Episode 1. The Big Con
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There’s a great swindle, a great con going on in our society – and in part, we’re all being conned. It goes like this – if you look after numero uno – everything else will be fine. We …
There’s a great swindle, a great con going on in our society – and in part, we’re all being conned. It goes like this – if you look after numero uno – everything else will be fine. We know it doesn’t work, but somehow we still want to believe it.
Today … today we’re starting a new series that, I have to warn you, the devil does not want you to hear. In fact he’ll do anything he can to keep you away from what we’re going to be talking about over these coming few days and in fact next week as well. Why? Because if we let loose in our hearts and our lives, the thing that we’re going to be talking about, it is going to mess up his game plan for your life and for mine, big time.
Well, what are we going to talk about? The subject is this, Breaking Free from the Power of Sin. That’s the name of the series: Breaking Free from the Power of Sin. See, I have this crazy notion that God means, for you and me, to live not just a good life, not just a great life but an utterly sensational life. What I don’t mean is that each one of us should live in a mansion with 2 Merc’s in the garage.
What I don’t mean is that everything in life will go well, always healthy, live to a ripe old age. It doesn’t work. Life’s not like that. But what I do mean is that, come what may, God means for us to live a life of joy and peace and fulfilment and contentment. The question is; how do you get that life? Problem is there’s a big con being perpetrated in this world today.
The big con of this world is that what you do is you earn, you spend, you buy. That’ll give you all those things. The big con is that you look after number 1 and everything else will be fine. You and I know it doesn’t work. We know that it’s a big con but it’s a big con that we really, really, really want to swallow, hook, line and sinker And then some joker comes along and talks about sin and you think, “Well you have got to be kidding me. We’re not in medieval times, we’re not in the 1950’s. This is the 21st century. Sin? Oh please, what planet are you living on?”
What does sin conjure up in your mind? Some old-fashioned, moralising, finger-pointing, self-righteousness. That might have worked in the dim dark ages but don’t try that religion stuff on me today buddy! Sin, how gullible do you think I am? Crimson clad clergy pointing their bony fingers at me. Get out of here! Hmm, you might wonder, how is it that Berni can articulate this position so passionately? And well, the answer is this: it’s one that I held for most of my life.
Religion’s a bunch of rules; I don’t need a bunch of rules. Sin is an old-fashioned concept, that’s it, buzz off! And yet, if we were completely honest with ourselves, each one of us would admit we do things and we think things and we say things that hurt us, that ruin our lives. What we don’t often realise is how much they ruin our lives. Ever asked yourself exactly what sin is? Is it an out dated concept or is it real. And does it have consequences. And is it the thing that’s robbing me of a full and satisfying life?
Sin is one of the most frequently used words in the Bible, 486 times – 486. There is kind of various concepts but at the heart of it is this notion that God is perfect and that we’ve rebelled against God and we’ve broken His law and that will bring punishment. That’s the kind of “sin” thing in a nutshell and I guess that’s it for many people.
You mention sin and that’s what it conjures up; rules, religion, moralising and who needs that? Rebellion against God, well it is that, it’s all of those things. But I don’t know, my hunch is, giving where we are today maybe that’s not the best place to start to really understand what sin means because we’ve been conned.
See, I used to go scuba diving when I was younger and what you discover when you want to go scuba diving is we were made to float, we weren’t made to sink. You jump in the ocean or any body of water and you’ll float. And when you put on diving gear you float all the more because your wetsuit is very buoyant. So what the diver does is he or she straps weights to their body. It helps them to sink, that’s what they want to do, it works for a diver and these weights are these ugly old lumps of lead that you strap on.
I look back on my life, a life of sin for the most part and it was like I was bobbing around in the ocean. All these boats would sail by. All these different shapes and sizes and people would bend over the side and offer me this and that. This ball, that trinket. “Oh yes please, I’ll have that one and that one and that one and that attitude and that selfishness and this ambition and this desire. Oh yes please!”
But actually, what they were was lead weights only they’d been dressed up to look attractive. And you don’t have to be Einstein to figure it out. The more I took on, then the more I started to sink. That’s the big con and then, because we’re not made to sink, we frantically thrash around with our arms and legs to get back to the surface because we’re drowning. We’re not made to drown.
Interesting, God’s word talks about that. Over and over again He talks about sin as this concept of missing the mark. It’s the image of an archer shooting at a target and missing. Literally, what the word means is “to miss the point”. That’s how we’d say it today. People are drowning on mass because they’re missing the point. Have a listen to this. It’s what the apostle Paul writes about sin, he says:
Don’t deceive yourselves! If you think that you’re wise in this age, well you’re going to have to become fools in order to become wise because the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. It’s written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’ and again the Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile. (1 Corinthians 3:18-31)
See, we think we’re clever. We think that with our sophisticated economic systems and share portfolios and cable television and electronic gadgets. We think we’re so clever.
In this context, Paul was talking about quarrels and factions – earthly wisdom as opposed to God’s wisdom. See the earthly wisdom is “win”, get on top, be number 1, that’s the wisdom of this world. And okay, we dress it up to make is look respectable but at its core, it’s rotten.
Contrast that with God’s wisdom, James chapter 3, verse 17:
But the wisdom from above (God’s wisdom) is first pure then peaceable, gentle; willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits without a trace of hypocrisy.
Do you see the difference, the contrast? Here’s the con. We trade in the good and wondrous things of God, the diamonds if you will, for the stones or the lead weights of this world. Our attitude of selfishness, anger disputes, horrible things that people do to one another. We justify those through this whole “number 1” mentality because we’ve been sold that con. We’ve swallowed it hook, line and sinker and yet, those are the things that are like lead weights, those are the things that make us sink to the bottom. And it’s exhausting because we’re not made to sink to the bottom.
Finally, one day I got it. Sin wasn’t some old-fashioned, moralising from an irrelevant Church. Not that. It’s here, it’s now. It’s important, it’s vital. It was something that was ruining my life. And at some point we have to do something about it otherwise we spend the rest of our lives missing the point and eventually we drown.