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Congregational Development and Revitalization | Sinning Like a Christian

Sermon for 2/14/18 Ash Wednesday

TITLE: Sinning Like a Christian

Opening Illustration: Personal Lenten Story to introduce Ash Wednesday and Lent (My son’s attempt to give up something for Lent)

Opening Thought:  The season of Lent in the Christian calendar is set aside before the celebration of Easter.  It is typically used as a time to examine our hearts and lives and turn those things that keep us from being all that God created us to be and turn them over to God.  

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the journey of Lent when we acknowledge that we are human beings and we are in need of divine grace.

Scripture: Mark 1:14-15

Two Action Words in these verses: 1) Repent and 2) Believe.  The solution to being human and in need of divine grace is repentance and believing.  Repentance means to make a change in direction and to believe means to place our trust in the grace and love of God.  However, there seems to be certain barriers to our repenting and believing.


  1. Our Culture is more interested in self esteem and the goodness of humanity instead of looking at sin and human failures. (This is not all bad, but it is also incomplete)


  1. In the church we prefer to examine the sins of those outside the church while we fail to acknowledge the sin inside the church.  We have this idea that when we become a Christian our lives are instantly better than those outside the church.


  1. It is easy to judge the sin of other people and never take account of our own sinfulness.  We become judgmental instead of being transformed ourselves.


Possible Illustration: Adapted from Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion (Eerdmans, 2016), pages 193-194; original source: People (2-10-86)

People magazine once undertook a part-serious, part-tongue-in-cheek survey of its readers on the subject of sin. The results were published as a "Sindex," with each sin rated by a sin coefficient. The outcome is both amusing and instructive. Sins like murder, child abuse, and spying against one's country were rated the worst sins in ascending order, with smoking, swearing, and illegal videotaping far down the list. Parking in a handicapped spot was rated surprising high, whereas unmarried live-togethers got off lightly. Cutting in front of someone in line was deemed worse than divorce or capital punishment. Predictably, corporate sin was not mentioned at all. The survey concluded, "Overall, readers said they commit about 4.64 sins a month."

Possible Quote: William Willimon-  Our situation is that we view our lives through a set of lies about ourselves, false stories of who we are and are meant to be never getting an accurate picture of ourselves.  Through the “lens” of the story of Jesus we are able to see ourselves truthfully and  call things by there proper names.  Only through the cross of Christ do we see the utter depth and seriousness of our own sin.

Illustration Possibility: Recovery Churches and their draw.  Everyone in the room acknowledges that we are all in need of recovery as opposed to going to church and putting on the front that we have to together.

Illustration Possibility: A woman approached her pastor to inform him that she’d no longer be attending his church.

Perplexed by her decision, the pastor pressed her as to why.

“Ah! I saw a woman gossipping about another member; a man that is a hypocrite; the worship team living wrong; people looking at their phone during service; among so many other things wrong in your church,” she replied.

The pastor was sad to hear her reasoning, but not surprised, as he’s heard it all before. That’s why he let her go. But not before she did one final thing for him.

“But before you go, do me a favor: Take a full glass of water and walk around the church three times without spilling a drop on the ground. Afterward, leave the church if you desire.” 

An odd request to say the least, but the woman knew it would be a piece of cake.

She followed his instructions, walked three times around the church with her full glass of water, and returned to him—task completed.

The pastor prompted her with just one more thing before she left:

“Before you leave I want to ask you one more question. When you were walking around the church, did you see anyone gossiping?”

She told him, “no.”

Then he asked if she’d spotted any hypocrites, or come across anyone on their phones.

Again the woman replied, “no.”

Then the pastor offered up this perspective-shattering, thought-provoking analogy that would leave even some nonbelievers shouting “amen.”

“You were focused on the glass, to make sure you didn’t stumble and spill any water. It’s the same with our life. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we don’t have time to see the mistakes of others. We will reach out a helping hand to them and concentrate on our own walk with the Lord.”


Read about Sinning Like a Christian in this story from The Call

Prayer led to decision for Traditional Plan, supporters say

ALCOA, Tenn. (March 25, 2019) -- When Gerald Browning sent an email to the Holston Conference communications office, he asked a question that has been asked by many United Methodists in East Tennessee and Southwest ...

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