As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Release the shackles of sin and praise God!, was given at The Salvation Army Broadford corps on Sunday 18 November, 2012. The Bible reading was Acts 3:1-16.
Ex-leper or lame beggar?
When I think of the miraculous healings in the bible, my mind always gets drawn to the scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian, where Brian meets an ex-leper, begging for alms. “Spare a talent for an old ex-leper” Through the scene, we find that this ex-leper spent 16 years behind the bell, before Jesus walked up to him and said “You’re cured” without so much as a “by your leave.” As such, he’s now healed, but doesn’t have anything to do, as all he knew how to do was to beg for alms. So despite being healed, he stays in his old life, begging, and wishing that he was just a bit of a cripple during the week – enough to beg, but not as annoying as full on leprosy.
But, today, we hear of a man whose response is quite different to that of the ex-leper. I wonder what life story he would tell to Brian, if he were to run into him.
I was sitting there, begging outside of the Beautiful Gate, and it was about mid-afternoon. My friends had carried me there, because it was the best place to beg for alms. All those pious Jews would soon be going through that gate to the temple to go to prayers, and truly pious Jews knew that to be seen giving money to us was a visible sign of their piety. I’d been there most of the afternoon, and a couple of men came up to me. One of them told me to look at them, and I thought that they were going to give me something. He said to me that he didn’t have any silver or gold, but he would give what he had. I was thinking what he could give that wasn’t silver or gold, but he went on and said, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” He then grabbed my hand, and helped me up. All my life, I had never had any strength in my legs and feet, but all of a sudden, I was able to stand and walk on them. They invited me to go with them into the temple, and I went with them, but I couldn’t just walk. I hadn’t walked all my life, but neither had I jumped, and run. Never had I praised God before, but now I could run, and jump, and dance, and it was wonderful!
The difference between these two is that the ex-leper wants to hang onto his old life. It was all he knew, and all he knew how to do. The lame beggar on the other hand was more than willing to jump, and leap, and praise God. He went into the temple, and clung to the disciples who healed him. He left his old life behind, and clung to this new life that he had been granted. It was as if the shackles of bondage that had been holding him down had finally been released.
Release the shackles of your sin
It’s important to note that in biblical times, many people saw ailments such as leprosy and being lame as punishment for sin. Even though sin is not mentioned in this story as the cause of this man’s ailment, it still must be noted that it was a common understanding. Therefore, for him to be healed, must have meant that his sins had also been forgiven.
As Christians, we believe that all our sins have been forgiven, and that they were forgiven when Christ was crucified and rose from the grave. He paid the penalty for our sins. However, while we can believe that, sometimes we like to hang onto our sins. We don’t like to completely give them up, even though we believe that Christ had forgiven us completely.
Earlier this year, I had a revelation. In doing a 12 steps course in spiritual development, I realised that I could trace some of my behaviours back to a particular event, almost ten years ago. As I reflected back on my time, I could see how my behaviours had all been affected by this event. Over the years, I had slowly given up a behaviour at a time, one sin at a time. Each time, I thought I was doing really well, but in reality, with each one, I was hanging on to all the other sinful behaviours.
It was only this year that I made a decision that I needed to release all of the sins that I was hanging on to. I asked God to take away all my sins, and to help me lead a holy life. I confided to my wife about the sins that I had committed. I believe that confession is a very important part of the process – confession to God, and confession to someone else, so that they can help you along the process as well.
Once I asked God to take away all my sins, I started seeing that God had given me what I had asked for. Very soon after this, I was placed in a situation which would have been very easy for me to fall back into sin. My sin was in my thoughts, and I was all day, alone, and focussing on my thoughts while walking around the city. It was only at the end of the day that I realised that I had not fallen into my old thoughts at any point during that day. I had been released of my sin, and it was no longer an issue for me in my life.
Walking and Leaping and Praising God
However, there is still one sin in my life relating to this. I hadn’t fully praised God for the work he has done in my life. When the lame beggar was healed, he was “walking and leaping and praising God” – that’s how we should be. We need to walk and leap and praise God for the work that he’s done in our lives. So often we get stuck into asking God for things that we don’t rejoice and praise God for the good things that he’s done in our lives. While I’m talking here, start thinking about the wonderful things that God has done in your life. For me, God has given me a wonderful wife, and a beautiful baby girl. He has blessed me with a wonderful family that is supportive of us and our calling. He’s given me a wonderful country in which to live, that is peaceful by nature, and its nature is beautiful. He has saved me from my sins, and encourages me daily to live a holy life that is honouring to him. So right now, I want to thank you God for all the awesome stuff that you’ve done in my life. And you can do this too. It’s not a hard thing – you don’t need any special words. Just spend some time now, thanking God for everything that he’s done in your life. Big or small. Whether it’s a massive about face from the depths of despair that he’s saved you from, or having provided a family that loves God for you to grow up in. Whether it’s Christ’s redemptive love, or the ability to feed your family this week.
One of the common forms of prayer that we use is the ACTS prayer – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. We praise God in adoration, and say how great he is. In Confession, as we discussed above, we confess the sins that we have committed. In Thanksgiving, we give thanks for the things that God has done in our lives. ACTS should be a daily prayer for us – that we can wake up and praise, confess, thank and ask God every morning, and we can go to sleep having praised, confessed, thanked and asked God every night.
We’re going to now share in the song Amazing Grace (My chains are gone), and what a wonderful song God has provided for us. Amazing Grace, how sweet a sound that saved a wretch like me. God’s Grace is what saves us from our sin. It goes before us, having paid the price for our sins before we ask for it. But we also get the chorus, My chains are gone, I’ve been set free. God’s grace sets us free from our sins, it is like a flood that pours into us, and flushes out every trace of sin. How glorious it is that through this grace, we are set free from this sin, and we should praise God for that. So while we sing this song, search out your life. Will you be like the ex-leper, holding onto your past sin? Or will you be like the lame beggar, fully releasing your sins to God and walking and leaping and praising God. While we sing, the mercy seat is open as a place of prayer. You are invited to come and ask God to take that sin that you are holding onto – and if you come, then leave that sin there on the mercy seat. Or come and praise God for the work that he has done in your life. Thank him for everything that he has done in your life.