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“The Weightiness of Sin” Pt. 5
Romans 3:18
August 21, 2016

Unless you are a fan of rock climbing, you likely don’t know the name of Alex Honnold. But among a particular group of climbers — solo climbers — those who climb without a rope or any protective equipment of any kind, and often even without any kind of hand- or footholds except those provided on the rock face. A fall from 50 feet or above would likely kill him; that means that on his most significant climbs he will spend 12 or more hours in the “Death Zone.”

Honnold on Thank God LedgeHis daring climbs have led to the formation of a new word taken from his name — honnolding, as in “to stand in some high, precarious place with your back to the wall, looking straight into the abyss. To face fear, literally.” The word was apparently inspired by photographs taken of Alex Honnold when he was on “Thank God Ledge” on Half Dome, 1,800 feet above the floor of Yosemite National Park. He side-shuffled across that ledge, heels against the face of Half Dome, toes hanging over the ledge and into the abyss. If he had fallen, it would have taken 10 seconds for him to hit the ground far below.

What’s astounding about Alex, though, is not his climbing, but his apparent fearlessness. Where most people would experience terror (I can’t even look at the pictures of him climbing without experiencing nausea and sweaty palms), he feels nothing. No fear and no exhilaration.

On a recent climb in Europe, he and his girlfriend were climbing 3,000 feet off the floor of a canyon climbing a rock that had been fitted with artificial rungs, pegs, ladders, and bridges. The climber is tied to a cable for safety, but not Honnold:

“But then at a certain point, I was like, actually, this is kind of hardcore. Like I actually needed to pay attention,” he says.…They were high in the mountains, the weather threatened, [His girlfriend] was near tears, and after recent rains, water was streaking down the limestone face and dripping on the hand holds, the foot holds, and their heads.

“I definitely thought about how I process fear,” Honnold says. What he realized was that, in this case at least, he didn’t. He had been in similar situations so many times that it had become normal. There was nothing to process; there was only who he had become. “This is not scary,” he said to himself, “because this is what I do.”

The most striking sentence in the article is the last one: “This is not scary, because this is what I do.” Honnold is a type for the person Paul describes in Romans 3:18 and that the Psalmist speaks of in Psalm 36:1-4 — he has no fear because he has engaged in activities that result in lack of fear (and lack of fear of God). A fear that is natural and normal and good, is absent.

In that article, Honnold describes how he has trained his brain not to be fearful. After undergoing brain exams, a neuroscientist has concluded his brain has “no threat response…he really could be feeling no fear up there. None at all. None whatsoever.”

Let’s be honest: that’s probably not really a good thing for a rock climber (or anyone else). God gave us those fears for one simple reason: “Don’t do that! You will die if you do that!”

And there is another fear that we should have as well — the fear of God and the fear of His judgment for our sin. And the simple reason He’s given us that fear is so that we wouldn’t sin and that we would go to Him for our salvation and righteousness. And like natural fears, if we don’t go to God, we will die eternally from God’s wrath.

But as Paul concludes the extended section in Romans 3 in which he demonstrates that all men are sinners, he summarizes that the reason men act on their depravity is because they do not fear God —

All men sin in their depravity because they have no fear of God.

In this verse (and Ps. 36) we will see four corrections for how we think about depravity and the fear of God:

  1. What the Fear of God Is
  2. Why Depraved Men Should be Fearful of God
  3. Why Depraved Men Do Not Fear God
  4. The Hope for Depraved and Fearful Men

Download the rest of this sermon from Romans 3:18.

The audio will be posted on the GBC website later today.