I managed to catch a recording of this too, available at http://dl.dropbox.com/u/23575548/110323Mark7.mp3
Sermon "Garbage Out"
Our Lord, grant us ears to hear from you and a heart to repent of our sin and be restored, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
What defiles a man? Is this a "garbage in, garbage out" world or is it something else? In fact the Word of God says it is quite the opposite. We are not sinners because we sin. We commit sin because we are sinners. It is our nature. We sin because we are evil. It isn't a "garbage in, garbage out" world. It's just a "garbage out" world.
How can we understand this from our passage in Mark 7? First, we may be harmed by what we take in, but that is not what makes us evil. Rather, our desire to take it in shows that we are evil. We can preach, teach, exhort, and counsel all day long about particular sinful behaviors. We can prohibit out of hand all kinds of things that God says have a good and right place, but which are subject to abuse, such as food, drink, and marital relations. We can make people do what is right. But that doesn't change the evil desires we have. Want an example? Find the two children who have been fighting. Make them stop and say they are sorry. That mumbled, "I'm sorry," doesn't indicate anything but being sorry for getting caught. We changed behavior. We didn't change the sinful desire. Many Christian counselors compare this to stapling fruit onto a dead tree. It doesn't make it a fruitful tree. The tree brings forth the fruit that indicates its health. A dead apple tree doesn't produce good fruit. Our lives produce bad fruit. It's because we are sinful at the root.
That brings us to a second observation in this passage. We see that we can do all sorts of good deeds, but they will not make us righteous. We can fast and pray until the cows come home and it will not earn our righteousness. It is only Jesus' righteousness applied to us which will help us. We who are evil know how to bring forth only evil fruit. In my fallen nature I can do nothing, literally nothing, that is pleasing to God. It is only as I am recreated in Christ Jesus for good works that I can bring forth good works, those things that he is doing in and through me. Myself, I always mix in evil somehow, which brings nothing but condemnation. Jesus must be present, working in me.
Finally, we see that there are ceremonies, such as ceremonial washings, prayers, and the like, which may be good things. Yet they are not good because we came up with them. They are not good because we do them. They are good because they are effective in light of God's promises. The classic example which comes up in this passage is baptism. If I apply water to people, they are not baptized. They are just wet. But If I apply water to people according to God's commands and promises, God creates faith in their hearts. They are baptized. It isn't the water. It's water in accordance with God's word. That's how a good thing is created. It isn't by our actions. It's by God's action.
No matter our efforts, we seem to bring out garbage. There must already be evil inside us. May the Lord have mercy on us, cleansing us from inside out.
Our Lord, grant us pardon. We confess that we can do nothing in ourselves. We bring out defilement from our inner man. Cleanse us, purify us, heal us that we may speak and act from the new man, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which you have appointed for us beforehand. Bring glory to your name, for you ever live and reign, one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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