The following is the transcript from the February 21, 2016 service at Little Brown Church, Nashua, Iowa.
A tourist was visiting a famous landmark on the ocean and he’d walked out on a pier to see the ocean better. But as he looked over the edge of the pier he was disturbed by how deep the water seemed to be. As he was thinking about how deep the water must be at this point, he noticed an old man fishing off the pier, and he went over to him and asked: "If I were to fall into this water, would I drown?"
The old man smiled and said "Nah. Falling into the water isn't what drowns people. It's staying UNDER the water that drowns them.”
The message for this morning is entitled “Can You Fall So Far down You Can’t Get Up?” In other words: “Can you mess up your life so badly that you can’t undo the damage?”
And the answer from Scripture is…
YES. You can mess things up so badly you can’t undo the damage.
NO. You can’t mess things up so badly you can’t undo the damage.
Sound confusing? The Bible teaches us that you CAN drown in your sin. But it isn't the falling into sin that will drown you…it’s the staying under that will do that!
Let’s start with what II Thessalonians 2:9-12 tells us about this. It says that certain people perish,
“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe a lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”There are certain people who are going to perish because they've made a decision they've decided to REFUSE to love the truth. These people really don’t want God to tell them what to do. They don’t want God to have any real authority in their lives. THEY want to be the final authority in their lives.
God is an equal opportunity provider. If people WANT the truth God will give them the truth. But if they DON’T want the truth - if they refuse to love the Truth - God will give them what they want. They want falsehood? – God will give them falsehood. God will give them a LIE to deceive them so that in the final day – when we stand before His throne - there will be no gray area. You’ll either belong to God or you won’t. And the decision will already have been made, by YOU AND I, as to our final destination.
We actually have an illustration out of Scripture of a man who made that choice in his life. He was a man who made the choice to embrace falsehood and lies in his life.
His name was Judas Iscariot. His name has been a byword for betrayal. His name was immortalized by the kiss he used to betray Christ. We call it the “Judas Kiss” – it speaks of treachery and deceit.
And John 12:3-6 tells us why.
“Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But one of his disciples, JUDAS ISCARIOT, who was later to betray him, objected, ’Why wasn't this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because HE WAS A THIEF; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”But now wait a minute?
Didn't Jesus chose Judas to be one His closest disciples? (YES)
Didn't Jesus spend ALL night praying before he selected these 12 special men? (YES)
So, do you think that Jesus knew that Judas was going to steal from Him?
Yeah, Jesus knew that! So… why did He pick Judas?
The explanation is found in John 17:12 where Jesus prayed:
“While I was with (the 12 disciples) in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the one doomed to destruction, so that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”You see Judas was chosen by God because of the kind of man he was.
Judas was a thief. Judas was chosen because he had no conscience because he had no scruples. He’s the perfect example of a man who fell into sin and stayed there. And he drowned in his sin.
I HAVE met church goers who have reminded me of Judas. In fact, over my lifetime, I've met preachers who've reminded me of Judas. I've met Elders and Sunday school teachers, and Deacons, and all sorts of people in all kinds of roles in the church in the past that are very much like Judas.
You see… Judas was a VERY religious man. He was “in church” all the time.
He'd heard every sermon Jesus ever preached. He'd watched every miracle Jesus ever performed.
In fact, Judas was honored to be part of the 70 men who were sent out to preach about the coming of the Kingdom of God. He’d preached, And he’d done miracles. He’d been one of the leading forces in Jesus’ army of evangelists who spread God’s Word of the coming Kingdom.
Judas was a VERY religious man. But Judas had a problem. And his problem WAS NOT that he wasn't in church!
Judas’ problem was he loved being in church, but he didn't love Jesus.
His problem was that church was all about HIM! It was HIS church. It existed for his benefit. Church was the place he got his purpose in life, a place where he had power and authority… and money. Judas didn't love Jesus. Judas loved what he could gain by hanging around Jesus.
Now, how many of you think Judas should have gone to hell for betraying Christ? Me too - I think Judas should have gone to hell for betraying Jesus.
In fact, I think anyone who betrays Jesus should go to hell. Don’t you?
“… whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33 ESV)So anyone who denies or betrays Jesus deserves to go to hell.
But then, we have… Peter. Did Peter betray Jesus? Yes, 3 TIMES. One time he even curses as says he doesn't know Jesus.
This betrayal so crushed Peter that he didn't think he’d ever be forgiven for what he’d done. There are many scholars who believe that he had given up any hope that Christ would ever accept him back and was determined to go back to fishing and turning his back on this whole Jesus thing.
Peter was crushed by what he had done.
And believe it or not Judas was also crushed by his act of betrayal.
Matthew 27:3-5 tells us that
“when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he CHANGED HIS MIND and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I HAVE SINNED,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ …”Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.”
Peter was forgiven - Judas was not. Why the difference?
Well, the answer can be found in 2 Corinthians 7:10
“…godly grief PRODUCES A REPENTANCE that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief PRODUCES DEATH.”The difference between Peter and Judas was the difference between Godly grief and worldly grief.
Now here’s the deal: every Christian messes up. Every Christian betrays Christ at one point or another in their lives. Every one of us has failed. Every one of us has sinned. We've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Now, when we first became Christians, God dealt with our sin by having us REPENT of our sins. And then He asked us to allow ourselves to be buried in the waters of baptism to wash away all the guilt and shame of our past.
But then we became Christians. And we messed up again... and again… and again. Did God ask us to get baptized again and again every time we sinned? I think not! If he’d asked that we’d have people lined up at the baptistery 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!
Now, once we've become Christians, God has a different way for us to deal with the stain of our sins. I John 1:7 puts it this way:
“If we CONFESS our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”We confess our sins. We agree with God that what we've done is wrong and needs to be dealt with. We agree that what we've done has hurt God and needs forgiveness.
You see, John tells us this is a “continuous action.” Every time we confess our sins, God forgives us.
But now, wait a minute! Do you mean to tell me that it doesn't matter how many times I commit the same sin, God will forgive me of it? That doesn't seem quite right. I mean, won’t God know that I’m taking advantage of His mercy and just quit forgiving me after a while?
Well, here’s the deal: God’s mercy is never ending. As often as you are willing to surrender yourself and humbly confess your sins and ask forgiveness, God promises that He will forgive you. So our sense of guilt for coming back again and again to the throne of God doesn't reflect anything on His grace. Instead it reflects on our weakness.
My point is this: it’s not falling into sin that drowns us. It’s staying IN sin and under its influence in our lives that drowns us. It’s accepting the lie that God doesn't care for us and won’t forgive us when we fail.
God believes in you, and will work with you to lift you up out of the power that sin can have over you. He loves you too much to leave you in sin because no sinner is EVER so far down that God cannot and will not forgive them of their sin.
But first you need to belong to Jesus.
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