“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1John 3:9 ESV)
Some of you have been taught you cannot go five minutes without sinning. On our own I very seriously doubt we could go five seconds without sinning. Amen? Amen! So how can John Wesley argue those who are born of God do not sin? How can anyone say they do not commit sin? (pause) I’m gonna let you think about that question for a minute.
Let’s have a show of hands. How many people here have seen one of these? (hold up a TV remote control) How many of you have a person in your house hold who loves to flip the channels on the TV? (raise my hand) Now, raise your hand if you are that person. (raise my hand) I think this sermon illustration came from a Focus on the Family radio broad cast from several years ago and it probably stuck with me because I am a channel flipper. Our minds are like a TV with an enormous cable package. And just like cable, or dish or satellite we have all the channels in the world and there aint nothing worth watching on TV. Every thought or idea in our head is like a different channel on the TV, and boy do we love to flip channels. Now before we are justified we cannot get the good channels. Why don’t we get the good channels? The good channels have to be paid for with the blood of Jesus Christ. We have to be justified before we can see the good channels.
Once we have been justified in the blood of Christ we we able to tune in the good channels on the TV. We still get all of the channels that are bad for us, but now we get these channels that are really good for us. Part of being born again is learning to tune into what is good for us. Amen? Amen! And here’s the thing. The more we tune into the channels that are good for us the less we want to look at the channels that are really bad for us and for our family.
Now I need to make a very clear distinction. If we try to say in our minds and with our words I am never going to sin again. I am never going to look at those bad channels again. I am never going to hurt myself or others again we are very likely to sin again before we take our next breath. Force of will is not strong enough to save us from what is on the other channels of our spiritual TV. It’s almost like the human brain is wired to flip channels. So let me ask you. What is strong enough to keep us from tuning into those other channels? What is there that can keep us from fixating on and practicing sin? (pause: likely answer God) What is strong enough to help us keep our hand on the tiller: love. The love of God that comes through those good channels in our minds is enough to keep us from looking at the bad channels. The more we look at the good channels the less we sin, until one day we finally stop committing outward sin all together. Sisters and brothers, please take hope in these words. It is possible to live without sinning. More to the point, those who are born of God do not commit outward sin.
First John talks a lot about what we practice. In the English Standard Version of the Bible between 1John 3:4 and 1John 3:10 the word practice is used six times. For a first century world where paper and ink are expensive repeated words are HUGE. For a word to be used six times in so few verses is an even bigger deal. We should pay attention. I think repeating the word practice speaks to our spiritual TV usage. It’s one thing to be flipping channels and see something quick in passing. It is something else all together to flip back to that channel and start watching. It’s something else to go back to that channel and make that program your favorite show. You see we have all kinds of thoughts; some good, and some bad. They flip through our minds all the time. It’s when we are enticed to look at or tune into thoughts that take us further from God we find ourselves in tremendous trouble. To illustrate the point I’d like y’all to listen to this song. It’s by Casting Crowns and the title is “Slow Fade.”
I love this part of the chorus in that song. “Thoughts invade, choices are made; a price will be paid; when you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day. It’s a slow fade.” We have all kinds of thoughts or temptations flipping through our minds like the channels on the TV. We are tempted to do things that bring us life, and hope and joy. We are tempted to invest in things which rob and kill and destroy our hope, our joy, our families, our communities, and our church. Hear the good news. Just because we have a thought it does not mean we have to dwell on it. We can change the channel. We can choose to focus on and become invested in the one who brings love and prayer and praise and thanksgiving into our lives. The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy. Christ came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).
To have life abundantly we have to stay tuned into the good channels. God knows we need this help. God provides means for us to stay plugged in. Their fancy name is the Means of Grace. Staying plugged into the good channels by way of the means of Grace is what Wesley referred to as staying in love with God. The question is, will we do our part to stay in love with God? Will we come to God’s Communion table every time Communion is offered? Will we eagerly seek God’s presence, guidance and power in prayer? Will worship become an opportunity to give ourselves to God with gratitude for what God has done or will worship stay an obligation, or a habit? Are we ready to rediscover for ourselves what it means to praise the Lord?
Sisters and brothers, our church is small. That didn’t happen by accident and it didn’t happen over night. It’s been a slow fade. As we look around this sanctuary what is missing? Why are they missing? I think the answer at the core is somewhere along the way we became content to go through the motions instead of actively working on our relationship with God. It didn’t happen over night. It’s been a slow fade. However, I believe God is still here. The trouble is the tempter is still here as well. I am starting to see the battle ground for what it is, and the church cannot be built by human hands any more than a person can be saved by force of will. Nothing is impossible for God so we need to ask God for the tools to build God’s church. Prayer is the key. Prayer is the first step. And prayer is the part that sustains us when battles over the TV remote rage. As a church let us take this first step toward new life together. Let us pray.
In the name of Jesus Christ – Amen.