It does not take long to learn what to be cautious of when living here in the Sonoran Desert. As John Wayne said, “Careful pilgrim, everything here will stick ya, poke ya, or bite ya.” We therefore take the desert serious, for we know: Its called jumping cholla for a reason, so stay away. Don’t poke around bushes without looking first for snakes. And those wild donkeys look tame with their sad eyes, but they will chase you, bite you, and kick you.
I wish we had the same caution about sin as we have about the desert. I have quoted another preacher before who said, “Sin will take you farther then you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.
The desert and sin both need to be respected. The desert you can learn to live in. Sin you must learn to live without.
A covenant in the Bible is God’s promise to the human race. Two familiar ones are: Noah’s rainbow covenant (Gen. 9:8-17) and Abram’s “I will” covenant (Gen. 12:2-3). The most famous covenant is the Ten Commandments (Ex. 19:1-20); it was written in stone.
The prophet Jeremiah promised God was going to send a new covenant (31:31-34) and Ezekiel described it by saying, “I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (11:19).
There is quite a contrast between the Ten Commandments and the promised new covenant. One is chiseled out of stone; stone is cold, hard, and unforgiving. The other one is a heart of flesh; hearts feel, love, and forgive.
When I think about my condition with God, isn’t this new covenant what I really need? Do I want to be judged by a law carved out of unforgiving stone or by a forgiving heart? And isn’t my black tar(ry) heart what really needs to be changed, and after all what would I do in heaven with a black tar(ry) heart? Jesus is the one who brings us our new heart, and that’s why they call him the great physician.
Why become a Christian? In the minds of those asking this question is the belief that they are already a good person so the need for Jesus is not really important.
When we say we are a good person we mean if our life were placed on a great balance scale, our good works would out-weight our bad works and that makes us OK with God, and God doesn’t really see all my bad works.
In the Bible God says, “Be holy, because I am holy” (Lev. 11:44). Holiness is a higher standard then being good. It means everything a person does must be sacred; both thoughts and deeds. Here’s the point: If you break one of God’s Laws, there is nothing you can do to offset the laws penalty because everything you do must be holy; there is no such thing as doing extra goodness. Once you have broken God’s law you are in a hole that you cannot dig yourself out of. And by the by, God sees everything.
Jesus paid the price we cannot pay. If we accept him, he imputes his righteousness to our account, and we become justified, or just-if-I’d never sinned.
It’s called grace,
Happy 238th birthday to our beloved country, The United States of America. May God continue to bless her, and may she have many, many more birthdays! With that said, it should be of no surprise when I tell you we are breaking from our normal worship service today to do a blended service of both a celebration of God and of our country.
This blended service in no way detracts from our worship of God for, “He [God] makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and disperses them” (Job 12:23). Our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and therefore, our founding fathers knew what Job knew. Today we will sing songs like, “My Country Tis of Thee,” and “God Bless America.” We sing these songs because we are thankful to God for establishing this country, and we show that thankfulness with both songs and praises to God.
This is a great country! We love her, we are proud of her, and we thank God for her. Long may God be honored in our country!