The way of the Cross–Sin

Romans 5:6-11 (NRSV)
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

His name was Aldo Rubio. He left the house that morning to go play with his friends, having no idea how the day would end. His friend slipped and fell into a water canal. Because of recent rains the waters were swollen and rushing. Young Aldo, just 7 years old, jumped in to help his 11 year old friend. The friend escaped the waters, Aldo did not.

Contrast Aldo with Jesus. When Jesus left his home in glory to come to this earth, he knew fully well the outcome of his life. He knew he was being born into a world where he would die–not of old age but rather he would be the sacrificial lamb for sinners slain. He looked down from heaven and saw humanity drowning in a sea of sin, and He jumped in.

Aldo lost his life in the hope that his friend would be saved. Jesus gave His life for those who were dead in their sins in the assurance that his death would bring new life to all of humanity.

Last week the Way of the Cross led us to suffering. We saw that saints and sinners alike must endure suffering because, as Jesus says in Matt 5, the rain falls on the just and the unjust.

This week the way of the Cross leads us to confront sin, face to face. In the simplest terms, sin means we have missed the mark, we have fallen short of God’s purpose.

In Judaism there are 613 laws, but when Jesus came He spent a good part of His ministry telling the religious leaders, you have it wrong. You think by keeping to the letter of the law you are free from sin, but you are missing the spirit of the law and thereby sinning all the while.

I don’t intend to speak to you today about specific sins, or to assure you there are minor and major sins. Sin is sin– it is not the name of the sin that matters, nor is it the nature of the sin. God intends for us to be set apart for his purposes, but instead sin serves to set us apart from God.

Sin is not a subject we talk about much anymore. When I was growing up, sermons showing the wages of sin are death were much more prevalent than sermons about grace and love.

A couple of weeks ago I was visiting a lovely lady in a nursing home and I heard shouting coming from down the hall. Curious, I went to see what was happening. As I drew nearer I began to hear the familiar strains of hellfire and damnation preaching–in a nursing home.

First of all, I do not think there is a right setting or even a right time to preach God’s wrath. I was called to preach the Good News, not the bad news. Isaiah 61:1(NRSV)
The Good News of Deliverance
Chapter 61
1 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;

Secondly, trying to scare people away from sin is just not effective in the long run. And I do not believe God wants us to turn to Him out of fear, but rather out of love.

John Wesley understood that we are each born into sin, but God placed a divine spark of grace into each soul and it us that spark that grows into a grace that will ultimately draw us to God. It is that grace, when paired with faith that is also God-given, that brings us into salvation.

Did you ever consider that when man was exiled from the Garden of Eden, it was not as much an act of punishment as it was an act of mercy. Man had sinned against God. Had man been allowed to stay in the Garden, he would have eaten from the Tree of Life and lived forever in his sin.

But God had a plan. God looked across the ages and our Scripture today says, “at the right time Christ died for our sins.” Isn’t that interesting? Four thousand years of human history as recorded in the Bible had already been played out. But Jesus came when the time was right.

Jesus still comes to us today when the time is right. John Wesley worked for God for years, building hospitals, schools, all the while wondering if he was doing enough to gain salvation. It was not until, as he put it, his heart was strangely warmed, that his work became a product of salvation rather than a method to try to gain salvation.

The truth is we could not be good enough, we could not work hard enough, we were helpless to save ourselves. But God said I am holy, you be holy, too. Yet, he knew he was asking something we were incapable of doing.

So he said I love you so much, I will do for you what you cannot do. I will send my son, he will take on your humanity, he will be nailed to a cross and your sins will be nailed to that cross with him, and he will be raised from death and from sin into new life, and you, if you believe, will be raised into everlasting life.

2 Corinth 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; … We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The story of Aldo touches our hearts, because we see the ultimate cost of love. Few of us will ever pay that price, the price of our life for another’s.
Yet, 2000 years ago Jesus jumped into the waters of the rushing canal for us. We were drowning in our sin, and Jesus knew we could not escape the hold sin had on us on our own.

So he became sin for our sakes, yours and mine.
The way of the cross does not detour around sin. The way of the cross shows us the ugliness of sin, but it also shows us the beauty of redemption. The way of the cross leads home

If you are here today and you have been trying to be good enough, to do enough but you are consistently falling short, then I have some good news for you.

Come unto me, Jesus says, to those are heavy laden, who just can’t seem to do enough, and I will give you rest.

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