Sounds like a web-scam, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. The email led me to a government website that lists people with unclaimed property in Wisconsin. Once I verified that the website was legitimate, I ran a search for my name.
Turns out that there was an old employer who still owed me about $120 in unpaid wages. I filled out a form, and a couple months later I received a check in the mail. It was just a hundred bucks, but it was wages that I had earned. I deserved to get it.
Our reading for tonight says that ALL of us have some unpaid wages yet to be claimed. Wages we have earned. Wages we deserve to get.
Romans 6:23 (NIV)▬
23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The wages of sin is death. It’s not hard to verify that these wages truly belong to us. The Bible says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 NKJV). And we know without even cracking the Bible. None of us would claim that we’ve never done something wrong. Never told a lie. Never said a mean thing. Never wanted something we weren’t supposed to have. Never passed gossip along. We’re all in the same boat. We’ve all got some back-pay coming to us.
But the wages that we have earned by our sins won’t fit in one of those windowed envelopes. Death is a big package. Death is far more than a coffin and a hole in the ground.
This evening, let’s imagine we could receive death in the mail. If we could, it might come in a box like this.
The first part of death is called “Spiritual Death”.
Isaiah 59, verse 2 says…
“…your iniquities have separated you from your God;your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.3For your hands are stained with blood,Sin colors us black to God. It makes us dead to Him. Paul says we are “dead in sin” and that we are “objects of wrath”. We’re just broken things waiting in line to be destroyed.
your fingers with guilt.Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things” (Isaiah 59:2-3 NIV).
Any prayers that sinners might pray will not be answered. Because God does not listen to sinners, only the righteous.
Spiritual death cuts us off from any communication, any relationship with our Creator.
The second part of death is the part we’re probably most familiar with, “Physical Death”. God created angels as spirit beings, they don’t have flesh and bone. But, God created us humans with a spirit and a body. These are supposed to stay together. The spirit was never intended to be separated from the body.
But in physical death that’s just what happens. The spirit and body and ripped apart.
Physical death isn’t just a black door lurking in our future. Physical death is constantly picking at us. Drawing us ever closer to its threshold. Someone said, “Once you’re born you start dying.” And how true it is.
Physical death tugs at us with every virus. Every infection. Every deformity. Every disease. Every cancer. Every heart attack. Every stroke. Even with the slow march of years that saps our strength and puts a curve in our backs.
The third part of death is the most terrible, “Eternal Death”. Eternal Death is Spiritual Death sealed forever. Sinners will receive Eternal Death on Judgment Day. By choosing to live a life of sin, sinners choose to live their lives apart from God. On Judgment Day, God will seal their choice and they will EXIST apart from Him for eternity.
Notice that I said they will EXIST forever. You can’t really call it LIVING. They’ll be conscious, but it can’t rightly be called “living”. For God will withdraw all His goodness from them.
In this life, God blesses everyone. Even God’s enemies have breath in their lungs, feel the warmth of the sun, the cool breeze on a hot day, the contentment of a good meal, the joy of family and friends who love them.
But all of God’s blessings will be withdrawn from sinners who die eternally. There will be no comfort in Hell. Not even the smallest drop of relief.
These are the wages of sin. This is what we’ve all earned. A life apart from God, a painful death, and an eternity of utter darkness. The wages of sin is death.
But God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. He doesn’t want us to die. He wants us to live. So, to save us from what we had earned, Jesus experienced it instead.
For three hours on that first Good Friday, the sun in the sky went dark. And the Son of God on the cross, cried out…
“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34 NKJV)Though we cannot comprehend it, the God the Son was torn apart from God the Father. The Son of God was truly alone when He experienced the whole package of Death in our place.
Separated from God. Body dying. And somehow, in that finite space of time, our eternal punishment was poured out into His soul.
On the cross, Jesus received our terrible wages. And in their place, He left a GIFT.
The wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Through Jesus, our spiritual death is replaced with “Spiritual Life”. With His cross, Jesus colors us white - sinless. God can see us now. Can hear our prays, guides our lives, help us to grow to understand and love Him. Spiritual life opens a line of constant communication between us and God. This communication is only possible because Jesus took our sins away on the cross.
Through Jesus, physical death is changed. Sure we still experience pain and suffering in this broken world, with physical death at the end. But the dark door of death has been changed by Christ. Now it’s a door that leads to heaven! A door that opens on Paradise. A door that Christians look forward too. The apostle Paul once wrote…
“21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body” (Philippians 1:21-24 NIV).Because Jesus ABSORBED our death, when we pass out of this world we will not be sealed in DEATH, but sealed in painless, sinless, joyful, blissful LIFE forever. We will be locked into an eternal communion with our Creator God. Locked into a bliss a trillion times better than any experience we’ve ever had in this broken world.
“12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12 NIV).The wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If you’re a sinner, than you had this ugly box of wages on it’s way. But because of Jesus, your wages have been exchanged with a most amazing gift: ETERNAL LIFE with God.
Because of Good Friday, the apostle Paul was able to write the following to his friends in Christ:
“…“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”Just like this box, that first Good Friday was black. But oh, the wonderful GIFT that came out of it!
55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57 NIV).
All glory be to Jesus, now and forever.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.