Depending on which app you ask, the word “sin” in all of it forms occurs 1,016 or 1,292 times in the Bible.
Compare those numbers to the 943 times and the 158 times we find the words “Jesus” and “salvation,” respectively, in the scriptures. We do not make this comparison to prove that God considers sin more important than Jesus or salvation. Relative importance is not the point.
The point is this: when God repeatedly uses any given word or phrase, that’s a clue that we should pay particular attention to those words and phrases in our preaching and teaching. We’ve gotten the message regarding Jesus and salvation. We preach and teach in those areas regularly.
Sin, on the other hand, is a different story. Some today have chosen to avoid the topic.
Recently, our pastor made that observation and decided to buck the trend and deliver a sermon stressing sin. He prefaced the sermon with another biblical observation supporting the need to preach and teach sin in our churches, that people lost in sin matter to God.
That being established, he stated his text — Luke’s version of the parable of the Prodigal Son.
For those who know the story and may be a bit skeptical that the story addresses sin, stand by as we share the highlights of our pastor’s interpretation of the text. What follows are not direct quotes from his sermon but rather my take on what he actually said.
Plagiarism is not in my vocabulary. He is, however, aware of this attempt to replicate his view of the text.
In his sermon, the pastor listed four dynamics of the sin-filled life suggested by the parable.
Dynamic 1: desires of the flesh motivate one to live the sin-filled life. This dynamic is suggested by verses 12 and 13 in the parable where, as soon as the son received his share of the father’s wealth, he immediately took off in search of wine, women and song in another country.
Dynamic 2, the pleasures of sin are real, is likewise suggested by the phrase “riotous living” in verse 13. The implication is that he found what he was seeking in that country and proceeded to have a great time, until the money ran out and dynamic 3 became a reality.
Dynamic 3, the pleasures of sin are temporary, hit him squarely in the face and he found himself broke, homeless and alone in a strange country. He found no help or no hope from the citizens of the country so he took the only job he could find, caring for the pigs of a local farmer. This change of lifestyle we see in verses 14-16.
Dynamic 4, the lesson that is inherent in sin, finally dawned on the son in verse 17 where, the text tells us, “he came to himself.” In other words, the lesson became clear to him that he needed his father in his life to deal with the influence of fleshly desires. And finally, in verse 18, we see that he made the decision to abandon his current situation and return to his father.
Unfortunately, most of humankind have not learned this lesson. We often tend to be so distracted and enamored by the real pleasures of sin that our need for the Father is obscured. Maybe we need to hit bottom, as did the son in the parable, before we can realize our need for the presence of God in our lives. God is waiting — what’s your response going to be?
Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church, Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in South Los Angeles.
Pastor’s Corner is a religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture in life today. The column will appear monthly in The Wave and on its website, www.wavepublication.com.