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Thursday, 10 December 2015

A near miss is as bad as a mile!

I was reading, the other day, about a game that, apparently, used to be played by children in England - in the days before iPads, and X-boxes, and multi-channel television!  The game, I read, was named "Saints and Sinners" - a name that, understandably, caught my attention!

The way in which the game was played was that a metal hoop was erected at a measured distance, and the children were given a bow, and ten arrows each.  The objective was to shoot all ten of your arrows through the hoop.  If anyone achieved that goal, and shot all ten arrows through, then that child was proclaimed a saint.  However, if a child missed just one arrow, that child was named as a sinner.  Of course, if a child missed with all ten arrows, (s)he was still designated a sinner!  That child was no greater a 'sinner' than the one who missed with just one arrow!  That was the rule of the game.

One of several words that is translated "sin" in the New Testament, is the Greek word "hamartia" (for others, see chap.4 in my book "Great Words of the Faith").  This word speaks of a 'falling short'; 'missing the mark'; 'going off the straight'; or 'going too far'.  It’s a word that comes from the world of sport.  In archery, the sport in which it was first used, there is a bull's-eye for which the archer aims.  Now, if my arrow hits the bull, or the mark, I gain the prize; but, if it misses the mark, whether by only a fraction of an inch, or by a couple of feet, then I don’t get anything!  And if it falls short of the target, or overshoots it, whether by six inches, or six yards, I am still not awarded the prize.

Sin is not only a breaking of God's Law; it is also a failure to attain the standard of perfection that the Law demands.  It may also be likened to a chain.   Even if only one link is broken, the effectiveness of the chain is ruined.  The Law demands continuous, uninterrupted, obedience.  If we fail to live up to that standard for only one minute, we become guilty sinners before God!   We do not need to commit murder, or adultery, or theft, or deceit to be unfit for heaven.  If we break even one of God's laws, then we are sinners in His sight.  That's why Paul could say, without hesitation, that "... all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, ..." (Rom 3:23).  To deviate from the way of perfection by one nanometre is to 'miss the target', and come short of God's standard.

In just a couple of weeks, people all over the world will be celebrating the birth of a very special Baby in the Judaean town of Bethlehem.  That baby grew to be the man, Christ Jesus.  He never "missed the mark", but kept God's Law perfectly.  He is the "... One Who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (
Heb 4:15).  All others have sinned, and 'come short'; so all of us need Him as our Saviour.

One of my favourite Christian songs is now a 'Golden Oldie'!  Its the hymn "When peace, like a river,...".  My favourite verse reads: 
"My sin - O the bliss of this glorious thought - 
my sin, not in part, but the whole 
is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more: 
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul." (Horatio G Spafford; 1828-88)

Whoever you are, you are a sinner because of your failure; but you can become a saint by His victory! 

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