By Ernest O'Neill

Why Do So Many of Us Live Futile Lives?

By Rev. Ernest O'Neill

Now, the next step we take in the twentieth century is a trap into which many of us have fallen. It is the reason why many of us live such futile lives. Here it is. We say, "If God has given Jesus to die for my past sins then all He requires of me now, is to do my best and Jesus' death will make up for the shortfall." That, I think is the Gospel, as almost all of the twentieth century understands it. If God has forgiven me for my past sins because of Jesus' death, then from now on, I have just to do my best and God will make up for the shortfall.

It results in a world full of people who do not exercise their wills, who do not live according to God's plan and who have long ago lost any spiritual relationship with God. Loved ones that is not the Gospel. God's mercy covers past sins but it does not permit continual sinning with the understanding that the blood of Jesus will make up the shortfall. It doesn't.

That is not the Gospel. The mercy of God does not wipe out our responsibility to avoid sin at all cost. The mercy of God does not permit sin. Now you'll see that clearly in both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Look back at the Old Covenant, which is the piece we read in the lesson. It's Numbers 15:27. It's an important distinction about sin that we do not make in these days. It's what makes sense of Jesus' death and makes sense of all our dealings with God. But we have ignored it.

Numbers 15:27. "If one person sins unwittingly, he shall offer a female goat a year old for a sin offering." Another translation of that adverb is, "Unconsciously or unknowingly." If a person sins unknowingly or unconsciously, if he sins and he doesn't realize he is doing it, then he shall offer a female goat, a year old, for a sin offering. "And the priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who commits an error... (An error is sinning without knowing, sinning unconsciously) ...when he sins unwittingly, to make atonement for him; and he shall be forgiven. You shall have one law for him who does anything unwittingly, for him who is native among the people of Israel, and for the stranger who sojourns among them."

The other case is entirely different, loved ones, in Numbers 15:30-31. "But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the LORD, and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him." Do you see?

"If a person sins with a high hand", you can guess what that is. It's contrasted against unconscious sin. It's conscious sin. If a person consciously sins -- knows it is a sin, knows it's something God despises, yet he does it and continues to do it-- then that person cannot be forgiven. That's what it says. That's even back in Old Testament days. Even in Old Testament days, there was no sacrifice that would cover conscious sin. There was sacrifice that would cover unknown, unconscious sins. You would suddenly realize you'd done it, and you had sued for forgiveness. But there was no sacrifice that would cover continued, conscious sinning.

Now loved ones it ties up with a doctrine that many of us knew from when we were children, from probably our first communion. It's mentioned in 1 John 5:16. "If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal."

In other words, the New Covenant comes right down the same line. It says there is mercy and forgiveness for unconscious, venial sin. But, there is not forgiveness or mercy for conscious, mortal sin where a person continues to do what they know is wrong and persists in it. We need to be clear about this distinction or otherwise you will take communion this morning and drink damnation unto your own soul.

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