Most of the time I use my little corner of the bulletin to remind the reader of the subject we talked about in last Sunday’s sermon. It makes my writing easier, for I can cut and paste last week’s sermon into 250 words of coherency and use it as a springboard into today’s sermon. Today I break from my norm to talk on something different.
This week the news broke that two famous people, Anthony Bourdain, and Kate Spade took their own lives. I did not know these two, yet both of their deaths touch and concern me personally. Their deaths touch me because my father and two close friends committed suicide. Though I don’t know why Mr. Bourdain and Ms. Spade took their lives, I believe I have some insight, for in the cases of my father, and two friends the pain of living, brought on by depression, was so great that taking their own lives seemed to be the logical answer to their pain. It concerns me because depression has become an epidemic in our country, so much so that the C.D.C. reports that 1 in 10 U.S. adults, above the age of 11, are taking anti-depressants.
To those who of you who are suffering the pain of depression, I plead with you to get help to ease your pain. To those who are not suffering from depression, I ask you to be mindful of the fact that everyone you meet is struggling with some pain in their life. So always be kind.
We all know the story in Genesis about Cain and Abel. When it came time to make an offering to God Abel brought the first born of his flocks. Cain brought something less, the fruit of the soil. God accepted Abel’s offering, but did not accept Cain’s offering. Cain became angry, and when God saw his anger he said to him, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?” God then said something very important to him, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door it desires to have you, but you must master it. Cain did not do what is right. He killed his brother. Sin, in the end, did master him.
Cain is us. We have made our offerings to God of our good works, and found that it was not acceptable to God. Like Cain we have become angry with God, and turned away from Him. In response to our anger God simply says to us, “Do what is right, and you will be accepted.” Like Cain we do not believe God.
What is right? That we accept the risen Christ as our offering to God. When we do, then we are truly accepted by God. If we do not, then we, like Cain, find sin is crouching at our door desiring to have us. And like Cain if we do not master it, it will have us.
In the fullness of time, God shakes the world. The prophet Haggai confirms this is so when he said, “In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord Almighty,” (2:7-8). God has shaken the world many times, for example: Noah’s flood, the giving the law to Israel (Cf. Ex. 19: 18), and the coming of Christ. The reason for these shakings were some things had to be removed so that those things unshaken could be seen. Ezekiel said this is God’s way when he said, “Overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more, until He come whose right it is; and I will give it Him,” (21:27).
Shaking is God’s Divine activity to remove those things in our lives that are transient; whether they are good or bad. His purpose is to strengthen our weaknesses, and to smother our own boasting. Tennyson accurately wrote, “Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.”
The person of faith thanks God for His shakings, for they know God only destroys the transient things, so the real things of life abide. What are the things that abide? Faith, love, forgiveness, and the resurrected Christ. By these shakings Christ comes into the lives of his own, and directs their hearts to know Him. We know in these shakings what we possess cannot be destroyed.
I had a friend once tell me that he was going to heaven because he obeyed the Ten Commandments. I replied, “Really! Jesus summed up the commandments in Mark 12:30-31. Let’s take a look at his summation and see how you are doing. After all your eternity is resting on how you are keeping those Ten Commandments.” Jesus summed up the Law by saying, “Love your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” I asked my friend, “How do you love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength?” The honest answer is, you can’t! Thus we learn that obedience to the law never reaches the level required for salvation.
What then is the purpose of the Ten Commandments? The purpose of the law is, “Through the law we become conscious of sin,” (Rom 3:20). It is through the law we realize that we fall short of what God expects of us. This is the whole point of God’s Law, and this should cause the non-Christian to be standing in despair with their arms hanging down crying out, “What must I do, for I am surely lost before God?”
The answer is, God has provided another way to come into a relationship with him than through the law. It is called grace. On Calvary’s Hill 2,000 years ago, God’s Law and God’s Grace met and God’s Salvation was offered.