Monday, March 29, 2010

White as Snow

Preached at Northwest Christian Church

David P. Kautt

Sunday Morning, March 28, 2010.

Isaiah 1:18 – "Come now, and let us reason together," says the Lord, "though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

1 Peter 1:17-21 – “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

What can we say about the weather in North Texas in March? One days it’s sunny and warm – Ah! Spring has finally arrived… But the next day, old man winter, as we call him, blows back through, and suddenly – last Lord’s Day – we have 6 or 8 inches of snow on the ground!

Oh, but let’s stop and think about it for a minute. Next Sunday, one week from today, April the 4th, we will be celebrating the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Resurrection Day – you see here all the special things we have planned for that morning. But, listen – on that day, that high-point in every year for us as Christians – on that day we won’t be simply celebrating an event in history – the fact that on Good Friday Jesus of Nazereth died and was buried, and that 3 days later, as he foretold, He was raised to life, never to die again – No! Coming up on that day – really and truly on every day, especially every Lord’s Day – we celebrate in not simply a series of events, but in the significance of those events for our lives! And, so – I come back to the weather, and the snow that fell last Saturday night, and what did we see? What did it remind us of? What did it illustrate for us? You know it, don’t you? The death of Christ, the burial of Christ, the Resurrection of Christ – these events in history, and their significance, their meaning, applied to our lives. As Isaiah put it, “Our sins, though they be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they be like crimson, they shall be as wool!

This morning, as we look forward to Resurrection Sunday – April 4th – we look forward to it, why? Because of the shed blood, the cleansing blood, the atoning blood of Jesus Christ for our sins! Each flake that fell a week ago has a message – perhaps, a series of messages – for you and me, and what are those messages? First of all, that we are dirty! And, that we are dead! The psalmist David – writing a penitential psalm, a psalm, we might say, of repentance – following his terrible sin with Bathsheba, in Psalm 51 he repeatedly, and picturesquely describes the removal of sin and guilt from his life – the reasons for that removal, the results of that removal – and his responses to that removal. Listen again to his words if you would, please:

Psalm 51:1-19 – “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight-- that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,

And in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; you do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart-- these, O God, You will not despise. Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

Each flake of snow that we saw starting to fall last Saturday evening has a message for us – a message from God – “Come now, let us reason together – let us discuss the matter, let us think it through, let us come to the conclusion” – God declares to us through the prophet Isaiah – “Your sins are like scarlet, they are as red – as glaringly obvious – as crimson” – what is the problem with sin? Have you thought about that much lately? I hope you have, we need to – David did, Peter did, Isaiah did. Psalm 51:3, David wrote, “My sin is every before me…” Isaiah, when he saw the Lord high and lifted up, he exclaimed, “Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty…” Even Peter, the great apostle, more than once during his days of walking in the footsteps of his Master, the Lord Jesus, fell at his Master’s feet and cried, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

What is the problem with sin? Why do we need to be whiter than snow? Besides the fact that it makes us – it renders us – guilty before the God who made us, before the holy, holy, holy God who says, “Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy…” Besides the problem of guilt and judgment – just judgment against our sin and removal from nearness to God, and many other things – look at what Peter has to say, in the pssage we read a moment ago. What is the problem with sin? Let’s reason together with the Lord about it, shall we? One of the problems with sin that perhaps you and I would rather not think about, is the problem of a wasted life – my friends, do you know it? God created you for a purpose – a most high and holy purpose – for His pleasure, Revelation 4:11 says, to bring joy to Him! To do His good will! And, then in eternity to enjoy Him forever! But, as each one of those flakes of snow was intended to remind us – sin yields nothing - nothing but a life of aimless conduct, a life lived for no good purpose. 1 Peter 1:18 - Yes, sin, ultimately yields a life of emptiness and futility! Come, now let us reason together with the Lord! Our sins before our righteous and infinitely holy God – they are red, crimson, scarlet red!

Oh, but praise God! The snow has fallen! Beautiful, pure, white flakes came down from heaven above – and, through them our Lord declares, “I can make you clean! I can wash you!”

The snow has fallen – and like that powerful verse in Isaiah tells us, the redness, the glaring ugliness and filthiness of our sin has been dealt with, in Jesus Christ – but what does all of that mean? How is it that Jesus’ blood, His atoning death, takes care of the manifold problems of our sin?

Hear these good news ‘snow flake’ verses again, will you? Matthew 26:28 – Jesus in the upper room with His disciples on the night of His betrayal – in that special moment - He takes a cup filled with the fruit of the vine, and says, “Drink from it… all of you – for this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins!”

We love that verse, don’t we? And we read and remember it often, as each Lord’s Day, we gather at this Table to Commune with our Lord and Savior. But stop with me for a minute - reason together with the Lord, will you? Think it through with Him – what does Jesus mean when He says that His blood was to be shed for the remission of our sins? Remission – it’s a rich word, a meaningful idea, if any of you have ever been in debt! Ever owed anyone, anything? Remission – it means cancellation. When Jesus stretched out His arms and died for you and me; when He uttered those powerful words, “It is finished!,” He was declaring for all the universe to hear, our debt of sin has been canceled, remittedremoved! Praise God for the snow flakes!

Furthermore, did you know? Did you know that that word remit – or remission – is used to describe the release of a prisoner? Barabbas – now there’s a character from the Good Friday scene we rarely pay attention to – Barabbas! “Give us Barabbas – Crucify Jesus, but give us Barabbas instead,” the Jews shouted. The scripture tells us that Barabbas was in prison and probably awaiting execution on a cross himself – for insurrection and murder.

Yet, because of Jesus Barabbas was set free – that prisoner, justly condemned and punished – was released!

My loved ones, we are the Barabbases – and yet, because of the shed blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot – we are the prisoners who have been released, praise God!

How does Jesus’ shed blood take care of the problem of our sin? Crimson, scarlet – our sins can be as wool, as white as snow – how? Through Christ’s blood remitting them. Through Christ’s death canceling and removing them!

One of the most difficult and distressing things about our sin is how it affects our hearts – no – not this organ in our chest that pumps blood throughout our bodies, but our heart – our minds, our conscience. You know, two Sundays ago, your preacher was sick – dizzy, nauseous – and to put it bluntly, vomiting his guts out. And, if you would have looked at me – at my eyes and my face – you would have known, you could tell, “He’s sick!” But, listen – who can detect the sickness of heart, mind and conscience that sin produces? To my knowledge the doctors have yet to come up with a tester or scanner to uncover that problem… But God has – God can and does know what’s in our heart! Verse 6 of that psalm of David we read a moment ago, puts it so very plainly and, even painfully, for sin-sick folks like us. David the psalmist kind, he looked so healthy and so very prosperous on the outside, but then, when he came face-to-face with the hidden condition of his heart, declared, “You, O God, desire truth in the inward parts…”

Yes, my friends, we are sick. But not with the stomach virus, the flu, bronchitis, or even cancer – no! Our hears, our minds, our consciences are sin-sick. Permanently stained with the crimson, redness of our guilt. And God knows it! He does! But is there any cure? Any prescription for this condition? Is it possible for crimson red hearts to be as white as snow?

I love this next passage of scripture – would you find it together with me please? Hebrews 9:11-14. In this passage, the Hebrew writer is contrasting the High Priesthood and the sacrifice of the Old Testament priesthood, with the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ, and His once-and-for-all sacrifice of Himself. Read along, as we consider the question: Is there a cure for hearts, minds CONSCIENCES that seemingly are permanently stained by sin? Can their awful redness be made white as snow?

Hebrews 9:11-14 – “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

What is the answer to our question about sin-sick hearts? Aren’t you glad, I know I am – aren’t you glad it snowed last weekend?! “Though our sins be as scarlet – as indelible as permanent as crimson-red stain on a white, wedding gown seems to be…” What a marvelous message those little flakes floating down from above bring us – Our sins, though they be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow – as wool!

Last night, as I was wrapping up my preparation for this message, I was struck by one interesting, and rather unique aspect of our God’s message to us in Isaiah 1:18 – Let me see if I can summarize it for you, “Though your sins be as scarlet… though they be as red as crimson…” The idea of those two phrases taken with the rest of the verse, is something like this: Your sins, the thorough-going effect of your sins – may seem to make it impossible for you ever to be clean, for you ever to be pure! But, listen – hear good news! The glorious, Good News declared by Jesus’ outstretched arms is…”Nothing is impossible with God!” Scarlet stains, crimson red blots and spots – our Savior’s cleansing blood has taken care of all of them… That’s right, I said, ALL: OF THEM!

That’s why we call it, GOOD Friday, isn’t is? That’s why we call it Good Friday.

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