Thursday, August 23, 2001
First, the verdict came in - guilty. Then the sentence - death. And the last-minute appeals for a delay - denied. And finally the irrevocable outcome - Timothy McVeigh had to die for his crimes. The carnage and the tragedy of that bombing of a Federal building in Oklahoma City has left an indelible mark on our entire generation.
The death penalty, I mean even for a mass killer like Tim McVeigh, is a controversial issue. For some it's an important political issue; for others it's an important justice or humanitarian issue. But few of us have ever thought of the death penalty as an intensely personal issue. It is. For every one of us.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft, and I want to have A WORD WITH YOU today about "The Personal Side of the Death Penalty."
We're not talking here about a death sentence from some human court, but from the Governor of the universe. It's actually spelled out in six sobering words in our word for today from the Word of God in Romans 6:23 - "The wages of sin is death." Now that sentence actually goes back to the beginning of time when God announced the penalty for mankind's first sin - "You will surely die" (Genesis 2:17).
There is no doubt that our sin carries with it a sentence of death - as surely as anyone on Death Row is carrying one. And just in case you or I might think that doesn't include us, the Bible says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." There is no such thing as a "not guilty" plea before God. Our spiritual crimes aren't the horrific crimes of some mass killing - in fact, they're cosmic crimes. We have - however politely or religiously - raised our fist to the God of the universe, the God who gave us our life in the first place, and said, "My way, God, not Your way." And the "wages" of that sin is "death."
Not just death as in your heart stopping, but death as in eternal separation from God, the Source of everything good in your life. The death penalty for my running my own life is far more frightening that any lethal injection or electrocution - it's a forever death penalty that leaves us, in the Bible's words, "shut out from the presence of the Lord" (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
The bad news from God is really bad. But the good news is about as good as it gets. Here's the rest of what God says about it - "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). You can walk away from the death penalty you deserve and receive a heaven you could never deserve - if you take His "gift." Now a gift is something someone else paid for - and Jesus paid for eternal life for you by giving His life. All the good works in the world can't pay a death penalty - someone has to die - and Someone did. Jesus did the dying for all the sinning you have ever done.