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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

First Sunday of Advent: What is Truth? Part two

What is Truth?
Part Two of Three

On the first Sunday of Advent this year I preached a message to the people living in the 55+ community that I visit each week. I reorganized that sermon into an essay. Because of its length, I divided the message into three parts. My text focused on Luke 1:4 wherein the beloved physician tells us the purpose of his letter: “So that you (i.e. Theophilus) may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”

Continuing with the theme of God's truth, part two now focuses on what are some of the essential truths God wants everyone to know – and by which He wants everyone to live:

Truth number one: You and I – everyone on planet earth – are sinners. If we don’t get this truth about our sin-nature, then none of the other truths of Scripture can have the impact God designed truth to have.

Scripture gives several lists of damnable sins, but here is only a partial one for an example: Galatians 5:19-21 “. . . .sexual immorality [which includes pornography, fornication, adultery, and homosexuality] . . . hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness . . . and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

The Holy Spirit does not soften the point as so many pastors and teachers might soften the point. Sin is a damnable offense against God. That’s why He reiterates the theme throughout the New Testament, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23); and then: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

That was truth number one: We are sinners. We might not want to think of ourselves in that way, but our opinion of ourselves is worthless if that opinion contradicts God’s truth. We need to acknowledge to God the truth about our sin nature. If we do not, Truth number two will be meaningless and – worse – of no eternal value to us.

Truth number two: Jesus came to save sinners from eternal damnation.

Most Christians can recite John 3:16 from memory: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

That verse is an important truth to hide in our hearts: God loves the sinner (not the sin) – God loves the sinner so much that He sent His Son into our world to save everyone who wants to be saved from the eternal Lake of Fire.

St. John tells us again in his first epistle: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

Propitiation is an uncommon word in our day. The Greek word, ‘hilasmos,’ translated as propitiation in most Bibles, carries the idea of appeasement, atonement, or satisfaction. It means Jesus’ death on the cross appeased God’s wrath toward sin – thereby providing the means of reconciliation between the sinner and God. The word is closely tied to the idea of a substitutionary sacrifice whereby the sin – and the requisite punishment for the sin – are transferred from one person to another.

Here is how Isaiah explains what Messiah did for us: Isaiah 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

The New Testament writers pick up this theme in the various letters. Here is what Paul writes to the church at Corinth: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Now let’s summarize: God’s truth tells us we are all sinners. Truth then tells us Jesus became our substitutionary sacrifice to pay the penalty – to pay the ransom – our sins deserve. That’s why the Lord Jesus said: “. . . the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28).

Truth number three tells us God calls us everyone to a lifestyle of repentance. We’ll look at that truth next time.

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