Sin and Misery
DOWNWARDLY MOBILE!Galatians 3: 10-14
Exposition by Max A Forsythe
Pastor of Christ Covenant Reformed (PCA) Columbus, OhioQuestion 17:
Q: Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A: The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.
On two occasions I have met homeless Army officers on the east side streets of greater Columbus. It stands out so awkwardly in my mind to see such depths to which once proud, successful young men can go to by their own selfish choices. Both claimed the rank of Captain, which is a certain indication that they had earned the respect of their peers and were on the path to success. “How have the mighty fallen”, if I may use the words of David to describe his assessment of his own superior – Saul.
In another case, my father pointed out to me a family that once had a good name in the community, and who were considered successful and wealthy from hard earned income. Unfortunately the children, like the spoiled Royals in Britain mostly took a downward turn for the worse. Alcohol spoiled one, lust I think captured another, and another loved wealth so much that any worldly scheme to make a quick buck was chosen. The last one met and had some minimal business dealings with him. Finally I understood why he was paying such a good price for my chickens. He had fallen so low that he was buying up rabbits, poultry , goats and sheep to sell in the south for ritual sacrifices. I was horrified, because I didn’t want any more of my “presbyterian” chickens being abused for such a pagan purposes!
These examples remind me of a story about a children’s playground where a parent was concerned about the mud puddle at the bottom end of a large slide. Of course the little one wanted to go down anyway, all the parent had to do was catch them before they splashed in! The game went well the first two times, then the little one laid back at the last possible moment and giggled as the mud was splashed all over everyone concerned! I am convinced that the downward slide of all people is very much like this slide image.
Even though some think there might be angels every foot or so, we are still willing to dodge the helpful hands as we aim for the mud puddle at the end of the slide. Little do we realize the nature of that mud puddle. It is made of the very quicksand of hell. And too many temptations that come our way look clear and rosy on the surface as we dodge this way and that to attain our own willful pleasures. Help of mere “guardian” angels as some suppose will not suffice as long as we are remain corrupted. Only in the strong hands of Christ is their hope of not reaching and going off the end of the slide into the very pit of hell!
The greatest temptation facing people who are learning the means of godliness is that they actually think they will and can reach out at the last possible moment for Divine assistance. Another year, another month, another day of sin, the day of salvation can always be postponed until they run out of slide, and helping hands to splash into their own willful eternity. For the average Christian in our time, this slide is works righteousness. After all, the doctrines here in these teen questions of the confession are little understood and their implications denied.
How many churches have ever studied the Federal headship of the first Adam? How many leaders seriously doubt the whole dreadful experience of the fall of mankind? Sin and its cause and effects are not popular subjects. Very many of you may be looking forward to the good news of question twenty, when we can leave all of the dirt and slime of sin behind and focus on the planned rescue of our Father in heaven. Yes, His gracious hands have reached out and plucked us off the slide, dusted our britches and by the power of the Holy Spirit keeps us off the slide. Still, it is fun to see all the others whom He allows to enjoy their own giggle at the cheap thrills of sin as they wind their way this way and that to the nether world.
Works righteousness wrongly assumes that we are spiritually smart enough to reach out to the first “angel” or helping hands that come our way. Works righteousness wrongly assumes that as innocent little children we can know better than climb the ladder looking for trouble. Works righteousness wrongly assumes that we will read the lawful warning signs all along the way. All you have to do to understand the human condition is watch the traffic on the Inter states when they are race tracks and not parking lots! Did the raising of the speed limit really help people to appreciate the laws of the state as well as the more gruesome laws of physics? We know better when we apply that limited logic to the regular traffic conditions around this city! Would that we could apply the same logic to moral laws as well!
A study was made of teenagers recently on their attitudes towards sexual relationships. Unfortunately, those who belonged to churches in this country did not manifest a better attitude than those who did not. If I remember correctly, about a third of the pagans as well as a third of the christians chose to restrict their activities for various reasons. Having heard God’s regulations does not seem to be a significant factor in our time. Certainly, parental control in limiting the beginning age for dating and supervising the first few years does play a helpful part. In 16th Century Europe, when severe social diseases were brought back from the Americas, even the humanists got to be very puritan about supervising their teenagers!
Church discipline too provided a preventative tonic to the moral tone of this country in some places during various decades when the Holy Spirit was active in building up Christ’s Church. But as Paul observes in our passage from Galatians today, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law’.” All of those pious people who think that they are pleasing God with their glossy surface display are only fooling themselves. Paul makes it absolutely clear in this passage that those who do not depend on Christ alone for salvation are lost indeed.
But our choosing to believe in Christ is not enough, Paul goes on “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” There is no need for the popular notion of guardian angels, which is growing popular both within and outside of the Church. Instead, by the power of the Spirit, our hearts are renewed and a new desire to please Jesus is implanted, much as a pace maker helps the physical heart to keep some people alive. This life line, this setting apart, this saving grace is ingrafted into human specimens spiritually. A new person is born, a person of faith and hope in Jesus Christ. Yes, the old tissue of sin may resent the ingrafted grace and there may be spiritual struggles to put off the old life. Yes, we may still enjoy watching other people on the slide, but as long as the Holy Spirit holds us back and empowers us to stay out of the Devil’s playground, we are safe indeed. Tomorrow, when you go out to play in the wide dangerous world, watch out for the devil’s playground, and do keep your eyes on Jesus who is the author and perfecter of your faith and salvation. Amen.
Used with permission of the author.