Monday, June 26, 2017


Scripture Lessons: Jeremiah 20: 7-13 and Romans 6: 1-11 Sermon Title: Sanctified Preached on 6/20/17 My grandmother, my mother’s mother, was a wonderful person. She died in the first year that I was here, and while we had only been here a few months there were those of you who gave memorial gifts in her honor. I can’t really say how much that gesture meant to me. I remember her fondly, and she was a character. She worked as a labor and delivery nurse for 50 years, and so dedicated herself to her work that she developed no hobbies other than shopping. Her favorite store was a place called Hammricks. It’s a place full of nick-nacks and potpourri. It’s one of the levels of Hell in Dante’s inferno to a 12-year-old boy, and I was there often with her at that age, walking through aisles, trying to understand how my grandmother could spend so much time in a place like that. From Hammricks my grandmother purchased a cat. It wasn’t alive or anything – it was decorative. A little cat curled in on itself for people like my grandmother to decorate their beds with. Before Sara and I were married, when we’d visit my grandmother, Sara was always asked to sleep in the master bedroom in the big, king sized bed, decorated with hundreds of pillows and this one cat curled up like it was sleeping, that Sara would kick onto the floor and bury under the pillows because she was sure the thing was going to come alive at any minute. Sara is smart. Perceptive. And it isn’t surprising that she was pretty much right about the cat. It was front page news in the Summerville paper: Hammricks sells stuffed Chinese alley cats to area residents. As soon as my grandmother heard about it, that these decorative cats of hers, had, in fact, at one time, been real cats, she rushed over to her favorite store and spoke to the cashier. “Good morning,” she said. And that’s all it took for the cashier to start apologizing: “Mrs. Bivens, we’re so sorry about those cats. We’re just mortified. I hope you can see past this horrible mistake. We’ve already packed the ones we had left and we’re ready to ship them back where they came from.” “So, you haven’t sent them back yet,” my grandmother said, “in that case, could you go back there and get me a couple more. I need them for the guest bedrooms.” That’s about my favorite story. And it’s funny, because if you know better, if you know the decorative cats are real cats, you shouldn’t buy any more. If you know better, you shouldn’t. It’s like chitlins – if you know what they are, you shouldn’t eat them, but I do. And it’s like sin – if you’ve been saved from it, forgiven of it, then you shouldn’t anymore, but considering what we’ve learned about justification, what’s to keep us from doing it? Many churches don’t preach the kind of justification that you heard preached last Sunday. In some churches, a warning is preached: don’t you sin or Hell awaits. In those churches, you avoid sin and you do what is right so you can avoid eternal punishment, but we’re not that kind of a church. We believe, what Paul wrote in Romans chapter 5: that Christ has saved us – that we’re justified – and it’s not our work that’s going to get us into heaven, it’s what Christ has done for us. But, without the fear of eternal punishment, what’s to keep us from returning to a life of sin? That’s the question Paul is trying to answer in Romans 6 – if salvation is all about grace, then why live a righteous life? Why be sanctified? Or, in other words, when you take out the fear part – it’s hard to get some people to do the right thing. Think about home inspections. We’ve been getting our house in order these past couple weeks. After having a bathroom renovated we had to have a final inspection, and one inspector came over and he gave me a punch list of 5 or 6 things he wanted done. I wanted to pass the inspection, so it didn’t matter what he asked for – out of a fear of failing I installed something called a Studer valve and a bunch of other stuff. A couple neighbors helped, I watched some do-it yourself videos, made 5 or 6 visits to Lowe’s, spent a handful of money and wore myself out for a day and a half to get all this stuff done. Well, the inspector came back after I finished, but it was a different inspector this time, and she walked into the bathroom, turned on the water in the sink, made sure the toilet flushed and we passed. She didn’t even look at my Studer valve. Now what is the point of doing right and living right if we’ve already passed the test? That’s what Paul’s critics wanted to know, so here’s what Paul told them and what he now tells us: while our eternity is secured by our Lord Jesus Christ – what hangs in the balance is how we will live today, so he asked: “How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” One of our county’s finest teachers took me out to Puckett’s last week. He told me that parents call him often about grades. They want to know why their son is failing or why their daughter, who has a 99% doesn’t have 100%. This is frustrating he said, because people call about grades and why don’t they call worried about whether their children are learning? Will we learn anything without grades? Will we keep our bathrooms up to code without inspectors? Will we live righteous lives without fear or eternal punishment? That’s the question that Paul answers here in Romans chapter 6, and that’s what Sanctification is all about – ““How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” If all we want to do is pass the class – then we can sleep while the teacher is talking, but is school not more than grades? Is righteousness not more than just doing what you should? Is the burden of sin not a punishment in and of itself? So much of life is about trying to prove ourselves – and justification takes the struggle away – by what we’ve done and left undone, we’ve proven that we deserve condemnation. But in Christ’s saving death we’ve been redeemed and forgiven – now the struggle is over – by grace you and I have been saved and there’s only one reason to do what is right. Not because we should, not because there’s some great big judgmental Father in heaven looking down and wagging his finger. No. Do what is right because it’s worth it. Floss – not because you should, not because the dentist will get angry, but because teeth come in handy. Be honest – not because you’ll go to hell if you lie, but because those who live a lie are strangers even to themselves. Live in love – not because your mother raised you to be a good little boy or girl, but because hate is too great a burden to bare. This is sanctification – this act of living a righteous life, not because we can earn our way into heaven, Christ has already justified us, heaven is ours because of him – but live a righteous life because there is no better way to live and because there is no better way to thank our God for the gift of creating us and redeeming us than living by God’s great laws of love. You might remember that legendary question and answer from the Westminster Shorter Catechism: Q. What is the chief end of man? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. To enjoy him. To enjoy the fruits of a sanctified life. To benefit from a healthy marriage. To rejoice in loving friendships. To live filled up by an abiding peace that guilt nor hardship can touch. We forget that God tells us to love one another, not because we should, but because there is no more miserable person than the one who only thinks of himself. You see – sin is its own enslavement. Sin is death enough on its own. Remember that. I just want to leave here knowing that you know two things: 1. That you are justified, not by anything that you’ve done, but by what God has done. 2. That you must grow in righteousness, you must live the sanctified life, because there is no other way to live. What Christ has done is given this gift of eternal life – you are justified; and by living according to his commands, we can have the benefit of that eternal life today. Be sanctified. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. In 6 and a half years, I’ve never said anything more important than that. And we do so, not out of a place of fear, wondering where we’ll go when we die. We do it because what else could we do? When you think of what God has done for us – how could we live any other way. And that’s what motivates us to do all great things – it’s love, not fear. I want to be a good father to my children, not out of obligation, but because I love them so much. I want to be a loving husband to Sara, not out of obligation, or even because she’s stronger than I am and could probably take me in a fight, but because when I think of her my heart fills up. And I have worked to be a good pastor, not just because you’ve paid me to, not just because I should, but because I love you, and I want everyone who I love to have a pastor who works to preach the truth and to stand by the bedside. It’s never been an obligation to baptize your children or to preach at your weddings. It’s never been a burden to speak at a funeral – it’s only ever been an honor. This is sanctification – living a righteous, loving life, not just because we should or someone told us to, but because love drives us to it. Amen.

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