The Bible describes the Devil as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. It also calls him the father of lies. Today we begin a sermon series designed to help us recognize Satan's lies.
Jesus was required to become human because mankind messed up. That statement is accurate. Adam and Eve first sinned against God in the garden of Eden when they did what God had specifically told them not to do. When they ate the forbidden fruit, they made it necessary for God's Son to become human, and to die in our place so that we wouldn't have to spend eternity apart from God because of our sins.
But, to place all the blame on our first parents wouldn't really be fair. There was another character in the garden after all. One who played a major role in causing the fall into sin. One who slithered away from that first scene of temptation, satisfied that his lies had made quite a mess of things.
Jesus describes Satan in John 8. He says...
"...He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44 NIV).If we were really interested in assigning blame, we could make a pretty good argument that Jesus had to go to the cross because SATAN told a lie.
Lies are powerful things. Powerful to damage and destroy, never to build up and strengthen.
The apostle Peter describes Satan in 1 Peter 5. He says...
"8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world" (1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV).Adversary. Lion. Devour. Peter isn't just being poetic here. He's warning us to watch out for the devil and his lies. Now, if we are to be on guard against this our greatest enemy, then we have to learn how to recognize the lies that he uses so successfully. That way, when we hear those lies we can reject them, and cling instead to the truth of the Bible.
Today, we're going to start a sermon series designed to help us recognize Satan's lies. It's called, "The Lies of Satan". The first lie we'll study is: "You can always get forgiveness... tomorrow." The text for this study is...
2 Corinthians 6:1-2 (NIV)
6:1 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
Out at Boeing field there's a old train turnstile. I'm not sure when Boeing bought it, but the turnstile itself is super old. It was actually relocated from Deadwood, SD. It's basically a big steel "Lazy Suzan". It's for putting train engines on different tracks. You drive the engine onto the circle, rotate the circle to the next set of tracks and drive the engine off.
Now, Boeing is pretty into using space age materials and technology, right? So why do they still use this ancient chunk of metal to turn engines around?
Because it works.
And that's why Satan still uses lies. They work. And when Satan suggests that we should just go ahead and carry out that plan in our heart to do something that we know is sinful, he throws in the lie that we can always get forgiveness tomorrow.
When our sinner's heart hears this, it adds a few lies of it's own. Our heart says, "Yeah, I can get forgiveness tomorrow because I can just choose to be sorry about this sin then."
Actually, no, no you can't. Repentance is NOT an action you can choose to do. Repentance is a attitude of the heart that a person has to be moved into. We don't have some sort of "repentance" switch that we can flick up or down when we want to.
I can jump on command. (Jump, jump, jump). I can whistle on command. (Whistle, whistle, whistle). But I can't repent on command. We think about repentance like it's an action that we can do, but it's not. When we see something that shows a person is sorry about sin, that's not repentance, it's just the outward sign of the spiritual condition which has already changed inside that person. The point is, we can't repent on cue.
Think about it like this. What if I said that I was going to slap you across the face, but that right after that I was going to be genuinely sorry about it and ask for your forgiveness. Ready? Would you think that kind of "repentance" is real?
If other people wouldn't fall for this, why do we think God will? He knows our hearts better than we do. Even if we fool everyone else, God will know the truth of our impenitence.
When Satan tells us that we can get forgiveness tomorrow, our own sinful heart adds yet another lie. Our heart says, "Yeah, I CAN get forgiveness tomorrow because Judgment Day certainly isn't coming anytime soon. I mean, I know pastor says it could, but come on now, Judgment Day isn't going to be for a long time."
Actually, all the signs that the Bible says have to come before Judgment Day, have happened. And even if Jesus' return doesn't happen for another two thousand years, any of our lives could end at any moment. Did you know that about 36,000 people die from the flu every year? Or that 1,000 people die every year from simply falling down the stairs? And then there are the cases were a brain aneurism, stroke or a heart attack takes someone unexpectedly. And what about car crashes. A friend of mine from college was killed in Wisconsin when another car came all the way across the median of a divided highway and hit his car head on. Sometimes it takes a lot to snuff out a human life. Other times, we get a glimpse of how fragile we really are.
The point is, Jesus could return to judge the world at any time. And any of us could check out at any time. And when we do, the next major scheduled event is our judgment before God's throne.
In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul says...
"...we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV).
When Satan whispers that we can always get forgiveness tomorrow, our heart adds still one more lie. Our heart says, "Yeah, that's it! I can get forgiveness TOMORROW. I'll start tomorrow. Rome wasn't built in a day after all. What's the rush?"
Just before reaching for that second or third helping, a friend of mine likes to say, "I'm starting my diet tomorrow." After you hear it about twenty-five times you understand the key word in that phrase is TOMORROW. Because tomorrow is always tomorrow. Tomorrow never comes.
Spiritual procrastination is the most dangerous kind, because when we do it we're lying to ourselves. What makes us think that tomorrow we'll want to abandon the sins we've embraced today?
Okay, let's review.
Satan says, "You can always get forgiveness tomorrow". Our sinner's heart replies, "Yeah, because 1) I can choose to be sorry later about this sinful thing I'm about to do now. 2) Surely Judgment Day isn't coming anytime soon. 3) I'll start being a Christ follower tomorrow."
God help us to resist this type of damning attitude. In our sermon reading Paul says...
"6:1 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,We know what God's grace is. Grace is a free gift. Something we don't deserve, can't earn, shouldn't get. But we get it anyway. And the grace that Paul is talking about when he says "God's grace" here is the free gift of forgiveness that we get from Jesus. Because He suffered hell on the cross, we don't have to. Because Jesus had all our sins heaped on Him, they're not on us anymore. And this gift of forgiveness is free!
“In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:1-2 NIV).
But it's only a limited time offer. If you get it, it's blessings are eternal, but the offer has time constraints.
That's where we humans can get a little mixed up. We think that since God's grace is meant for everyone, and since it's good enough to cover everyone's sins, the offer has to be unlimited in time too. But that's not right. The Bible says NOW is the day, and if followers of Christ drop the gift of forgiveness in favor of sinful indulgence today, it could be that time's up tomorrow, or even later today.
God's grace is completely free, and it covers all sins, but it is available for a limited time. Don't drop that precious gift by embracing sin on purpose.
Have you ever done this? Have you ever looked ahead and said in your heart of hearts, "I know I shouldn't do this", but then you did it anyway? You rushed knowingly into sin, thinking that you could beat yourself up later by feeling all guilty and bad, and then come to Jesus and tell Him you're sorry"?
I have. Let's be honest. If not with each other, then at least with God today. Because as amazing as it sounds, if we look back in our past and find open sins against God, even those can be forgiven if we are truly sorry. That's how great our Savior is. That's how big his grace truly is. But if our plan is to live our own way now, and ask forgiveness later. Well, Jesus knows your heart. And His warning is stern.
In Matthew 7, verse 21 Jesus says...
"21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’" (Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV).▬
So, we've talked about the lie. But how do we overcome the lie that we can live in sin today and get forgiveness tomorrow?
Well, first of all, God helps to wake us up with some pretty harsh words in the Bible. Words about what hell will be like. Words about fire that doesn't go out. Worms that don't die, but continually feast. Words about suffering people who are furious at God, gnashing their teeth in anguish and anger forever.
The Godless world around us doesn't like to hear these things. A lot of times we Christians don't want to hear them either. But that doesn't stop God from telling us the truth. He's not trying to scare us into believing. He's just telling us the truth about what's coming. He's not manipulating, He's motivating. Waking us up.
Inside of us God has also given us a conscience that serves to help us overcome Satan's lie. Our conscience says, "This ain't right. You're all messed up. You've got stuff that needs to be made right. Sins that need to be paid for."
So, first of all, let's take those passages about hell to heart. And let's listen to our conscience when it says we need to have a heart to heart talk with Jesus.
Secondly, to help us overcome the lie that we can get forgiveness tomorrow, we should think about the past. Did you know anyone way-back-when that you thought would never turn away from Christ? But they have? Paul did. In First Timothy 1 Paul says...
"... holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. 20 Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme" (1 Timothy 1:19-20 NIV).▬
When Satan says, "You can make a change tomorrow" remember the way that Scripture describes hypocrisy. The Bible says that hypocrisy is like yeast. It grows and spreads. We can't expect hypocrisy to fade away if we voluntarily give it a place in our lives.
If your doctor said, "Oh, it's just a little infection. No need to do anything about it now", you'd find a new doctor. Don't treat spiritual infection as if it will fade away. Kill it by bringing that sin to Jesus and tucking it in His wounds.
There's one more thing I haven't mentioned today. When people believe the lie that we can safely dabble in unrepentant sin today and get forgiveness tomorrow, they forget that sin is like acid. It's caustic and destructive. SOMETIMES sin leaves physical consequences, but it ALWAYS leaves spiritual damage.
But God's path is different than the path of sin. Instead of damage, God's path is a path of healing, blessing and enlightenment. Why risk damage for a little temporary joy when we can risk nothing and be guaranteed blessing? Why start tomorrow when we can be free, empowered, walking with God's Son today?
I tell you , now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.
PRAYER: Father in heaven, you know our inner hearts. You know the sins of our past, and the sins of our today. You know when we have done what we knew was wrong. Forgive us for this horrible insult to your majesty, and to your grace. Forgive us for each and every sinful thought, action and word that we have done. And by the blood of Christ not only cleanse us of the past, but give us courage and strength to live our futures according to you will. As your Word directs us. Lord Jesus, give us your Holy Spirit so that we do not receive your grace in vain. Help us to reject sin and unbelief and live in the joy of your gift of forgiveness. Amen.