Get out of the Birdcage

As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, Get out of the Birdcage, was given at The Salvation Army Devonport on Sunday 13 July, 2014. The Reading was John 3:14-21

How good are you at making a choice? Let’s play a little game. I’ll have two pictures on the screen, if you would choose the one on the right, put your hand up. If you choose the one on the left, leave your hand down.

  • Coke or Pepsi
  • Chocolate or Chips
  • James Bond or Indiana Jones
  • Star Wars or The Notebook
  • 7 course degustation  or Steak and 3 Veg
  • “Chucking a sickie” or full day of work
  • Blowing your own trumpet or giving a compliment to someone else

We are trapped in Sin, which the devil uses to play games with us

How easy it is to choose a life of sin. Who wouldn’t want a 7 course degustation menu over steak and veg? Who would rather work than rest? These are extreme examples, but every day, we make a choice to live in sin, or to not sin. In the video earlier, I don’t know whether you caught the line, but the actor depicting the devil says, “Funny thing is they put themselves in that cage, I had nothing to do with it.” We get trapped in the life of sin because it feels like it is the easy path. We can do what we want, live lives of pleasure, of excess, we can take, without care for others. And the thing is, the more we do it, the harder it is to say not.

And once we’re in that cage, once we have trapped ourselves, the devil can play games with us. Games that we think bring us pleasure, but only bring us pain. Games that make wrong seem right, and right seem wrong. Games that make us think that it’s ok to eat massive meals, when there are people in the world who are starving. Games that make us think that it’s ok to have the latest and greatest gadgets, when there are people living on less than $2 a day. Games that make us think that having the largest, most expensive house is the dream, when there are people here in our own city who don’t have a roof to sleep under at night. Games that make us think that it’s ok to mistreat those from another country, so long as they don’t get an opportunity to mistreat us.

Jesus said in the reading today: “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” We are so easily led away from the light – but that is not the devil leading us away. He places the temptation there, but we make the choice to go into that cage and close the door behind us. We do evil deeds, and we don’t tell anyone because of fear that they will expose us. And then the devil plays games with us, tells us that it is right to chuck a sickie, that it is right to treat yourself to a life of excess, that it is right to treat others with disrespect, and we start to justify that these sins are just our modern day life, and it’s not that big of a deal.

Unfortunately, it is that big of a deal. In Romans 6, Paul writes: “What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death… for the wages of sin is death…” What do we get from living a life of sin? Death. Now, I’m not saying that by sinning, God will kill you. No. What I’m saying is that if you live a life of sin, that’s all you get. At the end of your life – death. However, Paul also mentions the flip side: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life… the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus paid the price of our sin, because he loves us and wants to connect with us

But just like the birds who are trapped in the cage, we can’t free ourselves. We can’t. We put ourselves in the cage, but we can’t get out. The Devil’s not going to let us out: “They’re no good for nothing, They don’t do no tricks or nothin, and if you open this gate they’re just going to fly away.” The only one who will let us out is Jesus. Why? “My father and I, we’re rather fond of Mankind… We want them to have access to us.” God loves us, and wants to be in a relationship with us. And he always has.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they had to be thrown out of the Garden of Eden, but God didn’t leave humanity. God was with Adam’s descendants – and even though they sinned so much that God had to destroy them all, he saved Humanity through Noah, and promised that he would never again wipe out humanity in such a way. He was with Abraham, and promised him as many descendants as the stars. He was with Jacob, and with Joseph as they went into Egypt. He raised up Moses to take them into the promised land, and through Joshua, the Israelites found a home. They had Judges, both good and bad, and then Saul, the first King, followed by David, and God was with them. The kingdom was divided, and between the two kingdoms, they had 39 Kings in about 300 years, and of those only 6 are said to have done what was right in the eyes of the Lord. They are led away into captivity, but still God does not abandon them, and eventually they return and rebuild Jerusalem. God remains with them, sends them prophets to speak into their lives, but still they don’t listen. They don’t get it. So God does what he knew was eventually going to happen. Why?

For God so loved the word that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Paul wrote it like this: God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Christ came down to earth, for the sole purpose of dying, so that he could pay the price for our transgressions. The wages of sin is death. The only way to pay for the sin that we have lived in is death. But when Jesus died on that cross, he died for us, so that our sin may be forgiven and so that we could enter into a relationship with him and enter into the light.

We are free from sin, able to leave the birdcage

And because of what Jesus did, we are able to leave that birdcage. Jesus opened up the cage and set us free. But again, we have a choice. We can choose to be free, truly free, or we can put ourselves back in that cage.

We can choose to live a sinless and blameless life. Or we can choose to remain in sin. And you know what, sometimes, we will fail. Sometimes we will put ourselves back in that cage. But you’ve got to remember – Jesus’ gift is one that is always there for us. The Love of God is always there, it’s this idea of Prevenient Grace – grace that precedes our decision, that is there even before we look for it. In 1 John we read that “We love him, because he first loved us.”

But just because it’s always there, doesn’t mean that we should abuse that. Paul writes in Romans 6: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

When we’re free, we should want to stay free. So we try to remain living a sin-less life, as much as we are able to.

Take up God’s grace, and fly free

So the offer is there. Christ has paid the price, and opened the cage and set you free. Will you remain free, or will you put yourself back into that cage?

We’re going to sing the song, Lord, I need you, which has some wonderful lyrics.

“Lord, I come, I confess” – have you been living a life of sin? Are you convinced that you need to confess your sins to the Lord. Then come, bow here and find your rest in the Lord.

“Without you, I fall apart” – Do you need to recommit yourself to God? Have you moved away, but want to be free once again? Come, find guidance for your heart.

“Where sin runs deep” – Maybe you’re feeling ashamed of the sin in your life. Know that there is no judgement here, only the Love of God. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in your past, Jesus Christ has already paid the price, and his grace is more than enough to cover your sin.

“Holiness is Christ in me” – Maybe you want to commit to living a holy life, to living free from sin every hour, with Christ in you.

This time is yours. Feel free to come forward for prayer, to seek out someone to pray with, or to just sit or stand in prayer.

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Author: Ben Clapton

I'm an Officer in The Salvation Army, currently appointed with my wife as Corps Officers at the Rochester Corps in country Victoria (20 minutes out of Echuca). I play violin and guitar, amongst many others, and love golf and running.

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