The passing world of sin
A Homily for Quinquagesima
February 14, 2021
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: 1 John 2:17
And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
Let the words of my mouth and the mediation of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
As we sit here thousands of men around the country are scrambling to find chocolates, and flowers, and a suitable card to express their affection for their wives, or girlfriends. Of course, I am sure that no one here is in that position, that everyone had their gifts picked out weeks ago and have showered their spouses with affection with early morning breakfasts in bed and the like.
And, if you forgot that today is Valentines Day, you have now been reminded.
The root of St. Valentine Day is a bit of a mystery; however, Valentine was thought to have been a Christian believer in the third century. It is believed that he refused to recant his love for God. However, in the last century, questions as to whether he actually existed or not, has caused the Roman Catholic church to remove him from their ecclesiastical calendar.
Regardless of whether or not he existed, whether or not he was real, we know that the stories like that of his life and death were not unusual for early Christians.
Early in the church, we saw men and women fall deeply in love with Christ, come to believe even if it meant losing their lives, the reward for following Christ was worth the cost and they counted their lives as a but a small thing for that reward.
It is not, therefore without irony, that in this age, we celebrate this martyrdom with flowers, and chocolate, and cheesy hallmark cards.
And it is not without irony that St. John’s words “the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” echo and stand true.
We have a tendency to be lured into worldliness, lured into those fleeting and disposable things, in the shadow of the eternal things, forgetting their glory and grandeur.
Sometimes, when the day is long – and I’m tired, I like to order a hamburger from Sonic. It’s really not that great, but it’s also not terrible. It’s enough food, and it’s satisfying enough that I don’t want for the rest of the evening.
Now the comparison is this – if one evening someone said, “I’ll give you a full, four course meal, with the best cut, of the highest-grade steak you can buy, you don’t even need to go out and get it, I’ll drop it off for you,” and I said to them, “nah, I think I’ll just get some sonic tonight.”
This is what it is like to trade the eternal things for earthly things.
When we desire what the world has to offer, over what God has to offer, we trade filet mignon for a cheeseburger from Sonic.
Certainly, there is lots of beauty in this world.
Certainly, there is lots of goodness in this world.
And certainly, men, you should buy your wife flowers and chocolates and a card.
But the beauty and goodness of this world pales in comparison to that of the eternal kingdom. It is not that it isn’t good and beautiful – for it is – but the beauty of the remade heaven and earth – is so much greater.
If we become fixated on the things of this world, and exchange them for the things of heaven, we trade a delicious, delightful meal for something mediocre, something immemorable.
So, how do we turn our eyes upon the kingdom? How do we fixate upon being citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and not of this world?
First, we must recognize that we need Christ.
I think we can all recognize that the world is not as it should be, and we can even empathize with St. Paul when he bemoans “why do I do the things I know I ought not to do and not do the things I know I ought to do!”
In fact, we can sympathize so well with this statement that we confess it, whenever we come together for Morning or Evening Prayer.
And yet, despite these faults and foibles, these sins and brokenness, Christ calls to us.
Come, come as you are, come to know me, come into my fold, and I will tend to you, I will care for you, I will heal you, I will make you whole.
We are called to come to Christ for his salvation, and his healing.
We are called to come to know Him well.
And out of our love for Him we are called personal holiness.
It is really easy to flip these two, to make our pursuit of personal holiness, a way of earning Christ’s love. But this is not the order that we do it.
We are first adopted, we are first brought in, and then by the Holy Spirit we are trained, trained to know God, trained to pursue his ways, trained to be an intimate relationship with a good and holy God.
For we do not come to Him good or holy, we come to him sinful and bent on destruction.
But he calls, he invites us in, he makes us His own, and in this we are given new hearts, we are given hearts that prefer the light, we are given hearts that love goodness. And in learning to love Goodness always over sin, we are made new.
We then seek the things of holiness, we see the things that set us free.
I think the important question in our pursuit of holiness is this – what do we prefer?
As long as we are alive, waiting for Christ’s return, we will always pray with St. Paul, that prayer of confession, that question of why have I done those things I know I should not have done? What do I avoid those good things I know I should do?
But what do we prefer?
Do I prefer the cheap and easy hamburger over the filet?
Are we perfectly happy in that trap of sin?
Am I perfectly happy in the muck of sin?
Or do I prefer the light of Christ? Do I pursue that?
And if we find that we struggle hard with sin, there are two things we can do – first be quick to repent and own your sins.
Perhaps not many of you follow what is going on in the Christian world, but late last year some serious accusations about sexual sin were launched against a prominent, and now deceased Christian leader.
The accusations themselves seemed legitimate so the ministry that he founded, whose board members include some of his children, decided to launch and investigation.
What they found was horrifying and unacceptable and I will spare you to details. It is sufficient to say that the accusations were only the tip of the iceberg and in investigation was not comprehensive.
Sexual sin, especially in our day and age, seems almost acceptable, it is alluring, it is so tempting, whether in mind or in reality – it is easy to stumble into.
I suspect that this started for him, without a disciplined mind, allowing it to wander, to think lustfully, but soon a little fire was kindled and it was never tended to until his whole forest was raging in the flames of lust. This is how sin grows. It rarely starts with something grievous.
It starts with something small, but the spark falls in a dry forest, and if we do not tend to our lives with the living water, the water found in Christ, that forest will go up on flames quickly.
Near the end of his life – he had the opportunity to repent – and he never did.
It is likely that if we had repented he would have lost his reputation, his ministry, everything he had – but he would have done right, and he would not have lost his soul.
We cannot judge his soul, only God knows – but we can say that the torment that he is putting his friends and family through now – is dreadful compared to the small cost of owning his sin in the moment.
We can say that in his refusal to repent his soul is in far more danger now than it was before.
We can say – there go I, save but for the grace of God.
You may not struggle with sexual sin, as this man did – but you may struggle with derisiveness, you may struggle with gossip, you may struggle with anger, you may struggle with gluttony.
You know your struggles.
God knows your struggles.
Be quick to repent.
What comfortable words do we have this morning from St. John! What comfortable words that we remember every time we gather at the Lord’s table!
“if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
When you sin, when you fall – be quick to repent, run back to God, cry out to Jesus.
He is the propitiation for our sins.
He has washed away our sins.
He has stood in our place; he has taken the punishment for our sins.
It is completed, it is finished, it is done.
In his Gospel St. John recounts that when Christ died – he cried out “it is finished.”
Christ cried out that it was finished, completed, all was done in that moment on the cross. Christ, the perfect propitiation for our sins – the perfect substitute, Christ perfectly took the punishment for us sins, and set us free.
So my friends, when you sin, run to him, again, and again and again. He is always there with open arms.
But, never stop, and never ever stop calling sin for what it is. And pray that he would put in you the Holy Spirit that you may be sanctified. Pray that he would convict you to avoid your sin. Pray that you may let him peal back the layers of sin, that he may draw you into holiness.
But my friends, I want to give you a second piece of advice in the mortification of your sin, in the defeating of your sin – find accountability.
Men, find godly men to talk to, to be open with, to share your hopes and dreams, your sorrows and struggles. Women, find godly women to talk to, to be open with to share your hopes and dreams, your sorrows and struggles.
Find someone to talk openly with about your brokenness, to encourage you, to rebuke you when you need it.
I know this level of vulnerability can be scary, I know admitting to struggling with lust, or gluttony, or anger, or hatred, or envy can be hard, but bring it into the light, because it will not stay in the darkness forever.
One of the most heartbreaking things for me as a priest is sitting with the family of someone recently deceased – when one of the family members drops a bomb shell.
It does not happen all the time, but sometimes as we prepare for a funeral someone will pull me aside and privately tell me – “they did this thing” they tell me for the weight of it has become too much for them to bear.
Bring your sin into the light, walk with a brother or a sister to walk with. Do not bear your sin alone, for Christ is calling that you would come until him, that you would walk with him.
Do not be afraid of the light, but rejoice in the light, let the light of Christ be your guiding principle.
If we give our sin to Christ, if we let it sit in the light, it cannot destroy us – but the light destroys it.
In his Gospel account, St. John introduces us to Christ as follows:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
My friends – let us delight in the light, let us pray for that light, let us seek Christ in all we do.
Let us love the light.
For the light has shined in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it, the light destroys the darkness.
The most heartbreaking thing about the story I shared earlier about the fallen leader is that if he had repented – if he had brought to light his shame – if, instead of suing the person who made the first allegations, if he had owned his sin.
He would have died in holiness, but instead his family and friends were left going through the rubble of his sin there is nothing left to repair.
Love the light, live in the light, delight in the light, allow the light to dust out the cobwebs of your life. For God is good and Holy and cares so deeply for you.
Perhaps, in the pit of your stomach you are thinking – “How can God ever forgive me for this horrible thing I did.”
The early 17th century Anglican theologian Richard Sibbes once wrote a great quote: “there is more grace in Christ than sin in me.”
God can take your sin, open your heart and reveal it to him.
Offer it to him often in prayer.
There is no sin that God cannot forgive you of. But my friends reveal it to him, pray for His mercy, pray for His Holy Spirit, the Holy Comforter, and walk in the light.
And let love be the test of your love for your light.
How do you react to your friends or your brother or your neighbor in your pew? Do you care for them deeply? Do you have a growing affection for your spouse? Your neighbor? Or a growing annoyance to them?
How can we say that we love God and hate someone?
How can we hate someone who bears the very image of our good and holy God?
Love, tells us if our heart needs tending to, how we feel towards our neighbor rebukes us and drives us to deeper affection not only for them, but for God.
Be aware of what is going on in your mind and be quick to own it.
The weight of sin can feel burdensome, and it can be easy to sweep it under the rug, to pretend it isn’t there, It can be easy to ignore it.
But Christ calls “come unto me all you who travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.”
Christ is calling to us, Christ is calling for the burden of our sin, the burden of this world, calling that we would release it to Him.
Christ is calling that we would come to rest in Him.
My Friends, on Wednesday of this week, we will enter the season of Lent.
Lent is a great time for introspection, a great time to allow God to reveal if there are areas of your life that you need refreshing, that you need to flee from sin.
If this morning, or if in this week as you prayerfully prepare for Lent, God reveals to you something that you need healing in, something that you need to repent of, find a way to give that to God during lent.
Are you struggling with gluttony? Find a way to eat in a healthier manner, be disciplined here.
Are you struggling with Lust? Find someone to be accountable to, put up internet blockers, use accountability software if you must.
Are you struggling with anger? Find ways to be calmer, maybe seek out counseling, apologize for the damager you anger may have done, find guidance in how to meditate more regularly on God’s word.
Are you struggling with envy? Start a gratitude journal and look at how bountifully God has blessed you.
Lent is an intentional time that we can confront our sins head on, and the forty days is the perfect time to pick up a new spiritual habit. Lent is the perfect time to seek Christ and his restoration, his comfort, and his rest.
My friends, do not love the world, but love Christ more.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the story about the fallen Christian leader is that again and again in the investigation of his life – the same motif came up – he manipulated the women into silence by exhorting them to not say a thing, because of his reputation.
He loved the world more than he loved them.
He loved the world more than he cared for anything else.
And, as I think back upon my own life – I think of those times where I loved the world more than I loved Christ, more than I loved others – times when I pursued sin. Ot makes me sad to think of. The pains I have caused over time are heartbreaking but here in the heartbreak, Christ has met me time and again, has called me away from those sins, and called me into His light and His love.
He has called me his little child.
And he calls you His little child.
He is more full of grace than I am of sin.
I make no excuse for my sin, but I give them freely to Christ, my friends, make no excuse for your sin, do not love the world more than you love Christ, love Christ with all you have, and flee from your sins.
Do not love the world. Do not be conformed to it, but love the light, who is God’s holiness, which sweeps out the cobwebs of our sin, which makes us whole, which restores us, which refreshes us, which draws us into the eternal kingdom.
Do not love the world but love Christ with your whole heart.
In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.