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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published LifekBPC Evening Svc, 2009-08-16

Text: Romans 3:10-20

Our sermon this evening is all about sin. With all the crimes, scams and fraud reported in the news everyday, everyone will agree that there is a problem called sin. And most people will also agree that at least some people are sinful, like terrorists, chronic criminals in prison, gangsters and greedy loan sharks. But not all will agree that most people are sinful. They will say, 'How about all those law-abiding citizens out there? I know a lot of people who are nice and helpful, and who would go out of their way to help the poor and underprivileged. How can you call them sinful?' 

If we were to conduct a random poll on the streets and ask one simple question, 'Is man good or bad?' we would get a variety of answers. Some will probabl9 say, 'Man is basically good, except for a few deranged people who need some corrective help.' Others will say, 'Man is mostly good, but all of us are a little bit bad. Nobody's perfect.' Some others will say, 'Man is naturally neither good nor bad. It is his upbringing and social environment that makes him either good or bad.' And probably very few people who are asked that question will say, 'Man is naturally bad, and he needs all the help he can get to become good.' 

One reason why there are such widely differing opinions on this is that people define good and bad very differently. How do we know what exactly is good and what is bad? Is there some fixed standard that we should follow? Some would take their country's laws as their standard of good and bad. Hence, as long as I keep myself within the law, I'm good. But if I break the law, I'm bad. 

But we all know that the law of any nation has limits. It can only deal with outward acts of evil, like stealing, cheating, slander or murder. It cannot deal with evil thoughts, evil attitudes and evil motives. And so if you really hate someone but you somehow manage to express your hatred in ways that do not break any law (e.g. avoiding him or gossiping about him) then according to the laws of the land, you have not done any evil to him. You are still a good law-abiding citizen. By the same token, a person who is very proud, selfish or unloving may also be considered to be good as long as he does not break any law of the land. 

Now, if it is then assumed that such attitudes are not bad, then parents should not scold a selfish child when he does nothing but cry, mope and sulk to get whatever he wants. Neither should they frown when the child refuses to share his toys with his siblings. But if parents truly love their child, they will correct such attitudes because they want their child to grow up not only to be a good citizen, but to be of good character as well.

And so, the very fact that we do take the trouble to correct our children when they manifest bad attitudes shows that we believe in a higher standard of good and evil - one that applies not only to outward acts, but to inward thoughts, attitudes and motives as well. And if we want to know what that standard really is, we must turn to God. He who made us in His image knows exactly what is good and what is bad and thus, He must have the final say on this matter.

So let us now take that same random poll question that we began this message with, 'Is man good or bad?' and let us find out how God Himself would answer it: 

Romans 3:10-20 - "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."
You will notice that the passage begins with the words, 'As it is written.' This tells us that what follows after it has been permanently recorded for us in the Bible. They are truths that God has revealed many centuries ago through His prophets, and they are still as true and as applicable to us now as when they were first written. And what they generally tell us is that man is sinful. But just how sinful is he? 

We can summarise what God says here on how sinful man is in 4 points. Firstly, man has repeatedly failed to reach the expected mark (vv.10-12). Secondly, every part of man's being is permeated with sin (vv.13-15,18). Thirdly, man's sin produces devast!ting results (vv.15-18). And lastly, God's Law convicts every man of sin (vv. 19-20). Let us begin with the first point:

I. Man has repeatedly failed to reach the expected mark (vv.10-12).

This is the sad, sad verdict that God gives when He looks down from heaven at the whole world in every age of history. He says in v.10, 'There is none righteous, no, not one.' How utterly disappointing it is that He cannot find even one exception! Every single onekof them has failed to reach the mark of righteousness God expects from us - even the most saintly person in the world fails in this. For other than our Lord Jesus Christ who is both God and man, every person has his own sins. The Bible is full of examples.

Noah, who built the Ark is described as 'a just man and perfect in his generations.' (Genesis 6:9) But after the Flood, he got himself so drunk he shamefully exposed himself in his tent (Genesis 9:21). Moses, the great deliverer of Israel, is described as being God's faithful servant. He had the pr)vilege of receiving the Law from God on 2 stone tablets and giving it to Israel. But in a moment of folly he did not honour God in the sight of the people - he struck the rock twice to get water instead of speaking to it. For that blemish in his record he could not enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20:10-12). David was the man after God's own heart, but when he was tempted, he fell into the sin of adultery and then committed murder to cover up that sin (2 Samuel 11:2-4).

In all these examples, we see the truth of God's verdict 'There is none righteous, no not one.' And besides that, God also says in v.11, 'There is none that understands.' Sin has created such a great rift between man and God that man is unable to understand God on his own, even to the extent that many even doubt that God exists. Professing themselves to be wise they became fools (Romans 1:22). And according to Psalm 14:1 'The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.'

In addition to all that, God also says in v.11, 'There is none that seeketh after God.' And this really shows just how sinful man is: He is so sinful that he is dead to God and to the things of God. That must surely grieve God tremendously, because according to Acts 17:26,27, God had made all the nations of men to dwell on this earth, 'they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.'

And God also says in v.12 that 'they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good.' This means that man has become utterly useless to the One who made him. Let us turn to Isaiah 5:1-4 to see an illustration of this 'Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, andkalso made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?'

In the same way God has done everything that could possibly be done to make man a useful creature, a profitable creature. But instead of producing all the good things that God was looking for, man produced what God dislikes the most - all the awful sins that He hates! What a disappointment this creature has proven to be - one that fails time after time to reach the expected mark. And that's not all. We have not fully plumbed the depths of man's sinfulness yet. According to the next 3 verses of our text-

II. Every par4 of man's being is permeated with sin (vv.13-15,18).

Here you will notice the mention of body parts: The throat, tongue and lips are mentioned in v.13. The mouth and feet are mentioned in the next 2 verses, and the eyes are mentioned in v.18. These are some of the equipment God gave to us for the purpose of praising Him and doing His will. But what do we do with them? We turn them into factories that mass-produce sin.

In v.13 God says that the throat of men is like an open sepulchre - an uncovered grave that reeks with the awful stench of rotting flesh. Then He says that their tongues are devices for deceit. James 3 elaborates that the tongue is an unruly evil that no man can tame. God also says here that the lips of man conceal the poison of asps - the deadly venom of a snake that kills anyone who is bitten by it. These 3 body parts - the throat, tongue and lips all work together whenever we speak. The vocal cords in the throat produce the sound while the lips and tongue shape that sound into recognizable words. However, when all these 3 parts are permeated with sin the damage produced when they work together is unimaginable.

Verse 14 says that the mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. What is your mouth normally filled with when you go for a meal? Food which invigorates your body. Psalm 103:5 tells us that God 'satisfies our mouth with good things so that our youth is renewed like the eagles.' But when that same mouth is permeated with sin, its use is reversed to vomit out streams of cursing and bitterness that infuriate others. 

Verse 15 speaks about feet that are swift to shed blood. The picture is that of a man using his feet to pursue someone in order to hurt him or kill him. What a great contrast this is to the use of feet mentioned in Romans 10:15 'How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!'

Now, all the things listed here in vv.13-15 happen because sin permeates body of man. This list is not exhaustive. Sin also affects the mind of man to think evil thoughts. Sin affects the emotions of man to react to situations in the most inappropriate ways. Sin affects the appetites of man and desires - it distorts them way out of proportion and it makes us lust after strange flesh. And sin affects the will of man - to make the wrong moral choices when we are tempted. Dearly beloved, there is no aspect of your life that has not been affected by sin. This is what we mean by the term total depravity. 

And this shows us just how sinful man is: He is like a vehicle that needs a complete overhaul - every part of it needs to be refurbished or replaced. And this need becomes especially urgent when we consider the devastating results that man's sinfulness is producing. This is the next point we will consider as found in vv.15-18.

III. Man's sin produces devastating results (vv.15-18).

In v.15 the shedding of blood is mentioned. In today's world, gory scenes of violence and killing have become lucrative entertainment - the gorier the better! Last week it was reported that a host of a TV show in Brazil ordered the murders of 5 people just to boost ratings of his crime show - so that he could televise the grisly murders for people to savour! It may be that Brazilian viewers love to watch this. Many youths are now addicted to video games that depict bloodshed and violence. They are learning to find pleasure in acts that ought to repel them with horror. 

We go on to verse 16 which speaks about the destruction and misery caused by sin. The word 'destruction' literally means calamity or ruin. That's what sin always leaves in its wake. Lately we heard of the great devastation left behind by the worst typhoon to hit Taiwan in 50 years. It has claimed at least 125 lives and left 15,000 people without homes, not to mention the billions of dollars worth of damage it has done. 

This is an apt illustration of the awful damage that sin can cause. Incidentally Hosea 8:7 likens the ruin that sin brings to a whirlwind 'For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.' One example of this is David's sin of adultery which cost him dearly - he lost 4 of his sons and had to go through times of great distress where he was almost overwhelmed. Adultery definitely has far-reaching consequences - it destroys the marriage. It also leaves permanent scars in the lives of the children. 

Many other sins also leave a dreadful trail of destruction in their wake. Telling lies breeds distrust and broken relationships. An unforgiving spirit leads to bitterness, resentment, revenge and conflict. Slothfulness or covetousness leads to gambling, which in turn leads to being in debt and bringing the whole family into financial ruin. 

If you want to know just how sinful man is, all you need to do is to take a hard look at all the grief and misery that sin has bred and multiplied in the world today: Strife, violence, wars, conflicts, divisions, broken homes, broken families, poverty, disease, suicides and death. And verse 17 tells us what the outcome of all this is: 'The way of peace have they not known.'

Verse 18 tells us of one of the worst results of man-s sin - It removes the fear of God from before the eyes of men. The fear of God here refers to the dread or terror of God's judgment. This dread is actually useful as it acts like a barrier that restrains man from falling headlong into sin. Even though a sinner may not know God at all, he may at least have a nagging fear that he may one day face God-s wrath for doing evil and will suffer eternally in hell. And this fear restrains him to some extent from commiting more sin. But when sin blinds him to such an extent that he no longer fears any future judgment from God, he will then give himself to sin with total abandon. 

However, despite such widespread evidence of man-s sinfulness, there will invariably be those who will claim, 'I am different from the rest. I am not that sinful.' Many Jews in Paul's day would make claims like these. After all, God had favoured them as a nation, and specially given them the Law at Mount Sinai. It is to such people that God now speaks in v.19 'Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.' This brings us to our 4th and final point:

IV. God-s Law convicts every man of sin (vv. 19-20).

God's law here refers to the moral law, also known as the Ten Commandments. They were not given to save man, but to convict him of his great need of salvation. For when they are correctly understood and applied, they will convict man of how sinful he really is. Anyone who claims to be good will see how flimsy his claim is, when he puts himself under the search light of God's law. Now, perhaps you may be thinking right now -

'The 10 commandments - Oh, I know what they are. I don't think they are that hard to keep.' Well, listen to this: There's much more to them than meets the eye. For instance the commandment, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me' has been broken by every one of us. Whenever we are proud or selfish, we have dared to made ourselves a god. 

Jesus explained that the commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill' is broken whenever we get angry with someone for no good reason, or we call him an idiot. He also said that the commandment, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery' is broken every time we look lustfully at someone we are not married to, and that includes those we watch on a screen in the privacy of our room. Similarly, the 9th commandment is broken whenever we are hypocritical or dishonest. And the 10th commandment is broken whenever we are not content with what God has given to us, and we crave for what others have - it may be their good looks, their popularity, or their success. 

The bottom line of all this is that all of us are guilty before God. We are sinful creatures who fully deserve to be condemned to hell. How sad our state is! And if this message has made you realize this, be very thankful. It is far better to know the true state of your soul than to carry on living in blind ignorance. The one who does not know the true state of his soul is just like a person who has fourth stage cancer and does not know it. 

But while it is good to realize how sinful you really are, you must not stop there and leave things as they are. If you were to do that, you would be just like a man who looks in the mirror, sees all the awful blemishes on his face that he was not aware of before, but after that he turns away and does nothing about them at all! What's the use of knowing how sinful you really are unless you do something about those sins in your life? What should you do? If you have not been saved, God commands you to repent of your sins and turn to Jesus Christ right now. How can you stand being covered with all that filth one moment longer? Get rid of them. Go and wash in the fountain of blood - the blood that Jesus shed for sinners at Calvary.

But if you are already saved, and God has convinced you that you are sinful, then confess your sins right now before Him, and plead for His grace to walk in newness of life with His help. And He will help. Let us listen now to the last word from God to all of us: 

'Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.' (Isaiah 55:6-7)

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25