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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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 www.vanpopta.ca
 
Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
 jubileechurch.ca
 
Title:The Problem of Sin
Text:LD 2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Forgiveness of Sins
 
Preached:2010-10-10
Added:2010-10-07
Updated:2010-10-09
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading of Scripture: Romans 1:18-20; 2:12-16; 3:9-20
Songs: Ps. 16:1,3; Ps. 116:1-5; Ps. 51:4; Aug. 8
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Some times people will ask you, "What’s your problem?"

Let me ask you this afternoon: "What is your problem?"

I have asked you the question, but I know the answer already. The answer to the question is "Sin." Your problem is sin. Lawlessness. Rebellion against God. It deserves the eternal wrath of God. Sin against the law of God rightfully makes us the object of God’s wrath and suitable for only one place, everlasting hell.

That is a problem. We are going to speak about that problem. Perhaps you are thinking, "I really do not like that topic. Can we not speak about something a little happier?" But if you have a problem, you want to speak about it, as unpleasant as the discussion of it may be. For example, if you have cancer, you want to know about it. You are relieved when you find out, because then something can be done about it.

We are not only going to talk about sin. We are also going to speak about what God has done in response to our sin.

I preach to you about:

Our big problem is our sin and misery

1. The magnitude of our problem

2. The revelation of our problem

3. The resolution of our problem

1. Throughout this sermon, we are going to pay significant attention to Articles 1-6 of the Third and Fourth Heads of Doctrine of the Canons of Dort. They are parallel to Lord's Day 2 and flesh out the doctrine contained in Lord's Day 2.

Article 1–

In the beginning man was created in the image of God. He was adorned in his mind with true and wholesome knowledge of his Creator and of all spiritual things; his will and heart were upright, all his affections pure, and therefore man was completely holy.

But rebelling against God through the instigation of the devil and through his own free will, he deprived himself of these excellent gifts, and instead brought upon himself blindness, horrible darkness, futility, and perverseness of judgment in his mind; wickedness, rebelliousness, and stubbornness in his will and heart; and impurity in all his affections. (CD III/IV, 1)

If we compare what man is like now with what he was like on the day God created him, then we begin to see the extent of our problem. This article speaks about man’s mind, will, heart and affections. God created us with clear minds so that we knew God and what his will was. It was all so clear to us.

Our will was upright. We could make good and obedient decisions to do the commandment of God.

Our hearts were pure. We had them focussed upon God. From the heart we loved God.

Affections is perhaps a bit of an old fashioned word for feelings. Our feelings were good and pure.

But then we fell into sin. By an act of the will we willfully decided to disobey the commandment of life.

Our minds became dark and blind. We no longer understood things well. The effect of sin upon our minds led us to make bad judgments.

It affected out will. We began to rebel against God. It became a new way of life for us. We made wicked decisions. We turned into stubborn creatures.

No longer was our heart focussed upon God. We focussed on ourselves. We became the beginning and the end of our hearts’ desires.

Our affections, our feelings, became twisted and perverted. Sinful things made us feel good whereas doing the will of God left us bored and cold.

And so we begin to see the extent of our problem–its height and depth and breadth. It is a huge problem affecting every aspect of us: mind, will, heart and feelings.

Article 2 deepens our knowledge of the extent of our problem:

Since after the fall man became corrupt, he as a corrupt father brought forth corrupt children. Thus the corruption has spread from Adam to all his descendants, with the exception of Christ alone, not by imitation, as the Pelagians of old maintained, but by the propagation of a perverted nature, according to the righteous judgment of God. (CD III/IV, 2)

The problem of sin is a universal problem affecting every man, woman and child. No one becomes sinful at some point in his life. Sinning is not a learned habit, like the great fourth century heretic Pelagius taught. He said everyone is born good and learns how to sin by imitating those around him.

But that is not true. Our problem is much greater. We do not become sinful. We are born sinful. As King David wrote in Psalm 51:5, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me."

Adam begat sinful children, who produced sinful children down through the generations to us, and beyond. There is only one man who was not affected by the corrupting powers of sin, the Lord Jesus Christ. God reached into the sinful cesspool of humanity and performed a new work by conceiving Christ in Mary’s womb in a new and different way–by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That is our problem. Sin affects every person, and it affects every part of every person. That is a big problem, for a sinner has no access to God but must be consigned everlastingly to eternal hell.

2. The revelation of our problem.

It is the law of God that reveals to us our problem. The whole law of God, all of its commands and prohibitions, are summarized by the double-love command as taught by our Lord Jesus in Matthew 22. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbour as yourself.

James, in ch. 1 of his letter, said that the law of God functions like a mirror. When you look into a mirror, you see what you look like. If you have a zit on the end of your nose or a pimple on your forehead, you see it. You see the imperfections.

The law says, Love the Lord your God with all of your faculties! When I compare my life to that standard–when I look into the law of God which utters this high demand–then I realize what a huge problem I have. A bigger problem than a zit or a pimple. I am a sinner. For I do not always love God with all of my faculties. In fact, at the best of times I do so very poorly. Who will not confess that with me?

The law says, Love your neighbour as much and in the same way as you love yourself! When we compare our lives to that high standard, who will not confess that he falls so terribly short? The law says, do not let the sun go down on your anger toward your neighbour. We not only let our day end while we are still angry at someone. We let the weeks, months and years pass by while we are still angry.

The Lord taught us neighbour love in the parable of the good Samaritan. A man was beaten senseless by robbers on the Jericho Road, and left for dead. The priest passed him by. The Levite passed him by. By doing nothing for him, a fellow Jew no less, they showed hatred for him.

Then came the Samaritan. He ministered to the injured fellow, put him on his donkey, and brought him to an inn in the next town.

What a huge risk he took. This would be like a Native American (an "Indian") bringing an injured white man into Dodge City of 1850, on his horse. It would be a huge risk for everyone would assume that the Indian had injured the cowboy. For the Samaritan to bring the injured Jew into a Jewish town was a huge risk.

Neighbour love is like that. It takes a risk.

As we look into the mirror of God’s law, how often to we see that not only will we not take a risk for our neighbor, but that we treat him with disdain and contempt. More like the priest and the Levite than the Samaritan.

We have a big problem, brothers and sisters. What are we going to do about it? What is the resolution?

3. The resolution to our problem of sin.

As Article 3 says, we cannot and will not find the answer to our problem in ourselves. Look at Article 3:

Therefore all men are conceived in sin and are born as children of wrath, incapable of any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in sins, and slaves of sin. And without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they neither will nor can return to God, reform their depraved nature, or prepare themselves for its reformation. (CD III/IV, 3.)

Because of our sinfulness, we cannot do any work towards our salvation. By nature, we are inclined the wrong way. Something placed on an incline will roll down in a certain direction. We are inclined towards evil. That is the inclination we are born with. As Answer 5 says, we are inclined by nature to hate God and neighbour. Because our natural inclination is towards hatred and evil, we can do nothing to resolve the problem of sin in our lives.

This article begins to hold out the gospel already. Without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit, we neither will not can return to God nor shake of our depravity. Implied in that is the glorious gospel, that through the grace of the Holy Spirit, we are brought back to God. By the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, we are renewed, reformed, and returned to God.

But we are still speaking of how to get rid of the problem of sin, and the point is made powerfully in article 3 that we cannot rid ourselves of the problem.

Neither, says article 4, can the few good leftovers fallen man still retains. Look at article 4:

To be sure, there is left in man after the fall, some light of nature, whereby he retains some notions about God, about natural things, and about the difference between what is honourable and shameful, and shows some regard for virtue and outward order. But so far is he from arriving at the saving knowledge of God and true conversion through this light of nature that he does not even use it properly in natural and civil matters. Rather, whatever this light may be, man wholly pollutes it in various ways and suppresses it by his wickedness. In doing so, he renders himself without excuse before God. (CD III/IV, 4.)

Fallen man is still man. Even an unregenerate man has some notions of decency. E.g., even a non-Christian knows that he ought not to cheat on his wife. Even a non-Christian know that he is not allowed to steal something from his neighbour. A non-Christian "retains some notions about God, about natural things, and about the difference between what is honourable and shameful, and shows some regard for virtue and outward order." But he will not, through what he still has left over, come to a saving knowledge of God and to true conversion. In fact, fallen man misuses the leftovers and makes himself more condemnable before God than ever before.

Neither can we solve the problem of sin through obedience to the law, as the next article says:

What holds for the light of nature also applies to the Ten Commandments, given by God through Moses particularly to the Jews. For though it reveals the greatness of sin, and more and more convicts man of his guilt, yet it neither points out a remedy nor gives him power to rise out of this misery. Rather, weakened by the flesh, it leaves the transgressor under the curse. Man cannot, therefore, through the law obtain saving grace. (CD III/IV, 5.)

We are incapable of producing the obedience needed to make oneself worthy before God. It is not possible for us to show forth sufficient obedience that God would say to us, "Not Guilty." We daily increase our debt. Even our best works are defiled by sin. The law of God only reveals the greatness of our sin.

What, then, is the answer to our problem? If neither we, not the light of nature, nor the law, can deliver us from sin, what can? Who can?

The next article speaks about that.

What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law can do, God performs by the power of the Holy Spirit through the word or ministry of reconciliation, which is the gospel of the Messiah, by which it has pleased God to save men who believe, both under the old and under the new dispensation. (CD III/IV, 6)

There is only one thing that can deliver us from our problem: the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is only one person who had deliver us: God, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit of God takes the gospel of Christ and applies it to you. That is your only hope. He creates faith in your heat so you believe in Christ. The problem of your sin is removed. The guilt of your sin is covered. The wrath of God against you is taken away.

The Holy Spirit changes your inclination. Whereas once you were inclined towards hatred of God and neighbour, the Holy Spirit changes the incline so that you are now disposed to love God and neighbour. Do you love God with all your faculties? Do you love your neighbour unconditionally?

The Holy Spirit will change your mind, will, heart and feelings. He will change your mind, how you think. He will change your will, the decisions you make. He will change your heart, the things you consider important in life. He will change your feelings so that the sinful things of life that you once thought felt good will have no attraction for you anymore.

Let the law of God bring you to an understanding of your problem, which is sin. Let the awareness of your problem make you seek the grace of God in Christ. And then, let the grace of God, worked in you by the Holy Spirit, cause you to embrace the law of God, and to do it.

When all is said and done, let me summarize the matter with this sentence: "The law was given so that grace would be sought; grace was given so that the law would be kept."* AMEN



*Prosper of Aquitaine



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2010, Rev. George van Popta

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