I want to speak with you about the high price of sin. You know, sin is kind of expensive. Very expensive. Probably the most expensive thing in the world, wouldn't you say. Sin. Costly.
The human mind is capable of containing just about everything including the kitchen sink. Whatever we see we can store it. We can put it in here. If you look at something, it's there. The human mind is amazing, but unlike your kitchen sink, the human mind has no garbage disposal. It would be nice.
Last night in our sink we were washing veggies and all kinds of great things, but sometimes garbage gets in the sink. I will tell you that we have a switch that we can just turn on and run the water and all that goes down the drain and it's completely gone and out of sight, out of mind. But your mind is not like that garbage disposal, because when you are sitting at your computer screen and you click on a certain site and up comes a very ugly, filthy picture that you have no business looking at, there is no switch that you can turn on which will eradicate that image from your mind. It's there. It's in your mind, they say, forever. So once you look at something, you rarely forget it. And every time that you're reminded of it there it is. Time may dim its vividness but only Jesus Christ, on resurrection morning, at the last trump, can actually erase it. I look forward to that day when the sinful things that I have been exposed to will be erased and gone forever, permanently. So you click on your mouse with caution. Be careful what you behold because it will change your life. And if you go to some evil movie, your mind becomes permanently contaminated.
There was a movie critic who was describing a new movie and the critic wrote this in a newspaper column. The plot moves rapidly down the sewer. Don't watch movies like that. Movies contaminate our mind more than about anything we can see. We seem to remember graphics and it wouldn't be so damaging if our mind were equipped with an erase button. We could throw it into the garbage disposal. We could throw it into the trash. My computer has a trash icon, but they claim that it's still in the computer.
The only way to protect your mind is to expose your mind to the best things. Expose your mind to the high quality spiritual things of life and then the things of earth will grow strangely dim. They'll still be there but they're going to be dimmer. And until the day when we're changed in the last trump, at the end of time, the only way we can deal with sin is to give it to Jesus. To come to the cross of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the answer.
When we think of Calvary we usually think of the cross of Jesus. We think of the old rugged cross and that's going to be our closing hymn today. Jesus hung on that old rugged cross on what we call Good Friday. I'm sure he would not call it good Friday. He would call it bad Friday. The day that I died. But the complete picture actually contains three crosses.
I would like for you to turn to our Scripture reading for today. Luke 23:32. Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed and when they came to the place called the skull there they crucified him along with the criminals. One in his right and one on his left. And Jesus said father forgive them for they don't know what they're doing and they divided up his clothes by lots. And the people stood watching and the rulers even sneered at him and they said he saved others let him save himself if he is the Christ of God. The chosen one. Verse 36. The soldiers came up and mocked him and offered him wine vinegar and said, if you're the king of the Jews, save yourself. There was written a notice above him which said, this is the King of the Jews. One of the criminals hung there hurled insults at him. Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us. Verse 40. But the other criminal rebuked hm. Don't you fear God since you are under the same sentence. We are punished justly for we are getting what our deeds deserve but this man has done nothing wrong. Then he said, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. And Jesus answered him, I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in paradise.
Interesting story, isn't it? Three crosses, three men, each dying differently. These three crosses standing there high on Calvary beckon us, I think, to look back 2000 years ago and to learn three great truths about sin. Because on each of those crosses, each of those three men died in a different way toward sin. They all died.
Number one, the first one, he had his death in sin. Luke 23:39 says, and one of the malefactors which were hanged, railed on him saying, if you be the Christ save yourself and us. Can you imagine railing on Jesus? He said, save us and save yourself if you can. If you are Christ.
Now sin has to be paid for. Romans 6:32 says the wages of sin is what? Death. That's the payment for sin. In order to pay completely for sin you have to provide death. Somebody has to die, and the lost thief made his choice to pay for his sins himself. Can you pay for your own sins? Do you have to have Jesus pay for your sins? No you don't. You can pay for them yourself. You've got what it takes. Your life. Your eternal life. That's the payment. And the lost thief made the choice to pay for his own sins. The price was his eternal death, and that makes the payment very expensive. It cost him his eternal life because he chose to die in his own sins.
Now it's amazing to me that anybody who is so near to Jesus that he could die a lost person. How close was he to Jesus? Well I don't know exactly. There were three crosses according to the way that everybody shows the pictures Jesus cross was in the middle and then on the left was one malefactor and on the right was another malefactor. How close they were I don't know but they were stretched out. I assume that the fingers of the one thief were not over 12 or 15 inches from Jesus hands. They were stretched out like that on both sides, very close to the Savior. How could you be that close to Jesus and die lost? I don't know. But this thief died a thief. An unforgiven thief. He blew his only chance. I've never been that close to Jesus physically but he was about as close as you get and he died lost. All of the loot that he got from his thievery, all of the proceeds that he got from his pickpocketing were left behind. You talk about the left behind series. What is going to be left behind? All the sinners are going to be left dead. Sin was the winner that day for that thief. The lost thief.
Somebody told me this morning that the nuclear power plant over in Japan had some type of explosion or something. A big plume of radiation and smoke. Radiation is colorless. Radiation itself you can smell it. There is no odor. No way to detect it other than if you have a unit that you wear or a Geiger counter. Tens of thousands of innocent people may have been exposed to radiation. They have to be immediately removed and evacuated. Thousands of people and no way to get out. No way to get help. There's no way to see that and that's the same with sin. You can't see it. It's invisible. You can't smell sin. It has no color. It's odorless. But once you're exposed to it, you're in trouble. You've got to be subjected to Jesus to have it taken away, and that happens at the foot of the cross.
Look at John 8:32. Jesus made an interesting statement. He says, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. Do you know the truth? If you know Jesus you will be free from your radiation. You'll be free from your sin and Jesus said somewhere else, When I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto myself. Jesus was lifted up on the cross and he was drawing this thief on the cross, but the thief refused to budge. He could give his heart but he didn't. He didn't do it. We need to make that decision.
There was a pilot flying his small aircraft one day. Small airplane and he heard a noise. He thought what is that noise, never heard that before. It sounds like something chewing and he finally determined, that's a rat. He had seen rats around the airport and the rat was gnawing and chewing on something and he got to thinking about that. What's that rat chewing on? I wonder if he's chewing on some wires. That rat could kill me up here. Suddenly he realized it could be an electrical wire or something, and then he remembered that rodents cannot survive at how high altitudes and so immediately he started climbing. He finally had to put on his emergency oxygen mask and finally the gnawing sound ceased. After he got to the airport he was going to, he found a rat. The rat had been chewing on wires. The rat was dead.
The only way you can destroy the power of sin that's in your life is to come up the hill to calvary and give your sins to Jesus Christ. Expose them to Jesus. Now that lost thief rejected Jesus. He cursed Jesus. He died in his sins. He died a lost man. That's how you don't want to die.
Now let's look at the other thief for a minute. Come back to Luke 23:40. But the other criminal rebuked him. Don't you fear God, he said, since you are under the same sentence. We are punished justly for we're getting what our deeds deserve but this man has not done nothing wrong. Then in verse 42 he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. He was asking Jesus to be his Lord. He call him Lord. When Jesus becomes the Lord of your life, things are different. He accepted Jesus and Jesus recognized that. He said yes, I'm telling you right now, you will be with me in paradise. So the good crook asked Jesus to save him and he died a saved man.
Is any criminal good? They were both evil. Both were guilty of sin. Both of them cursed Jesus. Now some people think it was just the bad crook who cursed Jesus. No, they both cursed Jesus. Isn't that what it says here? They both heaped insults upon Jesus. They threw insults at Jesus. They both mocked Jesus. Turn to Matthew 27:44. In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. They heaped insults. They both did. Both of those criminals. So in other words, Jesus was in the middle. There was a thief on the left and a thief on the right.
Tell me something. They both heaped insults on him so what happened to the one there on the cross? He was converted. And what changed him? I think I know. Have you ever thought about that? What was it that caused that, because just a few minutes before he had been heaping insults on Jesus and then all of a sudden he became saved? What is it that did that? I think I know. Turn to Luke 23:34. Now here is something. All three were hanging there at the place of the skull on Calvary. One on the right, one on the left, and Jesus said in verse 34. Father forgive them for they do not know what they're doing. What were they doing? They were heaping insults on Jesus. They were throwing curses and swear words at him. The soldiers were crucifying him and so there Jesus prayed. And I think it was Jesus' prayer that changed this thief. I think that's what it was. When he heard Jesus praying for him and for the soldiers who were crucifying him and for the Pharisees and everybody else, forgiving everybody. They all don't know what they're doing. The crowd, the soldiers, the thieves. And that thief said, he's praying for me. And that changed him. It was Jesus' words that changed the thief.
Let me tell you, there's power in Jesus' words. You ought to be exposing yourself to the words of Jesus, because that's where the power is. Don't you dare get up in the morning and leave the house without reading the Bible. Exposing yourself to the words of Jesus. That man was saved because of his good deeds. Correct? No. How was he saved? He was saved by grace just like you are. You say, well I'm better than he was. Are you? If the sins of your life have you pinned against the cross of your life, I urge you to give your life to Jesus and he will save. He will forgive you. It doesn't matter what you've done. That could've been Al Capone right there on that cross. It doesn't matter. If you give your heart to Jesus, you're saved.
And how are we all saved? Look at Ephesians 2. This is one of the most beautiful Scriptures in the entire Bible. Ephesians 2:8 and 9. This tells us of God's great love for us. By grace you have been saved, through faith. That's how the thief on the cross was saved and that's how you are saved. And this not from yourselves. It is a gift of God. Even your faith is a gift of God. And not by works so that anybody can boast. I've had a lot of people say, you know that man never kept the Sabbath. That thief on the cross, he wasn't even baptized. How could he be saved? He was saved by grace. Should he have been baptized? Well, of course. If he would've been able to come down off that cross, would he have been baptized? I think he would. He would've kept the Sabbath. He would've done all the other things because he was a changed man. But he didn't have a chance. So did the good crook earn salvation? Not at all. None of us ever do. No one can live a perfect life and save themselves. You are not your own Savior. Our best will never be good enough.
One time my wife and I were up in Berrien Springs Michigan visiting her parents. They lived on Main Street there just south of the seminary area and we drove up to visit them and spent the weekend with my in-laws. It snowed. They had a small white poodle. Her name was Princess and they kept that dog spotlessly clean. That dog was an indoor animal. Let out and right back in. Did not get dirty. Spotlessly clean. We spent the night in their home and the next morning we woke up to see 6 to 8 inches of new snow on the ground. It was a beautiful morning. I remember that so clearly. The snow was glistening in the sun. It was great. It was cold. I stood looking out the window and I saw this drab looking dog out there in the snow. I thought what is that? And then I realized it was Princess. There was this clean immaculate dog out there, clean as always, but against that dazzling white background she looked dirty.
You know in the same way we think were pretty good. All right. I'm doing it good. No you're not. Our corrupt life is clearly revealed when we come into the presence of Jesus Christ. When Princess got out there on that dazzling beautiful white snow she looked filthy. Looked dirty. And when you get in the presence of Jesus, you're going to realize how perfect he is and how imperfect you are. The only way that we are perfect, and by the way, you have to be perfect to be saved, is that Jesus gives you his perfection. He gives it to you. Because Romans 3:23 says all have sinned in the past and come, present tense, short of the glory of God. In the past you all have sinned and all are coming right now short of the glory of God. Present tense. We sinned in the past, we are sinning now. We're all sinners. We can make a pretty good showing compared to some other people but nobody can stand up against the pure whiteness of the character of Christ. Isaiah 1:18 says, though your sins be as scarlet they will be what? As white as snow. When will that be? When they are forgiven and done away with, and our minds are cleansed and the garbage disposal works and all the evil is removed and we're changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.
The good thief on the cross was saved by grace and every one of us are saved just like that thief was because we're all thieves. We're all crooks. We're all worse than crooks. In these last days, the world is on an immoral sliding board which leads straight to eternal death, and if we don't soon reach these wicked cities, they're going to be inundated with the events of the last days because those wicked cities will become cesspools infecting the entire world.
They said the first carriages were horseless and many laws were enforceless, the next cookery was fireless, telegraph was wireless and oranges were seedless and putting greens were weedless and now motor roads are dustless and cars are rustless. Our tennis courts are sodless and religion is godless. Shame on us. It's time to get back to God. Attend church every week. Study your Bible. Get on your knees. Pray for your self. Pray for your family. Come to Jesus and like the good crook give your sins to Jesus and let Jesus pay for your loan of sin.
Turn to Romans 7. It was the custom of ancient conquerors to tie a dead body to the back of all prisoners which would prevent them from escaping. With such a smelly load tied to their back and the flies and maggots were all over the thing and those poor prisoners could not run away with such a heavy load tied to them and they almost always died. I think Paul had this in mind here in Romans 7 when he made this agonizing statement in verse 24. He said, what a wretched man I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death that's tied to me? Who will rescue me? And who is that person? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus is the answer to our sins. There is no sin that Jesus cannot forgive. You may say, well I've done some pretty bad things. But let me tell you Jesus has done some pretty perfect things and he can forgive you of all sin. He is the answer to all of our sins. There is no sin that he can't forgive.
Now we come to the third type of death. First of all is death in sin. Secondly death to sin and thirdly now death for sin. Only Christ died for sin. For my sin. Now I can understand how you can die in your sins because people do that every day. They live for the world and the world is all they're going to get because that's what they live for, they will get what they want. And number two I can understand how we can died to sin. I've seen many people give their life to Jesus. I've seen many people be baptized. We baptize hundreds of people right up here in this baptistry behind me and I've seen people follow Jesus all their lives and grow more and more in love with Jesus. They accept the free gift of eternal life. But I cannot understand how our perfect Jesus could die as a common criminal for the sins of others. How could he do that? I don't understand that type of love. There is no other way for us to be saved other than what Jesus did for us. There's no other way to have your sins forgiven. They had to be paid for. They can't just be erased. God is just but he's merciful. He's loving.
There was a judge in a small town who was disliked vehemently by the editor of the local newspaper. One day a very close friend of the judge was arrested and was guilty and booked to be tried for an offense. The editor said, we've got the judge now, whatever he might do. If he fines him with a little dinky fine, we will say in the newspaper, do we want to judge who is partial to his friends? That will be the headlines. But if the judge assesses the man with a heavy fine, my editorial will ask, do we want to judge who has no compassion and mercy even for his friends? So we've got him either way. Whatever he does, he's out of here. The editor was jubilant.
Well, when the trial was held, the friend stood up and pled guilty. The judge assessed the heaviest fine possible that the books would allow for the offense. The editor quietly made his way to the door. He was headed to the newspaper office. And he knew what his story would be. But before he could reach the door, the judge stood up, took off his robe, laid it on the bench, stepped down, stood beside his friend and pulled out his own wallet and took the money and paid for the offense. Paid completely for it. Paid it himself with his own money.
That's basically what Jesus did on the cross. We are guilty and Jesus has to be just. The wages of sin is what? It's death. And then Jesus laid down his robe and laid down his life for us. He left heaven. He came down to this sinful world. He paid the entire price that we could never afford. He lived a life that we could never live. He died on the cross to completely pay for our sins. Jesus is just and merciful.
Allow Jesus to be the garbage disposal of your life. To get rid of the sins of your life before you end up going down the drain with the rest of the garbage.
There were three crosses that day. One represents death in sin, another death to sin, and the other death for sin. Please accept that death that Jesus died for you. Die to sin so that you can live in Christ.
I want to conclude by reading Romans 6:23. The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Praise God for that gift. Have you accepted Christ as your Savior? Have you really? You must.
I'm going to make an appeal to you. You know, the old rugged cross is where Jesus died. And those other two people, they died on old rugged crosses, too. I imagine that all three crosses were old and rugged. Well used by the Romans. Three people. Two criminals. One criminal saved. I'm going to make an appeal to you. Are you willing? Jesus is reaching out to you. Are you willing to give your life to Jesus? Maybe you've done it before. Maybe you'd like to recommit your life, or maybe you've not done it. Maybe you've drifted from the church. You've been out of the church. Or maybe you've never given your life to Jesus. Whatever those three circumstances are. You want to recommit your life or you want to come back to Jesus or you want to come to him for the first time, would you please stand. I'd like to invite you to stand. You know why you're standing. God knows why you're standing. I don't. Let us pray.
Dear father in heaven. You see these folks standing. There may be some who are seated, that's okay, bless them too because Jesus prayed even for those who didn't accept him. Jesus prayed for both criminals. Jesus waits to save each of us and I earnestly pray that each individual here today will be saved from their sins by the Savior of all sin. So bless us, and we ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Hymn of Praise: #26, Praise the Lord! You Heavens Adore Him Scripture: Luke 23:39-43 Hymn of Response: #159, The Old Rugged Cross Sermon Notes: Sermon notes available as PDF
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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 04/01/11