Sin. Just the word itself sound sinister, doesn't it? It isn't something we like to talk about. It isn't something we want to think about as playing a part in our life, but yet we are all sinners. Try as we might, we can't totally eliminate it from our lives but, even so, there is help nearby always ready to help us. That help comes from Almighty God and the gift that He gave us when He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to us those many years ago and after His thirty years of simple living as a carpenter, He blossomed for the final three years of earthly life. For three years He taught mankind about the frail human condition, explaining to his followers what was needed to conquer the weakness of sin with the strength of the Redeemer. The crowds grew, His popularity with it, until the notice of the Elders of the Temple saw that His actions were detrimental to their status and power structure and they designed a plan to eliminate Him as a threat. We all know the Easter Story and the sadness of His crucifixion and excruciatingly painful death, yet even today so many have no idea about the full meaning of what took place.
Make no mistake about this, my friends, here is the meaning. When Jesus Christ took His final breath as a man, with He death came His forgiveness for what mankind had done to Him. Think about this. Jesus was beaten, bullied, bloodied and even then He was required to carry His own Cross up to the summit of Golgotha where He was finally put to death. The Roman legions taunted Him, and scorned Him, yet to the very end Jesus told His Father to forgive them and that offer has remained on the table for all generations to follow. It is really just as simple as this. Believe in Jesus as our Savior through faith and faith alone and we will be forgiven for all of our transgressions by committing to follow Him for the rest of our lives and, with that, will ultimately come Salvation and entry into God's Kingdom and a place to reside their as prepared for us by Him, who awaits us.
A moment ago, I mentioned that believing in Jesus was simple, but what I was referring to is the simplicity of the explanation to what it takes. But really believing in the heart for Jesus is much more difficult in actual practice, for it requires courage, strength of conviction and the ability to turn away from things that sometimes we would rather do. Remember, no matter how hard we try, we human mortals are weak and with the ever-present efforts of Satan around us, he always looks for the weak spot in our armor. When we allow our weakness for something present in this world to overpower our desire for the grandeur and riches of God's world in the hereafter, that is when we fall victim to Satan's wiles. He can present himself in so many ways as something or someone wonderful and hide his true colors. Maybe our weakness is in our eye for a beautiful woman or a very handsome man, perhaps it is our desire for a big new house or an expensive new car, or maybe it is in our jealousy toward others and our desire to have more than they have. But whatever it might be, Satan can present himself as just that item or being, so we must keep our guard up with the help of the Holy Spirit who connects us with Jesus our Redeemer, and God, our Heavenly Father, and this is what we need to rely on the keep us strong and righteous. That is what I mean by taking the hard steps of following Jesus.
Can we do it? Yes, we can, if we give ourselves over to Him and rely on Him when we are tempted. Many people with vile backgrounds have done so before. And others, who we thought were saved, may have deep down inside turned away and hidden it from us, although they foolishly must think they could hide it from God and, of course, they can't. Just look at the Bible or even in modern day life and you can see some good examples of those who positively change for the Good. Here are three great examples of what I'll call major league sinners who, despite their sinful ways, did much to spread God's Kingdom Good News and, in the end, were fully committed to His grace and love.
First, of the modern day variety (twentieth-century) is country music performer extraordinaire, Johnny Cash. For those of you who don't know, a great song that wasn't originally written for Johnny to perform, was sung with such vigor and perfection, that SUNDAY MORNING COMING DOWN is the inspiration for the title of my Sunday morning blog. Now, Johnny as a young man had not a care in the world and he was one of the prime sinners of his early years. He was a womanizer, a drunk and he had a drug problem, but a bout with the law made him realize he had problems and it started him on the way to recovery. He faltered several times until he met and fell in love with June Carter and she worked hard to help him recover. In the end, Johnny was inspired to sing many great Christian songs, all with a message of redemption and grace. Even though his great song written by Kris Kristofferson did not address his life directly, the parallels were great to his earlier strife and conflict with faith and I believe it impacted him and his future directly. Next, comes the hero of Israel, King David. He was a great with a slingshot and later great as a King, yet he had a weakness for beautiful women and he even had one of his great warriors sent to war so he could enjoy his evil with the man's wife and God was troubled and upset. He used tough love on David and even his own son came after him with deadly intentions but, again, in the end he recovered and the lineage of Jesse would continue with the House of David maintaining its path until the reality of Jesus of the House of David was ensured. Lastly, I'll mention mention the evil Saul, literally a bounter hunter returning the Jews who were following Christ in the outer lands back to Israel to stand trial. Often they received a death sentence for straying from the guidance of the Temple rabbis. God picked Paul of Tarsus to be the preacher of choice to blaze the trail through what is now Turkey and on to the lands bordering Italy both north and east. When Paul saw the light, he was endowed with special knowledge to impart, and he worked hard to win over converts to what would be the new Christian faith until finally being put to death in Rome.
Why did things happen this way? They did so because God ordained them for the duties He felt important to be done in a way that pleased Him. So, if we think others can't change, or that we can't change or don't even want to change, anything is possible with God. Open your heart and let Him engage you with the Spirit and bring you to the glory He wants for you. Don't lose the chance of Eternity for short term pleasure. It won't end well for sure.