Updated: Oct 9, 2021
I’m a sinner. I need a Savior.
If you were to ask me why I'm a Christian, this is the simple answer I would give you.
If you were to ask me, “Why are you a Lutheran?” my answer would be exactly the same: I’m a sinner. I need a Savior.
I’m a Christian of the Lutheran variety because Lutherans don’t just talk about sin and forgiveness. We actually do something with each. Week in and week out we actually confess our sins. And week in and week out, we receive absolution, the forgiveness of our sins.
We daily sin much and deserve nothing but punishment. This phrase comes to us right out of Martin Luther’s Small Catechism; it’s from his explanation to the Fifth Petition. There’s no getting around the reality of our sin, and our sinfulness. Not if we take a good, hard look at God’s Word; not if we are willing to take an honest look at ourselves in the light of that same Word.
Martin Luther was not the only one who focused on the core of our Christian faith. Two British-born Anglicans did the same; one a clergyman, the other a layman. J.I. Packer wrote: He that has learned to feel his sins, and to trust Christ as a Savior, has learned the two hardest and greatest lessons in Christianity. C.S. Lewis remarked: Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It has nothing to say to people who do not know they have anything to repent of and who do not feel they need any forgiveness.
Each of our three Scripture readings this morning reminds us of the central teaching of our faith. It is most certainly true that daily we sin much. It is just as true that God daily and richly forgives my sins and the sins of all believers.
Our first reading: Psalm 32 (of David).
Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven; whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
The good news is that today we have confessed our sin and have received the same blessing that David did—the gift of absolution—the forgiveness of our sins.
Isn’t this what we’re doing here once again this morning? Isn’t that why you’re worshiping online, or reading this sermon at home? Like David, we’ve come to realize that we are poor, miserable sinners. We don’t have to pretend otherwise. As a matter of fact, we can’t hide this reality from God. He knows just how miserable our sin makes us and he longs for us to bring to him our sins.
Martin Luther knew this. He knew this from his study of the Bible. And he knew it from his desperate search for peace with God. Later, he would marvel at Gospel, writing:
I am completely steeped in, and saturated with, the article of the forgiveness of sins. I am dealing with it constantly, day and night; and all my thoughts are of Jesus Christ, my only Savior, who has atoned and paid for my sin. I grant the Law—and all the devils—nothing. If only a man can believe the forgiveness of sin, he is a blessed person.
Luther never forgot that he daily sinned much; and he never forgot who his Savior was. He made this crystal clear when he wrote: Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God.
Our second reading this morning, Hebrews 3:7-19.
So, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways. So I declared on oath in my anger, they shall never enter my rest.
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. As has just been said: Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion. Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
This passage should make the hairs on the back of our necks stand up. It should also make our knees knock. Why is this? It’s because the sin that the New Testament book of Hebrews addresses is one that strikes close to home for almost each and every one of us.
Let me explain what I mean. We find ourselves in a time of great disbelief. Sad to say, many have turned their backs on Christ—and His Church. I’m guessing that most of us probably have a family member or friend who has done this. Somehow, along the way, they've lost their faith. This is the problem that the author of Hebrews confronts head-on. Hebrews warns of what the dire consequence of this sin is. Unbelief will result in eternal separation from God. We will never enter his rest. The author of Hebrews gives this stern admonition: We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation which was first announced by the Lord, and was confirmed by those who heard him.
There is one more Scripture reading for us to consider this morning, Luke 5:17-26.
One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there.
They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.
Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
I can’t help but wonder.... When Jesus told the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven—what was the look on his face? Was he surprised? Grateful? Or perhaps confused. How long did it take the paralyzed man to realize that Jesus had dealt with first things first? He had addressed the man’s greatest need.
We do know this much. Luke tells us that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were upset. That’s putting it mildly. They were furious. They were sure that Jesus had committed the worse sin imaginable. Just who did he think he was! After all, only God can forgive sin. The religious leaders were absolutely right about this. But they were absolutely wrong about who Jesus truly is.
In Luke chapter 5, Jesus is just getting started on his public ministry. Later, when it was all over, Jesus picked up where he had left off. Following Good Friday and Easter, Luke records:
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be preached in my name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:45-47).
“I’m a sinner. I need a Savior.”
This is why I’m still a Christian.
“I’m a sinner. I need a Savior.”
This is also why I remain a Lutheran.
How about you?