It’s All in the Label.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means!  Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.  You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.  When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.  What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Romans 6:15-23

“Many years ago a distinguished Methodist minister was preaching on sin.  Some deacons approached him afterward and said, ‘We don’t want you to talk so plainly about sin; if you do, our people will more easily become sinners.  Call their sins mistakes if you will, but do not call their mistakes sin.’

“The minister picked up a small bottle and showed it to the group of deacons.  The bottle was clearly marked Poison.

“’Would you like me to change the label?’ the minister asked. ‘I can mark that this strychnine is the essence of peppermint to make you feel better, but if you take it you will still die.  Don’t you see that the milder you make the label, the more dangerous you make the poison?’

“Talking about sin does not make someone a sinner.  The truth is that every last one of us is born in sin, and while some may not think of themselves as sinners, God does.  He hears every word we utter and knows the deepest secrets we lock away in the vaults of our hearts.  The Bible says that God ‘knows the secrets of the heart’ (Psalm 44:21).  But He loves sinners more than we love sin.  And that is why He sacrificed His only Son to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin, which is death.  It was the ultimate sacrifice – the righteous blood that flowed from the veins of the Savior of the world.

”No love is greater than that.”

  • Billy Graham, The Reason for my Hope: Salvation

Before I get to this serious topic, the thought of mislabeling something came to mind.  When I was working at a nuclear facility, a friend had a cigar box in his office.  He had covered the box in plain wrapping.  On the top of the box, there was a label “Inside this box is the only neutrino that has ever been captured by mankind.”  Of course, you are curious, so you open the box.  Inside the box, there was a label in the bottom of the box that said, “Oh, you idiot!  You let it out.  Now I have to go catch another one!”  For those of you that don’t know, a neutrino is a sub-atomic particle. Several are released whenever a nuclear reaction starts, but they’ve been around a long time.  They are so tiny that even a single atom, which is too small for us to see with the best microscopes, would have a hard time seeing, forget mankind seeing them or capturing them – other than a tiny streak on an X-Ray film in a cave on the far side of the world.  Don’t worry, they are harmless little things.

A few months ago, someone asked me about evangelism, my take on it.  The subject got around to me talking about how the Holy Spirit must convict the person that we are witnessing to.  They must be convicted of their sins, maybe long before we ever talk to them.  Evangelism requires a lot of prayer before you ever leave your house.

Then the countenance of the other person became very grave.  They said, “You don’t understand the youth of today.  They don’t like being called sinners.  We can’t use that word anymore.  As soon as you bring up sin, they will be turned off.”  Funny, Rev. Graham’s story had the word sin making people into sinners.  Satan uses the same trick, just with a different wrapping paper.

Thinking about offending someone, making them feel bad, by calling them a sinner…  Do you think that I liked being called a sinner when I was growing up?  Calling me a sinner was a part of what it took for me to become a sinner saved by Grace.  Without making my self-centered life uncomfortable, I would have never known that I needed God in my life.

To put it tersely, if you want your friends and relations to go to Hell, the quickest way is to not mention their sin.

But today, everything has nice flowery labels on it with words of encouragement.  Isn’t that so much better than saying “The wages of sin is death?”

Funny.  The ones that use that verse to condemn the evangelist that is trying to help people toward a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ…  They never finish the verse!!!  “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In the same breath that the Apostle Paul talks of sin leading to death, he provides the Hope.  Talking of sin is important so that we know that there is Hope.

Those that do not believe God exists hope that when we die… Nothing.  For if there is anything other than nothing, they know, with sure fire certainty, that their sin will catch up to them.  That’s kind of the corollary to the Blaise Pascal Wager.  Pascal, the noted scientist and philosopher, waged his bet on God, for the alternative provided no Hope.

But God is our Hope in this life, not just the next.  Why has their been so much fear regarding the coronavirus?  People are ignoring God, or having ignored God too much, they fear the virus is God’s punishment for their ignorance.

Our older son was “mugged” in a grocery store.  One person hit him hard in the groin in the grocery aisle.  As our son doubled over, his assailant took his toilet paper.  Someone else, probably not related to the assailant, took the other purchases, other items in short supply.  But this was inside the store.  These people, in their fear-laden insanity, mugged someone to steal their purchases, but then had to pay for them to get them out of the store.  Why didn’t they follow him to the parking lot?  Then they’d save their money!  But oh, that would be stealing.  That would make them criminals.  Okay, mugging someone in the store is justified violence for the purpose of survival, but mugging outside the store applies labels that make it uncomfortable.  Since they paid for it, it wasn’t a crime.  Right?  No, not so much.  And don’t worry, once the swelling goes down, our son won’t have pain while urinating.

What about the stolen truck in North Carolina?  It contained nothing but toilet paper.  We have become insane.  Yes, we have gone mad, but can we even say that?  Would it hurt the muggers’ feelings to be called a criminal, or the person who stole the truckload of toilet paper?

Our other son sneezed into his elbow while waiting for a prescription to be refilled.  He announced that he had allergies, not coronavirus.  (Actually, sneezing is not a symptom of coronavirus, but if you had both allergies and coronavirus, you would spread germs when you sneeze.)  The guy standing next to my son nearly started a fight in that my son wasn’t wearing a mask.  The elbow trick was not good enough for this man, but the store had no masks.  They were sold out.  Thankfully, the angry man calmed down before fists started to fly.  If you called this angry man angry, would that be a label that would start a fight?  Knowing angry men, it probably would.  Never call an angry man angry; they simply get angrier.

I have mentioned a few labels: mugger, criminal, angry.  At the root of these labels is sin.  I said the word and I live by it.  For I am a sinner saved by Grace.  And I had to confront the fact that I was a sinner, or I would have never asked Jesus to come into my life and start to clean house.

If you are reading this, you have sin in your life also.  The important thing, the most important thing in life, is whether you have met and accepted the Savior who can wash those sins away.  As Rev. Graham said, we are all sinners, but God loves us, and He gave His Son to die for us.  Can you trust and believe in Jesus?

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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