This past Sunday I attended a large church in the Binghamton, New York, area with some members of the family. It is a well-appointed modern building with all the bells and whistles. I had been there twice before so I knew what to expect. Actually it was a pretty good experience. This was my first time to hear the pastor preach.
The service had three parts: announcements and offering, sermon, three songs. This sequence was apparently a change from usual practice in that the pastor wanted the sermon first so that the proclamation of the Word could then be celebrated with the subsequent songs. I thought this worked well since the style of music was not exactly “my cup of tea.” And with the sermon first–using up time–the songs seemed briefer than I expected.
The sermon, based on James 1, addressed the problem of temptation and emphasized that temptation does not come from God. The sermon was biblical and well presented; interesting and thoughtful. It was certainly something that we all need to hear. I would have liked a little more Romans 8 to resolve the Romans 7 references. I am leaving this a little cryptic for those who want to reflect more.
I was a little disappointed with the comments at the end of the sermon about what happens to people who fall into sin (as the result of temptation) and then continue in that state over time. It seems logical to me that a Christian who falls into sin and continues in that pattern over time is hardly a Christian any more. The pastor seemed to be saying that God would “take them by death” before they went too far. I have always felt that, on this topic, people need to read Ezekiel 18 a little more often. (You may wish to have a look and see what it says.)
God wants people to be transformed through the saving work of Jesus Christ and then to live in a growing relationship with him. God wants people to be changed and not continue on in their old patterns of living in sin. Is there forgiveness for a Christian who falls into sin? Definitely, yes! Does God hang on to his people? Sure. Does there come a time when a Christian who has turned his back on God is too far gone for God’s love? No. But God will not violate that person’s free choice to be his own person even if that means losing him.
Well, I doubt that I can settle this issue. I will leave that to Mr. Calvin and Mr. Wesley and others. Good people can differ on many of these points. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Overall, it was a good and helpful sermon.
Well, this is getting a little deep for 7 a.m. on a Wednesday.