It doesn't matter what side of the world you happen to live on and where your ministry is. We have a lot of the same problems in Kenya that you do here, a lot of the same issues, and one of them that I'm going to talk about to you today is a very unpopular subject. Only three letters. Sin. You know, people have a problem on my side of the world with sin also. It seems to be everywhere, and it's something we really struggle with but without full understanding, and I don't think we'll ever have full understanding of sin.
I remember in seminary one time, a book that we were told to pick up was a book about 4 inches thick entitled Sin, by some theologian named Birkauer. My professor said, oh you know that book I had you buy? Yes. This was on a Monday. He said, there will be an exam on it on Wednesday. I said, which part? He said, this part. The whole thing.
Today we're not going deep, because we need to go shallow. Just something simple. I'm used to preaching to Academy students. Teenagers, and that has its own challenges like I'm not used to standing still behind a pulpit anymore, because if you don't run around, they will, so I've had to be a little more active, so it's kind of nice being steady here. But teenagers won't accept all that deep theology and I think there's a good reason. We don't need it. We need to understand the basics.
So here's a question for you. What is the definition of sin, and it's not a trick question. Biblical basic. What is it? Thank you. Transgression of the law. Well that's simple enough. Even the dictionary tells you, sin is the transgression of a moral precept. Okay, that's simple. So sin is transgression of the law.
Let's still keep it simple. What is the law? Wait, that didn't come as fast. What is God's law? Okay, I'm hearing a little variety out here. I'm hearing 10 Commandments, I'm hearing character, I'm hearing, I don't know, I couldn't understand. The will of God. Yes! The law of God is a transcript of his what? Character. Or as Ellen White also says, a reflection of God's character.
So sin is transgression of God's law. God's law is a reflection of his character, so if A equals B, B equals C, that means A equals C, so sin is stepping away from the reflection of God's character. Does that make sense? So when I sin I have taken a path away from the way God created me to be because, who was created in God's image? We are. Who's jealous of that fact? Satan. That's where it all started.
Lucifer got jealous of the fact that you and I were created in the image of God and so he wants us to sin. He doesn't care what we do. He doesn't care if my sin is stealing a candy bar or committing adultery. It doesn't matter to him. He wants us just to take that path, to step away from God's image. And that starts a chain reaction. If I step away from God's image by sinning, then somebody else looks at me and says, oh, is that what a Christian is? I don't want anything to do with that. What happened? He scored another point. Somebody else is now not interested in being in God's image and it's like dominoes falling.
Okay. Let's say, oh keep it simple. I go to the store and I steal a candy bar and I put it in my pocket and take it home, and my mother catches me eating it. Where did you get that? My pocket. Where did you get it to put in your pocket? The pantry. What has happened? Where was the sin? Well, you stole the candy bar and then you lied about it, and look at the path that you're on. You are walking away from the image of God and Satan is going, heh, heh, heh. Got another one.
That's why he hates it when we confess. When we repent, uh, mom, I stole it from the store, satan cringes because he knows that to repent means to turn around in your path and walk back towards the image of God. That's when people look at you again and say, is that what a Christian is like? Tell me about it. I would like to know more. Satan wants to pull us away from the image of God, to pull us away from the life giver.
Okay, another simple one. What are the wages of sin? Death. Why? Because God said so? Or is there a reason? Is it because you steal a candy bar and God says, I've been waiting for you to do that. Squish. No. It's because we are on the path away from his image. Who is the life giver? God is the life giver and we are now walking away from the giver of life. That's why the wages of sin is death. Not because of a God who is looking for a way to destroy us, but because we've chosen to walk away from his love. Thank goodness for repentance. You can turn around and you can walk back and get more and more life. Have you seen people who just seemed full of life. They're close to the life giver. They're not walking on that path of sin and destruction.
Turn to First Peter 5:8. Here's some more good news. It doesn't sound like good news to start with, but it's excellent. First Peter 5:8. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Someone said something to me this morning. Well I see the lions haven't gotten you yet. This is describing Satan as a man eating lions. Isn't that scary? Looking for someone to devour.
Well, I've learned something about lions in the past five years. We have them close to campus. We had a friend jogging behind the campus last year sometime and he saw a lion stalking a Maasai lady who was gathering sticks. He warned her, hey! Thank you. Every once in a while in the night we can hear a lion roar in the distance.
I've been learning about lions, and I learned something about man eating lions. Do you know why they're maneaters? Because they're old, they're weak, they're sick and they know their days are numbered. Their teeth are crumbling, their claws are falling out. That's why they're not eating zebras. They're looking for easier game.
What does that tell us about Satan. He's old, he's weak, his teeth have been pulled at the cross. Why are we afraid of him? He has no power over you and me. None, unless we give it to. So he still wants us, but he has no grip. He has no teeth. All he has is a roar. Seeking whom he may devour. Without power, what does he have to do? He has to trick us. He has to deceive us. He has to be clever, and we fall for it.
We have another little pest in Africa called baboons. The baboons are a nuisance at any picnic. They're a nuisance to the farmers, and in Kenya there was a group of farmers who had a huge troop of baboons that was constantly raiding their crops. They decided to put an end to them all. You can't just shoot one baboon though because then they'll go into hiding and become more sneaky. You have to kill them all at once. So they devised a plan of traps and they set out enough traps to capture all the baboons in the troop and they put food in there that baboons like, which is anything. They put the food in there and they waited and watched.
At first the baboons were very cautious. There's something new on the farm. But it has something good looking inside of it. Finally one of them got up the courage and went inside and ate the food while the rest of them watched and nothing happened. The next day another one went in. Pretty soon they had a habit of feeding inside the cages and walking out. Nothing's happening. Then one day when this is happening, the farmers tied the food to the mechanism and all of the baboons went in and they tugged on the food. All the doors shut, trapping every single baboon. At first they were like, huh? Then they were like, well whatever, there's food. They kept eating.
That's the way Satan works. It's not hurting them. Look. They've been sinning for years, and look, they seem to have it nice. But you never know when he's going to spring the trap. It might be tomorrow and it might be 10 years from now but when you're trapped, you're trapped. It doesn't matter to him when he traps you. He's very patient.
There's good news again. These baboons survive, because a wildlife Conservancy heard about what was happening and they sent a man to negotiate with the farmers, and he not only paid for the damage the baboons had done, he paid for the traps and he took the baboons and set them free in a wilderness area.
Jesus comes and sets us free because we can't do it ourselves. And there is good news there. The good news is, Satan has no power that we do not allow him to have in our lives. But he is tricky.
We had some friends come and visit us over Christmas break from Canada. We took them to one of the most famous parks in Africa called the Maasai Mara. A beautiful place. They wanted to see lions. Everybody wants to see lions. We'll find some lions for you. We were out driving in the wee hours of the morning and as the sun was coming up over the park, I spotted something golden on the plains. Wow! We drove across the plains and there were two male lions lying side-by-side in the morning sun. Their manes looked like they had just come from the beauty parlor. Everything was perfect, and they were lying there in the sun, so soft and cuddly.
In fact, that's what our Canadian friends said. I feel like we could just get out of the car and go snuggle with them. And our car was like from me to you. I started to open the door. They said no no no no. I said why not? I found that Canadians are smart people to. They stayed in the car. But Satan tries to make himself look attractive. Come, snuggle with me for a while. Take my image for a while. A very short while. Very tricky. There's a poster at the entrance of the park that shows what can happen. The poster shows that there is a man leaning outside of the car taking a picture of a male lion as the female comes around and pulls him out. That was the end. Satan does not love us. He wants us gone, but we try to handle things ourselves and do things our own way.
Every once in a while we just have to get away from work. You know the feeling. Working in a boarding Academy is a day and night job. We're given a day off every other week, and sometimes we can even take it. We took this one weekend off, just my family, we usually travel with others, but nobody else could go with us that weekend, and we went to a place we had never been before. This was just a few weeks ago. Sahvo National Park.
Sahvo National Park is the place where many of you may have heard about the railroad that the British built through Kenya and the man eating lions that devoured the workers. Pulled them out of their tents and devoured them, stopping the whole progress for weeks and weeks while they had to hunt the lions. Those lions are now in the Museum of Natural History in Chicago. They finally got them.
Sahvo is known. If you say Sahvo, Sahvo means place of destruction. Sahvo National Park is known for those man eating lions. Of course we go camping there. We pitch our tent and we start driving around and this is the kind of wilderness where you can drive all day and not see another human being. You can even go on a mountain with binoculars and look over the whole park and not see another car. I like that. We're going up a road, we're looking for some caves that were created by a volcano. Lava caves. We're going to go exploring in these caves in the middle of nowhere and we're driving up this road looking for the caves and can't find them. Signs are something that are not common.
Finally we got to the place where my land cruiser could go no further. It goes a lot of places but here the road had holes in it four feet deep that went straight down. My ground clearance won't do that. I'm looking at it and thinking, oh, that road looks like it goes into a nice place. I'd love to go up in those hills. I didn't realize that we were only about 100 feet from the cave at that point. So I'm looking at the road and I'm thinking, is it worth it driving over the lava to get around these holes or is it just more of the same up ahead, and a useless cause?
So I decided to do the smart thing and get out of my car in Sahvo National Park of man eating lions. I went out of my car, but I went heavily armed. I had a stick and a knife, and I went to scout out the road ahead. I was disappointed because the road was just impossible for a long ways. But I'm walking up the road, a quarter of a mile away from the car just looking the road over and out of sight and I see in the dirt in front of me a pug mark. That's what they call lion tracks. A big lion track. A fresh lion track.
I thought, hmmm, hair stands up a little bit. So what do I do? The smart thing right? I follow them. I don't know what it is, but I started following these tracks and I've got my knife though and I've got my stick. Here's what would've happened. The lion jumps out, I throw the stick and the knife up in the air and scream and run. Okay, that would be it. I'm looking. I've got the knife out of it's sheath. I'm going up the road, and the tracks, he's going the path of least resistance. He's going up the road and I'm thinking, Wow! If I could only get a look at this big guy. As I go up the road quite a ways following these tracks, I'm not seeing him.
Then I met some more tracks. They were crossing the road from the brush to the brush. I looked over there and I said, hmmm. Leopard tracks. Nice. Okay. And then I did something smart. It's called repenting. Repenting means to turn around and go back toward safety, and I repented of my actions and I walked slowly back to the car, because I know cats like to chase things that are running. So I walked slowly back to the car and you know what was nice? My wife hadn't locked the car. She wasn't up there going, well, you were stupid enough to leave. Stay out there. No, she welcomed me back. She loves me. She welcomed me in. And said don't do that again. Go and sin no more. I love you. Don't go do that. God is waiting to welcome us back. I'm glad. Man eating lions.
Luganero is a small village in Rwanda and it's a special place to me for two reasons. It's the hospital where my wife was born and at the foot of the hill is lake Kivu where my daughter was born again on Christmas Day. Baptized her there. So it's a special place to me but Luganero hospital started back in 1931 by Dr. John H Sturgis, and he was sent there as a missionary to start a medical work. He started in a tent and started making his own bricks to build this hospital where my wife was born. Back then, missionaries were allowed to carry rifles. They don't let us do that. We have sticks and knives. He had a 7 mm mauser.
They had trouble with a man eating lion, and finally one of his friends, one of the natives came running. We have found him. We know where he is. Please bring your gun. Well of course I will. Dr. Sturgis followed the young man with his gun for several miles and he said, shhh, he is here somewhere. This is where he was last seen. You might should load your gun. Dr. Sturgis said, yes, good idea. Uh oh. No bullets. It was hot and he was tired, so he sent this young man back to his tent. Go back to my tent, get the bullets and bring them quickly. He sat down while the young man went and rested his back against a tree and fell asleep in the African sun.
You know that feeling you get when somebody is looking at you. I don't know where that comes from. You just get this feeling. He opened his eyes and there just a little ways in front of him was the lion. Its tail was twitching. You know what that means, you who have house cats? He's about the pounce. Yeah, he's going. What's Dr. Sturgis supposed to do at this point.
What would you do? I heard somebody say pray. That's good, but sometimes in life there's no time for that. Did you know that? Dear Lord, thank you for this nice day. Thank you for all your creatures. Thank you for smiting my enemies. Sometimes you just say oh God, help. Right? We don't serve a God who's just waiting up there, well he didn't take time to pray. I'm not going to save him from the lion. No. If we're one-on-one with God, he's with us. What shall we fear? He's looking out for us.
Well Dr. Sturgis stood up. He couldn't go backwards because the tree was at his back, so he took a tentative step forward, and he noticed a little hesitancy in the eyes of the lion, because usually, nobody will step toward him. This gave Dr. Sturgis courage. He suddenly lifted his arms and yelled, GO AWAY! And he did. As fast as his cat feet could travel, that lion turned tail and ran.
Turn with me to James 4:7. This is beautiful information for us if we get it in the right order. It says this. Submit yourselves then to God. Step one. Resist the devil. Step two. And he will flee from you. Many times we resist the devil without submitting ourselves to God and the lion laughs at us and twitches his tail. Submit yourselves to God, and now it's not you saying go away, it's God saying "go away" through you and Satan has no power. He has to turn tail and run. Don't be foolish like I was on that trail, trying to go it alone. Go with submitting yourself therefore to God and then say, go away, and you will be shocked at how quickly the old devil can run with his tail between his legs.
Then you know what will happen? When the enemy flees from you, you are on the path closer and closer to the image of God that the devil was jealous of to begin with. Then people will look at your life and say, I want the power that you have, and you'll say, no it's the power that God has. Anybody can have that power. The character of God will become more clear in your life and you will become closer to the way he created you to be in the beginning. In his image.
Hymn of Praise: #29, Sing Praise to God Scripture: 1 Peter 5:8,9 Hymn of Response: #518, Standing on the Promises
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Sermon at McDonald Road transcribed by Steve Foster 11/16/11