This morning, we’re continuing our message series entitled, “Walking in the Favor of God.” We learn from the account of a young, twelve-year-old-Jesus how to increase in the favor of God and man.
Last week, we held a water baptism service reminding us just how critical obedience is to walking in the favor of God. After all, even Jesus, who never sinned and had no “old self” to put to death chose to be baptized by his cousin John. We find this recorded:
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Here, we see an instant response from the Heavenly Father acknowledging that Jesus gained His favor through this act of obedience.
Wouldn’t that be awesome? Every time that we make the right choice, God’s voice announces to everyone, “This is my son (or daughter) whom I love; with them I am well pleased.”?
Maybe a tap on the shoulder when we start to veer away from Him? Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to be learning about this morning.
Sin, it’s not a popular topic of conversation, but it is a critical one for us to understand if we are to walk in the favor of God. Even as Abel walked in God’s favor through obedience, God warned his brother Cain:
6 “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Sin still crouches at our doors to this very day, desiring to have us. However, by the grace of God and the empowerment of His Holy Spirit within us, we are able to rule over it!
What exactly is sin?
The definition of sin is essentially to miss the mark. It implies that there was an intended destination, or bullseye, for us to hit and that we veered off course and missed it. Those preparing for archery season know full well this concept. It’s not so easy to hit that mark and there are countless variables that all affect an archer’s ability to shoot skillfully. It takes the right equipment and time and practice to be the best archery hunter possible.
God created mankind in His image and with a bullseye plan. His desire was to walk with them in person. His desire was to be their people and for Him to be our god. He planned to meet our every need and to bless us with an abundant life. His plans haven’t changed, that bullseye is still intact for each of us today.
Just like a video game with multiple checkpoints and goals, there are many different bullseyes that God has created in each of our lives. Some of them, we all share in common. For example, it is God’s bullseye for all mankind that we not kill or steal, that we speak only the full truth, that we would love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, etc.
There are also some bullseyes that are unique to our lives. It may be God’s bullseye for you to lead a specific person to salvation at a specific time. Those are unique, kairos moments that we like to call divine appointments. God may also have a bullseye in your life to become a missionary or evangelist or pastor or prayer warrior or encourager.
God has given us His law in the Bible. This law defines the boundaries of His bullseye. It defined His moral law for all of mankind for all time, His ceremonial law to Israel for how they were to worship Him and what their culture was to be in order for them to be separate from the rest of the world, and His judicial and civil law for how Israel was to govern His people, handle different situations, and basically live their everyday lives.
Sinning by disobeying God’s law is a black and white moral conduct issue. This type of sin is quite clear and is usually what we think of when we use the word.
However, it is also sin for us when God has that special bullseye in our lives and we miss it as well. In fact, James writes:
If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.
The same principles involved in becoming a great archer apply to our lives as well. If an archer is inexperienced, they can very easily hurt or even kill themselves or others.
If they miss their mark altogether, that arrow is going to continue along until it pierces something significant enough to stop it. That could be the dirt just beyond their target, or it could be something far more valuable. If that archer is very inexperienced, they could injure themselves quite easily. They could have the string hit their cheek or forearm, derailing the string from the cam, splintering arrows or bolts, dry firing a bow, or having your crossbow crank-winder release early and taking out a knuckle.
If the archer hits its target, but not a vital bullseye, it severely injures that animal and very likely will lead to a slow and painful death.
If the archer hits its vital bullseye, however, at just the right time, it will be a swift kill and fruitful hunt.
Sin always hurts. It never only affects us, it also affects those around us. Sin is always destructive and it always leads to death. Sometimes to an immediate, physical death. More often, to a slow and unobvious death. Those who have been bound by substance addictions, or their friends and family, can understand this slow, but very real death better than most.
To walk in the favor of God is to live a life as a great archer for Him. Or, perhaps less like an archer and more like the arrow in God’s bow. It is for us to be straight and obedient arrows flying through God’s bullseyes in our lives. It is to live a life empowered and guided by His very Spirit within us. It is to walk the narrow path and through the narrow gate.
To choose sin is to become separated from God. This was a new revelation and perspective shift for me, but it may be old news for you. Either way, I believe that we often misunderstand this concept.
There are three ways in which two can become separated. Either God leaves us, we leave Him, or we mutually leave one another. I always viewed sin as something that grieved God to the point that He ran away from me. I viewed my sin as some sort of a God-deterrent that resisted and opposed God like two of the same poles of a magnet. I imagined that it was like when the Holy Spirit departed from Saul and the evil spirit began to torment him.
This is far from the truth, though! When sin separates us from God, it is us who walk away from Him and His plans for our lives. He never moves, in fact, even in our sin, He pursues us! He is not repelled by our sin, He is not offended by our sin, He is not changed in any way by our sin.
Who ran and hid in the garden when mankind first sinned? Adam and Eve.
Who pursued Adam and Eve in their sinful state? God.
Who sacrificed an animal and made a covering to remove Adam and Eve’s sin and shame? God.
Who has broken the law of God ever since? Mankind.
Who lived the perfect life and willingly paid the price for our sin? Jesus.
Who defended the women caught in adultery? Jesus.
Who spoke to the woman at the well living in sin? Jesus.
Who dined with Zacchaeus and forgave his sin? Jesus.
Who visited Legion in the tombs, driving out his many demons, and restored him? Jesus.
Who went running toward the prodigal son? The Father.
Over and over and over again, God pursues us in our sin. God wants to freely give us His favor. He wants us to live abundant lives, hitting every bullseye with pintpoint accuracy throughout our lives. He has proven that He will do all that He can to be with us and for us.
However, we must choose Him. We must choose to follow His lead. We must choose to give Him control. He has already chosen us; He created us with a plan and purpose and gave His very life to fully equip and enable us to fulfill it. He chose us, but will we choose Him?
For time’s sake, I’m not going to read through the whole chapter, though I encourage you to. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus and preached the gospel in this way.
1 Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.
2 But your iniquities have separated
you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
so that he will not hear.
12 For our offenses are many in your sight,
and our sins testify against us.
Our offenses are ever with us,
and we acknowledge our iniquities:
13 rebellion and treachery against the Lord,
turning our backs on our God,
inciting revolt and oppression,
uttering lies our hearts have conceived.
14 So justice is driven back,
and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets,
honesty cannot enter.
16 He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.
17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on the garments of vengeance
and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.
20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,”
declares the Lord.
21 “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.
All of us were born overcome by sin. At one point, and perhaps even now, we lived our lives as slaves to sin. We lived following it’s every desire and impulse. We loved the temporary pleasures that it promised and chose to allow it to blindfold us from the negative consequences of it. Choosing sin is always choosing to separate ourselves from God and to rebel against Him.
Where there was no other way, God, Himself intervened and paved the way to salvation for us. He made a way for us to overcome sin by doing it Himself. He humbled Himself to become just like us. Jesus was tempted in every way that we are tempted and yet always walked in the favor of His Heavenly Father and away from the enticement of sin.
He then willingly gave His life paying the penalty of our personal sin so that we might escape it. Moreover, He sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us to guide us into the fullness and abundance of life that He created us to embrace and to equip and empower us to overcome sin and to hit each bullseye of life.
To be tempted is not to sin. To have our desires tugged on and to be enticed to swerve away from the bullseye is not wrong. That is simply to be human in a fallen world, still living in the flesh. Jesus was tempted just as we are and yet was still fully righteous. He fulfilled the very law of God perfectly, hitting every bullseye and never once missing the mark.
We were all under the power of sin, helpless to resist it. No matter how hard we may try to hit God’s bullseyes for our lives, we can never do it on our own. However, when we choose to accept the salvation provided by Jesus, when we choose to put our faith in the work that He did to fulfill the law of God perfectly, when we accept the payment that He made for our sin, everything changes. We are then empowered to be able to overcome sin. We then have a choice. We are then equipped with what we need to train and become expert marksmen’s.
God never tempts us. His desire is never to put up a target and have us miss the mark. He is not against us, He is for us. God never tempts us to sin, but He faithfully always makes a way out of temptation. The choice is then ours. Do we choose to walk in God’s favor, or to part ways with Him?
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
This morning, we’re reminded that God does not run away from us in our sin. Rather, He passionately pursues us in it, desiring to free us from the power of sin and to give us His freedom! He desires to train us as expert marksmen to hit the bullseyes of our lives and to live them fully and abundantly. As we follow His lead, He’ll set our feet on solid rock and faithfully guide us onto paths of life and blessing. We’ll walk in His favor and be blessed. This morning, the choice is ours.