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Monday, March 1, 2021

What Happens in Vegas

Introduction
In February of 2003, an ad campaign began that USA Today named the most effective of the year.[i]  “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  Since then, the slogan has become a mainstay pop culture, inspiring two Hollywood movies, a song by Usher, and even First Lady, Laura Bush got in on the action, using the tagline in a discussion with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show in 2005. 

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  I guess that’s a good thing.  Vegas has made a name for itself as an immensely popular getaway destination.  You can eat, party, gamble, see the sights, see the lights (and see some things you shouldn’t see!).  There are concerts, magic shows, and entertainment of all sort—both of the wholesome and unwholesome kind.  All this entertainment draws nearly 50 million people to “Sin City” every year.  People come from all over to forget about the worries of life for a little while, let their hair down, and have a good time. 

Vegas also hosts around 20,000 meetings and conventions annually.  It was just such a convention that attracted my wife and I to Vegas a few years ago.  Kelly attended a Neonatal nursing convention and we decided to extend the trip a few days and make it a nice getaway.  However, we were much more interested in the sights outside of Los Vegas in the surrounding dessert.  We went hiking in Red Rock Canyon.  We drove over to see the Grand Canyon.  While Kelly was attending her conference, I drove out and saw the Valley of Fire State Park and also part of Death Valley (one of the hottest places on earth that is 282 feet below sea level).  We did walk around the city together one night.  It was interesting to see the neon lights, the crowds, the architecture, the water fountains.  But to be honest, Kelly and I are not huge fans crowded cities.  We like peace and quiet. 

Well, the slogan “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is quite popular.  People like to have a place where they can do whatever they want without anyone else know about it.  And who hasn’t done something at one time or another they would prefer to keep secret?   

The truth is you don’t have to go to Vegas to live out a secret life.  In the internet age, all you need is a few clicks and you can find almost anything you want and no one has to know about it. Maybe we should change the slogan to: “What happens on the internet, stays on the internet.” 

The internet is the default place now where people go to live a secret life.  You don’t have to get on a plane and fly to Vegas.  You don’t have to spring for an expensive hotel room.  All you need is Google.  Stats from my Google search this morning revealed 35% of off all downloads from the internet are pornographic.  Who knew?  “What happens in Vegas (or on the internet) stays in Vegas.” 

In this series, we take what the world says and compare it to what Jesus said.  So, what did Jesus say?

Luke 12:2
The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.

Human nature hasn’t changed much in 2,000 years.  In Jesus day, the Pharisees were the most popular, well-respected religious/political groups in Israel.  Pharisees were known for their religious devotion.  They believed in God and taught people to follow God with extreme devotion.  They tried to lead by example.  They studied the Bible “religiously”—many having memorized the first five books of the Bible by age 12![ii]  Can you imagine?  (And that includes Leviticus and Deuteronomy, what many consider two of the dullest books in the Bible!) 

Pharisees believed the way to earned God’s blessing and inherit eternal life was to live the Torah perfectly--only then did a person deserve the right to be called God’s chosen.  So, the Pharisees tried to live holy lives.  They tried hard.  By outward appearances, the Pharisees it appeared to many they were perfect. 

Romans 3:23
Unfortunately, there is a dark truth about human nature that no one can escape.  Romans 3:23 spells it out in the New Testament.  “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” 

It doesn’t matter how hard we try to live a perfect life, we all fail.  You fail.  I fail.  Even the pope fails.  (And that’s if we are really, really trying!  A lot of people aren’t even trying to be good!)  The Pharisees did try.  They tried really hard, but even the Pharisees failed.  However, they had an image to uphold.  Their reputation ensured they stayed in power.  Even thought they knew themselves well enough to know they were not perfect, they had to keep up appearances to maintain their position in society. 

So, Pharisees did a lot of things to support the image of being religious and devout.  They would gather a crowd on a street corner and pray long, religious prayers for everyone to see.  They would go through town and ring a bell as they handed out money to the poor.  They would wear long, flowing religious robes that made them stand out as holy. They sat in the places of highest honor in the synagogues and at religious festivals.  All these things Jesus pointed out and condemned because they were only for show—to make people think the Pharisees were more perfect than they were. 

Of course, a lot of people already knew the Pharisees weren’t so perfect.  No one can maintain a fa├žade of perfection.  There’s always someone, somewhere who knows the truth.  And ultimately, God knows the truth.  Nothing is kept hidden from Him—even what you do in Vegas

The Pharisees couldn’t fool God and neither can you.  One day, Jesus said, everything “that is secret will be made known to all.”  What you did in Vegas, what you did on the internet, even your deepest secret thoughts that no one else knows about will be revealed. 

Closing
But there is Good News.  You don’t have to be perfect in order to earn God’s love, forgiveness, and salvation.  God already loves you!  God loves you so much, He came down to our broken world and laid down His own life for us on the cross.  This proves that God doesn’t want to condemn us, but to save us.  For while we were still sinners, Christ came and died for us. (Romans 5:8)

And as 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

And so, God says to us all, “Come now, let’s settle this. Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.”   (Isaiah 1:18) 

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) 

Won’t you turn from your sins and turn to God today and let Him wash you clean.  What happened in Vegas (or whatever) doesn’t have to stay in Vegas.  It can be forgiven and washed away completely, forever! 

So “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.”  Live for God from this day forward.  Leave the past behind and press on toward the future God has for you, and the eternal life that is the hope and reward of all who follow Christ as Lord.

  

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