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IT  IS  YOUR  CHOICE:  "THE  WAGES"  OR  "THE  GIFT"

Scripture Text:  Romans 6:23  "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

If there is one subject which is too seldom spoken of from pulpits of churches in America today, it is the subject of SIN, S-I-N, SIN.  This is especially true when the relationship between SIN and death is made evident.  Proof of this fact can be seen by picking up the Saturday newspapers to read some of the sermon topics for the following day in many of the largest churches in the area.  It seems like people will listen to anything but the pure, unadulterated and uncompromising word of God.  And you can take your choice ... book reviews, politics, economics, labor problems, social ills, movies, T.V., sporting events, the environment, and even sex, but no time for preaching about SIN,  DEATH,  or JUDGMENT.  They apparently have no time for preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ and the precious blood that He shed at Calvary's Cross for our SIN.

The result is that the word SIN has virtually become extinct, and has almost been deleted from our present-day vocabulary.  About the only time you see the word SIN these days is on a theater marquee, a sexy filth-packed magazine on the newsstand, or the name of a new perfume.  How many times have you heard the word SIN mentioned this week?  When was the last time you heard the word SIN mentioned in your church?  Yes, when was the last time you heard the word SIN mentioned from the pulpit of your so-called place of worship?

Just take a look at your daily newspaper.  From top to bottom, on many of the pages, you'll read about SIN, SIN, SIN.  Oh sure, they may call it by some other name, but it is still SIN.  Yes, it's only a small word consisting of three letters, but within those three letters is expressed all the sorrow, sickness, suffering, sadness and separation the world has ever known.  The basic, fundamental, scriptural and historical reason for all the pain, fears, heartache, disease, tears, chaos, confusion, conflict and death is S-I-N, SIN.  And in our text, Romans 6:23 we're told that "the wages of SIN is death".  And even though these words were uttered nearly two thousand years ago, the fact remains that the wages of SIN have never been reduced.

Perhaps there are some of you reading this who don't like to hear about SIN or DEATH or HELL, and you are hiding your head in the sands of unbelief, like a spiritual ostrich.  Yes, you may hide your eyes and ears to the facts, and you may refuse to listen to the preaching about the wages of SIN, and even try to get rid of the horrors of death, but it will be to no avail.  Why, because the fact remains that SIN is still SIN, and death is still death, and "the wages of SIN is death!" In Ezekiel 18:20 we read that "the soul that sinneth, it shall die."  Again in James 1:15 we read "when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth SIN; and SIN, when it is finished, bringeth forth death."

Mankind may try to minimize SIN, and the resulting death, by all the various and modern arts of mortuary science, but that doesn't alter the fact that we're told in Hebrews 9:27 that "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." Yes, there is judgment ahead!  And furthermore, the subjects of SIN and death occupy such a large place in the scriptures that we cannot overlook them.  And so it is that, in faithfulness to my God and in love for your precious soul, I bring before you the fact that "the wages of SIN is death."  And in doing so, I would point you to the Lord Jesus Christ, of Whom John the Baptist declared in John 1:29, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the SIN of the world."  Yes, He bore away our SIN in His own body on the tree.

Now friends, believe me when I say that I get no pleasure whatsoever in speaking about SIN, DEATH, HELL and the LAKE OF FIRE.  But I would be denying the truth of God's word if I failed to warn you of the divine wrath of God which awaits every Christ-rejecter.  In Ezekiel 33:7 God says, "warn them from Me", so that's what I'm doing, because I love you, and in view of the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Furthermore, the SIN question must be settled, or there is no hope for humanity, either in this world, or in the world to come.  SIN must be atoned for and forgiven, or there can be no salvation for any of us.  In fact, remove the reality of SIN, and I have no reason for preaching Jesus Christ and His vicarious death on our behalf at Calvary.

Now perhaps you're asking, "Well, just what is SIN?  What do you mean by SIN?"  Well, very simply, SIN is anything and everything contrary to the person, word and will of an infinitely Holy God.  Basically then, SIN is rebellion against a just and righteous Creator, God.  I should also add that SIN does not originate in the hand, the feet, the eyes or the tongue.  No, SIN originates in the human heart.  And all the outward acts such as dishonesty, sexual immorality, and violence have a cause which lies beneath the human breast.

In Matthew 15:19, the Lord Jesus Christ declared, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, theft, false witness and blasphemies." So you see, SIN is not so much an act in itself, but rather SIN is an attitude, an attitude toward God and His will.  Yes, SIN is disobedience to the expressed will of Almighty God, the One in Whose hand is found our every breath. 

And whether we realize it or not, the SIN of mankind began back in the Garden of Eden when our first parents, Adam and Eve, transgressed the word and will of God by partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  In Romans 5:12 we read, "Wherefore, as by one man (Adam) SIN entered into the world, and death by SIN; and so death passed upon all men, for that ALL HAVE SINNED."  And you recall how God had warned Adam and Eve that the day that they would eat of the forbidden fruit, they would surely die.  Now God was speaking here, not only of their immediate spiritual death, or separation from God, but also of their future physical death.

And you may not agree with me, my friend, but I firmly believe that Eve sinned long before she ate the forbidden fruit.  I believe that she sinned against God the very moment she nurtured the thought of rebelling against, and disobeying God's expressed word and will.  Again, let me remind you that hiding your face against the sinfulness of SIN does, in no way, alleviate your responsibility to God for your SINS, whether in word, thought, or deed.  Furthermore, the word of God makes it quite clear in Romans 3:22,23, "For there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."

Friend, if we look around us in the world today, we find that SIN is written upon the entire history of mankind.  And failure to realize the true, awful nature of SIN, lies at the root of man's denial of eternal punishment.  People today revolt at the idea that a loving God will punish His creatures with eternal punishment.  I've had many people tell me that God is love, and that He will never do such a thing.  But friend, all such talk is silenced immediately when we get the true picture of two basic facts in the Bible.  First, is the sinfulness of SIN; and secondly, is the Holiness of God.

SIN is not a little matter either, regardless of how lightly it may be looked upon by some of you.  SIN is the cause, directly or indirectly, for every sorrow in the world today.  SIN  ruins lives, SIN kills babies in their mother's wombs, SIN breaks up homes, SIN destroys the body, and SIN damns the soul.  In the home itself, SIN has broken more hearts and caused more tears than anywhere else.  The divorce courts in America today are filled with separating parents and children, and all because of S-I-N, SIN.

Look at yonder hospital and listen to the cries and moans of those who are sick and suffering, and the background of it all is SIN.  The eyes are red and wet with tears as they carry the loved one away, and the reason is SIN.  In yonder prison we see young men and women, their lives shriveled and blighted because of SIN.  Now go with me to the insane asylum, and listen to the unintelligible jargon of the poor, pitiable souls with their deranged minds.  Perhaps they are there because of the SINS committed by their parents or grandparents, because the very walls seem to re-echo the word SIN-SIN-SIN.

In yonder cemetery we see a man with two children at his side.  They stand before a fresh little mound of earth, then tenderly they place a little bunch of faded flowers upon the grave, and watering them with scalding tears, they turn away to the loneliness of their little home where mother's voice will never be heard again.  The reason is SIN.

Friend, you may deny the Bible and reject everything it says, but all around you the cry of nature is "the wages of SIN is death."  Think of the millions of poor souls in places like Africa today who are infected by the dread disease called AIDS.  Billions of dollars are being spent on the hope for a CURE for AIDS, but hardly a word is said or written publicly about the CAUSE of this terrible disease.  Have you ever heard a person in authority speak or write about the CAUSE of AIDS?  Why  not?  Because, with few exceptions, the CAUSE is SIN.  Get rid of the CAUSE and you'll not need a CURE!

And I challenge you to give me any other reasonable explanation for all the misery, heartache, and suffering in the world today.  But listen my friend, the result of SIN does not end at the grave.  No, according to the Bible, the penalty for SIN goes on into eternity, because all SIN is a transgression against an infinitely Holy and righteous God.  And to an individual who leaves this earthly scene without accepting God's offer of mercy through the precious blood of Christ, there awaits, as the only prospect, an eternity in Hell, and the ultimate Lake of Fire.

I can almost hear someone say, "That preacher is too dramatic for me."  Listen my friend, isn't the whole history of mankind a drama of death and destruction?  What could be more dramatic than death?  Our whole life is one big drama.  We're born, we eat, we work, we sleep, we laugh, we cry, we become old and feeble, then we die!  But if any of you think that I'm too dramatic, then come with me to the place called Calvary, and see God's dramatic picture of the awfulness of SIN, because it was at Calvary that we see God's real appraisal of SIN.

On the night of His betrayal, we see the Lord Jesus Christ kneeling in the Garden of Gethsemane, amongst the gnarled old olive trees and under the full Passover moon.  He falls prostrate on the ground and cries out three times over, "Oh, My Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done."

Now I ask you friend, what could have caused the Son of God to cry out in such anguish and agony?  What could have made Him sweat those great drops of blood falling down to the ground?  What was in that cup that would cause Jesus Christ to make such a plea?  He Who feared not the jeering mob and ultimate death.  He Who went to the cross as a Lamb to the slaughter without a word in His own defense. What could possibly make Him cry out to His Father in such agony and suffering?  My friend, it was SIN!  Yes, my SIN, and your SIN too.

Listen, my friend, the true nature of SIN can best be seen at Calvary.  It was there that we realize that God could not even save His own Son from death, once He had taken our SINS upon Himself.  And in Romans 8:32 we read that God "spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all."  The Apostle Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5:21 that God "hath made Him to be SIN for us, He Who knew no SIN; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."  This was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who was Holy, harmless and undefiled, yet He was ready, willing, and able to lay down His life for our SINS.  Yes, we should thank God, day and night, for the truth of I John 1:7, "the BLOOD of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all SIN."

Friend, why God ever looked with favor upon such a sinful creature as me, I'll never understand this side of Heaven.  If ever a sinner deserved to be banished from the presence of God forever, it was me!  If ever a person was guilty of the death of Christ, it was me!  If ever a descendant of Adam deserved the eternal wrath of God in Hell and the Lake of Fire, it was me!  If Hell was never prepared for the Devil and his angels, it should have been prepared for Minor Hawk.  Yes, I was a rebellious, self-righteous, church-going hypocrite on my way to the Pit, until I was saved by the grace of God on June 2, 1952 at the age of 30, and while an Engineering Professor at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I can't help but marvel at the love, mercy and grace of God that reached a poor, lost, Hell-deserving sinner like me.  And I'm so glad that "where SIN abounded, grace did much more abound."

Perhaps you're thinking, "What can I do about my sinful condition?  How can I be saved and be sure of being in Heaven for all eternity?"  Well friend, there's only one way to be saved, and that is God's way.  And God's Way is God's Son because He said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by Me." Again He declares in John 10:9, "I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved."  Even the Apostle Peter gives us those wonderful words of assurance in Acts 4:12, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."  And finally, I think of what the Apostle Paul told the Christians in Galatians 3:26, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."  (I hasten to add that if me preaching the Biblical FACT that Jesus Christ is the ONLY  SAVIOUR for mankind is a "hate crime",  THEN  I'M  GUILTY !)

Friend, you and I can do absolutely nothing of ourselves to either merit or inherit God's salvation, and thus be in Heaven for all eternity.   No, salvation, or eternal life, is not obtained by so-called "good works", morality, religious rituals and activities, or trying to keep the ten commandments or anything else apart from faith in the finished work of Christ.  After all, if you and I could do anything to save ourselves, then logically, there would have been no need for the Lord Jesus Christ to suffer the shameful and ignominious death of Calvary's Cross.

Up till now, I've been bringing before you many thoughts relative to the wages of SIN being death, but I want you to know that God is not willing that any should perish,but that all should come to repentance.  The last part of our text, Romans 6:23,  tells us that even though "The wages of SIN is death; BUT  THE  GIFT  OF  GOD  IS  ETERNAL  LIFE  THROUGH  JESUS  CHRIST  OUR  LORD."

Yes, salvation, or eternal life, is a GIFT of God.  It can't be bought, but must be sought!  In Ephesians 2:8,9 we read, "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the GIFT OF GOD: NOT OF WORKS, LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST."  Friend, the best known verse in the Bible is John 3:16, and it tells us "For God so loved the world, that He GAVE His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

In Romans 5:15 we read, "For if through the offence of one(meaning Adam) many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the GIFT by grace, which is by one Man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many."  Other scriptures also bring before us the fact that even though we've inherited Adam's sinful nature, and the subsequent spiritual and physical death, we can still obtain eternal life as a GIFT from God.  In I Corinthians 15:22 we read, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive."  In Ephesians 2:1 we're told "And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and SINS."  

It is also comforting to know that we who are saved have been given the GIFT of ETERNAL  LIFE.  In John 10:27,28 the Lord says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me:  And I give unto them ETERNAL LIFE; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."  And finally, I love those words of assurance in I John 5:11-13, "God hath GIVEN unto us ETERNAL  LIFE, and this LIFE is in His Son.  He that hath the Son hath LIFE; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not LIFE.  These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may KNOW that ye have ETERNAL  LIFE."

Yes friend, we who are saved, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, can say like the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 9:15, "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable GIFT!"  Are you going to accept, or reject, this GIFT from God?

Friend, we are presently living in the day of God's grace, but I want you to know that your opportunity to accept God's GIFT  OF  ETERNAL  LIFE  THROUGH  JESUS  CHRIST may be withdrawn at any moment.  So, please don't procrastinate!  If the Holy Spirit of God has revealed to you your need for Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord, please don't let the Devil rob you of God's GIFT of salvation.  Millions of souls are in eternal torment even now, and they had hoped to "get saved someday."  We read in II Corinthians 6:2, "Behold, NOW is the accepted time; Behold, NOW is the day of salvation."  In Proverbs 27:1 we read, "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth."

As this message comes to a close, I must warn you that you are making a most solemn decision and challenging choice today.  And remember that DESTINY  IS  DETERMINED  BY  DECISION! You're either choosing the WAGES  OF  SIN  WHICH  RESULT  IN  BOTH  PHYSICAL  AND  SPIRITUAL  DEATH;  OR  YOU  ARE  ACCEPTING  THE  GIFT  OF  GOD,  WHICH  IS  ETERNAL  LIFE  THROUGH  FAITH  IN  JESUS  CHRIST  ALONE.

Which is it going to be?  In Deuteronomy 30:19 God warns, "I call Heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, THAT  BOTH  THOU  AND  THY  SEED  MAY  LIVE."  Friend, if you don't get saved, the likelihood is that your "seed", or children, won't hear the Gospel and get saved either.  SOLEMN  THOUGHT!

Friend, I plead with you today, in love for your soul and in view of eternity, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your own and personal Saviour, because if you do, you'll not only be saved for time, but thank God, you'll be saved for all eternity.  AND  REMEMBER,  MY  FRIEND,  THIS  IS  FOR  ETERNITY !

Evangelist: Minor C. Hawk