It’s the trend for companies nowadays to have slogans, that try and sum up what they stand for.
So some of you will remember ‘Your flexible friend’.
Those of you with pets might think that ‘Cat’s like Felix, like Felix’.
And do remember slogans like ‘Don’t just book it, Thomas Cook it’?, and ‘It’s good to talk’.
We remember some slogans that aren’t even in English.
You’ve all been taught a little German ‘Vorsprung durch technik’, though I suspect most of us have forgotten what it means!
But my favourite slogan, is that of the internet search engine ‘Google’.
Coined by the cofounder Sergey Brin, Google’s slogan is simply ‘Don’t be evil’.
What a wonderful slogan!
The problem Sergey Brin has found, is that Google can’t live up to it.
The web is full of websites asserting that Google /is/ in fact the second most evil internet company on the planet (Microsoft always gets number one spot).
But it’s a slogan that many people adopt, isn’t it?
They may not say it in those terms, but the vast majority of people in Britain would hate to see themselves described as evil.
Evil is a word that is kept for special circumstances.
We might think of President Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’, you might think of people like Myra Hindley, but never people in the quiet streets of St Mellons.
But the Bible tells us ‘The heart is deceitful above all things.
Who can understand it?’.
‘There is no-one righteous, not even one’.
If there’s anything that this episode in the life of Saul tells us, it tells us that sin is serious.
If you like titles for your sermons, that’s a good title for this morning: ‘sin is serious’.
Do you remember that after a promising start, Saul is beginning to look increasingly prone to sin.
He seems to have forgotten God, and simply done his own thing.
In the episode that we’ve read together, Saul comes to realise that there are consequences for doing what is wrong.
But despite that, he still doesn’t really understand that sin is serious.
I wonder, do we?
So, I’ve got 3 points for you this morning.
My first is very simple.
Sin is disobeying God
There, I told you it was simple, didn’t I? Sin is disobeying God.
It’s something that a child in Sunday School could have told us, isn’t it?
But it’s vital that we remember it, and it’s obviously important to the writer of 1 Samuel, as he repeats it time after time.
In our story, Saul claims he has done a small thing in disobeying the Lord.
He didn’t do /exactly/ what the Lord had told him too, but he’d done an awful lot.
God had asked him to destroy the Amalakites, and to all intents and purposes, he had.
There were just a few leftovers, and it would be perfectly OK for them to be kept alive.
It’s easy to see Saul’s error, but perhaps it’s also easy to feel sympathy for him, too.
After all, is not his mistake one which we too have fallen into time after time.
Have you ever justified your wrong behaviour to yourself, maybe even to God? Have you ever answered your conscience, and told those who will listen that whilst you didn’t do /exactly/ what God had asked, you did /most/ of what he wants.
‘Isn’t that enough?’, is the unspoken question that is on our minds.
Well, to answer your question, no, it’s not enough.
That’s very clear from the passage that we have in front of us.
Look at [[verse 20|Bible: 1 Sam 15:20]], where Saul tries to justify himself:
“But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said.
“I went on the mission the Lord assigned me.
I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king.
The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”
But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.
I wonder if those words of Saul sound familiar to you?
* I know God’s Word says I should not lie, but if I told me client I actually forgot to put his urgent letter in the post, I’d lose a lot of business.
I only /suggested/ that perhaps the Post Office had lost it.
* I know I made promises to always love my husband, but it’s simply not possible to always put him first.
* I know God’s Word says we should submit to the governing authorities, but I was only doing 35mph.
* I know she’s not a Christian, but there’s no harm in window-shopping, is there?
Just like Saul, we often try and justify ourselves, don’t we.
We try and tell ourselves that most of our sin is really not all that important.
It’s not ‘that bad’ in the grand scheme of things.
It is that bad, of course.
You know that the Bible teaches that even one sin can keep you out of heaven.
Even one sins means that you are excluded from that perfect place.
It’s easy to get that right in our theology, isn’t it?
But it’s much harder to live as though it was true.
But didn’t Jesus Christ say “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has committed adultery with her in his heart”?
And how many of us really believed that Christ died for the sin of speeding?
How many of us believe that Christ died for the sin of not always putting others first?
How many of us believe that Christ died for the sin of cheating in a mid-term test?
But Christ did die for all of those things, and those things do matter.
Saul thought he had done a little thing, but what is Samuel’s response to him?
It’s recorded in [[verse 23|Bible: 1 Sam 15:23]].
Saul’s attitude was that he thought he knew better than God.
He thought he could decide what as acceptable, or not.
He thought he could reinterpret God’s Word.
It’s no wonder that in [[verse 23|Bible: 1 Sam 15:23]] Samuel describes him as rebellious and arrogant, is it?
I wonder if Samuel would describe us like that, too?
But what’s at the root of this sin?
If you were to ask an employee of Google, “how do you know what is evil?”, their answer would be, “Evil is what ever Sergey decides it should be”.
But what if you were to ask a Christian?
How do we know what is evil?
We have our conscience, of course, which is a great guide.
The problem with our conscience however, is that often we can silence it if we try hard enough.
What Samuel tells us here is that sin is simply disobeying God.
All God wanted from Saul was obedience.
But Saul did not obey God’s voice, instead he rejected the word of God.
Yesterday, Vinnie Jones was in court charged with threatening behaviour.
According to yesterday’s Times, his lawyer told that judge that he was “a loving father and husband, produced a string of character references, and said that he donated £50,000 a year to charity.”
The Times decided to add to that list by mentioning that he holds the record for the earliest yellow card in the game, once being booked just three seconds after kick-off.
But isn’t that typical of the world, and probably of us too?
When we feel guilty about something, we tend to trot out a list of all the good things that we’ve done, in the forlorn hope that somehow they will cancel out the bad.
Of course, we too, forget that there’s plenty of skeletons in our closet.
Saul tried to cover up his disobedience by offering sacrifices.
But it didn’t please God.
[[Verse 22|Bible: 1 Sam 15:22]]: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”
It’s a good thing to come to church, but as Andy often says, it won’t save you from the guilt of sin.
It’s a good thing to pray, but it won’t stop you from being condemned.
It’s a good thing to get baptised, but it won’t rescue you from hell.
More than anything else, what God wants is love, and obedience.