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Tenth Sunday after Trinity
“The Deadly Sin of Presumption”
Rev. Philip G. Meyer, Pastor Emeritus
St. Luke 19.41-48
08 August 2021
SOLI DEO GLORIA!
The Seven Deadly Sins are thought of as chief or cardinal sins even though most involve what happens in the mind which can lead to an outward act. This listing is not found in the Bible but the sins are. These sins are:
Lust Gluttony Greed Sloth Wrath Envy Pride
Lutherans do not recognize categorizing of sins according to seriousness. Any sin damns, whether it be a “white lie” or murder. All sin is rebellion against God.
Yet, a sin which is every bit as deadly and perhaps even deadlier is presumption. Presumption is particularly egregious because it eliminates repentance. It “presumes” that God doesn’t mean what he says, that he will not punish sin. It presumes one has his love while continuing in sin.
When one disregards the Word of God one puts himself at odds with God. Jeremiah makes it clear that one who “turns to his own course” will be on the receiving end of God’s punishment. [Jer. 6-12]
One cannot receive forgiveness from God without repentance, if one is even concerned with forgiveness these days! Even though the forgiveness of sins is the heart of the Gospel many simply think of Christianity as a way to fix all the ills of their lives, what can be called “therapeutic religion.” It ignores the most important need: forgiveness of sins.
Many who call themselves Christians and belong to such “therapeutic congregations” will be disappointed to learn that God is serious about punishing sin. These words are meant for the Church to hear; they are not spoken to the unbelieving world. God’s threats to punish Israel were not spoken to the unbelieving nations but to his chosen people. The prophets, our Lord himself, as well as the Apostles make it very clear that there is a coming judgment over sin. This planet and everything on it will one day be destroyed because of human sin.
Lately, I’ve noticed an increase of the term “unconditional love.” We are told to love the sins of others and approve such sins in order to accept and approve these people, but there is no such thing in Scripture about unconditional love. God continues to condemn sin and the sinner. “The soul who sins shall die,” warned God through Ezekiel [Ez. 18.4b].
The “unconditional love” people quote John 3.16 as proof, but neglect the context, vv. 17-18. They hope to avoid any condemnation for sin. They presume on God’s love. Here’s that context:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. [John 3.17-18]
To believe in the only Son of God is to obey his words. Those who disregard his words expose their unbelief. They say, “Oh, God won’t really punish sin.” Well, the whole history of Israel disproves that lie. From the very beginning of Israel’s existence God promised blessing to “those who love [him] and keep his commandments” but punishment for those who oppose his commandments. [Exodus 23.5-6].
As often as Israel sinned God brought punishment. When there was no repentance God punished severely. It was so with those who came out of Egypt. Because of their sin and lack of repentance none of them saw the Promised Land, not even Moses, because he disobeyed. In the time of the Judges backsliding Israel was punished again and again. God, through Jeremiah, accused Israel of “perpetual backsliding” [Jer. 8.5]. Nonetheless, God sent prophet after prophet to call them to repentance, yet they did not repent, but killed those who were sent to them. And when God’s Son arrived on the scene it had reached a critical point from which Israel would not recover. Jesus shed tears of sorrow over his holy city because his people would not repent.
For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation. [Luke 19.43-44]
In the words of Jeremiah 7.4, an alternative Old Testament reading for this day God warned:
4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ [Jer. 7.4]
Having God’s earthly temple did nothing to protect them from judgment. The time for peace had passed.
Israel had presumed upon the mercy of God. They believed a lie rather than the truth. God’s punishment for sin is sure to happen. It may be a long time in coming because God wants all people to repent and to come a knowledge of the truth, as the Apostle Peter wrote:
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. [2 Peter 3.9]
When people begin to believe Satan’s lies they become God’s targets. Jerusalem, the city where God caused his gracious presence to dwell was a hell-hole of sin. The temple itself was hopelessly contaminated by greed and corruption. To this temple our Lord came first in Holy Week to cleanse it of its corruption and to restore it by his death on Good Friday.
Is there such as thing as God’s unconditional love, that he will overlook sin and approve it because love supposedly conquers all? No, God does not love the sinner nor his sin. The two cannot be separated; they are one.
Dare we presume upon God, thinking that he won’t punish our sins? The Jews certainly thought so! Yet, what Jesus predicted came true some in 70 A.D. when the Romans utterly destroyed the temple and Jerusalem. The days for peace had come and gone. His chosen people refused to repent, relying on their ancestral ties to the temple. They did recognize that the Christ was among them. [Luke 19.44] There was no repentance and God kept his word to punish.
The Apostle Peter warns us:
For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? [1 Peter 4.17]
We who have God’s Word and Sacraments purely proclaimed and taught may take it for granted that God is always favorable to us in our sins. We flirt with disaster when we think that God will simply overlook our sins when there is no repentance. Do you take God’s Word seriously! Very few today do. This is the danger that you trifle with what God has said and commanded, that you do not need to repent. God is gracious and gives us time to repent. His grace calls to us to repent daily.
The love of God is conditional, but not in the way you think. Of course, there must be repentance, the work of God the Holy Spirit, but that love of God is centered in Christ Jesus alone, not in your actions or deeds. Here is where God loves the world, in his Son, the only remedy for sin. One cannot have God’s favor and blessing outside of faith in Christ. The Apostle Paul sums up nicely:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. [Romans 8.1]
All of God’s condemnation for sin fell on his Son. Christ is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sin of the whole world. [1 John 2.2]
If one is in Christ Jesus by faith one is spared the wrath of God because Christ took the wrath upon himself and paid the blood payment for your sin. Those who reject Christ reject salvation itself. Repentance and faith remain the operative words for the life of the Christian.
So, let us learn this lesson diligently. Since God will ultimately punish, we should fear him; and since he doesn’t punish immediately, but gives us time to repent, we should love him as our gracious Father and say, O Father, you cannot let sins go unpunished; therefore grant me your grace and Holy Spirit, enabling me to change my ways, and so escape the punishment I so richly deserve. Whoever repents in that way shall surely receive grace. [Luther’s House Postil, Vol. 2.373]
In the Name of the Father and of the ✠ Son and of the Holy Spirit.