Our Infection Called Sin

Sermon Text – 05.19.2019
 
[2 Samuel 11:2-15 and Matthew 18:6-9]
 
           A few years ago, there was an Ebola outbreak in Africa, it was actually pretty scary – it spreads fast, can be deadly, and has no cure. But the terrifying part is that Ebola starts out just like the flu. Initial symptoms are fever, headache, sore throat, joint and muscle soreness, and weakness. We have all felt these symptoms. They are so small, insignificant. No big deal. But these “no big deal” symptoms lead to something far more devastating. Late stage symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, redness in the eyes, internal and external bleeding, (some patients may have blood coming from their eyes, nosemouthears, or rectum), and a bleeding rash over the entire body. It’s really gross. And as I mentioned, there is no cure.
 
Now, during the outbreak, I think it was 2014, 2015, there was a story of Dr. Kent Brantly and a fellow missionary Nancy Writebol. They were missionaries working in Africa for an organization called Samaritan’s Purse. They both became infected – the first Americans to be infected by this outbreak, you might remember – it was all over the news at the time. After they were diagnosed, they were flown back the US for treatment. This has had two responses. Obviously, here in the US, they had access to better medical care – so it’s a good thing. But it brought the virus across the ocean, into our country – which is scary, and so a bunch of people were very upset. There were lots of few false alarms of people being quarantined in emergency rooms because they show symptoms of early Ebola (which as we discussed before, looks just like the flu). It starts so small, but it spreads and it grows.
 

Today we continue with part 3 of our sermon series called the David Files. We are taking the month of May to look in depth at the stories of the Old Testament character King David. Now, two weeks ago we talked about how David defeated the giant Goliath. Then last week we talked about how he danced for the lord, and by his example of foolish love – David inspires us to love God with the same fervor. And every week the character of David grows bigger in our minds. With each successful story David becomes less of a human, and more of a legend.

Impossibly perfect – and completely unrelatable. But today we are going to tell the story of the fall of David. How terrible is it that murder and adultery helps us identify with this King of old?
 

 

          And so we get into the text, and at the start of our story, King David is at war. In the previous chapter David defeats the Ammonites and the Arameans. He defeated the Arameans in such a way that they completely fled – they were afraid to fight King David anymore. But the Ammonites kept fighting. And so in the Spring time, the war was still raging, and our story of adultery and violence is framed inside a greater story of violence between nations. The story of David and Bathsheba is a turning point for David. Scholars use this story to divide the book into sections. What David does here is the beginning of the downward spiral. The rest of the narrative of Israel describes how David’s sin hurts not just David – but his whole family.
 
           Now, verse 1 of our chapter says, [read verse 1-2]. King David was known as a warrior King. He has a LOT of military victories under his belt. It is very unusual that David’s not out there fighting. I love the way verse two starts – “It happened, late one afternoon.” So the first thing we see from the text is that sin is not limited to dark deeds done in sketchy places. Sin can come to us anywhere, anytime. David’s sin began on a random afternoon. Now, after he sees Bathsheba, the NRSV (which I’m using) and the NIV (the version in the pews) both say that David sent a messenger to go get her. And apparently, that writing is to soften the blow, by using the word “getting” instead of “taking” – but in the original Hebrew, the text says David took her. Some translators like to put a degree of separation in there so that maybe it could also be Bathsheba’s fault, or maybe the messengers fault. But in my limited study I’ve found that there is no doubt – this is David’s sin. But I think this happens a lot with sin. We love to include others. As if blaming other people makes it less our fault.  “Sure what I did was bad, but it’s also partly their fault.” Growing up my mom always squashed that impulse. Every time I got in trouble, I always wanted to explain why and so I would start with – “But he was doing this.” And my mom would always interrupt me and say, “I don’t care what he did. I care what you did.” Because the truth is we cannot pawn off our sins on others. Even if others share our blame – our involvement is our own. Your sins are your sins.
 
Now as we move through the story, David’s sin spreads. First he sees her, and he wants her. And just so we are clear, David knows who she is – she’s a married woman. There’s no doubt in the writing, David is knowingly desiring after his neighbor’s wife. It starts small, but then it spreads. First desire, then action, and then consequence – Bathsheba is pregnant. Then comes the cover-up. David tries to bring Uriah, her husband, home. In verse 8 he says, [read verse 8]. Apparently, I found this out when I was studying, “wash your feet” is a euphemism for sex. I don’t know why, but apparently that’s what the kids were calling it back then. “Wash your feet” means go home and have sex with your wife. But Uriah refuses to go home, and suddenly a cover-up story turns into a murder plot.
 
Now, verse 14 might be the most devastating piece of this unfortunate tale. David writes a letter to his commander instructing him to set up the battle lines so Uriah will die – and then has Uriah deliver the letter. I don’t want you to miss that, David has the man deliver his own death sentence. Yikes, and think about how it started, back in verse 2 “It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about..” It started with the eye, grows to desire, moves into action, cover up, lies and eventually murder. But that’s how it works. Sin starts small, and grows and grows and grows.
 
Now, after the deed is done, and Uriah is dead, David starts with the rationalizing. His commander reports back to him that Uriah has died, and David’s response, in verse 25 is [read verse 25] Basically, David is saying, this wasn’t murder – it was just another casualty of war. It happens. Not my fault. Now, that’s pretty messed up, and not a lot of us can relate to our decisions leading to people dying on a battlefield. But we can relate to rationalizing. Everyone else is doing it. It’s not my fault, I was put in a tough position. Everyone messes up sometimes. Have you ever heard these lines in your life? And here’s the biggest rationalizing I’ve ever heard, “It’s no big deal.” Those four words might be the most effective lie the devil has ever used.  It’s no big deal.
 
Now, the next part of the story comes next week -but to give you a peek. Verse 11 of the next chapter tells us, “I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house.” And what we find is that David’s kids and grandkids get involved and horrible things happen. Now, I always used to think – that’s not fair.I It’s not fair for his kids and grandkids to get punished for what David does. But that’s how sin works. It doesn’t just mess up our lives. It affects all the people around us – family, friends – whether we want it to or not. Sin is not an isolated event – sin, like a disease, spreads to everyone around us. And it always seems to start with something small.
 

          So then we move over to our second scripture lesson, which comes from the words of Jesus. [Read Matthew 18:6-9] Now that’s a really intense way to put it, and let me be clear – please do not go out and cut off parts of your body. I don’t want you going out and saying, “But Pastor JJ said… go cut your hand off.” No. The purpose of the passage is to say, “the little things matter.” I mentioned earlier, “It’s no big deal” is one of the greatest lies the Devil has ever gotten us to believe. And the reason it’s such a great lie is that there’s a little bit of truth in there. It’s true – there are some things in life that are small issues. White lies, little things – no big deal. But they never stay small. Sin, like an infection, like an addiction, starts small – but then it grows. Think about this stumbling blocks cause you to stumble – not fall, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that when you stumble, you’re more likely to fall. For David it all started with a look.

    
      The message of this verse cannot be more clear. Get them out of your life. Living the Christian life is a process of growth with God that helps us to take on our giants. That is why it is so important that we recognize where we are. Know your limits. Know your weaknesses. Don’t fool yourself and take on something you’re not ready for – that’s pride. David had pride, thought he could control the situation. But he couldn’t control anything. As the story goes on, David gets more and more desperate until in the end he turns to the big sins. If something if causing you to stumble, get away from it. The passage is very clear. It’s not “ignore it and hope it goes away.” It says, “cut it off and throw it away.”
 
 

          So David’s story shows us that the little things grow, sin spreads, a lot like an infection. So the obvious question becomes – What is Sin? Because I know, that’s one of the buzz words in church. Don’t talk about that stuff man, they’ll think you’re one of those weirdo churches Lots of people think there is evil in the world – but nobody likes to talk about sin. There are a lot of people who get angry with churches who identify sin by a list of rules from an outdated book. Little sidenote: I read the bible in every sermon I preach, because this book is not outdated. Misused – sure. Misunderstood – absolutely. But outdated – not even a little bit. Anyways, the best way I can explain sin, is that it is what separates us from God. Plain and simple, the things in our lives that make us less like Christ. The things in our lives that ruin the relationship with God – that’s what sin is. Yes, there are rules in this book that show us the sins in the world, and that’s very helpful – but Jesus took it to a whole new level. It’s not just about following rules, it’s about restoring a broken relationship. God loves you. And God wants your love. Sin breaks that relationship and tears us away from God. I do this thing sometimes, where we’ll post little promo pictures advertising the sermon titles on Facebook – this week, I wondered: “How many people will skip this week because of the topic?” Nobody likes to talk about sin. We like to think church folk are perfect. We like to think we are better, somehow. But I’m so tired of that fascade. I’m tired of faking it and putting on a good face for the rest of the world. We’re not better than other people, we are all broken people who found a healing God. Sin is a wound on our soul. If we do not deal with it, it does not go away, and it does not heal. It festers and gets infected and spreads. Sin is a wound that needs to be cleaned. We need to be cleansed.  

Nobody likes to talk about sin and evil. Some people wonder why a loving God would even bother to let something so horrible enter the world to begin with. If God is so good, why is sin even a thing? How can evil exist if God is truly all powerful and all knowing? Nobody likes to talk about evil, but we have to because of the other side of the coin. God’s response to sin is something we call redemption. Did you know – when you break a bone, and the bone heals – the bone actually grows thicker the second time. The bone is stronger. When you become infected by a disease, and you beat the disease – your body creates antibodies that fight off that disease. Your immune system becomes stronger. When bad things happen, it hurts. It’s painful and terrible and awful. But perfect people have no need for grace – and grace is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard of. Compassion is useless unless there is someone who needs it. Generosity is empty if everyone has enough. So, what we find is that it is in the darkness of this broken world that God’s light truly shines. Even though humanity ruined the relationship between God and people – God has managed to make something even better from it. Redemption is not about going back to the way it was, redemption is about making better than is has ever been. With forgiveness, our relationship with God has the potential to be even stronger than before.
   
       Easy example – that outbreak of Ebola a couple years ago was pretty scary. It was a terrible thing that so many have died. It’s a terrible thing that those two Americans, who were there trying to help people, got sick. But out of that awful situation – stories of inspiration began to light up the darkness. Dr. Kent Brantly was doing much worse than his colleague Nancy, and so they offered him an experimental serum. There was only enough for one person. So Dr. Brantly asked that it be given to Nancy Writebol instead….. are you kidding me? That’s incredible. Dr Brantly refused help if Nancy could not have it as well. Then, Dr. Brantly did receive a unit of blood from a 14 year old boy. That boy only survived Ebola because of Dr. Brantly’s care. The boy and his family wanted to be able to help the doctor who had saved his life. – I mean, wow. Are you kidding me? That’s amazing. Incredible and just ridiculous. In the midst of darkness, the good news for us this morning is that God brings the light. God redeems us.
 
 

          So, how does that work? How do we get redeemed? How do we get rid of sin in our lives? Funny you should ask, Romans chapter 6 tells us, [read verse 3-6] We can’t beat this stuff on our own. We cannot will ourselves to overcome temptation all by ourselves. If you think you can beat sin all by yourself – that’s pride, and it won’t work out. Only Jesus can defeat sin and death. Christ took our sins and when he died our sins died too. But then Jesus did the impossible. Jesus came back from the dead and defeated sin. So, it’s only through Jesus that we can get rid of sin. That relationship I was talking about, that’s the only way to beat sin. By accepting and returning God’s love – Jesus fights the battle for us and we are finally free! [Read verse 11-14]  Sin is not a bad habit. Sin is not a part-time experience. I love the way verse 11 puts it. Consider yourself dead to sin. Talk about burning bridges. We turn away from sin, and turn towards God and we do so with the resolve that we are never going back. You can’t keep a piece of sin, you have to get rid of it all. There is no such thing as “no big deal.” The first part of the application this morning is that you have to let the sin in your life die. Put it on the cross next to Jesus your savior.

     
     But there’s more to it, isn’t there? You don’t just pray a prayer, put your sin on the cross and poof you’re a perfect person. Life goes on after we turn from sin. Most of us in this room have become Christians at some point in our lives. We got baptized, we joined the church, died to sin and were raised with Christ – the whole nine yards. Most of us in this room have given our sins to Jesus, but I bet every single one of us in this room has sinned since that day. So, if we died to sin, how is that still possible? Why aren’t we all perfect yet? I’ll be completely honest with you. There are a lot of theories to answer that question, and I don’t know which one is completely correct. Christ took our sin, but we are not perfect yet. John Wesley, the guy who started the whole Methodist movement, recognized this fact and he really struggled with it. He talked about this thing called “sanctification” – which is a big fancy word for becoming like Jesus – becoming perfect. But he always taught that sanctification is a process, not a moment. Christ takes all our sins in a moment, that’s the spark we talk about, but fueling the flame in your heart takes a lifetime for us to work out that relationship. In a lot of ways, our relationship with God is just like any other relationship – the more time you put into it, the stronger it grows.  
     
      

          Sin is like a disease, and the bad news is that we are all infected. King David shows us that it always starts small, but it grows and grows until we are completely overwhelmed. The good news is there is a cure, and we call him Jesus. So I’ll leave you with this, May you throw away the lie that says, “it’s no big deal.” May you trust God for the redemption he promised you. And may you cling to Jesus, cling to the cure with everything you’ve got. Amen.


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