Breaking Sin’s Code

given on Sunday, February 17, the first Sunday of Lent.

         Have you ever tried the Cryptoquips in the newspaper?  This is one of the brainteasers or games that appears daily in the KC Star.  The point of it is to identify the statement that is coded in a mixed up pattern of letters that do not meet our personal language expectations.           These challenges are not easy for me, but I have worked with a couple of others who seem to know how to break the code.  They are able to take one small clue and work through the jumbled words and find the solution.  Following the process leads to a sense of exhilaration when the code is broken and the solution appears.

Cryptoquips lead me to thinking about how sin likes to hide in all the words of our lives.  God sent out messages over and over and over, but His children could not figure it out.  There must be a way to break sin’s code and make sure everybody knows the message.

What is needed to become cryptologists?  First we need the alphabet—or do we?  During World War II, language in two battle theaters ranged dramatically.  No common alphabet, no common language, no common ground for all the various messages being sent from one ally to another or one enemy to another.  Intercepting those messages meant finding solutions to the battles.

The necessity of communicating ideas is undeniable; it is essential if we live side by side with others.  Breaking sin’s code is key to living the Christian life that God so desires for His children.  The Garden of Eden is attainable if we can break sin’s code and live by God’s code.  We must make sure that we understand the message in order to arm ourselves for life in a world that challenges our beliefs.

With that as a starting point, the process begins.  God first told Adam and Eve that their needs were provided as long as they took care of creation.  Adam and Eve represent all humans regardless of race or gender.  We are all God’s children and we all must accept responsibility to preserve God’s law.

The Old Testament is one of our tools to breaking sin’s code.  Thousands of years separate us from creation and the Old Testament recorded humanity’s battles to preserve God’s law.  Unfortunately, sin seems to co-exist with human will.  The battle is on.

In the Cryptoquips, only one rule is provided:  I is A.  That is all the clue there is for the problem solver to work out the solution.  Of course if I replaces A and A replaces I in the message, then the foundation is there and all the other values must be discovered.

As 21st century Christians, we have a wealth of clues provided us but there is only one that we need to begin the process.  One          rule.  Adam and Eve were told simply do not eat from the tree of knowledge and all their needs would be met.  God gave them a garden filled with all the perfect solutions to their needs.

Time and time again, the people of God found themselves in a battle with sin.  God provided them a key to the solution; yet some did not listen, some did not follow the solution, and some chose to go in another direction.  Being given the rule for living a sin-free life is no guarantee that it is going to be easy to solve the battle with sin.

Consider this question:  What triggered God to send Jesus?  The first step in learning this answer is to unlock all the messages of the Old Testament, and one way to make that more clear is to consider the Bible in chronological form.

Included in today’s bulletin is an abbreviated reading plan that puts the Old and New Testament into a chronological format.  At first glance it does not seem so re-organized; but begin working with the plan and surprises develop.

As an example one of the first questions that sprung up in my mind is what triggered God to send Jesus.  The Old Testament covers a time span of almost 2,500 years and is filled with examples of God’s frustration with His creation mishandling sin.  His warnings go unheard.  His threats were delivered.  Sin still wins battles though.

Look at the chronological listings.  Find the first entry from the New Testament and then back up one—the final entry in the Old Testament.  It is Malachi, the record of the Prophet Malachi.

To place Malachi’s prophecy into a timeline, the temple in Jerusalem had been rebuilt over 100 years prior to Malachi’s warnings.  In a society, which places so much importance on the temple, especially the one in Jerusalem, one might expect the behaviors of the people to match that of the teachings.  But the behaviors did not.

Malachi, as God’s messenger, made one more effort to break sin’s code by explaining how God had reached a frustration level that action was needed and needed now!  The time:  430 BC.  Four hundred years before Christ was born, God sent one more message.

Malachi simply told the people that God had lost hope in His people.  He was angry with the priests.  He was angry with the people and He was coming.  Four major points are presented in this last Old Testament book.  Certainly Malachi expected God to appear any moment, but He did not.

Again, we are confronted with another mystery.  We learn that God is coming and yet in the middle of the fifth century BC, He does not appear.  What happened to the message?

Let’s review a few things.  Adam and Eve were told not to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and they did.  Then God delivered Moses just ten simple rules or commandments to follow.  Moses’ story is recorded in Exodus chapters 1-5,12-14 and 20, around 1450-1410 BC.  And Exodus is just the second book of the Old Testament.

Obviously God is not quick to temper, God is patient.  As the stories of the Old Testament continue to demonstrate how a small group of people works to carry God’s messages to the others, sin continues to win battles.  Sin is a force confronting humans daily.   There must be some secret to unlocking sin’s code.  There must be some simple rule that can lead God’s children in the battle against sin and winning life of the faithful.

After Adam ate the apple, sin won.  Sin started filling the story of humankind with conflict.  Good versus evil.  Evil wins.  Good versus evil.  Good wins.  A thousand years passed between creation and Moses’ delivery of the Ten Commandments.  God replaced one simple rule with ten more specific rules.

The next thousand years records the many examples of sin versus God.  The prophets are recorded.  The warnings were given.  The battles continued—some with sin winning, some with God winning.  One thing that is evident is God’s love and patience.  Why did humans fail to break the code?

Malachi told them.  He identified the problem in the first chapter, verse 6:

“A son honors his father. A servant honors his master. If I am a father, where is the honor I should have? If I am a master, where is the respect you should give me?” says the Lord who rules over all.  . . .

Malachi’s words sound familiar.  Have we not heard those words in our own homes in a context all too familiar yet today?  Malachi was breaking sin’s code.  In the tight-knit family units and the tribes, the analogy of a son honoring the father is a clue that was recognizable, and still is today.

Yet, so many still did not listen to the messengers.  Malachi continued his explanation to the people, but even his plain language did not unlock the code.  At the close of Malachi 4:4-5, a final warning, a final clue to what the future holds:

“Remember the law my servant Moses gave you. Remember the rules and laws I gave him at Mount Horeb. They were for the whole nation of Israel.

“I will send you the prophet Elijah. He will come before the day of the Lord arrives. It will be a great and terrifying day. Elijah will teach parents how to love their children. He will also teach children how to honor their parents. If that does not happen, I will come. And I will put a curse on the land.”

As Lent continues, consider the keys already provided for breaking sin’s code.  We are so familiar with the Old Testament and New Testament stories that one would think the code is broken.  But look around your corner of the world.  Is sin still lurking around?  While you listen to the news?  Is sin still winning?  Look at all the influences in our lives and evaluate them.  Is there a clue to sin’s code?

The Bible provides many clues, many examples, and many methods that should break sin’s code.  But here it is 2,000 years after God personally stepped in to break sin’s hold on His children.  Did it work?  Does it work?  Will it work in the future?

Lent continues and so will we continue to be cryptologists.  We have one key:  Love one another.  If we replace all sinful thoughts and actions with that one principle, will we break sin’s code?

Dear Forgiving and Loving God,

We fail to break sin’s code.

We cannot identify your message.

We follow the wrong paths,

     and make the wrong decisions.

Open our hearts so we may love one another.

Open our minds to identify sinful influences.

Open our hands to change this world

     by doing what we can to break sin’s hold.

Thank you for prophets of old and of today.

Thank you for your patience.

Thank you for loving us

      and forgiving us unconditionally.  –Amen

 

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