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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Preached At:Lynwood United Reformed Church
 Lynwood, IL
Title:Sin Exposed
Text:LD 2 Romans 7: 7-13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The Law Exposes our Sinful Nature

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Sin Exposed

Romans 7: 7-13; LD 2


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, back when I was a teenager I often worked for my father.  And since he was a jack of all trades, he was very able and willing to take on any number of odd jobs.  One day we might be hanging electrical fixtures, the next day we might be painting someone’s kitchen, the day we could be siding someone’s house or pouring concrete.


And as I worked with my dad on all these odd jobs, I learned a very important lesson.  I learned that there was a tool for every job.  Unfortunately for my dad, I learned that lesson the slow and hard way after breaking many of his tools--using screwdrivers as chisels or pry-bars and using a wrench as a hammer to pound on a nail or to loosen a tight fitting.


But gradually I discovered that when you use the right tool for the job, you actually accomplish the task you set out to do, not to mention you spare the tools in the process.  I draw upon that lesson in light of what Paul writes here in Romans 7, and in light of what the Catechism teaches in Lord’s Day 2.  


Paul’s argument in Romans 7 is that the law brings to light the wickedness and evil that lies in our hearts.  Indeed he writes I would not know have known what sin was except through the law.  For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.    


Why is Paul making this argument?  Because his fellow countrymen, the Jews, were not using the law the way it was intended.  They were misusing it.  The Jews were using the law as a tool (as a means) to attain salvation.  They used the law as a ladder to climb into heaven, but Paul points out that the law was not given for that purpose.


The law (as a tool) was designed to teaches us our sin and misery; to expose our sin; to show us how utterly unfit we are for heaven; to reveal to us that in and of ourselves, we are incapable of attaining salvation and that we need to look outside of ourselves for salvation;


And so the law is not a ladder—it’s not even a step stool to give us a boost.  The law is designed to turn us away from ourselves and point us to Christ, so that in Him we might find salvation.  That is what we learn tonight in Lord’s Day 2, The Law of God Exposes our Sin and Misery

1)  The Correct Understanding of Man’s Misery

2)  The Unbending Nature of God’s Law

3)  The Total Inability of Human Nature    


1)  The Correct Understanding of Man’s Misery:  Here we notice, congregation, that question 3 of the catechism doesn’t ask us if we think we live in a state of misery or if we at times feel like we’re living in a state of misery.  Nor does it ask us if we’re aware of all the misery in the world. 


It asks, how do YOU come to know YOUR misery.  The catechism treats misery as a fact of life.  It’s understood; it’s presupposed.  It’s easy to misunderstand what the catechism is talking about here because we do not always understand what that word misery is referring to.


When we hear that word misery, we tend to think of human suffering, we tend to think of physical pain, sorrow, grief, and torment.  Certainly our world is full of that.  Just last week I had I looked at pictures of the devastation caused by the earthquake in China with tears in my eyes.


There were crowds of parents and loved ones gathered around the ruins of the schools which collapsed; they were waiting for work crews to recover the bodies of their children killed in the earthquake and buried beneath piles of rubble. What incredible heartache!   


Or we think of the misery of those in our world who suffer starvation or some other depravation, or who are racked by sickness or disease, or who are tortured in prison or persecuted or oppressed.  So we’re quite familiar with that definition and form of misery.


But the misery spoken of by the catechism has more to do with the idea of separation and alienation and even banishment.  Think of someone who has been exiled from his homeland; or think of a young child that leaves his parent’s home and is now homeless and wanders the streets--without shelter, without comfort, without security, without hope.


That is the sense of this word misery as it is used here.  And that is why sin is spoken of as misery (in fact, sin is the greatest of all miseries) because sin separates man from his Maker, it banishes man from the very presence of God; sin makes man wretched in body and soul, for time and eternity.


We saw how this worked in the opening chapters of Genesis where, because of man’s sin and rebellion against God, man was banished from the Garden of Eden.  Later on, Cain knew this misery as well, for after he killed his brother Abel, the Lord drove him out of his presence to live in the land of Nod, east of Eden.


So, while the human misery that we see (and feel) all around us in the world is also a consequence of man’s fall into sin, the misery that is in view here in LD 2 is the separation that exists between man and His God; man’s misery is the knowledge that man cannot fulfill his God given duty and calling. 


Man is very much a dysfunctional creature, a fish out of water, a freak of nature. Man’s purpose was to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, to live and walk in the glorious presence of God, to live in perfect union and communion with God. 


But sin drove man from God’s presence, and now sinful man lives in this world in a state of spiritual homelessness, in a state of constant searching but never finding.  That is our misery.  But thanks be to God, He did not leave us to die in our state of hopelessness and misery.


In his grace, God gave us both the law and the Gospel.  He gave us the law so that we might see the reality of our misery, so that we might see just how far we’ve wandered from home; so that we might be convicted of our sin. And God gave us the Gospel so that we might escape our sin and misery and put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and His righteousness; in that way the Gospel serves to brings us back home, back into the living fellowship and loving communion with our God and Creator and Lord. 


So the next time you’re tempted to sin, beloved, just call to mind this definition of misery.  Remember that our sin, no matter how good it may feel at the time, no matter how much we want to say those nasty words or do those sinful deeds, remember sin separates.


Sin brings about alienation between us and God and between us and our loved ones/neighbors.  Sin is never worth it.  That’s why the Gospel calls us to turn from sin, to resist sin, so that our relationship and fellowship with God and man remains in tact.


2) The Unbending Nature of God’s Law:  So that is the correct understanding of man’s misery.  Secondly, we consider the Unbending Nature of God’s Law.  Now, as citizens of this great nation, we’re should be very familiar with laws.  Our founding fathers drafted a Constitution within which they set forth various principles and laws which we abide by as a nation, which we strive to protect and uphold. 


But over the years, our laws have undergone changes.  Some laws have been added or changed by way of amendments; and there has even been an amendment that was repealed.  So you see, while man’s law still carries the weight of authority and the threat of punishment if it is broken, man’s law is not set in stone.  Man’s law can and has been altered and changed over time.


But God’s law is not like that.  God’s law does not change...ever.  In speaking about the law, we think particularly of the law which God gave to Israel in the Old Testament.  There were three distinct aspects of the law in Israel.  Two of the three were the ceremonial and civil laws.


The ceremonial laws had to do with details regarding sacrifices and cleansing rituals and the like.  The civil laws had to do with Israel as a state, the political laws as a nation, her judicial laws, etc.  But both of these aspects of the law were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  Christ’s sacrificial death put an end to the sacrificial system, and his reign and rule as King in heaven put an end to the civil and judicial laws of Israel.  Now Christ’s kingdom stretches from shore to shore and includes peoples from every nation.


But there is one aspect of the law that remains in effect, and that is the moral or ethical facet of the law.  And the moral facet of the law is encompassed in what we know to be Ten Commandments.  Yes, that is the law which God gave to His people at Mt. Sinai; but while God’s people are now throughout the world -- made up of Jews and Gentiles alike, the fact is, God’s law still remains. It abides as an unchanging, unbending standard.    


The moral law is in force for all people, everywhere, even for those who do not know God or consider themselves to be His people.  As Romans 2: 15 points out, the requirements of God’s law are written upon men’s hearts, and their own consciences bears witness against them.


The fact that this law remains in force was made clear by Jesus when, in the Sermon on the Mount, he declared that he had not come to the abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them.  And then in chapter 5-7 Jesus went on to explain the law in all of its depth and fullness.


Jesus’ teaching on adultery, divorce, murder, and oath taking exposed sins that lay deep within the corners of the hearts and minds of man.  Jesus shined the light of God’s law in places never before seen.   The people were both convicted and amazed.


But now it’s interesting that in connection with LD 2, we don’t get the whole law.  We get a summary of the law.  Q 4 asks: What does God’s law require of us?  A. 4: Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22 --  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.  This is the first and great commandment.  And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.


There are two reasons why we get the summary of the law here instead of the 10 commandments in written form. First, it’s because the purpose of the catechism at this juncture is not so much to impress upon us our individual sins, or our personal transgression of each individual command.


No, the purpose of the catechism is to impress upon our hearts and minds the knowledge of man’s lost condition before God; it’s to impress upon the corporate nature sin, to teach us very simply what  Rom. 3:23 says: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 


So in a very simple sense, we understand the lostness of our condition by answering those two questions Do you love God with that perfect love and do you love our neighbor as yourself? Those two questions penetrate deep within our heart and soul.  There is no escape; no excuses.


The second reason we get the summary of the law here has to do with its simplicity – think of the catechism’s objective to teach and train our children and young people.  A young man may hear the law read and may say to himself I have not committed adultery, I have never coveted another man’s wife; I have never stolen or taken God’s name in vain 


He may very well find himself in the same disposition as the rich young ruler, who upon hearing Jesus rattle off come of the commandments said, all these I have kept since I was young.  But in giving the summary of the law first, in declaring that God commands us to love completely and wholly, without fail, any young man, any young lady, any boy, any girl, any new believer can look within his or her own heart and see that they have not loved perfectly and wholly.


And so the summary of the law is a strategic starting point in that it easily demonstrates (even to the simplest of minds) that our departure from God, our separation and alienation, our misery begins when we fail to love God and our neighbor with a perfect love.


And so we can’t argue with God and say don’t lay that guilt trip on me.  I haven’t broken this commandment or that commandment. I have lived better than most.  No, the standard God sets is perfection, and it’s an unchanging, unbendable standard. 


So you see, God doesn’t require that we love him and our neighbor the majority of the time, or even 99% of the time.  God requires perfect love all the time, despite the circumstances.  Likewise, God doesn’t tolerate any excuses – saying ‘we didn’t love like we should because we were tired or short-tempered at the time, or because we didn’t know better at the time.


The requirement is simple: perfect love for God and neighbor, every moment of ever day.  And as you and I reflect upon that truth tonight, it should be our prayer that God’s Spirit shows each of us just how far short we fall.  Husbands, evaluate your marriage in light of this summary.  Have you loved your wife perfectly all the time, everyday?


Children, evaluate your relationship with your mom and dad in light of this summery.  Have you loved your mother and father with this kind of perfect love every moment of everyday?  And just looking at our life in general, think about this summary of the law as we see all the things around us which we possess, as we think of the things which we have made a priority in our lives, as we think of the sinful pleasures in which we indulge, we know that there hasn’t been a single day in our earthly existence when we can say that we have loved God with a perfect love!


And so, it’s just as Paul wrote in Romans 7:10  I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.  The very commandment which was intended to bring us joy and happiness and contentment and unending fellowship and communion...that commandment brings death – it shows us just how badly we have failed, it shows us just miserable we really are.  


3)  The Total Inability of Human Nature:  And that fact is summed up in the final question and answer of this Lord’s Day: Can you live up to all this perfectly?  The answer:  No.  I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.  We see the Total Inability of Human Nature


There are a couple important truths to understand in connection with this answer.  First, we have to understand that, based on this answer, which is based on Scripture, sin and evil is not something that gradually creeps into our life, or that we acquire by practice or imitation.


Many people, including many Christians, have this misunderstanding of evil, but this misunderstanding is just as dangerous as it is unbiblical.  For evil does not come from outside of us.  Yes, there are many evil influences in the world, but we are evil from the time of our own conception and birth. 


This has nothing to do with the act of our parents conceiving us; it has to do with the fact that the moment we are given life, the moment we are conceived in our mother’s womb, our soul is already guilty before God. We’re already sinful and evil by reason of our being human and thus possessing a fallen human nature.


But a second interesting point here is that there appears to be no middle ground between love and hate.  We are called to love God with that perfect love – with heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  But when asked if we can live up to all this perfectly, the answer isn’t, No, but some days we do better than others.


Nor is the answer given: Well no, we don’t love perfectly, but some days our affections for God and neighbor waiver anywhere between cool indifference on the one hand, and mild appreciation and affection on the other. 


No, in this answer, just like in God’s court of justice, there is no middle ground; there is no stopping point, no half-way point between love and hate.  As one commentator put it, Love and hate are like two poles between which there is no mediation.  


And that is so important for us to see, beloved, because so many people today, when asked about their faith in God, if they belief in God, or when asked to describe their relationship with God, they’ll say something like this: I’m indifferent about God.  I believe God exists but I can’t say that I really spend a whole lot of time thinking about God or praying to God or going to church.


But can you see, based upon what we’ve just talked about, to be indifferent about God is not some kind of neutral territory.  It’s not some kind of “safe answer” that we give -- just in case there really is a God we want to cover our back.


No, in God’s eyes to be indifferent to Him is to hate him.  In the same way, everyone in this world who does not follow the ways of God, who does not look to His Son Jesus Christ for salvation, no matter how upstanding of a citizen he or she may be, no matter how much they might even talk about God or admire the teachings of Christianity, they are also numbered among those who hate God. I John 2:15 says Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.


The Scriptures make it very clear that man, according to his sinful nature, bears hatred in his heart and soul against God and against all that belongs to God.  The natural man bears hatred in his soul for the very Son of God in whom dwells the fullness of God’s deity. 


Christ warned his disciples about this many times—if the world hated me, they will hate you also; no servant is greater than his Master.   If they hated the Son, the will hate his followers.  Natural man also bears hatred against God’s Word, against the law and the gospel.  Paul wrote in I Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 


And natural man also bears hatred and aversion to God’s ways in the world — to God’s providence and government over the world.  Think of what Psalm 2: 1-3 says: Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. "Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters.”


And so we see that all around us in this world, man’s natural disposition, his natural tendency towards God is hatred and enmity.  That is the truth regarding man.  This is the truth of who we are, when we push God out of our life; when we live outside the grace of God, when we want to live like the world and when we love the things of this world, and make God a distant second.


But you know, there is Good News in all this.  The Good News is that despite our sinful nature, despite our weak and fickle love, despite our indifference, God does for man, God does for us, what we ourselves cannot do!  God’s law demanded perfect love, perfect obedience, and in sending His Son Jesus Christ to be born under the law, and in Christ’s active obedience whereby He kept every commandment perfectly, Jesus Christ met the perfect standard of Gods law.  Jesus loved God with heart, soul, mind and strength and he loved his neighbor as himself.


And when we believe in Jesus Christ, He by His Spirit joins us to him in such a way that His life of perfect obedience becomes our life of perfect obedience, and His perfect love becomes our perfect love.     


Beloved, the law tells us that in ourselves we have no strength.  We cannot love as God calls us to love.  We are miserable sinners, hopelessly lost and separated from God.  But because of God’s love for us in His Son, because of Christ’s active and passive obedience, God bridges – he closes that gap of separation between us.


God bridges that gap between love and hate, and by Christ His Son, and by His Word and Spirit God brings us back unto Himself, back into fellowship, back into communion with Him, so that we are no longer alienated from God, so that we are no longer homeless and helpless; so that we are no longer in misery.    


And God begins that process, that work of salvation with a simple tool.  He begins the work of redeeming and restoring lost man by using the law of God to show us our sin and misery.  That is the tool that exposes man’s sin, and points him to our need for a Savior.  So we, along with Paul can say, thank God for his law, for without the law we would have been blind to our sin.   Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2008, Pastor Keith Davis

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