The Wages of Sin-The Cost of Sin
Good morning everyone. If we could take our Bibles and open them to John 19, I have down here we’re going to make it through verse 11 but probably not. John 19, the title of our message this morning, fitting along with what we just celebrated with the Lord’s Table, the title of our message this morning is The Wages of Sin–The Cost of Sin. As you all know we are continuing our study through John’s Gospel, we find ourselves in the section that’s called the Passion Narratives. These are the events surrounding the final days of Christ’s life on the earth, covering both His death and then fortunately after His death will come the resurrection.
We find ourselves in chapter 19 and this is the ground that we have covered related to Christ’s death. We’ve taken a look at His arrest and the various trials that He has gone through, legal trials. John has focused on two Jewish trials, one before Annas and then another one before Caiaphas, Annas, the former high priest and Caiaphas the functioning high priest. And at that point it’s determined that Christ has committed blasphemy, according to Jewish law, so He is guilty in the eyes of the Jewish court. The problem is the Romans had come and taken away from the Jews at this point in time the power to execute their own criminals. So now the Jews have a problem, how do we get this guy guilty in the eyes of the Romans? And consequently what moves center stage is Jesus’ trial; there are two of them here, before Pilate. John, who has an affinity for recording the great conversations that Jesus had with people, kind of organizes his material as Jesus is before Pilate in the form of a conversation. John highlights, as we have spoken of, many times, several questions asked by Pilate, and answers that followed.
We find ourselves now in chapter 19:1-16 where Pilate, in verse 9 is going to ask yet another question and the question this time is where are you from? And of course, we are going to get a lot of information about that here as Jesus is interacting with this man, Pilate.
But you can take all of that material, verses 1-16, and organize it this way: you have Christ’s pre-trial scourging, verses 1-3; Pilate’s first encounter with the Jews, verses 4-7; Pilate goes then back into his headquarters and has an interaction with Jesus, verses 8-11, and then Pilate emerges one more time and goes to where the Jews were outside of his headquarters and that is a record of Christ’s second encounter with the Jews in this final trial of Christ, verses 12-16.
Notice out of the gate here the pretrial scourging. Pilate, as we will see, has not yet formally handed down a verdict and consequently there are some things that happened to Jesus as someone who is arrested; He is now under the custody of Rome. And two things happen here in verses 1-3. Number 1, His scourging, verse 1, and then number 2, intense sarcasm by Rome against Christ to mock Him, verses 2-3.
Notice His scourging; notice, if you will, John 19:1, it says, “Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him.” There were different kinds of beatings that Rome imposed on those accused of a crime. One type of scourging was, we might call it a lighter form of scourging, I hate to call it that because no doubt it was painful. But there was another type of scourging that Rome imposed where a man was literally beaten within an inch of his life. And those are the references that you find in the New Testament to thirty-nine lashes, because it was presumed that on the fortieth lash, in that second type of scourging, a normal human being under those circumstances would die. So you were literally beaten within an inch of your life; they did not kill you completely in that second scourging because they wanted you to endure the ordeal and the horrors of the cross.
But this is what God in human flesh endured on our behalf. This is the very thing that we were celebrating this morning at the Lord’s Table. The scourging mentioned there in verse 1 would be the first type of scourging; a more severe form of scourging or beating or whipping took place once a guilty verdict was entered. There is no guilty verdict yet; Pilate has not yet handed that down. And so Jesus is scourged, although it’s not the most severe form of scourging, in spite of the pain of that first scourging that Jesus endured.
The thoughts that are going through Pilate’s mind at this time are not recorded here in John but they are recorded in Luke 23:16, where Pilate says this: “Therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” As we’re going to see today Pilate was very uncomfortable about handing in a guilty verdict to execute our Lord Jesus Christ. He, in his mind, wanted to satisfy these unbelieving Jews who had turned Christ over to him for execution; his thinking is well, I will scourge Jesus, that, in essence, will satisfy the unbelieving Jews, and then I can turn Christ loose.
And what we discover with these unbelieving Jews is this initial whipping that Christ endured did not satisfy them at all; what it did is it increased their appetite for the blood of Jesus Christ to be spilled. It’s a lot like dealing with a bully in a sense. Sometimes we think that pacifying a bully, appeasing a bully, being nice to a bully, yielding to a couple of demands of a bully will satisfy the bully and in reality that’s not the way it works. We all know that from our playground days in the schoolyard. Bullies are seldom satisfied. In fact, any acquiescence simply emboldens them for more cruelty and mistreatment, and this is the type of thing that Jesus is enduring.
Now even beyond the scourging and the physical pain that Christ was in at this point, due to this initial scourging, was also the intense sarcasm. Notice, if you will, verse 2, it says, “And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and put a purple robe on Him.” Now the crowns in ancient Rome were likely created through what’s called a date tree. In fact, on Roman coins, if you study coinage, the technical name for that is numismatics, but if you’re interested in coins and studying coins, and in the land of Israel I had a chance to visit several coin shops. I saw coins of Nero and many other Roman emperors used. You typically a crown from a date tree around their heads. The difference here, though, was the palm fronds were turned inward on Christ and consequently as that crown was placed upon His head the needles, these spikes, were driven into His skin, into His scalp.
Now it’s very interesting to me that John mentions this word “thorns.” Where do we first read about thorns in the Bible? In fact, the very first reference to thorns goes all the way back to the book of Genesis 3:18. What we discover in the book of Genesis, chapter 3 and verse 18 is thorns and thistles were not part of original creation. This is what Genesis 3:18 says, “But thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field.” Genesis 3 is a record of why we are in the problems that we are in today; it’s a record of sin that took place in the Garden of Eden. There’s a chapter outline, if you will, of Genesis 3. But in verses 14-19 you have God imposing judgments, or consequences for sin.
We have a tendency to look at sin as if it’s something that we’re doing that’s just a little excursion of fun or pleasure or prominence, but you see, what the Bible teaches is that sin has a price tag. Sin has consequences; in fact, consequences follow sin like night follows the day. This is what happened in Genesis 3; God speaks two judgments on the serpent, verses 14-15; two judgments on the woman, verse 16, and two judgments on the man, verses 17-19. So you’ll notice that the Lord is dealing with them in the order of sin. The serpent sinned first and so two consequences are uttered to the serpent. The woman sinned second; two consequences are uttered to the woman. The man sinned third; two consequences are uttered to the man, consequences which are following us to this very day.
To the man He said a couple of interesting things. The first thing he said in that second bullet point down is from dust you are, to dust you shall return. Death became a reality for the human race the moment that sin entered the picture. We talk about spiritual death, being separated from God, but it’s much more being said here than spiritual death; it’s talking about physical death.
The last time I checked, and if we’re not the rapture generation, the mortality rate is still 100%. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27, it is appointed for men to die once and then to face the judgment. [“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”] Death is still 100% in operation. And the moment a little child is born into this world is the moment they begin to die. If you don’t believe me that you’re dying, one of the things I like to do to prove this is to say look at your high school yearbook picture and compare it to a modern picture of your driver’s license. You’ll see that aging effect on all of us.
The other thing that’s very interesting is God said to Adam, you will have painful labor. He talked about the ground (verses 17-19) would be in rebellion against you. [Genesis 3:17-19, “Then To Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18] Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field;  By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”]
God has a sense of humor, believe it or not. God says you want to rebel against Me, that’s fine, the earth itself will rebel against you. Originally when God created man it was God’s desire for man to work but to find fulfillment in his work. In other words, he would work because that’s what he enjoyed to do. Everything changed with the fall; man now has to work for his survival. Man has to work by the sweat of his brow. Why? Because the earth itself has rebelled against the ones that rebelled against God.
The book of Romans, chapter 8, talks about how the whole earth is in a state of groaning and travail because of what happened in Eden. And in that very context God talked about thorns and thistles it shall grow for you and you will eat the plants of the field all the days of your life. It is interesting to me the number of people that want to talk about the environment. They want to talk about ecological disasters. May I just say to you that the greatest ecological disaster that has ever happened to this planet happened in Genesis 3. That was tremendous ecologically disastrous in terms of its consequences; people don’t link the two though. The fact of the matter is the Bible has more to say about the environment that we are in than perhaps any other holy book, and man, without the point of view of the Bible understands that there is something wrong with the environment but they don’t connect the dots because they are functioning, many times without the light of the Word of God.
Nature itself is in rebellion against mankind—the consequences of sin.
And there’s another consequence, we just reflected on it this morning at the Lord’s Table; it’s the consequence of Jesus Christ, it’s the consequence of Jesus Christ, the Second Member of the Trinity, having to step out of eternity into time to bear the consequences of our sin on His back. Yes, it cost us something, it cost the earth something, but even more significant than that, it cost Him everything.
So the next time we’re thinking about tampering with sin, toying with sin, enjoying a season of sin, perhaps in private where we don’t think anybody can see us, which is silly when you think about it because the last time I looked or checked God is omniscient, knows everything.
Think about the price tag; this is what we do not focus on when we are tempted to sin; we don’t focus on the price. The devil is so good at taking our eyes off of long term consequences and focusing on this short term pleasure that we can gain from sin.
Moses decided to live with the children of Israel rather than enjoy, the book of Hebrews says, chapter 11, the passing pleasures of sin. Yes, there is a certain amount of pleasure, there is always a window associated with sin, a window of pleasure. But what we soon forget are the long term consequences that are still with us long after that very short term window of pleasure closes.
And how different things would have been had that original sin never occurred. How different our lives today would be had that original sin never occurred. How different the roles that the various members of the Trinity played in our redemption, how different those could have been perhaps, had it not been for sin. “The wages of sin,” these thorns that are pressed into the skin of our Lord Jesus Christ, that are pressed into the head of our Lord Jesus Christ, I believe is designed to literarily reflect upon Genesis 3:18, the price that was paid by Him to redeem us.
And if this crown of thorns was not enough there is even more sarcasm that takes place. It says in verse 2, “And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head,” and then it says, and they “put a purple robe on Him.” Now it is a documented fact, based on many of the commentators that I’ve looked at, that vassal kings under Rome wore purple robes. What is a vassal king? A vassal king is a subject king, a slave king. The Romans conquer a nation, like Israel, for example, and Rome allows Israel to function but they are functioning under the jurisdiction of Rome. This is why the Jews at this time could not execute their very own criminals.
And so these vassal kings wore purple, and in essence Rome, Pilate here, is mocking the Jews, he is mocking this man, Jesus Christ, they have claimed that He is the king, the King of the Jews, and so just to show you how little power they have in Pilate’s mind, how little control they have over things in Pilate’s mind, he mockingly adorns Christ in this purple robe which was designed for vassal kings. If you want a king, let’s just do this up right and put Him in purple.
The mockery continues on into verse 3 and it says, “and they began to come up to Him and say, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’” You Jews are absolute fools, thinking this man could claim to be your King; He is under our thumb now, He’s under our control. This is the man that you were fearful of? This is the man that has caused all of this trouble in the land of Israel? Look at how weak He is? Look at how powerless He is? Look at this robe that we have placed upon Him? Look at the beating that we have just given Him? Look at the crown of thorns that has been pushed into His skin, into His head, into His scalp.
And this mockery continues on in verse 3, it says, “and they began to come up to Him and say, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and to give Him slaps in the face.” Now this business of striking Jesus Christ in the face, this is not the first time this has happened in John’s Gospel. You might remember that this happened in His trial before Annas. John 18:22 says, “When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, ‘Is that the way You answer the high priest?’” In their warped and darkened minds they have this idea that Jesus was being disrespectful to the high priest and we will slap Him, hit Him in the face, just to make sure that this is not so.
And this slapping in the face continued on into the trial before Caiaphas, his second Jewish trial. It says there in Matthew 26:67-68, “Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him,  and said, ‘Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?” Oh, You’re claiming to be God, You are claiming to be omniscient, You are claiming to be a King, let’s just see if this works; we’re going to start slapping you in the face and You try to figure out which one of us hit You.
Probably at the time it seemed like so much fun to be involved in, and I can’t help but think about what is going through the mind of those involved in that abuse of Christ once they died and crossed over into the next life, where they found themselves in a place of conscious torment with all the time in the world to reflect upon earth and what had happened there and what they had done. A few moments of fun, a few moments of amusement, and you have all eternity to think about it.
And this leads us into Christ’s first encounter with these Jews. You see, as we go down to verse 4 the abuse that Christ was under, that is described in verses 1-3, this pretrial scourging, this took place in Pilate’s headquarters. We know that during feast days Pilate moved his headquarters from Caesarea down, I guess geographically it would be up, but it’s down on the map, to Jerusalem. He used Herod’s former palace on the west wall of Jerusalem for his headquarters. Jesus is in there with this man, Pilate, and that’s where this abuse is taking place.
And now Pilate comes out and he begins to talk to these Jews who had turned Him over to Rome for execution. Why is Pilate going out? Why aren’t they inside with Pilate? The answer is in verse 28, where it says, “and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” We don’t want to get too close to these Gentiles because the Passover is happening and these Gentiles might ceremonially get us ceremonially unclean. And we’ve made reference to the fact of the fastidious religious nature of these Jews, how they honored the Old Testament, how they honored these religious sacrificial ceremonial principles to a T.
And yet they are turning the One whom all of these things point to, Jesus Christ, over to Rome for abuse. That is something that is startling to me, that you can be so focused on dos and don’ts and X’s and O’s and dotting those i’s and crossing those t’s, but the point is you become so preoccupied with the minutia. That’s not to say that these ceremonies and this cleanliness was not important; it’s all instructed in the book of Exodus, particularly chapter 12. But you can get so focused on these outer conformities to religiosity that you lose sight of the big picture. So many people, I know this for a fact because I used to be one of them, are focused on things that in the end really don’t matter. The tiny details of religion. Those become the preoccupation and the glorious Son of God and what He has done for us begins to fade in comparison to the myopia of religiosity.
That’s the condition these Jewish leaders were in. Keep in mind, this was the leadership of the whole nation. And if the leadership is this blind, what more could you say about the people that were following them?
And then Pilate begins to speak, after he comes out of the Praetorium, verse 4, it says, “Pilate came out again and said to them, ‘Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no fault in Him.’” Isn’t it interesting how Pilate keeps reasserting the innocence of Jesus Christ? Pilate says now this is the third Roman trial, I had a trial with Him earlier, Herod Antipas had a trial with Him, the case is now back in my court and all the way through we keep hearing these words: Not guilty! Not guilty! Not guilty!
If you’ll drop down to verse 6 it says the same thing again at the end of verse 6, Pilate says, “I find no guilt in Him.” What kind of sacrifice does God accept? How can a holy God forgive sinners unconditionally and still maintain His holiness? Do you know what the seraphim, that would be the angelic beings that surround the throne room of God day and night, do you know what they chant over and over again? They don’t say grace, grace, grace, is the Lord our God. They don’t say love, love, love is the Lord our God. I’m not denying that God is the God of grace and love. But when the seraphim surround the throne room of God visibly seeing God, day and night around the clock according to Isaiah 6, they are saying, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. [Isaiah 6:3, “And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory.”]
Holiness, purity, perfection, is the dominant characteristic of God and how we are losing this in our thinking because we have become so cozy with God. “The man upstairs” we call Him. “God’s rad and He’s my dad,” we call Him. And I’m not against being comfortable with God, cozy with God; I’m not against calling God Abba, Father, which means “Daddy” as the New Testament tells us we can. But what about His holiness? What about His character that is so pure that He cannot even look upon sin? What about the reaction of men of God in the Scripture that came into the presence of the holiness of God? What about that? What about Isaiah, who saw that vision of God in Isaiah 6, keep in mind Isaiah is our top writing prophet; by most people’s standards Isaiah would be a holy man of God. Do you know what Isaiah said when he came into the presence of God? He says, “Woe unto me, for I am undone.” [Isaiah 6:5, “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” KJV].
He even said I have become, or I am a man of unclean lips. The lips of the prophet were the most important part of his body because that’s what gave him the capacity to declare the oracles of God. Isaiah is our top prophet, perhaps, in the Old Testament age, other than John the Baptist. And even Isaiah, in the presence of God, said “I am undone.” He was shaken to the absolute core of his being, he was terrified.
And it doesn’t stop there, John, who had such an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ that according to John 13:23 he leaned up against Christ’s chest in the Upper Room. [“There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.”] And yet this same John, sixty years later, on the island of Patmos, saw the glorified Jesus Christ. And the Bible says, you’ll find it around Revelation 1:17, 18, He fell down as though he were a dead man. [Revelation 1:17, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man….”] The prospect of the holiness of God terrified him. Why is that? Because Isaiah, like all of us, is beset by a sin nature. John, like all of us is beset by a sin nature.
When sinful people are in the presence of a holy being they become terrified because they know that that holy being has the right, in a nanosecond, to judge them. If a police officer walks into this room right now, and we have one of those back there, generally when I look at that police officer I’m fairly comforted by his presence, but if I just sped in here at 85 miles an hour that’s different; if I just cheated on my taxes it’s different because now I’m in the presence of one who has the authority to judge me. You see? And unless we understand the holiness of God and the utter depravity and sinfulness of man, the cross of Jesus Christ had to remain a mystery. It remains a mystery to us. But with the understanding of our innate sinfulness and God’s innate holiness, then this transaction called the cross or the atonement, which we just celebrated this morning, makes a world of sense.
How does a holy God forgive sin and still maintain His holiness? He can’t wink at sin or pretend like it’s not there; His holiness denies that. But at the same time God does not desire us to fall into condemnation because of His love. And so how is this tension within the Godhead resolved? It is resolved by one member of the Trinity, God the Father, pouring out His wrath on another member of the Trinity, God the Son, for sins that God the Son never committed.
It’s like a judge; a judge in the earthly sense has to enforce the law, but one day his own son comes to him for sentencing. His son committed a crime, he comes before his own father for sentencing, and at this point there’s a tension in this judge; I’ve got to enforce the law yet at the same time I want to have mercy on my son. So what does the judge do? He issues the harshest penalty he can under the law, he puts down the gavel, takes off his judicial robes, says to the bailiff, take me away in my son’s place. And the moment that happens is the moment the responsibility of the judge to punish crime has been satisfied and it’s also the moment that his compassion for his own son is also satisfied.
That, in a microcosm, is what Jesus has done. Two thousand years ago in Jerusalem one member of the Trinity, God the Father, poured out His wrath on another member of the Trinity, God the Son, and the moment that happened the holiness of God, which demands that sin be punished, is satisfied. In theology or in Greek language we call that propitiation; satisfaction of the divine wrath, paid for. And as that is happening God, who is love, 1 John 4:8 tells not that God is loving but He is love.
[1 John 4:8, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”] That component of God’s nature is also satisfied because now condemnation does not have to be poured out on God’s creation, because the debt has been paid if creation will receive it as a free gift.
What kind of sacrifice works in this transaction? The only one that works is it’s got to be an innocent sacrifice. If this sacrifice is blemished or sinful in any way in the mind of God you have to call the whole thing off. The very first reference to this sacrifice is in Genesis 3:21, after Adam and Eve sinned, it says, “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” Where did these garments of skin come from? Did they just miraculously drop out of the sky? I don’t think so! I think what happened on the spot was an animal was killed, in the place of the guilty God took the animal skins from that transaction and clothed the sin of Adam and Eve. Because you see, before this happened Adam and Eve were in a world of hurt and then a world of confusion. In fact, they, like so many people, were trying to cover themselves, Genesis 3:7 says that; they made for themselves loin coverings. [Genesis 3:7, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.”]
That, beloved, is the first act of religion in the Bible. Religion is this idea that you have to work yourself back into the presence of God, and God, at the very dawn of human history, said it will not work that way. What will happen is an innocent animal will be killed in your place. You say well, what did the animal do wrong? Nothing! That’s the point. God is showing right at the beginning that the only sacrifice that will be acceptable is an innocent scapegoat, as we call it, animal sacrificed in the place of the guilty.
This carries over into Passover itself, Exodus 12:5, as Jesus is being executed concurrent with this Passover feast, Exodus 12:5, God gave the original instructions for the Passover lamb, “Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you my take it from the sheep or from the goats.” But it’s very clear that this animal cannot be just any animal, there has to be genetic purity in this animal. This animal must be unblemished. And as Jesus is being crucified, we will see Him being crucified later on in the chapter, but on Passover John keeps bringing up the point that He’s innocent. Why? Because only an innocent sacrifice can satisfy God in propitiation or in the atonement.
So we have a reference to His innocence there in verse 4 and also in verse 6. And then Jesus is in this weakened state, and notice what Pilate says there in verse 5, “Jesus came out,” so he was in the headquarters with Pilate, Pilate has gone out to the Jews to talk to them, and now he brings out their King. Why does he bring out their King? To show them how foolish they are to get so wrapped up in this man. Look at how we, as Rome, have weakened Him so quickly, with a pretrial beating, a crown of thorns, and repetitious slaps in the face. Verse 5, “Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, ‘Behold, the Man!’” Behold this Man that you feared so much.
Now this idea of the Behold, the King, Behold the Lamb of God, harks back to the beginning of John’s Gospel. This was the words that were spoken by John the Baptist when he came, when Jesus came. John 1:29 says, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’” John 1:36 repeats it just seven or eight verses later, it says, “and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’”
What is the whole point of John’s Gospel? It is to behold Jesus, to look at Jesus, to reflect upon Jesus, to see Jesus in all that He is, in His strength, His miracles, at the height of His power, but also in His humiliation. His strength demonstrates that He is, in fact, the Son of God, through His various signs. His weakness demonstrates that He is also our redeemer, which we celebrate and reflect upon.
See Jesus as not just the Lamb but the lion, because you see, John wrote another book, didn’t he? And in the book of Revelation, chapter 19, he gives us a whole different picture of Jesus Christ. He’s not coming back to deal with the sin question, beloved. The sin question has been dealt with at the first coming.
His return will be to judge sin. John, the same writer, writes this in Revelation 19:11-16, “And I saw heaven opened and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.  His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.  He is clothed with a white robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.  And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.  From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations….” It looks to me like Jesus is being struck down by Rome; oh, that’s part of the picture, that’s not the whole picture. He will come [15b] “to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God the Almighty.  And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
The point of this book is to behold everything about Jesus Christ, who He was in His strength, and in His power, and in His miracles; who He was in His weakness, and who He will be at His return. I think those words, “Behold, the King” are intentionally chosen. John chose to intentionally focus on Him so that we might have our thinking in the right place.
Do we have a full picture of Jesus Christ? Do we understand Him as “the Lamb of God” and do we also understand Him as “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah?” Because many times I fear we have a distorted impression of who Jesus is because we don’t take a look at the whole counsel of the Word of God. The only image people have in their minds, in some cases, of Jesus Christ is that child who had no place to lay His head, upon His birth. And that’s all part of who He is, but He’s also a God of violent judgment. And things have been orchestrated this way so that we might have this age of grace or this period of time where we might flee to Him as our Savior before, God forbid, we meet Him as our judge.
These are the things that the Holy Spirit wants the church to think about. What are we thinking about today? What has our country been thinking about for the last two weeks? Oh, really important stuff, Deflate-gate. I played sports, I’m not against sports, I know this is Super bowl Sunday, I spent a decade of my life trying to throw a round ball through an iron hoop, I understand the discipline of sports, I am pro sports but beloved, we are totally out of focus on the whole thing. The Super Bowl today will gather a crowd of I don’t know how many; the television audience, what are we talking about, millions of people perhaps. And look at this room, two-thirds full, three-quarters full, praise the Lord for that, but where are people focused? They are not focused on eternal things; they are focused on the things that are temporary and transitory.
And of all of the issues facing our country today, of the spread of islamoterrorism across the globe, of a mile high debt that cannot be repaid mathematically, of 18 trillion dollars, of the war that is taking place, millions of unborn children in the wombs of their mothers, in the humanist takeover of the public school system, of racial tension which is broiling across our nation, we want to talk about a football game, a game in which most of us two years or three years down the road won’t even remember who won; we won’t even remember who played in it, unless you’re an avid sports fan. I plan on watching some of the game today, I’m not condemning that, but the fact of the matter is
where are our priorities? What are we looking at? What are we beholding? What are we focused on?
You know, the Roman Empire had something that they called “bread and circus.” They filled up these coliseums all around the Greco-Roman Empire, I visited one in my trip to Israel in Caesarea, and it was explained to us that they filled up these coliseums on the basis of amusement. And they had an idea that a bored citizen is a dangerous citizen, so let’s keep these people amused with pastimes. Let’s do the plays, let’s do the comedies. They even had what is called the Roman Vomitorium which means exactly what it sounds like, where you gorge yourself with so much food that there was a special place that you went to vomit, upchuck, throw up what you have indulged in.
And that was the state of Rome; they called it bread and circus, and the fact of the matter is it was designed by the Roman leadership, because a bored citizen is a dangerous citizen. So let’s keep them preoccupied with things that don’t matter. Let’s keep them preoccupied with pastimes. And I just look at the state of our country today, in the year 2015; I look at the things that consume media attention, Kim Kardashian, all of these things that don’t matter. And our eyes are off the ball; we’re out of the game. As my coach used to tell me, “get your head in the game.” Our heads are not in the game half the time; we’re thinking about other things. That’s the state of America; God help us!
Can that happen to the Bible believing church? Can we become so focused on entertainment, felt needs, that we forget the fact that our lives are ebbing away as I speak? Have we forgotten the fact that the book of James tells us that we are like mist that appears for a little while and then it’s gone. I had a youth pastor that put it this way; he said you know what this life is like? Look at all of the grains of sand on all of the beaches of the world and one little grain of sand in comparison to all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world is what this life is like in comparison to eternity. And yet how important this speck or this grain of sand is because the decision that a person makes for Christ here and now determines where they spend eternity.
And let me add to this a little bit and up the ante; the decisions that we, as Christians, are making right now, determines eternal rewards. It may not determine salvation but it determines eternal rewards and once the kingdom comes it will determine degrees of authority that are wielded in that kingdom under the servanthood and the jurisdiction of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because here’s what the Bible says: if you’re faithful with the little God will entrust you with much. And as we think about entertainment and amusement and feeling good and laughter and inoculating ourselves constantly, have we forgotten about our neighbor next door, that’s on their way to hell? And yet we’re so focused on amusement and entertainment our eyes are off the ball; our head is not in the game.
I’ve got one finger aimed at you guys, I’ve got three coming right back at me because I am just as guilty about this as anybody else. How easy it is to be dragged into the trivial things of life and we are not, as John tells us to do, beholding the King. I remember when I was younger my parents would take me to a restaurant, a fairly nice restaurant, and what they did is they had a giant block of ice, and I used to as a child watch the sculptor chisel away in front of us at this giant block of ice. And it would attract people to watch because he was always chiseling and chopping and in the process he was building something. You didn’t know what it was going to be, was it going to be a dove, was it going to be a basket; around Christmas time was it going to be a Christmas tree?
And I remember even as a child watching this sculptor work and work and work and I could see the perspiration rolling off of his forehead as he worked fervently and diligently, chopping away at a block of ice with beautiful skill to make something beautiful. I remember as a child thinking I was frustrated with that, and I was frustrated with it because I knew enough to know that one of these days the sun is going to be hotter than it is today and that block ice is going to melt away. It doesn’t matter how beautiful it is that he has constructed, what he has constructed will dissipate. What he has constructed will melt away, in spite of the fervency of his actions, I felt frustrated because I knew that all of his effort was just temporal.
And may I just say to you that that is what many of our lives are like. We are working and working and working at things that in the end won’t matter. In fact, the Bible says that this world is about to pass away, it’s going to be burned by fire and replaced with a new world. Everything, my lawn, my new car, things that I think are so important, bank accounts, all of these things deteriorate and the Bible teaches that there are only two things that are going to make it from this life into the next… only two! What are those? Number 1, the Word of God will, because the prophet Isaiah says in chapter 40 and verse 8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Jesus, in Matthew 24:35 says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will last forever,” or “abide forever.” That’s a promise from God. Everything that we think is so important is dissipating; it’s dissipating as we speak. It’s that block of ice melting away.
Are we invested in the Word of God? Is this book more to us than a coffee table ornament? Jesus says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” [Matthew 4:4] Is this book and the learning from this book and the application from this book a priority in your life? Or is your life so filled with things that don’t matter that this book has been crowded out? I think one of the dangers we get into is we get wrapped up in Christian literature. And this is coming from a guy who blogs and writes Christian books. But is a Christian book replacing THE book in our lives.
I like what Joe Martin says in his Christian book, the book on creation right at the beginning he says, “Have you read your Bible today?” And then he says, “if not, you are too busy for this book, go back and read THE book.” I love it. Is this book a priority?
This second thing that will pass from this life into the next are the souls of people because Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that beings that are made in the image of God are eternal. [Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.”]
Are we invested in the souls of people because that’s what’s going to last and that is what is going to matter. If those things are not somehow a priority… I understand that we must work to eat, the man that doesn’t work shall not eat, I understand all of that, I get it; I get the business of life. But somehow things have got to be re-altered or re-prioritized in our lives or we’re missing out on what God has for us.
It’s like the movie, The Titanic, where people spent their waning days on the Titanic, rearranging in some case the deck chairs, keeping the music going, when they should have been getting others off and getting themselves off. They had become so dulled to the urgency of the moment that they were engaged in trivial things that wouldn’t matter. I wonder just how many of our lives, even as God’s people, are just that way.
What are we to do? We are to follow Pilate’s admonition to “Behold, the King.” Perhaps you’re here today and you’ve never trusted in the King, Jesus Christ, who stepped out of eternity into time, as we have said, to bear a price in His body which we could never pay. We call this the gospel which means the good news; it’s good news because He did it all and we simply receive what He has done as a free gift. Have you received that gift, or is Jesus to you sort of like reading the Encyclopedia
Britannica? Or Webster’s Dictionary? You know facts and figures about Jesus Christ but as far as actually trusting in Him for your eternity you’ve never done that. As far as actually knowing Him you’ve never done that. As actually having a relationship with Him, meeting Him as your Savior so you don’t have to meet Him as your judge, you’ve never done that.
And if that’s your condition our exhortation to you at Sugar Land Bible Church, as the Spirit of God places you under conviction is to trust in this man, Jesus Christ. It’s more than intellectual assent, it involves trust or reliance or dependence or confidence, relying upon Him, which is what faith is, in what He has done. And if that’s something you haven’t done our exhortation to you is to go ahead and do it right now as I am speaking, the best you know how, in the quietness of your own mind and heart and thoughts. If it’s something you need more information on I’m available after the service to talk. It’s a private transaction between you and the Lord; it has little to do or nothing to do with raising your hand, walking an aisle, joining a church, giving money, pledging to do better through self-help in the year 2015. Those things have nothing to do with it; it’s a condition of the heart which receives what He has done. And that reception of that gift has eternal ramifications. Shall we pray.
Father, we stand convicted this morning that we are so easily intoxicated by trivialities. Help us, Father, to reprioritize this year, in the year 2015; help us to live for the things that really matter and are really eternal. Bless our time at the fellowship lunch; we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said….