September 11, 2016
Text: Exodus 32:7-14
I Timothy 1:12-17
On That DayIntro: Begin with 9-ll video- pray for nation and those who have lost their lives to terrorists.It has been said that history is really all about God’s story- or “His” story. At creation, God wasmoved with love to create mankind in his own image- and on that day, His story became ourstory. God created a garden of paradise for mankind to live in where all our needs were met andwe had perfect fellowship with our creator God.But one day, mankind wanted to write their own story apart from God- and on that day, sinseparated us from our holy and righteous creator God. The bible is riddled with stories of ourrebellion. In the Old Testament today, we read of how the Israelites, after being miraculouslyfreed from bondage of slavery in Egypt, after being led through the desert by God’s presence andfed, that when Moses climbed Mt Sinai that was filled with the glory of God to receive the tencommandments in the background, somehow they quickly forgot about God and turned awayand made a golden calf and worshipped it- even gave this life-less, image credit for bringingthem out of Egypt!God became angry with them. But Moses reasoned with God-he didn’t say they didn’t deserve todie- but rather reminded God of His love and grace and mercy- and the bible says that Godchanged his mind about destroying them. But although God may have changed his mind, Hehadn’t changed who He was. Yes, God is a jealous God- an almighty, powerful God of judgment-but He is also a God of Mercy, and love, and grace. We might ask, how can those seemlyopposite characteristics co-exist? To understand the answer is to understand the gospel.God is a just God- meaning he upholds the law 100%- no exceptions. If he did, he would nolonger be a just God. If someone is found guilty under the law, punishment must be given. Butbecause God is not only a God of judgment and wrath against sin and rebellion, but a God ofmercy and love and grace, God’s plan was to send his only son as a substitute in our place andreceive the wrath and judgment we deserve. And one cold winter’s eve, the savior of the worldwas born- and on that day, despair was replaced with hope, certain death was replaced with thepromise of life; and our aimless wanderings were replaced with purpose.Thirty-three years later, Jesus-the son of God was nailed to a cross to die a criminal’s death whoknew no sin. It seemed the evil intentions of Satan had won. But the cross was God’s plan tochange our lives forever. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead- defeating sin, death, and thepower of the devil once and for all.Our story has always been in the shadow of God’s sovereign story.
One of, if not the most widely quoted verses in the bible is from Mat 7:1 that says: “judge notlest you be judged. Looking the word “judge” in the dictionary you will find one definition thatsays: “the ability to come to opinions about things; the power of comparing and deciding”.Interesting. But how do we know if we have wandered from the truth? By whose authority andstandard do we compare? If everyone compared their actions to one standard, that would be theend of it. But the problem arises when we have different standards- and compare ourselves andactions to others.When I was in school, I much rather preferred to be graded on the curve than graded on straightpercentage because I got better grades when compared to my classmates than compared to apercentage. When we compare our actions to those of criminals, we come away thinking we arebetter than them and pure as the wind-blown snow. Comparing ourselves to others will lead tofalse pride in ourselves and condemnation of others. But when we compare ourselves to God’sperfect holiness, we realize how far short we have fallen from the glory of God and we fall to ourknees in humble repentance.King David was said to be a man after God’s own heart- he wanted to live for God and obey him.But he was also a sinner. He schemed and tried to cover up his sin, but his heart knew what hehad done was wrong- and he turned to God in repentance and asked God for mercy for he knewhis arguments and excuses held no truth. Have mercy on me. And on that day, his life waschanged forever.When Moses, a holy servant of God- chosen to lead the nation of Israel out of bondage in Egyptwent up Mt Sanai to receive the Ten Commandments from God, even he could not look at theface of God and live. The reason was because no matter how holy and sinless we may become inour eye compared to everyone else, compared to God’s holiness, we are sinners with norighteousness of our own. And the holiness of God cannot be in the presence of sin.Growing up, our pastor wore layers of gowns and stoles. I remember one time our pastorexplained the symbolism of each layer. The first layer was all black, symbolizing our sinfulnature. But a white gown was put on over top, symbolizing the righteousness of Christ.We have no righteousness of our own. But the good news of the gospel is that as sinful peoplewho trust Jesus to be their savior, we have put on the righteousness of Jesus- and when a holyand perfect God looks at us, he no longer sees our sins, but sees in it’s place, the righteousness ofHis son, Jesus.The apostle Paul understood God’s mercy. Writing to Timothy, he told this fledgling evangelist toremember that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners-of which he was the foremost.His testimony was that he was an example of the grace and mercy of God to save and nothing hehad done.We like Paul, are to be an example of God’s mercy. So many people who have turned to God inrepentance but have not moved on to receive God’s mercy, his grace and His forgiveness. ButChrist came to set us free from guilt and shame and condemnation. And on that day when werealize that, our lives will be changed forever.
Do you remember the first time you realized that you were a sinner? Do you remember the firsttime you realized God loves you and gave His life for you? Perhaps it was a specific time andplace when you realized that the bible was true- that Jesus is who he says He is-a time when youplaced your trust in Jesus to be saved and to follow Him- and on that day your life was changedforever. We hear powerful testimonies of drug addicts or murderers who have given their lives toJesus and have had a sudden, dramatic turn around like that of Saul meeting Jesus on the road toDamascus.For others growing up in Christian homes we may be tempted to think of our testimonies asboring. But we need to remember that our testimony is no less powerful. It is God’s hope anddesire after all, that the prodigal son would not have left home, but had stayed with His father.What a great testimony to have grown in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. Every one of us hasa story of God’s grace and forgiveness that needs to be shared.On this day of 9-11, may we remember not to become complacent with our own lives of sin andthe sins of this nation. Are we perfect? The bible reminds us through the Holy Spirit that we arenot. Is this nation perfect? Of course not- a nation made up of imperfect sinful people cannot be.But there is hope in turning to God in repentance and follow Him.In closing, I want to share with you the promise God spoke through Solomon to the nation ofIsrael. It is a promise for us today also: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humblethemselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear fromheaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Amen.