Well, friends, you are in for a treat this morning. I have an awesome sermon, one of my best efforts, no brag just fact. What can I say, when you’re as good as I am, it’s hard to be humble. And here is where you start running for the doors to avoid the lightning strike. Gregory the Great said pride is the root sin, the poisonous root from which all the rest grow. Jonathan Edwards called it “the most hidden, secret and deceitful of all sins.” C.S. Lewis called it the great sin and said all the other sins are fleabites in comparison. Calvin begins his comments on this passage saying simply, “there is no more deadly disease than pride,” it’s so deeply rooted in us that it’s almost impossible to root out. Of the seven things God hates pride is the first sin listed in Proverbs 6. Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. We are starting this morning with the deadliest of the deadly serious sins.
We have dealt with some large texts of Scripture lately, so large we sat for the reading of Scripture. It’s tempting to lump this little four verse text in with the next passage and just go over it quickly. You have heard of fly over country, what the east and west coast people call the Midwest. This is treated as a fly over text, one we read quickly to get to the really strange and interesting stuff about Seventy Weeks and what that means and how it relates to world history and Jesus. But it is good to slow down and meditate on small texts and find in them hidden gems of wisdom. God’s Word really is like a beautiful multi-faceted diamond, where careful reflection and contemplation reveals beautiful insights.
Last week on Cadet’s Sunday we talked about getting into the game and running the race and fighting the good fight of faith. We talked about setting joy before us as the goal and following Jesus and the great cloud of saints to that reward. We talked about how the race is made harder by obstacles in our way, and weights and baggage that we carry and sin that clings so tightly to us. I announced then that we are going to spend the next couple of months doing this very thing, putting off weights, shedding a few pounds, to help us run the race better, with greater hope for greater joy. We are going to look at seven serious weights or obstacles, seven serious sins. What I really want to talk to you about is the joy that is set before us. I want to talk about the pleasure that is ours in God through Christ, kept in heaven for us. I want to talk about the grace that is ours because of the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. But we can’t know the joy until we know the sin that clings so tightly to us and we throw off its weight. I take up this topic of the seven serious sins to fight for and advocate for our joy. Our best pleasure and our greatest joy will only be found in Christ and in the paths of righteousness and holiness. As our text says, so as your brother, I am calling us to examine our hearts to see if there is any secret or hidden or overlooked sin in us and to turn to the living God and our Savior Jesus Christ. Until we really grasp our sinfulness, we cannot grasp how great is God’s love and grace and forgiveness and salvation. Everything we hold dear in our Christian faith depends on our understanding our sinful hearts.
Last week we considered the context of this great prayer of repentance. Daniel had been reading Jeremiah and knew the time of Israel’s deliverance from Babylon was approaching. On the basis of God’s promise Daniel dared to pray a bold prayer. Tonight we consider the content. After properly addressing God and acknowledging His greatness, he goes to confession. Because sin is such a huge part of all our lives we need to learn how to confess our sin and pray for repentance. This is vital to our spiritual health and growth. And this is an excellent follow up to our Lenten series and we consider specific sins and how to repent of them.
We aren’t quite prepared for what happens in chapter nine. We are so accustom to strange and big events. Dreams and visions, revelations and interpretations, handwriting on a wall, fiery furnaces and scary lions’ dens and swift beasts with many horns. All of a sudden we are privy to one of Daniel’s quiet times, one of his moments of personal devotion, when three times a day he would kneel and face Jerusalem. It’s as if we are in his personal study where we see him with his Bible open praying. God gives us a glimpse of what a Christian looks like when he is reading Scripture and offering personal heartfelt prayer. We are privileged to have written down for us one of the truly extraordinary prayers of all time, inspired by the Holy Spirit and preserved for our blessing and benefit. This is a prayer worthy of reading and re-reading and meditating on and praying ourselves. We start by asking what prompted Daniel to pray this prayer in the first place?
It seems especially appropriate to consider the theme the Cadets are focusing on this year, getting in the game, at the time America also celebrates the biggest game of the year, the Super Bowl. The Cadet theme verse is a great verse with great challenges and implications for all of us. Or not. Is it for all of us? What about those with walkers or wheel chairs? How is Jeannie Bakker supposed to get in the game and run the race at 101? Or Mary K.? Is this verse just for young Christians like the cadets? Just for those who are in shape? The Bible uses athletic analogies that could sound like Christianity is a younger persons sport. Tom Brady, the quarterback for the New England Patriots joined Peyton Manning as the oldest quarterback to win a super bowl at age of 39 (Brady is four months younger than Manning). Tiger Woods is trying to make a comeback at 41 and it’s not looking too good. After shoveling this week, I’m not sure how fast I could run today. Is it possible for a person confined to bed to run the race set before us? Does this verse apply to all of us, no matter our age or our health? The answer is yes, because this race doesn’t require getting out of bed, it isn’t run with our legs or bodies, but with our hearts by faith. The weak and the aged among us not only run this race, they can win this race, because it is won by keeping the faith.