perhaps the best offense we have as Christians against sin and temptation is knowing the Bible and prayer. The more we let the Bible into our lives and into our minds the more strength we have to face temptation and overcome sin.

James 4:7,8 says, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

One of the best ways to draw near to God is to read his word, the Bible, to allow its truth to saturate our mind and our heart. Some time ago I heard a statement that is so true . . . some might call it a clichČ, I call it a timeless truth, “Sin will keep you from this Book and this Book will keep you from sin.” In the battle against sin the Bible is a great weapon. It was for Jesus when he was tempted. It’s true for us, too.

Another commitment to consider in overcoming sin is to . . .

Use failure

Failure is one of life’s greatest teachers. And the truth is all of us fail. When it comes to our battle with sin there will be failure. We will not always succeed, - BUT THAT’S OK!! The goal of the Christian life is not perfection, it is transformation; it is to be transformed, to be changed to become more like Jesus Christ. So, when we fail in temptation and we sin, it’s not over. God doesn’t love us any less because we have disobeyed him. He loves us still the same. What we need to do is acknowledge our sin and seek forgiveness even if it is the 100th time, 1000th time, 10,000th time. God forgives because he is rich in mercy and love for us.

But learn from your failures when it comes to sin. Take note of what tripped you up and led you to disobey God. Learn the important lessons failure teaches and avoid those things which create the environment and feed the appetite for sin.

Last on this short list is to . . .

Include others

One of the joys of life is experiencing great moments with others. So, we go to sporting events with others, we vacation with others, we go out to eat with others, we golf with others, we watch movies with others, we do most everything with others. That’s because many of life’s greatest moments are meant to be with others.

Illustration: Some time ago I met a guy who had an unusual plan for personal vacations. He lived in Michigan and his idea of going on vacation was getting in a car by himself, all alone, and driving rural, back roads. When he would come to highway intersections he would flip a coin for which direction to go. Heads right, tails left. I never asked him what he did for going straight ahead . . . if it came up the edge did he go straight? Anyway, the guy was quite happy with his approach and bragged about all the interesting places and people he had met on past vacations. Honestly, I didn’t know what to say . . . other than, different strokes for different folks. You know, I have to applaud this guys sense of adventure and willingness to take risks, but, his idea of vacation certainly isn’t mine! When I go on vacation I want to go with others because I want to share the moment, I want to share the journey with them.

Shouldn’t that be true when it comes to dealing with sin in our lives, too? Wouldn’t it be helpful to find partners in the pursuit of holiness? Someone else, or a small group, to share our struggles and ask for prayer and help? One of the greatest weapons against sinful behavior and for holy behavior that we have is other people, partners who can join us in the pursuit of holiness.

God encourages us to find partners for the pursuit in Hebrews 3:12,13, “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

So, if nothing else in this list makes sense to you, or you don’t find any of this helpful, at least consider this one suggestion. Find a partner, or partners in the pursuit of Christlikeness, someone who can encourage you in the battle against sin. Find partners in the pursuit of overcoming sin, of living the kind of righteous life God intends all of us to live.

Conclusion:

In a few moments you are going to leave this place and someone may ask you the same question Coolidge was asked by his wife, “So, what did the guy talk about?” And, in response, you should say, “Sin.” If they then say, “What did he say about sin?” You should reply, “He was against it.” And that’s true, this sermon has been against sin.

But you know what has also been about? It’s also been about being a saint, being a Christian, being someone who overcomes sin. Truth is, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are BOTH a sinner and a saint. Sinner and saint, that describes us well. As Christians we are sinners, we are saints. May the saint that is within us grow and may the sinner that is within us shrink, all for the glory of God. Amen.

Wooddale Church January 6, 2002

© Brian Doten 2002



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