Carpet installers, Gordon Falker and Gregory Roach received third degree burns when the house in which they laid flooring suddenly exploded. An investigator determined the carpet adhesive they were using was flammable. The two men placed the adhesive by a hot water heater. When the hot water
The city council of San Francisco, California prohibited McDonald’s from handing out free toys in Happy Meals. Litigation director Stephen Gardner concluded that children will pick greasy, obese-causing food for the sake of receiving a toy. “It's a creepy and predatory practice that warrants an injunction” he claimed. Some Californian cities now ban McDonald’s from including toys in Happy Meals. (https://www.cbsnews.com/news/mcdonalds-hit-by-happy-meal-toy-ban/)
Last Sunday, a 23-year-old Traverse City man flipped his car into a ditch. He claims another last-minute heart-wrenching Detroit Lions loss made him take the right hand turn too fast, thereby rolling his car. Deputies later determined the man was legally drunk. (http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2017/09/drunk_fan_rolls_car_blames_lio.html)
A chemical company pays out $8 million because two men carelessly place a flammable substance beside a flame-producing object. No more Happy Meal toys because parents will not tell the child “No”- Happy Meal, “No”-deep-fried foods, no McDonald’s. A car crash blamed on the results of a football game. Those are all examples of a common occurrence, are they not? Shift the blame. Defend the action. Declare innocence. Is that the way God views accountability?
This stubbornness is really nothing new. From the beginning of time, human beings have refused to take accountability for their actions. Adam blames Eve for him eating the forbidden fruit. Eve blames the devilish serpent for her touching the forbidden tree. Cain defends, “I’m not in charge of my brother’s whereabouts!” King David kills a man because he slept with his wife and impregnated her. When the heart is confronted with its evil, it scurries away from its guilt.
Or, consider the accusations spewing out from the Israelites. “The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” What do they mean with that? Well, their fathers ate the grapes, and they, the children, suffer the effects of crooked and dull teeth; the sourness still makes them pucker. Their fathers committed the action; they suffer. “God, my father bribed the corrupt judges, not me.” “God, grandpa shacked up with the temple prostitutes; I did not.” “God, your kings are the ones who cheated widows out of restitution! We did not.” “God, you punish us for the wrongs we did not commit.”
It’s true— sort of. Yes, the sons did not bribe judges, but they showed no remorse after trampling down God’s commandments. Yes, the sons did not sleep with prostitutes, but they tolerated the seductive lies of false prophets. Yes, the kings cheated widows, but the sons worshipped little statues— cheating God out of the respect and praise owed him. That is why these Israelites, who accuse God of injustice, suffer! They committed crimes against God, and God punished them. He allowed the Babylonian army to swarm over the city walls, seize the upper class, rip them from their homes, from their families, from their land, and drag them away to Babylon! God is not at fault. They are.
And if I am honest with myself, that’s not too easy to admit. How often does your heart point its finger at your spouse as the reason for your marriage woes? “He’s too demanding.” “She’s too selfish.” ‘He sits around doing nothing.” “She spends all of your money!” Or, do you blame your teacher your failing grades? She assigns too much homework and you have band, sports, and clubs after school. She should not reprimand you for homework you chose not to complete; you didn’t have time to finish it! She should not hold you in detention because she deserve every word you mouthed off to her. How often are you the supposed innocent victim of budget troubles? (I am not talking about those times when expenses do rise over income). Rather, you can’t afford gas because it’s the fault of gas companies! Your accuse the landlord of being greedy. It’s the government’s fault you can’t give more of an offering! It’s all someone else’s fault! They are the reason you suffer!
Is it really? Could it be, that even when you argue, that maybe it is you who is selfishly defending your wants to the exclusion of the other’s requests? Could it be, that your teacher is demanding because you first fail to respect her authority as a teacher? Could it be, that budget woes come because of your misplaced priorities?
The truth is, regardless of how you feel about your actions, God sees it differently: You are accountable for the things you do. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die. God does not excuse the overbearing, manipulative wife because her mother was just as conniving. God does not ignore your fist to the face because the other guy “started it.” You cannot blame your parent’s poor marriage as to why you refuse to marry your boy/girlfriend. God holds each individual life to the standard of his Ten Commandments—yours included. The soul who sins, the person who does not perfectly obey them, is the one who will die—and not the “someone else” you want to blame.
If that sounds unsettling, it’s because it is. Really, when you read these words, what does your heart immediately want to scream? “No! God’s saying something else here.” “No! God is not serious. He’ll overlook some things.” “No! God doesn’t understand every single reason for every single action!” Or, does your heart even scream what Israel did? “The way of the Lord is not just!”
My friends, your (and my) heart will try to defend its wicked actions to the very end. Your (and my) heart will try to remove the hellish penalty you deserve. Your (and my) heart will try to cram a new message into the mouth of God. It will deny accountability for your actions. It will deny that you are responsible. It will deny that you ever committed any wrong! The heart will even stand up to God and say: “I don’t see how I sinned. If I haven’t sinned, then I don’t need Jesus.”
That is not the answer to removing rebellious transgressions. The truth is, it is fair that if God etches Ten Commandments into your heart, that he enforces those commandments. It is fair that your Maker holds you, the person he knit together in the womb, to his standard of perfect obedience.
What is not just, what is not fair, is that God would place Jesus onto the cross to be held accountable for my actions. It is not fair that Jesus is accused of being “guilty” for the crimes I have committed. It is not right that God holds Jesus accountable for my self-righteous pride which refuses to believe that I am wrong. But God takes no pleasure in the death of anyone. And so he delights to declare you “Forgiven!” It is Jesus who lifts up your earned consequences and removes them forever!
Jesus is the reason God still cries out: Repent! Turn away from all your offenses. To “repent” means to turn away, like taking a U-turn, turning 180degrees in a different direction. If you drive a car north and take a U-turn, you are now heading south. If you behave one way, you will turn and do the opposite action. If you repent of gossiping, you will encourage. If you turn from drunkenness, you will be sober. If you repent from manipulating others, you will live as an honest spouse.
Why would you do this? So that sin will not be your downfall! Literally, God says: So that iniquity is not your downfall. “Iniquity” pictures rebellion against authority or rioting against established leaders. To say “I’m sorry,” but continue in a willful habit, addiction, or behavior, really says that you are not sorry. To know drunkenness is a sin, but gladly going too far—really says that drunkenness is not as bad as God makes it out to be. Or, God desires you to make worship your number one priority each week. Yet, making up excuses as to why Sunday mornings do not fit into your schedule is to defend your act of staying out of worship. You are rebelling against God’s command. If you find fault with the commands God gives, you will try to change them. Yet, God asks you: “Where do you draw the line?” Sin will be your downfall because you will always find a new excuse to defend disobedient behavior. If you defend disobedience, you will very little reason to listen to God at all. You will eventually stand over God and tell him what you will and will not follow.
What a reason to examine your heart’s beliefs! What a reason to do what is just and right! How do you know what is just and right? Compare your life according to God’s commands. Have you been the loving spouse God calls you to be—always giving love instead of waiting to receive love? Have you been the helpful neighbor—standing up for the oppressed, helping the poor, defending reputations? Have you honored God’s gift of your body? When you realize that your actions have bent away, turn! repent! and live!
Run to Jesus and remember that he dies to purify us from all sin. Be assured that God has removed those wrongs as far as the east is from the west. Live a new life—with a new heart and a new spirit. This new heart and new spirit never comes for you trying hard to be a better person. It does not come by shaming yourself into being a better Christian. The only way you receive a new heart and new spirit comes from listening to the Word of God. As you hear, read, and learn, the Holy Spirit plants those teachings into your heart. That is why we sing after some sermons: ‘Create in me in me a new heart.’ You are asking that God the Holy Spirit take the message you just heard and bury it into your heart. You are praying that he shape your thoughts, words, and actions to match up to God’s perfect will. You pray that he put to death every evil desire and impulse and give you a new desire, a new heart, a new spirit to live according to his commands.
Do You Want to Live? Then, turn from evil and receive a new heart. Examine your life according to God’s commands. Remember that God holds you accountable for your actions. He will not punish another for the things your hands have done. Sin is that serious.
It is so serious that Jesus steps into life to cleanse your heart from all evil. He wipes your heart clean—and that is what God, your Father now sees. A new heart. A new spirit. A new desire within you. A new life bent on obeying him. A new life—not heading for death, but for life. And God makes that clear. Do You Want to Live? Then, turn from evil and receive a new heart.