************ Sermon on Matthew 6:19-24 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 26, 2001
"The Terrible Power of Sin"
Topic: SinThis is a picture of sin. Like a prairie fire, sin always gets out of control and does more damage than you can imagine.
Title: Prairie Fire Sun
Nothing can be more devastating than a prairie fire. One of the worst on record was started inadvertently by an army officer stationed at Fort Hayes, Ohio. He and some friends had been hunting wild turkeys and had paused for a few moments to rest. While they were relaxing, the officer touched a match to some dry grass just to produce a spectacle. He never dreamed what dreadful consequences would follow his thoughtless act! Within minutes the entire area was ablaze, and the men were powerless to stop it. The flames, fanned and driven by a strong wind, raged furiously and swept rapidly across the prairie. The fire burned up everything that stood in its path -- thousands of acres of land, homes, buildings, and countless head of livestock. As you can well imagine, the tragic ruin and loss caused by that single act of carelessness brought untold grief and heartache to the one responsible as well as others.
Our Scripture passage warns us about the danger of seeking treasure on earth. But why should Jesus have to warn us about this? The reason is sin. So Jesus – being fully man, being tempted as we are – warns us this evening about the terrible power and effect of sin upon mankind.
I Sin Affects all of Man
A The first thing we must note is that sin affects all men. This should be nothing new to any of you but let me remind you of what the Bible says. The Bible says everyone is a sinner.
Topic: SinMany today have forgotten this foundational truth – that everyone is a sinner.
Subtopic: Universality of
In preparation for a meeting in a large city, famed evangelist Billy Sunday wrote a letter to the mayor in which he asked for the name of individuals he knew who had a spiritual problem and needed help and prayer.
How surprised the evangelist was when he received from the mayor a city directory.
B We also notice that sin affects all of man. By this I mean not just every single person. But by this I mean every aspect of man, every fibre of his being, and every sphere of human activity.
You know that we are called to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. But what does sin do? It causes our heart to seek earthly treasure. Jesus says, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
What does sin do? It darkens our mind. Jesus says, "But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness."
What does sin do? It bends the will so it tries to serve two masters. Jesus says, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."
C The fact is, sin is universal. In this life, on this earth, and in our present bodies we can never escape it.
Topic: SinYou see, no matter where this woman goes, she brings her sin along. And so do we.
Subtopic: Universality of
The great bible preacher, Dr. Barnhouse tells of the time he was leaving Honolulu for Yokohama. A woman asked him why he was traveling and he spoke of his ministry to preach Christ.
"And why are you traveling?" he asked her.
"To get away from it all," was her reply.
"But how can you get away from it all, when you have brought it all with you?"
"That's just the trouble," she answered.
II Sin Makes Man Blind
A The second thing we can say is that sin makes man blind. The Apostle Paul talks of this in his second letter to Corinth:
(2 Cor 4:3-4) And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. (4) The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.This is the work of sin. Sin blinds the heart of man to things that are perfectly obvious.
Take the matter of earthly treasures that Jesus warns us against storing. It is a simple fact that not a single earthly treasure continues, not one is imperishable, not one lasts forever.
For instance, people pride themselves on personal appearance. But personal appearance is bound to disintegrate. Ten years ago, for instance, I had a lot more hair than I do now – many of you, I see, are more than able to relate to this. Now, those who emphasize appearance are going to be desperately disappointed some day; I say that because some day their body will decline and they will die. It is bound to happen; yet people pride themselves on their appearance, and make all sorts of sacrifices for this, and end up worshiping the body rather than God. This is blindness!
Or, consider those who date and marry solely on the basis of appearance. They need to know that today's beauty queen is tomorrow's wrinkled prune, that today's captain of the football team is tomorrow's wheel-chair bound resident of a nursing home. But they only see the outward beauty and don't look for character and depth and faith. They don't realize that beauty is only skin-deep and quickly passes away. This is blindness!
Money is the same way. We cannot take it with us when we die. And, in this life it is so easy to lose it. We build up a nice little nest egg and it is eaten up by doctor's bills, medicine, surgery, hospital stay; our car needs major work done; the roof begins to leak and needs to be repaired; our stocks lose money instead of make money; cows become sick; feed prices go out of sight; we become embroiled in a law-suit; a business venture turns sour. This is bound to happen yet so many live for money. This is blindness!
Everything in this life passes away; they are all bound to go. This truth stares all men in the face. Yet, many people live and act like the opposite is true. They make all sorts of sacrifices for things – things that are bound to come to an end, things they someday will have to leave behind. This situation is so obvious, yet many do not see this. This is blindness!
How many people today, do you think, ever stop to consider the shortness of life and say to themselves,
"I may be alive tomorrow, next week, next year; I may be, but I do not know. But this I know: someday my life will come to an end; someday I will leave all these things behind; someday I will have to leave my house, my dairy, my business, my loved ones, my possessions; someday I have to leave it all behind." We all know this to be a simple fact, but how many people today are actually able to say this sort of thing to themselves? The answer: not many. The reason is that sin blinds us to the obvious. There is change and decay in all the things around us, yet many don't see this or acknowledge this. This is blindness!
B Sin also blinds us to the real value or worth of something. Take time and eternity. We are creatures here in time and are on our way to eternity. There is no comparison between their importance. Time is limited and eternity is endless and absolute. Yet, how do most people live? They give themselves entirely or mostly to the things that belong to time and entirely or mostly ignore the things that are eternal. Using the words of Jesus, they seek treasure on earth rather than in heaven. This is blindness!
Or, take the matter of darkness and light. There is no real comparison between the two. There is nothing more wonderful than light. God Himself is light and in Him is no darkness at all. We know the kinds of deeds that belong to darkness, the things that happen in the dark, and under the cover of night. But there will be no darkness and no night in heaven. It is all light and glory there. But how slow we are to appreciate the value of light over darkness. "Men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). This is blindness!
Consider the value of man and of God. There is a whole world out there that evaluates life in terms of man. They look after their own being, their own welfare. They live for themselves. As for God, He is forgotten and ignored. He is told to wait until they have time for Him. "When I am ill, or on my deathbed, then I will turn to God; but right now I am living for myself." So they covet earthly wealth and earthly riches, position and status, and put all of that before becoming an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ. This is blindness!
C Sin further blinds man to the impossibility of mixing opposites. Man always tries to mix things which cannot be mixed. But there is no possible mixing of light and darkness. It is no longer light if you do, and it is no longer darkness. Neither can you mix God and money, for no man can serve two masters. It is one or the other; not both; never both. But man thinks he can get away with mixing opposites. He thinks he can stand with one foot in the world and the other foot in the kingdom. He thinks he can dabble with sin while he also dabbles with righteousness. He thinks he can serve himself and God. This is blindness!
III Sin Makes Man a Slave
The third thing we notice is that sin makes man a slave. Sin makes man a slave of things that were meant to serve him. This is one of the more horrible, tragic things about sin.
According to our Lord, these earthly, worldly things tend to become our god. We serve them; we love them. Our heart is captivated by them; we are their servants.
God has given us the earth and its riches to rule. In mind are such things as food and clothing, family and friends, homes and farms and businesses, cars and bicycles, electronic games and computers, TVs and stereos. They are meant as a gift, for our service and enjoyment. But instead of them serving us, they end up ruling us. Sin enslaves us!
We become slaves of the appetites and desires God has given to us. God has created us with a desire for food, water, clothing, shelter; God has created us with a desire for family, love, and intimate relations; God has created us with a desire for beauty, art, music, and culture. But what happens? We want more, more, more. We are never satisfied. We abuse intimacy. We live for our music and videos and rock concerts and CDs. Sin enslaves us!
Topic: SinThe hummingbird teaches us a valuable lesson. By choosing to assume ownership of the feeder, he is forfeiting his freedom. He is no longer free to come and go as he wished. He is tied to the work of guarding his feeder. He is possessed by his possession. His freedom of action is as circumscribed as if he were in a cage. He is caged by a situation he has created. That is what sin does to us. Like the hummingbird, we become possessed by our possessions.
Title: Free as a Bird
Two Falls ago we had over 20 hummingbirds feeding at our feeder. I had to refill it twice a day. I went and bought a big feeder – one that is twice as large and feeds 8 hummingbirds at a time. With both feeders up I could go one and a half days between fill-ups. What a thrill it was to sit on the patio and watch 8 or 9 species of hummingbirds all feeding at the feeders at the same time.
Suddenly the usage decreased to almost nothing. I had to fill the small one less than once a week and the big one I put away.
The reason for the decreased usage soon became apparent. A male hummingbird had taken over the feeder as his property. He is now the only hummingbird who uses the feeder. He feeds and then sits in a nearby tree, rising to attack any bird that approaches his feeder. Guard duty occupies his every waking hour. He is an effective guard. The only time another bird gets to use the feeder is when the self-appointed owner is momentarily gone to chase away an intruder.
It is funny and entertaining watching him buzz any hummingbird that dares to approach. You should hear his angry chirping.
IV Sin Ruins Man
A The fourth thing we can mention is that sin brings total ruin.
If you remember, sin entered the world and the human race through the deception of Satan. Now Satan hates God with the whole of his being. He has one goal, one ambition, one purpose in life: to ruin and spoil all that God has made and all in which God delights. Through sin Satan especially tries to ruin man.
What happens when Satan succeeds in getting man to store up treasure on earth, to be full of darkness, to serve two masters? The best example of what happens is found in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Day after day the rich man thought everything was well with his life, his spirit, his soul. But then one day he died and found himself in hell. Suddenly he saw the truth. Suddenly he saw he had been a fool all his life. Suddenly he saw that all he had lived for was worth nothing and counted for nothing. Suddenly he saw that he was ruined.
He knew it was too late for himself. Too late he learned that his life was empty, meaningless, void, vanity. Remember how he wanted to warn his five brothers before it was too late for them?
B What happened to the rich man is true for everyone who seeks earthly treasure and money and the deeds of darkness. If you have not served God in life, you will find yourself beyond God in death. He who is without God in the world is also without God in eternity. He who is without God is without hope. He who is without God faces an eternity of wretchedness and remorse, of regrets and misery. Sin is a total loss. Sin is total ruin and destruction.
God forbid that this be the end of anyone here this evening. God forbid that this be the end of any of our loved ones.
What do you do if you want your blindness taken away, if you no longer want to be a slave, if you do not want ruin and destruction to be your end? Very simple. Go to God in Christ. Realize that you have been serving earthly things. Confess it to Him. Give yourself to Him. Place yourself in His hands. Ask Him to forgive you because of the blood of Christ. Ask Him to fill you with the Holy Spirit so that you can see the truth about sin, so that you can store up treasure for yourself in heaven, so that your life can be filled with light rather than darkness, so that you can serve God rather than money.
The power of sin is terrible. So go to God in Christ before it is too late.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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