Union Ridge Church

March 8, 2023

by Reverend Dan on March 9, 2023

My sermon this coming weekend is entitled, “Are You Good at Being Bad . . . or Just Bad at Being Good?” It’s an interesting question, kind of like the chicken/egg debate. Which comes first? Are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners? (That’s some deep stuff. Which means the course I was required to take called “Philosophy of Religion” that I said I’d never use? I was wrong.)

Because of the fall in Eden, we all possess the ability to be bad (some more than others my grandmother would have said) because we have a sinful nature. But that bad news of man leads to the Good News of Christ. You see, we also possess the ability to be good because we were made in the image of God. And that image cries out to be freed from the bondage of our sinful nature.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a book most people know about even if they’ve never read it: “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Dr. Jekyll, a brilliant, well-mannered, compassionate man invented a potion which when he drank turned him into Mr. Hyde, a cruel, cold-blooded killer. The book is about the ongoing battle between the two natures fighting for control of the one body they both lived in. When Stevenson was asked where he got the idea for the book, he said, “I looked inside myself. There’s always a struggle with the beast that lives within me.”

He was right. There is a constant battle we all face. Some call it the flesh versus the spirit. Some call it our inherent sinful nature versus our inheritance of God’s image. (It’s kind of like that devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other that Fred Flintstone had to deal with sometimes.) Whatever you call it, when what you’re doing sits directly on the line between good and bad, those two natures compete for what choice you make. It is a battle to which of the two has the stronger will.
This isn’t a new issue. It’s all throughout the Bible from the very beginning and it continues today. Even Paul, the writer of most of the New Testament, struggled with it. He put it this way. “I do not understand what I do. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do I keep doing.” I feel your pain, brother.

I think the biggest part of the problem is that our desire to obey God is often stronger than our ability to obey Him. We want to please God, but that worldly stuff that glitters and shines and looks and feels good for a moment is constantly in front of you calling your name. And sometimes, that desire to obey loses out to the ability to obey. We have a weak moment, and we give in. The problem is those temptations don’t happen once or twice in our lives. They happen daily. And sadly, one weak moment can mean a lifetime of shame and guilt and remorse the weight of which you carry around daily.

The Good News is that you don’t have to. All you have to do is give whatever it is to God. We talked about it a few weeks ago when we talked about giving up something for Lent. Give up the idea that you can control it yourself and give control to God.

Good at being bad or bad at being good? Both. But there’s a God waiting to forgive your sins, because no matter what you’ve done, Paul says, “wherever sin increases, grace increases all the more.” That means you can’t out-sin grace. That image of God can defeat the sinful nature with faith and the help of God. That’s a pretty awesome God.​​​​​​​