Overcoming Discouragement

Title: Overcoming Discouragement

Text: Psalm 73

Background: We’re in Psalm 73 today. I think most of us understand the book of Psalms to be a hymnal for the Jews. But, it is so much more than that! There is a congruency – a consistency and a melodic line that flows through the entire book. There is purpose and design. My intention this morning isn’t to prove that. Maybe I can do that at sometime in the future. For now, let me bring you up to speed with Psalm 73.

I know some are thinking: what? I thought we were in Romans. Answer: we are. But, I felt the need to preach from Psalm 73 this morning since earlier in the week. It was not originally on my calendar, but felt the Lord’s prompting and so, I’m leaving Romans for today and preaching Psalm 73.

With that being said, turn to Psalm 73.

What you know of the book of Psalms is composed of 5 individual books. Psalm 73 is the 1st Psalm in the 3rd book. Do you see that there in your titles and subtitles? A quick outline of Psalms would look like this:

  • Introduction:1-2
  • Book 1: 3-41
  • Book 2: 42-72
  • Book 3: 73-89
  • Book 4: 90-106
  • Book 5: 107-145
  • Conclusion: Praise 146-150

As we start in Book three, we see that Book two has just ended. The Psalm states that it is “to/for/of Solomon”, but as it ends in v 20, we read: 20 The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended. So, King David probably composed this psalm as a prayer. David is a great earthly picture of a king and God, who is King of kings, has selected this man who will follow him. This is what scholars call a ‘Royal’ Psalm. Israel understood their King to be God’s man for the job of leading Israel and they prayed for him.

God is their King and David is their earthly king. In a sense, they rule together because David has been chosen of God. And, God has chosen not just David, but his heirs, as well. And, the Messiah, who is to come, will be like him. Or, better worded: David is ‘like’ the Messiah who is to come. You and I already know this. David was a type of Christ to show us a picture of the one who would come: Jesus.

And He is our focus.

If we skip down to Psalm 74, we see this call from the Psalmist begging God to defend His own cause: not the cause of the Psalmist, but that of God. The Israelites, The Kings of Israel have not imaged God the way they should have. Their situation has made God look bad. Sure, what has happened to them is a result of their own behavior and rejection of their King and His laws. But, when Israel is conquered or in famine or in ruin, it appears God can’t take care of his people – which, of course, just isn’t true.

So, 72 is the Culmination of the section on King David and 74 is this plea for God to act on His own behalf. The Israelites are making God look bad and the Psalmist is begging God to act. So what is 73 all about?

Introduction: He begins by telling us what He knows: God is Good

He begins with God is Good! (rd v1); you would think that’s all that needs to be said, but there really is a great lesson here in this Psalm.

Oh, how I wish I could just make this statement and you’d all say: Duh, yeah! God is Good – All the time. All the time – God is Good! I wish we all felt it and didn’t have to struggle with it. But, the truth is, although I think you might have a little trouble admitting it, God is good and we don’t always see it that way. Asaph sure didn’t.

That’s what he’s saying in v2-3: “God is good! But, I didn’t always feel this way”; rd v2; He says: I almost stumbled, I almost fell. And then he tells us why: rd v 3: He says: I had been discouraged at what I saw in the prosperity of the wicked. The word saw here, means to watch with envy. It means to covet.

Asaph’s Struggle:

Asaph was really struggling at some time in the past. He sat down and watched so many others, who were wicked people, live what looked like blessed lives. He saw sinful people living prosperous, easy lives. He on the other hand – didn’t have it so easy. That just didn’t seem fair. Surely someone who walks with God faithfully should have it easy, No? And, the wicked – they should struggle! But that wasn’t what he was seeing with his eyes. And so he became envious.

V 4-12 tells us what he ‘sees’. And, as we move verse by verse through to v 12, we see a progression of wickedness and a blindness of those who join with them.

Let’s look at what he saw of the prosperous:

Rd v 4a; As Spurgeon said: “They have a quiet death; gliding into eternity without a struggle.” Rd v4b; You must also consider that a 21 Century health-conscious person isn’t going to get this metaphor. There is plenty to eat and the work is easy.

Rd v 5; man, it sure appears that they got it pretty easy compared to the rest of the world! Rd v 6; Pride is easy to understand, but violence as a garment, well, that’s a little harder. I think this means that their wealth and prosperity have led them to cruel and violent behavior toward others. Rd v 7: These people get whatever they want – whatever their eyes see and their imaginations crave.

Rd v 8-12; Marvin Tate, author of the Word Biblical Commentary on Psalms 51-100, says that this passage seems to indicate that the ordinary people turn to the rich and drink down their language with unthinking desire for their affluent lifestyle. Regardless of how vile they may be, the ways of the rich are very attractive to many people. Even their foolish language (v 11) is treated as wise.

Ill.: This sounds so 21st Century America to me. For some reason, we think the rich are the smart people and that what they say has great value. In many ways, especially in this regard, we’re no different from Asaph.

Now, when we come to v 13, we see a self-assessment that the Psalmist does.

Asaph’s Self-Assessment:

“Truly” begins v1 and here demonstrates that something has changed. In v 1, the force of the “truly” is “in spite of everything to the contrary, God is good to Israel.” In spite of the way things appear in the prosperity of the foolish and the suffering of the faithful, God is Good! In v 13, the force is: “in spite of all the indications of well-being of the wicked, I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence”—which means that the speaker refused to run after the prosperous wicked and adopt their ways. It sounds as if he feels like he’s been good for no reason at all, but I don’t think that is his point. No, he’s saying in spite of all indications that the wicked are being blessed by God, I chose to keep my heart clean and not follow their path.

Rd v 14-16: lit., “it was a wearisome thing in my eyes.” Let me stop right here and now of how Asaph had become so discouraged. You can hear it in words. And, I’m pretty sure you could hear it in his voice, too, had you been around to hear him.

Oh, how Asaph was discouraged: have you ever been discouraged? Maybe you’re there right now.

  • Maybe you got passed up for that promotion. You’ve worked harder and longer and what has happened is just unfair. Maybe that other person even cheated or was dishonest. You played it fair and you’re your integrity, but now they have the promotion. There’s just something not right about that.
  • Maybe you’re checking out that other family. What is it about them? They always seem to be getting a new car or going on vacation. How can he get that much time off? They’re never in church on Sunday morning. You’re not even sure they’re saved. And you’re discouraged because you’re driving the same ole’ beater. You’re thankful you don’t have payments to the bank, but you’re local garage is getting regular payments.
  • Maybe you’re looking around at all the other churches in town and feel like God’s blessing everyone else, but us. Those people are getting a new worship center. Those people are remodeling their Family Life Center. Those people are getting a new Gym. Those people have a children’s ministry or a youth ministry or a (you fill-in the blank) ministry. Those people have this awesome choir and you find yourself discouraged because you’re looking at these other churches and don’t understand why God isn’t blessing you when you’ve stayed the course. You’ve been faithful. Your heart and your hands are clean before God.

Transition: But then, something incredible happens to Asaph as he encounters God.

Asaph’s Sanctuary Experience:

He was discouraged and wearied until… rd v 17; 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Asaph had a God-encounter! He saw what was real and realized what was not real. The sanctuary of God is the very presence of God. Asaph met God and it changed his attitude.

Isn’t it amazing what a proper perspective can bring? Asaph saw what was eternal and was able to bring into perspective what he had been looking at in the prosperity of the people.

When he saw God for who He really is, then:

  1. He saw the people for who they really are. Rd v 17b; rd 18-19;
  2. He saw his predicament, his situation in light of eternity. Rd v 20;
  3. He saw how he had been in his attitude toward God; rd v 21-22

Pray: Oh, God, forgive us when we focus on this temporary situation and put too much value on it in light of eternity. Oh, Father forgive us when miss what you’re doing in our lives and in the lives of others because we are focused on the temporary. Oh, Master, forgive us for when we think you owe us something – like you’re so lucky to have us on your team!

What a fearful, dreadful consideration: to be at odds with God. Would you choose today the materialistic success of the Western Church over and above God’s presence? Asaph says, no! rd v 23-24; He says I’ve experienced your presence and in v 25-26 he says, I don’t want anything in heaven or on earth that puts me at odds with you. I only want you! Rd 25-26

Whom have I in heaven but you. There’s none I desire beside you.

Conclusion: Now, the Psalmist has a great perspective on things. Now he really knows what is important. rd v 27-28

  • Their ending
  • My blessing: the presence of God – and that truly shows how wonderfully good He is!

Application: So, How do I keep from getting discouraged?

  1. Discouragement comes from a focus on the wrong things. When you want something more than you want God, you’re going to become discouraged.
  2. Discouragement comes when you think God owes you something. I’ve kept my hands clean and my heart pure. You owe me. You’re like the older brother in the prodigal son parable. When you assume that you’ve kept your hands clean and your heart pure and because of that, God owes you… you’re going to become discouraged.
  3. Discouragement is bred through gossip, slander and negative grumblings. Discouraged people discourage others. This kind of a person is a rebel and a beast toward God, too (v. 22).
  4. Discouragement is cured with a proper perspective of things:
    1. That God is in charge, in spite of what your circumstances tell you.
    2. That God is really all you want and need. Everything else is superfluous.
    3. That whatever you’re going through – it will pass. Let God teach you in it.

If you’ve been focusing on the wrong things: repent.

If you’ve been thinking God owes you something: repent.

If you’ve been badmouthing the church, a ministry, the pastor, an elder, a member: repent.

You don’t know what God is doing to and through others. So trust that what He is doing is right and best. It is what will bring him glory.

I’d like to visit with you about these things. Maybe you have a question about Christianity or maybe you’re interested in what it means to be a member of Calvary. If you want to talk about Psalms or this message – I’d love to visit with you.

 

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Abraham Believed God

Title: Abraham was Justified by Faith

Text: Romans 4:1-8

Introduction: We’re in Romans 4 today. We’ll also be in Psalm 32 – so mark those passages.

Our topic this morning, The Doctrine of Salvation is vital to us as Christians and Southern Baptists. What I mean by that is that it is vital you and I understand what that means. You might even say it is foundational in determining who we are. We need to get this right. And, we need to be communicating this right.

CS Lewis teaches us in his book, Mere Christianity, that Christianity will not make sense until you realize three truths:

  1. There is a moral law. Simply discussing it establishes it.
  2. There is a ‘Somebody’ behind it. He says this to the random mind in discussing this moral law. It had to come from somewhere.
  3. We’ve broken the moral law and are at odds with this ‘Somebody’ because we’ve broken it.

When it comes to the study of the Doctrine of Salvation, Romans is a great book to choose. Really, you could choose any one of so many different books, but Romans is definitely focused on Salvation.

In some ways, you could say it is a doctrine that is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. And, in other ways, it is a doctrine that can be confusing and hard to understand. It’s easy and straightforward, but there must be more to it. It only makes sense that there is something you must “do”.

We’re like the Philippian Jailer who asked Paul and his companions: What must I ‘do’ to be saved? We want to ‘do’ something – make amends, earn our way. John 6 demonstrates for us a crowd of confused individuals who sound very much like us. They asked: “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”

I think Paul is trying to make this very point in 3.27-4.1 with all of the questions:

  • Then what becomes of our boasting? By what kind of law? By a law of works?
  • Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also?
  • Do we then overthrow the law by this faith?
  • What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?

Is it really that easy? Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge him in all your ways and he will make your paths straight. Is it really that easy? Yes! But it can’t be. Surely there is something I must “do”! What must I ‘do’ to be saved? The answer: believe. Yeah, but what must I ‘do’…

This is important. We need to get this doctrine of salvation thing right. Souls depend on it.

Transition: if there is no boasting because there are no works that bring about salvation; if for the Jew, justification is by faith, then, Paul asks this question.

I.     The Question (1)

exp.: rd 4.1a; What then shall we say was gained by Abraham…? Consider the Mt. Rushmore of the Jewish Faith. What 4 faces would be on there? Abraham, Moses, David… I don’t know who gets the 4th spot. Here we see Abraham and in v 6, Paul will quote David. Moses appears in chapter 5 with Adam. I think Paul is pulling out the heavy hitters to make his point.

ill.: think about it, If I were talking computers and technology and I said something like: Steve Jobs said… wouldn’t that add some validity and weight to my point? If I were talking money and I dropped Warren Buffett’s name…

app.: that’s what Paul is doing…; the argument might sound like this:

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.

By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Oh, really? Then what about Abraham? Abraham is on the Jewish Mt. Rushmore because of his works! Remember how he willingly offered up his own son?

t.s.: So, he continues in v 2 and answers his question…

II.    The Answer (2-5)

exp.: rd v 2; If… that’s such a big word. For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. Many Jews believed Abraham was justified by his works: Jubilees 23.10 – Abraham was perfect in all his deeds with the Lord. Or, Kiddushin 4.14 of the Babylonian Talmud says: we find that Abraham our father had performed the whole Law before it was given. The Jews held this principle of Abraham’s perfection to the Law in high regard. And, Paul is saying – yeah, but no! If he could…then he would, but he can’t – not before God. It would be that way for all of us. If anyone here could be justified by works alone – then, yeah, there is room to brag.

ill.: We like to brag: about our kids, our accomplishments, anything that shows how awesome we are.

  • My son took his first steps when he was 7 months old.
  • Oh, yeah, my kid was able to read at the age of three.
  • My son, started on varsity.
  • My son started on varsity for both the Offense and the Defense.
  • My son played college ball.
  • My son played for the 49ers.
  • My son invented the football!

Brian Regan calls it the “Me Monster” – Me, Me, Me, Me, Me. If you haven’t seen it, Google Brian Regan on YouTube and watch: I walked on the Moon.

If we could actually attain salvation through our works… could you imagine the egos? The front row would be reserved for those very few who actually attained that perfection. We’d have a place in the hallway for their pictures. We’d have classes on how you, too, can attain salvation by your works. We’d have levels and patches and pins you could wear. You would know who was where on the scale by the color of their hat or the many badges on their sash.

app.: if you’re studying world religions and looking for how to get to heaven, then let me let you in on the difference. World religions are all about doing. Islam, Hindu, Buddahism… it’s about attaining. I just read a book entitled: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nebeel Qureshi. In it Nabeel presents the reader basic Islamic beliefs. And, the way to heaven is through works. I highly recommend the book if you’re wanting to know what Muslims believe. Paul is saying here: here’s the truth – you can’t earn it. For the Jews: look at Abraham – even he has no room to boast before God in his works.

exp.: rd 2b; But not before God; no one can boast before God; 1 Cor 1:26-29;

26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

exp.: next Paul quotes from Gen 15:6; rd v 3; So, why can’t he boast? Rd v 4; it isn’t something earned, it’s a gift; someone who has worked and earned something deserves his just wage; but not so with gifts; gifts are undeserved.

ill.: As I grow older and hopefully wiser, I’m deeply moved at the grace of God in my life; The Grace of God is a wonderful teacher. Consider your sins. They teach you all about your weakness, your need for God to protect you from yourself. You tried it your way and you failed miserably. Now, you stand as someone wiser. The sins of your past have made you who you are;

  • They keep you humble because you know how weak you can be.
  • They keep you trusting God, because you can’t trust yourself to accomplish this on your own.
  • They keep you dependent (I know I’ll fail on my own – that is my experience).

exp.: v 5; this is the 3rd time ‘counted’ is mentioned; look at the other verses 3-8; logistics; it comes from the Gk word meaning to calculate something. This is an accounting word and it means to give credit to one’s account; to balance your books.

app.: to illustrate his point, Paul will bring in another heavy hitter… another whose face is on the Mt. Rushmore of the Jewish Faith: David

t.s.: The last section here is…

 III.  The Illustration (6-8)

exp.: rd v 6-8; Paul is referencing Psalm 32.1-2; Some people think Psalm 32 should be read with Psalm 51 – the great Psalm of repentance from his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. There are a half dozen words for sin in the Bible for sin and in Psalm 32, David uses three of them.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Transgression or rebellion; sin: a missing the mark; iniquity: think perverse. Three separate words to define for us just how far from God we are.

  • Rebellion is an uprising against the authority. I’m going to do it my own way.
  • Sin is a missing the mark. You line up, tee up your golf ball and shank it or hook it off into the woods. That’s missing the mark!
  • Iniquity is crookedness, perverse or wayward.

Each word describes a different part of who we are:

  • Rebellion is in relation toward God. It describes our action against God.
  • Sin describes our relationship to God’s Law. We simply fall short.
  • Iniquity describes the affect of sin on who we are now. It describes what we do and how we do it.

But just as David uses three different words to describe us in the state we’re in, he also uses three words to describe God’s action toward us in pardoning us.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

  • Forgiven means to lift or carry away. You get this picture of sin that weighs you down. It is a burden to big to carry and God simply lifts it off of you and carries it away.

I think of the people who get trapped under mounds of rubble in an earthquake or like when the twin towers came down. What a fearful and scary nightmare to be trapped below ground, pinned beneath the weight of hundreds of pounds of concrete. That is until someone comes and lifts it off of the person trapped. That’s a picture of your and my sin. And God lifts it and carries it away.

  • Covered: it means atoned for. It is the word for atonement. The blood sacrifice covers the sin.

The 3rd word is different in that it describes something God does not do.

  • Counts not: He does not count our sins against us. There is now no record book to show our sins. You have this record of your debts and now, God has credited to your debts the necessary amount to balance your books.

David was there. His sin was ever before him. Like a giant boulder, he was suffocating beneath the weight of his sin. But look at v 3-4 (Psalm 32.3-4):

3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

But something changes in v 5:

5I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Conclusion: This Psalm means so much to me today. Many years ago, as a young man struggling between the way of the world and walking with Jesus, I found myself in this state. I remember coming across this v 3-4 and thinking to myself that this is where I am. I hated myself. I hated who I had become. I hated the decisions I was making – the decisions I had made.

But then something happened: I read v 5 and said, God, I want to do this. And so I did. I acknowledge my actions were missing the mark. I wasn’t even aiming at the right mark. I no longer tried to hide my sinful behavior, but rather uncovered it. The truth was I thought I was hiding it beneath my good works, but my good works was too small of a blanket. And, I confessed my rebellion and repented of it.

I wish there was a way to describe my relief. I wish I could communicate verbally to you the liberty I now felt.

I want you to know that you can have that same freedom today. You cannot do anything on your own to alleviate the burden you’re under. Salvation is available to you today and you don’t have to work to receive it. All you have to do is believe that what God said is true.

  • God’s Character: He is holy.
  • Offense of Sin: We are not. We have broken the law of the lawgiver and are at odds with him.
  • Sufficiency of Christ: Christ died to save us from our sin.
  • Personal Response: I want to give you the opportunity to respond.

I’d like to ask … to lead us in a benedictory prayer after we’ve had a moment of silence. Then, when he says amen, I’d like to invite you to the back for some cookies and coffee where we can visit.

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Filed under Evangelism, Romans, Scripture, Sermon

The Law of Faith

Title: The Law of Faith

Text: Romans 3.27-31

Introduction: We’ll be in Romans 3.27-31 this morning. We’ll also go to Zechariah 14 at some point. You’re your bulletin or something you can use as a bookmark and identify Zechariah 14.

This morning we come to a concluding statement by Paul. We’re in Romans 3.27-31; Paul presents this part of his letter with rapid-fire questions and answers. It is a popular style and makes it easy for him to answer questions he has probably heard before and can even hear being asked by the reader as they read his letter.

My guess is that this diatribe is with an imaginary Jew. Probably, an imaginary Jewish Leader. I sense from Paul, that he believes this person has a problem with Pride.

I read this week that Pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the person who has it. Attributed to Buddy Robinson.

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis writes: There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. He says he’s talking about Pride, in his chapter on Pride.

As we turn our attention to our text this morning, I want you to note how the diatribe is broken up by 4 sets of questions. My sermon has three points, but the text has 4 separate sections. I’ve combined the 1st two into one point. Here’s how I see it broken down:

  • 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.
  • By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
  • 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
  • 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

So Paul is saying The Law of Faith means:

  1. Boasting is ruled out – you can’t brag about something you didn’t do.
  2. There is One God who has done all that he has done for all people: Jews and Gentiles.
  3. The Law of God is not nullified, but rather validated and upheld.

The Law of Faith means

I.     Boasting is ruled out – you can’t brag about something you didn’t do (27-28)

exp.: rd 27a; οὖν; This word is often translated: therefore. Therefore ties the previous passage to this one. The previous passage is 3.21-26; It deals with the righteous work of God through Christ making us righteous – taking away our sin. According to this passage in 3.21-26, we’re all sinners. There was nothing we could do to make ourselves righteous. We were all in a state of sinfulness and fallen from God’s glory. But, in Christ, we are now made righteous, we’re now justified by his grace as a gift freely given to us. This is through the redemption that came through Christ Jesus whom God purposed and planned to be a sacrifice for our sins. His death paid our penalty for us.

Therefore, there is no place for boasting. There is no place for pride. Paul writes in 27a; It is excluded. This is a compound word combining the preposition out or outside with the word meaning to shut. Where is the boasting? It has been shut out! Paul continues in v 27b: How so? By a law of works? There is a question of whether this means the ‘Law of Moses’ or works as a principle (i.e., doing good works). I don’t know the answer to that but I don’t think it matters because it is the same result either way. Put both possibilities up there and the answer is still NO! But by a law of faith! And then he explains in v 28; 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

You see, there isn’t anything to boast about because you didn’t do anything. God did all the work in your salvation.

ill.: there is a story about a theologian who was being pushed to defend his doctrine of the sovereignty of God. The question: What part did you play in your salvation? He replied: I played no part. The theologian was pressed again: But what did you do? Reply: I did nothing. So the man pushed: You mean to tell me that you did absolutely nothing in the process of being saved. The theologian thought about it and answered: I did all the running.

app.: there are no works for you to do – God has done all the work necessary. He could boast – but that isn’t is style. When he speaks he’s just stating the facts; He’s not boasting. You (and I, on the other hand) really can’t say anything in a prideful way about our salvation because (you and I) really can’t do anything to earn our salvation. The most we can say about work, is that we were running from God. And God pursued us.

Think about this: you can’t boast in faith, because faith is basically receptive. Faith looks to another for help.

Ill.: Consider people in Scripture who through faith received help, rescue, intercession, etc. from God.

  1. The Woman at the Well: She didn’t run into town and say, hey! Look at me! Look what I did! She said: Come and meet a man who…told me everything I ever did. The people said: we believe, not because the woman said, but because we’ve seen this for ourselves. He’s the savior of the world!
  2. The man born blind from birth: Jesus healed him and the religious leaders didn’t like it. They kept pestering the man for an answer. He was like, “listen, all I really know is that I was blind and now, because of what he did, I see.” They didn’t like that, so they pestered him more. The man really upset them when he asked: do you want to become a follow of him, too!
  3. The Woman healed of her disease that had kept her bleeding for 12 years. She had basically given up on everything, after spending all of her money on doctors. She didn’t brag about how she was able to brave the crowd and reach out to touch the hem of his coat. I was brave. Oh, the people, they were fighting me off, but one by one I knocked them out of the way and that is what made me whole again! She knew it was Jesus who had the power.
  4. The Gadarene Demoniac; I love the way this guy just wanted to be with Jesus. He was so thankful for all that Jesus has done for him.

That’s four quick examples. We could probably spend the rest of the morning looking at examples of those who had faith in Christ and then Christ delivered them – he met them at the point of their need.

App.: Faith doesn’t pour itself out on itself. Faith is focused on another – the one who has helped or saved or redeemed.

t.s.: These 1st two questions are closely related to each other and pertain to us. They pertain to us in a negative way: our boasting has been nullified and our work has been nullified, too, because you can’t be justified or made righteous by your good works. The answers are simply put in the negative form: No!

Now we turn to God and the answers get positive.

The Law of Faith says there is no boasting, because you can’t boast in something you didn’t do. Next, the Law of Faith declares

II.    God is One and He is the Father of all. (29-30)

exp.: Where the first three questions go together, I think Paul is making a new argument here. I don’t think he’s building upon his previous argument. I say this because he uses the word “Or”. This is another argument in support of justification by faith; rd v29; See, here the positive answer: Yes, of the Gentiles also. And then, Paul says; rd 30a;

Now, what does he mean? Where is he coming from? It’s possible that Paul is coming from Zechariah 14. Specifically, v 9; Rd Zech 14.4-9;

Consider this: the context of Zechariah is a future day. If that is the case, then Paul is doing more than just saying Jews and Gentiles can now be saved. He’s making a specific remark about Salvation History. Consider this also: salvation is today. But, it is also a day in the future. You are saved on the day you commit your life to Christ. You are being saved today. And, there will come a day on that great day of the Lord when you will be saved. Are you following me? We are saved today, if we’ve committed our lives to Christ. But, there is coming a day, a final day, when salvation will be realized. On that Great Day of the Lord, Jews and Gentiles will be gathered into the New Jerusalem. There will be no need for a sun to light the City because the Glory of God will light that place. God will rule and reign in that place over all people.

But there is another verse that Paul might be referencing here. It might be that Paul is being super simple here. If you think about it, you’ll realize that the Jews would get this reference right away. Did you? Where have you seen this statement before? That’s right. The Shema; Deuteronomy 6.4: Hear O’ Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is One. He is the God of the Jews and of the Gentiles;

To be fair, many Jews understood that God is the One true God. He is the Creator of All, and the Ruler of All, and is judge of all. But, on the other hand, they saw themselves as distinct and would reject the idea of Gentiles being on their same level. They had the court of Gentiles on the outside of the Temple. Sure, there were some Gentiles who followed God, but they were never on the same level as Jews.

The Lord is not divided. Rd all of 30; This is to affirm 3.22; all are sinners (3.21) and all are justified…

I want you to note the difference in words about faith used by Paul in v 30: who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Really, I couldn’t find anything with any solid explanation. Augustine argued some 1600 plus years ago that Paul was simply being rhetorical and stylistic. And most scholars agree with him. Paul’s writing style demonstrates for us what an intelligent and brilliant communicator Paul was. He was putting the Gentiles on the same playing field as the Jews.

ill.: To say that God is the One true God and Father of all is really being super intolerant today, just like it would have been to all of those Romans who believed in a polytheistic religion. Our postmodern world says that there are many ways to this one God and we’re all just trying to get to the same place through different paths. When you and I say that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and his name is the only name by which we must be saved, you and I are considered bigots, narrow-minded and archaic.

Appeal: if you’re sitting here this morning, or listening by way of the Internet, and you’ve never known what it means to be truly forgiven – you can today. That’s been Paul’s message: Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty for our sins. You see, we’re all sinners. I’m not picking on you by calling you a sinner. We’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But, you can have those sins forgiven through placing your faith in Christ today.

Here’s another point: this takes great humility. You can’t be proud and come to Christ. Some folks struggle with the idea of sin and a holy God because they’re prideful. That’s probably how Satan keeps people from coming to faith – it’s their pride. J. Oswald Sanders said: Nothing is more distasteful to God than self-conceit. This first and fundamental sin in essence aims at enthroning self at the expense of God.

You’ve got to remove yourself from the throne of your heart and make room for Christ to come and rule and reign in your life.

Thomas Browne writes:

“If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
That might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, “Thou art not dead,”
And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art replete with very ‘thou’
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes He says,

“This is enow unto itself- ’twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me.”

t.s.: The Law of Faith says there is no boasting, because you can’t boast in something you didn’t do. God did it all. 2ndly, the Law of Faith declares that God is One and He is the God of all. He makes himself known and has done the work to restore this relationship with him – that the whole world might be restored to him. A proud heart will find it impossible to come to this conclusion. Thirdly, The Law of Faith does not nullify the law or good works, but rather validates it.

III.   The Law is not nullified, but rather establishes it (31)

exp.: rd v 31; this word means to wipe it out, void it. It is to say that because of faith, the law is now abolished and useless. But that isn’t what Paul is saying at all. Paul says: μὴ γένοιτο; May it never be! Rd 31c: on the contrary, we uphold the law. When you consider 3.21 – that the law and the prophets bear witness to the fact that righteousness would one day be made available and that day is now, you understand the law isn’t made void. It isn’t nullified. It is Validated!

Furthermore, we don’t just live a life of license. We believe laws are good. Good behavior is needed. For those of us who love the Lord, we want to do what he wants us to do. We want to be good. We want to be righteous. We want to live a life worthy of this calling we’ve received.

app.: And again, that doesn’t reflect a life of pride. That reflects a life of humility.

t.s.: Humility comes hard. Pride is something that doesn’t want to die in you. But let me end with the words of the Momma whale to her baby whale as they swam along: When you get to the top and start to ‘blow’, that’s when you get harpooned!

Conclusion:

Application: Don’t let pride keep you out of heaven. Humble yourself, acknowledge your sin and find salvation in Christ. We’re going to gather in a moment at the back of the worship center for some coffee and cookies. I’d love to visit with you about today’s message. The Staff and Elders will back there, too.

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The Righteousness of God (Part 2)

Title: The Righteousness of God Part II

Text: Romans 3.21-26

Introduction: We’re picking up today with part 2 of The righteousness of God. I always thought that meant that God was good and perfectly good. And it does. But, there is so much more to it than that. And, as we make our way through Romans, I hope we’ll gain a fuller, even clearer understanding of what that means. You remember my three points from last week?

  1. The Righteousness of God Declared
  2. The Righteousness of God Explained
  3. The Righteousness of God Demonstrated

Let’s do a quick review of the 1st two and then we’ll continue on w/ #3.

I.     The Righteousness of God Declared: Declaration: rd 21-22a; I told you that most scholars hold this particular part of Romans to be the heart of the epistle. One of those scholars I quoted was CEB Cranfield who also said so scholarly what Leighton Ford says so plainly: God loves us just as we are, but he loves us too much to leave us that way. Cranfield said that God is Worthy of what we bring to him in worship and devotion because of all that God has done for us. To be sure, He is worthy of praise and worship no matter what he does or has done. But, that fact that God demonstrates his love toward sinful humanity through the work of Christ on the Cross, in the Tomb, by his Resurrection and His Ascension should lead us to devotion. God does not mock or insult his created beings by pretending that sin doesn’t matter. It does. Tremendously! And so his action demonstrates just how much he loves us and just how far he would go to redeem us.

Ill.: It attests the fact that what we have to do with in the gift of righteousness, which, whereas forgiveness on cheaper terms would have meant God’s abandonment of his faithful love for man and the annihilation of man’s real dignity as his morally accountable creature, is altogether worthy of the righteous, loving, faithful God, who does not insult or mock his creature man by pretending that his sin does not matter, but rather himself bears the full cost of forgiving it righteously– lovingly.

So now, the righteousness of God, something truly inconceivable before, has been manifested to the world. It is brought to us and made available to us.

t.s.: Paul makes this declaration, and now explains it in v22bf;

II.    The Righteousness of God Explained: Explanation: rd 22b-23;

exp.: rd 22b-23; You probably remember me saying something about God’s perfect ability to demonstrate judgment apart from favoritism or partiality. God sees no distinction between people: not race, not color, not ethnicity, not social status, not age, not income brackets… God see the soul of a person. He sees is if a soul is blemished or pure. He sees even the smallest stain!

ill.: yesterday Go Light Your World finished up here. That’s why there are so many chairs in the Worship Center. Hundreds of folks from many different states converged upon Calvary for the Speech and Debate Tournament. I was privileged to serve as a judge and I was asked to judge without partiality. Cute 12 year olds went up against strong, smart 18 year olds who have been doing this for some years. I wasn’t allowed to give a cute 12 year old bonus points because he was so adorable. I was to make no distinction and judge impartially. And so I did my best, but it is hard – and we as humans are imperfect judges.

But with God, there is no partiality, no favoritism, and no distinction. Everyone is classified the same. All are the same, on the same level, measured by the same standard. Consider what he says: all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.

All are sinners. No distinction – no favoritism. But, as we see in the next verse, justification comes to all through the demonstration of God’s Righteousness…

t.s.: And that’s Paul’s third point…

III.   The Righteousness of God Demonstrated: Demonstration (24-26)

I asked these three questions last week, but didn’t have time to answer them. As we consider the demonstration of God’s righteousness this morning, I’d like to outline this section with three question:

  • What?
  • How?
  • Why?

So let’s do that now…

What?

What is being accomplished here through this demonstration? rd 24-25a; 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Answer: Justified; we are being justified (pres pass ptc); I like and being made righteous; Do you remember last week I told you: justify and righteous are the same word in the Gk. One is a noun and the other is a verb. You probably remember that faith and believe are the same word in Gk. It is just one is a verb and the other a noun. So, in English we have two different words. It is the same with righteous, righteousness and justify or justification. This will be important as we make our way through the text. We’ll come back to it. I mention it now because of how I like to translate this phrase.

Transition: for now, let’s move to the next question: How.

How? How will God justify or make us righteous? Paul’s answers are in the rest of 24 and 25a; 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. That’s how. Paul gives us three categories or parts to work through in understanding just how God’s justified us or has made us righteous:

  1. The Purchase:
  2. The Price:
  3. The Process

t.s.: look at the purchase first.

  1. The purchase –it almost seems contradictory in this statement. We’re justified by his grace as a gift. So, God’s great mercy poured out on us by his grace has made this justification available to us totally free of charge to us. It is a gift. Humm… let’s keep reading in v 24; through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. He redeemed us; if it is free, then why did something have to be bought back? See what I mean by ‘contradiction’? Well, it is free to us, because it is a gift freely given. But it wasn’t really free, because a price had to be paid. That’s #2 here…
  2. The price – I get this from the word propitiation in v25; propitiation means a sacrifice or a payment that is offered with the purpose or intent of appeasing the wrath of God. So according to our verse Jesus was put forward as a sacrificial offering or payment to appease the wrath of God.

Now, read v 25 with me again: 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood…

I touched on this last week, but let me revisit it for the benefit of others who might not have been here, or for those who were asleep. Put forward has the connotation of a public display. The NASB translates this: whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation bin His blood through faith. That’s an accurate translation and so are all of the other English translations; however, I think there is a better way to think about this. This is a good translation because it is so very literal and it is so very true.

  1. Christ was made a spectacle. He was very publicly humiliated and killed.
  2. Much of scholarship over recent years has leaned heavily toward this meaning of Public Display, which is why I think all of translations lean this way (like the NASB which I quoted).
  3. This word can mean a public display. And it often does in extra-biblical material.

But there are some very good reasons to consider this word as being presented from a different perspective.

  1. Some of the earliest of scholars (Augustine, Origen, Chrysystom) understood this word differently than a ‘public display’. Instead, they understood this word to mean purpose or
  2. When this word appears in the NT, it has the context of plan and purpose. This is very compelling for me. We find this word three times in the NT. The two other times in the NT both deal with idea of ‘purpose or plan’.
  • Romans (1.13): 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.
  • The other time is also used by Paul in Ephesians 1.9: making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time…

So, put these words together now: One understanding of v25 would be God publicly displayed Christ’s sacrifice to appease His wrath. That would be a true statement, but I don’t think that’s what Paul is saying. I think Paul is declaring here that Christ’s atoning sacrifice isn’t something God used as a display, but rather it was his plan. God purposed in His heart, according to the counsel of His Will, to put Christ to death as a payment for our sins. So, taking those same words with our better understanding: 25 whom God purposed as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. Or, 25 whom God planned as an appeasement of his wrath by his blood, to be received by faith.

Paul isn’t saying that Christ was hung on a tree to show us how mad God was about our sin. But rather, Paul is saying that Christ was hung on the Cross of Calvary because it was God’s plan and purpose from before time even began to satisfy the payment of sins through his death.

I think in coming to this solution it clarifies for us the love of God: the amazing, wonderful love of God. Who can truly grasp it? Before time began, even before Adam and Eve sinned, God had a plan – he intentioned it in his heart, to present his son as a sacrifice for our sins: a sacrifice that would pay the due penalty (redemption) and appease the wrath of a righteous God (propitiation).

That should blow your mind. Not only did God know Adam and Eve would sin before he created them, but he had a plan in place to redeem them. It wasn’t a contingency plan. It was THE plan all along.

Transition: So, we’ve seen the purchase (redemption) and the price (propitiation). Now let’s look at the process…

  1. The process – the answer is at the end of 25a: to be received by faith. I can stand here and offer you this free gift of God’s grace, but I can’t make you take it. Some folks are uncomfortable with gifts. Some people want to achieve this redemption – some, to somehow earn it. It has to be received.

Ill.: I could tell you each that someone has blessed us here today with a gift of $10,000. All you have to do is come forward and receive this free gift. But, what if you began to celebrate and then you left this building without picking up your check? How much of it could you spend? What could you buy with all that money still in my hand? You would have to receive it… deposit it into your account.

God did all of the work necessary for your salvation, but the process still involves you. You must receive this precious gift.

Transition: now, let’s turn our attention to the last question.

Why?

Why would God do all of this in this particular manner? Why not something different? Let’s first look at Paul’s answer and then whatever other options God had. Rd 25b;

This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Well, there is your ‘why’: To show God’s Righteousness; it is to illustrate for us that God just and the justifier; we see it again in v 26; But here is where we need to go back to the words righteous and justify. Do you remember I told you that they are the same word in the Greek, its just one is a verb and the other is a noun? I think it might do us some good to keep those words the same in both places.

  • And are being made righteous by his grace… v 25: This was to show God’s righteousness because…
  • And are justified by his grace… v 25: This was to show God’s justification..

I like that phrase: the justification of God. The first time I ever heard it used was by John Piper. It felt weird to me – unnatural even. But, now I get it. And that is strengthened by these verses: rd 25b-26. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

God is justified in his actions because what he does is right. He has perfect intentions, perfect motives and perfect actions. Look at that last line: that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

  • God is just. Perfectly so!
  • God is the one who justifies. And perfectly so!

As CEB Cranfield stated previously, God does what he does because he loves us so. He could have just annihilated us. He could have just spoken forgiveness. But there are two truths we are reminded of here:

  1. Sin really does matter. It really does separate us from God and it really has consequences that are eternal. I think that was one of Satan’s ploys when he told Eve unequivocally: You will not surely die! Listen, God was truthful with them and Paul is with us, too. Sin really does matter to God.
  2. God’s Holiness and Glory matter. To not act justly would lessen the value of God’s holiness and glory. And you can’t really do that. Anything less than holy isn’t holy at all! Any thing less and God would not be God – and you can’t have that. It just doesn’t work mathematically. God wants you to know he is holy and he won’t cheapen it.

Conclusion:

Cliff Barrows, long time song leader for Billy Graham tells the story of when his kids were little. They hadn’t obeyed him in something he had told them to do and so he gave them a fair warning. He said if he came home the next day and they had disobeyed him, he would have to spank them.

Well, as the story goes, he came home the next day and they hadn’t done what they had been told to do. They simply rebelled against their father. Barrows says they were real little back at that time in their lives, but he had told them of the consequences. The truth was he didn’t want to punish them. But he’d already told them what would happen. Billy Graham tells the story in his book, How to be Born Again.

He quotes Cliff here: Bobby and Bettie Ruth were very small. I called them into my room, took off my belt and then my shirt, with a bare back I knelt down at the bed. I made them both strap me with the belt ten times each. You should have heard the crying. From them, I mean. The crying was from them. They didn’t want to do it. But I told them the penalty had to be paid and so through their sobs and tears they did what I told them.

I smile when I remember the incident, he told me. I must admit I wasn’t much of a hero. It hurt. I haven’t offered to do that again. It was a once-for-all sacrifice, I guess you could say, but I never had to spank those two children again, because they got the point. We kissed each other. And when it was over we prayed together.

God is the perfect parent. The consequence of our sin remains. We will surely die. But, God has made a way. In his just and righteous nature, he can’t allow sin into his presence. So he punished sin by sending his son to die on the Cross of Calvary for your sins and my sins. And because he is righteous and because he demands a penalty for sin, he alone has provided a means of escape by pouring out his wrath on Christ and allowing him to die in our place.

I’d love to visit with you some more about this if you’re interested. We’ll close our service now with a moment of silence and then afterward we’ll have a benedictory prayer by … If you have a decision or commitment you wish to talk with us about, we’ll be at the back of the worship center in the Cornerstone area, where coffee and cookies will be available while we talk and fellowship.

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The Righteousness of God (Part 1)

Title: The Righteousness of God

Text: Romans 3.21-26

Introduction: I want to talk to you this morning about the Gospel. My concern in simply preaching and recording this message is that the lost person cannot possibly grasp the simplicity of this good news. 2 Cor. 2.14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Without an intervention by the Spirit of God, the Gospel is foolishness (folly, child’s play). I cannot intellectually persuade someone to come to Christ. Sure, there is an intellectual part to it, but without the Spirit of God interceding on the part of the individual – it remains a foolish concept. It is a message that is spiritually discerned.

Within the context of this passage, Paul has been declaring to both the Jews and the Gentiles that their works of the law, whether out of knowledge or intuition, will never bring about righteousness. Oh, it might bring about a sense of righteousness. You know, kind of what you feel when you do good things: go to church, read your bible, you give money or gifts, etc. But, those things, those works of the law, as it were, will never make you righteous in God’s eyes.

That’s probably why this message is hard for the regular person. The regular person says to himself: I’m not that bad. I’m pretty good. I’m better than him/her/most people. And their measure of righteousness is based upon someone else or something else. And here’s the thing: you and I will always be able to find people we’re better than.

You and I will always find other people whom we consider bad. And that’s the problem. We’re trained from early on to measure ourselves by others. The problem with using others is that they, whoever they may be, no matter how good or bad they may seem, those people we measure ourselves by are inherently sinners, too.

That’s the whole message of Romans 1.18-3.20. Paul wants to preach the gospel because it reveals the righteousness of God and the sinfulness of man and how the two can only be reconciled by the work of God.

And this work is only effective with the intercession of God’s Holy Spirit. So, let’s pray for that now.

Prayer:

Transition: We pick up our text in Romans 3.21 where Paul makes a declaration about the Righteousness of God. If we go back to Romans 1.15-18 he says he wants to preach the Gospel because it has the power to save everyone. For in this Gospel is the Righteousness of God revealed. Now, in 3.21, he reaches the heart of the matter.

I.    The Righteousness of God Declared: Declaration (21-22a)

exp.: let’s read that: rd 3.21-22a; Boom! That’s the Gospel! According to Thomas Schreiner: Most scholars rightly acknowledge this paragraph as the heart of the epistle. C.E.B. Cranfield says this section is the centre and heart of the main division to which it belongs. Cranfield, in his commentary on Romans, gives one of the most beautiful statements on the Righteousness of God manifested to us that I think I’ve ever read. Now, that’s a bold statement I know: Really, the most beautiful? Yes, and to quote him here is difficult. There are two problems with reading it to you. 1st, Cranfield is smarter than most human beings. When he writes a sentence, most people have to read it a few times, parse it and dissect it to get his meaning. 2ndly, he was British. So Cranfield didn’t talk Amurican. He spoke the Queen’s English. He died a couple of years ago a few months shy of his 100th Birthday.

Listen to Cranfield: the crucifixion, together with the resurrection and exaltation of the one who was crucified attests the fact that what we have to do with in the gift of righteousness, which, whereas forgiveness on cheaper terms would have meant God’s abandonment of his faithful love for man and the annihilation of man’s real dignity as his morally accountable creature, is altogether worthy of the righteous, loving, faithful God, who does not insult or mock his creature man by pretending that his sin does not matter, but rather himself bears the full cost of forgiving it righteously– lovingly.

I know that is a mouth full, but Cranfield has concisely – really in one sentence defined for us just how far God’s righteous act has gone.

Consider:

  1. God’s Love: he could have at any moment along the way destroyed all of humanity and he would have been justified. But, God’s love for us is so great that he would not abandon us in our helpless state. …the fact that what we have to do with in the gift of righteousness… who does not insult or mock his creature man by pretending that his sin does not matter. When we measure ourselves by others, we declare that sin does not matter. But sin matters to God. But God’s love for us declares to us that sin does matter…that his righteousness is important to him.
  2. The Act of God’s Love: God declares his love through his action of sending his son, to live in the flesh – a perfect and sinless, unblemished life. And yet, it was the Lord’s will to crush him (Isaiah 53.10). When we comprehend the Lord’s Act of crushing his son, we then clearly perceive the weight of our sin and the great punishment our sin deserves. Why doesn’t God just forgive? Why does the penalty of death have to be carried out? Cranfield tells us it is because God’s Righteousness matters to Him, our sin is a big deal and he wants us to know it. If he simply declared us righteous without any punishment imposed, then sin wouldn’t really mean anything. But it does…

exp.: rd v 21: the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it. To be righteous before God required perfect attention to the law, which no man could ever do…that is, until Jesus did it. And because it did, things have changed: But now…

app.: Now, the righteousness of God, something truly inconceivable before, has been manifested (which is more than just revealed). It is brought to us and made available to us. But how? How did God love us through this act? And, another question: why? Why would God do all of this?

t.s.: This comes out in Paul’s explanation as presented in v22bf;

II.   The Righteousness of God Explained: Explanation (22b-23)

exp.: rd 22b-23; I read these verses and another question comes to mind: what? What does he mean when he says no distinction? We know from many other passages, including our chapters 1, 2 and 3 to this point that God makes no distinction of persons. He shows no partiality or favoritism to anyone.

ill.: You and I are not that way. We try to be. We try to show each child of ours equal and fair partiality. But it doesn’t work. Sure, we love each child as much as we possibly can, but some children require more attention, more instruction, more discipline. You do this at work, with your neighbors, your students, at church. I’m thinking of how much I love you all. Do you believe me if I say there is none I favor more than you? Would you consider yourself my favorite church member? Would you consider someone else? I hope not. Henry, consider your class? Jason, Joshua, your classes? Do you have a favorite? Duffey, a favorite youth? Wait, before you answer: is there a person in your class or group you don’t get so excited about? Maybe the problem isn’t favoritism, but rather the negative way you feel about someone. That’s partiality.

But with God, there is no partiality, no favoritism, and no distinction. Everyone is classified the same. All are the same, on the same level, measured by the same standard. Consider what he says: all have sinned and fall short. Note:

  • One Action, Two Results: All have sinned and fall short. At first glance you might consider these two separate actions. Everyone has sinned and, everyone has fallen short of God’s glory. But, I think they’re one and the same action. You might consider it one action with two results. The results are that we are sinners and that we’ve have fallen short of the Glory of God. You might consider fallen short that separation between God and man.

Well, by the one action of the man Adam, we all became sinners. (That is a simple statement with huge ramification.) We also find that by the one action of the man Jesus, we can all become righteous.

  • All are made righteous: rd v 24; Do you see the word righteous and the word justified? They are the same root word; one is a noun (righteous) and the other is a verb (justify). Righteous is what God is and he makes us like him when he justifies us. And Paul answers our question of how when he says (v24) we are justified, we are made righteous by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

ill.: My kids are at an age where if they want something, they can buy it themselves. That makes it hard to buy Christmas gifts. If they can’t afford it, then I probably can’t either!

app.: Here is a gift you could never afford, but it is freely given to you. By God’s Amazing Grace, you and I, through our faith in Christ and his atoning sacrifice, can be justified, cleansed and forgiven. We are justified by the redemption that comes through Christ Jesus.

t.s.: but still, how? How are we justified, how are we made righteous? And that’s Paul’s third point…

III.    The Righteousness of God Demonstrated: Demonstration (24-26)

exp.: How? Rd v 25a; God demonstrates his righteousness in one action with a dual purpose: God put forth His Son. Cranfield says this one action is three events wrapped up into one. His death – the shedding of his blood, the stopping of his heart, the ceasing of his breathing; His resurrection – that fact that his dead body was ‘quickened’ by the Spirit of God and brought back to life and third; his ascension – which I think relates to his glorification. These three movements of the same event are the one action I’m talking about.

But here is where, at least for me, things get tricky. The translation in western thought has the idea of ‘display’. And I believe the NASB says public display. To be sure, every translation from the King James on presents this action of God with the idea of public display. And yes, Christ was made a spectacle. He was very publicly humiliated and killed. To add to our confusion, much of scholarship over recent years has leaned heavily toward this meaning, which is why I think all of translations lean this way. But the earliest of scholars (Augustine, Origen, Chrysystom) they understood this word differently than a public display. Instead, they understood this word to mean purpose or plan.

This word appears two other times in the NT and both times it deals with idea of purpose or plan. One of those times is here in Romans and we saw it in 1.13: 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. The other time is also used by Paul in Ephesians 1.9: making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time…

Paul is saying that Christ’s atoning sacrifice isn’t something God used as a display, but rather it was his plan. He purposed in his heart, according to the counsel of his will, to put Christ to death as a payment for our sins. You could translate v 25 this way: 25 whom God purposed as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

Paul isn’t saying that Christ was hung on a tree to show us how mad God was. And I think we look at it that way. It sounds that way in English. But, Paul is saying that Christ was hung on the Cross of Calvary because it was God’s plan and purpose from before time even began to satisfy the payment of sins through his death.

Yes, the wrath of God was on display as Jesus hung on the cross. And, Jesus hanging on the cross suffering an excruciating death displays the idea that sin matters to God. That is all true. But what I believe Paul is communicating to us is that God isn’t whimsical. God didn’t just explode his wrath upon Christ. God planned it all out and structured every step in the process so that we would comprehend just how much sin matters and what God’s Righteousness means to him.

There is so much more here and so I’d like to move to some closure for today and come back to this place next week and unpack this idea of Demonstration.

Conclusion:

Chuck Swindloll, in his book, Improving your Serve, tells the story of a young man he calls Aaron. Aaron isn’t his real name, but just one that Swindoll uses.

Late one spring Aaron was praying about having a significant Ministry the following summer. He asked God for position open up on some church staff or Christian organization. But nothing happened. Summer arrived, and still nothing. Days turn into weeks and Aaron finally faced the reality–he needed any job he could find. He checked the want ads and the only thing that seem to be a possibility was driving a bus on the south side of Chicago.– Nothing to brag about, but it would help with tuition in the fall. After learning the route, he was on his own –a rookie driver in a dangerous section of the city. It wasn’t long before Aaron realized just how dangerous his job really was.

A small gang of tough kids spotted the young driver, and begin to take advantage of him. For several mornings in a row they got on, walked right past him without paying, ignored his warnings, and rode until they decided to get off… All the while making smart remarks to him and others on the bus. Finally, he decided it had gone on long enough.

The next morning, after the gang got on as usual, Aaron saw a police man on the corner, so he pulled over and reported the offense. The officer told them to pay or get off. The bus turned another corner to the gang assaulted the young driver.

When he came to, blood was all over his shirt, two teeth were missing, both eyes were swollen, his money was gone, and the bus was empty. After returning to the terminal and being given the weekend off, our friend went to his little apartment, sank onto his bed and stared at the ceiling in disbelief. Resentful thoughts swarmed his mind. Confusion, anger, and disillusionment added fuel to the fire of his physical pain. He spent a fitful night wrestling with the Lord.

How can this be? Where is God in all of this? I genuinely want to serve him. I prayed for ministry. I was willing to serve him anywhere, doing anything, and this is the thanks I get! On Monday morning Aaron decided to press charges. With the help of the officer who had encountered the gang and several others were willing to testify as witnesses against the thugs, most of them were rounded up and taken to the local County Jail. Within a few days there was a hearing before the judge.

In walked Aaron and his attorney plus the angry gang members who glared across the room in his direction. Suddenly he was ceased with a whole new series of thoughts. Not bitter ones, but compassionate ones! His heart went out to the guys who had attacked him. Under the Spirit’s control he no longer hated them– He pitied them. They needed help, not more hate. What could he do or say?

Suddenly, after there was a plea of guilty, Aaron (to the surprise of his attorney and everybody else in the courtroom) stood to his feet and requested permission to speak. “Your honor, I would like you to total up all the days of punishment against these men– all the time sentenced against them – and I request that you allow me to go to jail in their place.”

The judge didn’t know whether to spit or wind his watch. Both attorneys were stunned. As Aaron looked over at the gang members (whose mouth and eyes look like saucers) he smiled and said quietly, “It’s because I forgive you.”

The dumb-founded judge, when he reached a level of composure, said rather firmly: “Young man, you are out of order. This sort of thing is never been done before!” To which the young man replied with genius insight: oh yes it has, your honor… Yes, it has. It happened over 19 centuries ago when a man from Galilee paid the penalty that all mankind deserved. And then, for the next three or four minutes, without interruption, he explained how Jesus Christ died on our behalf, demonstrating God’s love and forgiveness.

Aaron was not granted his request, but the young man visited the gang members in jail, led most of them to faith in Christ, and began a significant Ministry to many others in Southside Chicago.

Application: Just like the young gang members in the court room, you and I will all stand before our judge and be read a guilty verdict. We’ll stand before God and give an account for our lives. The difference in this story is where God has allowed a substitution to be made – and that substitution is only found in Christ. And what’s truly interesting in this action is that it was his plan since before time began to make a way for us to be with him.

In a moment we’ll have a time of silent reflection. Here’s what I want you to think about:

  1. The seriousness of sin in God’s eyes.
  2. The magnitude of God’s love – how great it is.
  3. The incredible cost of God’s Grace – Amazing Grace given so freely to us.

After we’re done, I’m going to ask someone to dismiss us with a word of prayer and then we’ll all meet in the back for a time of fellowship over coffee and cookies. Maybe you’ve got some questions about church membership, becoming a Christian or what it means to be called to ministry. Maybe you just want to meet us. Come on back and visit with us.

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Filed under Romans, Scripture, Sermon

The Inexcusable Guilt of All Mankind

Title: The Inexcusable Guilt of All Mankind

Text: Romans 3.19-20

Introduction: This morning we’re in Romans 3. The only other text I’m planning to go to is Romans 7.

I watched the movie: The Case for Christ. It was a good movie, I recommend it. Highly. There is a lot of information given in the movie about Jesus. Historical, scientific, archeological, and the list goes on. Lee Strobel is an Award winning American Journalist whose wife comes to Christ. Both he and his wife were atheists before her life shattering decision to follow Christ. And so to bring her back to her senses, he decides to appeal to her intellect. After all of his research, he is drawn to this conclusion that everything he has studied about Christ points to the fact that he was a real man who died on the cross, was buried and resurrected on the third day.

At the absolute climax of the movie, the musical orchestration is at it height and Strobel has been working through all of the answers he’s found, he asks the big question: why? Why did he die? Why did he endure all that he did – all of the suffering, the cat of 9 tails, the beating with the rod, the dying on the cross – why did he endure it all if he was God? Why didn’t he use his power and stop it all – save himself?

I know you know the answer and so I don’t feel like this is a movie spoiler alert at all – but, at the moment this movie, this really good movie presents the answer, I felt like it just flopped. For me, anyway, it just flopped because the movie missed something vital to the gospel message.

The answer the movie gave – one word: love. And Lee was overcome. That is probably why it played out that way, because it was his experience. But what the movie failed to present was the fact that the sacrifice of Jesus was and is our payment for our sin. Why did Jesus die? Yes, God did it all because he loves us. But, his demonstration of that love was to pay the penalty that our sin has demanded of us: death.

For the wages of sin is death. That’s a sad story. That’s an offensive story. No one wants to hear that they’re sinners. Everyone wants to talk about love.

We come to the conclusion of this section 1.18-3.20 where Paul will make a final summary statement before presenting the hope of this desperate situation we all find ourselves in.

Here is his summary statement and I’m reading Romans 3.19-20:

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

An outline can be broken down as follows:

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law,

so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight,

since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

Transition: What we’ll do this morning is walk through each of these steps as they build on each other. This is what we know: the law speaks; in order that; because; because. Let’s look at Paul’s first statement – what we know.

I.     The Conclusion of the Matter: The Law speaks to those under the law (19a)

exp.: 19a Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law… How are we to understand this? Well, if we break it down, we understand it to be saying that after three chapters so far in Romans, we’re coming to a conclusion. And, that conclusion is that we now know something for sure. We know that the law speaks to those under the law. So, this is important, the first and primary people to hear from God were the Jews. They were given this great advantage of hearing and being given responsibility for the Oracles of God (3.1). The Gentiles follow in that there is an innate understanding of God’s law. But for the Jews, they were special people with a very special experience. And that experience with the law communicates to the rest of the world that no one, not even those who are special because they were chosen by God to be his people, no one is righteous of their own accord. Even if you have the very law of God communicated to you personally and being presented with the advantage over all the rest of the world to follow God according to his requirements, you still will fall short of that perfection. You can’t.

app.: And if the Jews, who have every advantage over the Gentiles can’t, then the summary is this: No is righteous. No one does right when left to his own ability. Not one! And the law speaks that to us very clearly.

t.s.: And just why does the law speak to us all?

II.    It does so to shut people up as they stand before god: there is no excuse before God (19b)

exp.: 19b so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. “So that” shows purpose; Gk is ἵνα; This is called a ἵνα clause; Which is totally different than a Santa Claus! A ἵνα clause show the reason for the statement. This sounds very mean to say it this way, but the reason is to shut the mouths of everyone who would stand and give a defense. There is nothing to say. You stand there with the knowledge that you’re guilty.

Not only will everyone close their mouths, but then there will be accountability. The purpose of giving the law to one people (the Jews) was to silence everyone and hold everyone accountable to God. 1.20: So they are without excuse. 2.1: Therefore you have no excuse. And then there is this key word: and. Not only will every mouth be silenced before God, but then there is this issue of accountability. You will be held accountable because you have the knowledge of your sin.

Ill.: You might be thinking to yourself that everyone being held accountable to God is unfair. Some people have never heard the Gospel. Some have never heard of the Law. Paul has told them already in the previous couple of chapters that they are without excuse because God has made himself known to them in three ways: these three texts declare man’s guilt before God and that we are inexcusable before him. God has shown us three areas where he has communicated this to us:

  • Romans 1: in nature;
  • Romans 2: in conscience;
  • Romans 3: in the Law.

Therefore, everyone is without excuse. You’ve known about me through nature, through your conscience and through the law. And because of that, all excuses are taken away and everyone is left standing before God with nothing to say. And then we will all be held accountable.

t.s.: But Paul doesn’t end here, he offers more… if 19b offers the purpose – so that every mouth will be stopped and everyone held accountable, then v 20 offers the reason…

III.   Because no human being will be justified by works of the law (20a)

exp.: I love that Paul includes this last phrase… in his sight. Maybe in their own eyes they might consider themselves justified. Maybe in our own eyes we feel justified by our works! 20a For (because) by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight… “every mouth will be stopped and everyone held accountable because no human being will be justified by works of the law.” What is Paul saying exactly? He is saying the Jews are the example for the rest of the world that no human being can be justified through the works of the law. They failed miserably. Therefore, everyone who tries will also fail miserably. They may have been justified in their own eyes, but not in God’s eyes.

ill.: I’m always amazed at how people offer excuses and try to justify their actions. Tyler H. posted a Yelp review of the restaurant Sweet Dixie Chicken on October 9th. Located in Long Beach, California, Tyler said he saw an employee entering the back of the restaurant with a big bag of chicken from Popeye’s Chicken and he wondered if they actually served it. So he ordered the chicken for $13.95 and asked the waiter how they cooked their chicken. After checking in the back, he told them they order their chicken from Popeye’s. The owner of the restaurant said she was proud to serve Popeye’s chicken that she bought her gumbo from the local farmer’s market and doesn’t mill her own flour.

app.: You’re probably thinking what I’m thinking: yes, we never imagined you’d mill your own flour or make your own sugar, but we sure thought you mixed all of those things up to create your own meals! She actually feels justified in her answers.

app.: But it won’t be that way on that final day when we all stand before the Lord. Not one word will be spoken. No excuses given. No one can say that they are justified in their actions. You might be thinking to yourself: And, why not? I mean, why would God give the Law if no one could actually be justified by keeping? Isn’t it possible to say that if anyone actually kept the law perfectly, wouldn’t he or she be justified before God? Was God lying when he gave the law?

t.s.: No! Paul explains this in his last phrase…

IV.    The only thing the law does is teach us what sin is because no one can actually keep it (20b)

exp.: But this is an important juncture. You see, it isn’t simply about information of sin, but it is an awareness that one cannot avoid sinning. That’s a deep cut! We know this because of the word in 19a: οἶδα; it is a more intimate knowledge from experience than the other common word for know: γνῶσις. 20b since through the law comes knowledge of sin. This is the heart of the matter: the law brings a knowledge of sin, but it is more than just information. This information is meant to lead us to repentance. God shows the law and we become knowledgeable about sin.

ill.: This past week my students in Venture had to read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. In the story a lawyer named Utterson is responsible for a letter given to him by a doctor who is a common friend between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Utterson. It is sealed and the instructions are to not open the letter until this Dr. friend has passed away. At first Utterson didn’t know the letter existed. So, no temptation. Knowing its existence was one thing, but once he found out that he couldn’t open it until… Oh, man. I was screaming at the book: just open the letter! Information about something piques one’s curiosity.

Listen to Romans 7: 7-12: What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

app.: When we become aware of something, that’s when we’re tempted to fall into it.

t.s.: And that’s just what Paul has been saying: No human being will be justified by works of the law because the Jews have demonstrated for us that it is impossible to perfectly keep the law. And because of this, every human being will be silenced before God and held accountable.

Conclusion: That is scary in itself. Standing before God to be held accountable for every careless word, every thoughtless deed. And, if that were the end of the story, you and I would have no hope. But it isn’t. You see v 21 is coming and with it, hope: But now…a righteousness of God has been revealed. What? You can be righteous without the law?

That’s why I was so disappointed with Stobel’s film. It’s a good movie and you should definitely pop some popcorn and watch it. But, if you invite a lost friend over to watch it with you, which you should definitely do, you should add this part, because its not in the movie: Jesus demonstrated his love for us by dying on the cross, but the reason he did it was to pay the penalty for our sins. He did what we could never do. He was the only one who fit the requirement as established by the law.

Application:

  1. Everyone is guilty before God.
  2. No one will be able to say a word before him.
  3. Everyone will be held accountable for what has been revealed to the world.
    1. Whether in nature
    2. Or through conscience
    3. Or through the law
  4. Remember, there is hope – and his name is Jesus. He’s the reason for this season of celebration. We give gifts because he is the greatest gift giver. We sing songs because he has put a song in our hearts. We celebrate because he has given us hope.

In a moment we’ll break for fellowship and have some cookies and coffee. I want to invite you back to the cornerstone area to visit with either me or a staff member or an elder. If you’ve never invited Christ into your life and found the forgiveness of sins, let us share with you how you can do that. Maybe you’re looking for a church home or you just have some questions: come visit with us.

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Filed under Romans, Scripture, Sermon, Sin, The Gospel

The Universality of Sin

Text: Romans 3.9-18

Introduction: We’re in Romans 3 this morning; Ephesians 2; Psalm 14; Isaiah 59; Psalm 5

I have a friend. Some of you know her and might even call her your friend. In the past year she went to the doctor for a routine visit. As many of you know, when we get older, we’re scheduled for routine, timely exams. It was time for her. She wasn’t having any problems per se, except that which are common to women who are getting older. In the course of her examination, the doctor asked her how her treatments were going.

Treatments? She asked. What treatments?

The treatments for your stomach cancer… how are they going? Are you feeling well?

She thought for a moment he must have her mistaken for some other patient. She doesn’t have cancer. She could tell, though, by his response to her confusion that this wasn’t good. It had been 14 months since her last check up. It had been 14 months since she last any medical personnel had paid attention to her.

You guessed it: she has had stomach cancer for more than a year and no one told her. Somehow, someway, everyone thought it was someone else’s job to tell her. And someone else’s job becomes no one’s job. She went 14 months with this cancer growing in her body. Now, it is in the later stages. They’ve asked her family to begin working with Hospice and to help her bring her life to a close.

When I heard this, I was upset. She’s taking it so well. She isn’t bitter or angry toward those in charge of her care one bit. At least she hasn’t displayed that to me.

What if you had a cancer (that was treatable) growing in you and no one even told you about it? Would you be upset? Would you be bitter? Would you call your lawyer and get the paper work rolling. Maybe this won’t save your life, but at least your children or grandchildren will be set financially?

Today’s message is a little like this story. I have a great responsibility to tell you something. It is my job. I can’t rely on anyone else. It isn’t easy to tell you this, but it is very necessary. And, this thing I need to tell you – it’s harsh, but there is more hope in this dilemma than if I were to tell you that you have cancer!

Transition: Think about this: some doctor can tell you that you have cancer or Lou Gehrig’s disease or some other illness  – and, even with the best of hope, there will still be doubt… concerns, fear. The message I have for you today has even scarier news and yet the hope I have to offer is far greater and even guaranteed.

This morning in our text, Paul is preaching an old fashioned sermon. He’s making a statement and now backing it up with Scripture.

Would you stand with me this morning as we read the text? Our text this morning reads: What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

       “None is righteous, no, not one;

11         no one understands;

no one seeks for God.

12     All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;

no one does good,

not even one.”

13     “Their throat is an open grave;

they use their tongues to deceive.”

       “The venom of asps is under their lips.”

14         “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”

15     “Their feet are swift to shed blood;

16         in their paths are ruin and misery,

17     and the way of peace they have not known.”

18         “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Transition: The first thing Paul does is re-present or restate this ‘charge’ against, not only the Jews, but against the whole world.

The Charge: (9-10)

Rd v 9a again; He’s rebuilding his argument from v1; it makes it pretty obvious that he is bringing this 1st section to a close. Rd v 9b; All are under sin. There is a power, as it were, called sin of which we are under its persuasion. But even that doesn’t sound strong enough: persuasion. For it is so much more powerful that just persuasion. It commands us. It is a weighty bond that enslaves us. It envelops us. It consumes us. So much so, that sin is a part of our very nature, leading us, commanding us to do its bidding. We are corrupted by sin. This is the charge he has presented since 1.18.

Listen to what Paul says about this lost, sinful state of each human in Eph 2.1-3: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked (a dead man walking), following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— (a classification of every person: sons, daughters of disobedience) among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind – There is a natural enmity that we have with God. That means we are against him: enemies in this state of sinfulness.

So Paul says, here is the charge… let me illustrate this as we see it in Scripture, and then he quotes from multiple OT texts. If you have a reference column in your bible, you can see these citations from the OT in that reference column. At first, this seems really cool…until it isn’t.

If you take the time to read these verses and gain the context, you’ll find that it looks like Paul is talking out of both sides of his mouth. He says there is none righteous, but the OT text he quotes says God’s people, the people of Israel are righteous. The Gentiles are not. That doesn’t fit his charge!

Let me show you what I mean. Turn to Psalm 14; the citation by Paul is v1-3; v 5 tells us there are a righteous people. Well, who are the unrighteous then, if it isn’t everyone. V 7 tells us that the righteous people are the people of Israel. So, the unrighteous people are the Gentiles. Ok – that sounds like it doesn’t support his charge – that all are unrighteous and none is righteous, no not one.

To be sure, though, let’s keep going and see some more context. The next passage I want to look at is a quote from Isaiah 59. Turn there with me. Now, I know Isaiah 59. I love Isaiah 59. Rd v 1-2; Sin separates! Our quote is from v 7-8; He’s talking about the Jews. So, maybe he’s adding them in here.

Let’s test this theory. Let’s keep going: The next Scripture Paul uses is from Psalm 5.9. Turn to Psalm 5. This is a Psalm that David composes as he flees from Saul. Read Psalm 5.1-3: David’s Cry; 4-6: unrighteousness can’t abide in God’s presence; 7-8: because of God’s mercy (hesed), David can dwell in God’s presence through God’s righteousness; 9-10: here is our quote. So, in this text, it is the Jews who pursue evil and wickedness, who speak lies and are blood thirsty, deceitful men. Even David himself would be considered like them, but because of God’s (hesed) steadfast love – making him righteous – he can dwell in God’s presence.

When studying my commentaries this week for some help, I came across a scholar named Davies of which, other commentaries referred. Davies suggested that these verses do not condemn all people as sinners, but rather that some are sinners. That doesn’t sound Biblical to me…

Here’s my presumption: Paul isn’t using these verses in an individual sense, but rather as a collective group to make the charge that all are sinners. Taken, then, as a whole, these references make the statement that none is righteous, not even one. What these passages do say is that apart from the saving grace of God on his people, everyone is considered unrighteous.

But why would he pick and choose like this? What would be his motive or goal?

First of all, it appears Paul refers to the Gentiles in the text he uses and the Jews next. This follows his presentation in Chapters 1 and 2. But there is something else he does here.

With these Scriptural references, Paul says this charge against all of humanity is demonstrated in the following ways. Sin manifests itself in the life of an individual through:

  1. What one thinks
  2. What one does
  3. What one says
  4. The way one lives out his/her life.

Transition: Let’s take a moment to look at each of these within the context of their OT meanings.

  1. What One Thinks (10-11)

exp.: Paul says no one understands; in Ps 14.1a, 2, 4;  thinks, understands, knowledge; David says the fool thinks in his heart that there is no God. The reality of sinful behavior is that it is conceived in the mind, it is planned out or fantasized about in the mind and then, when opportunity presents itself, sin is birthed into action. It all starts on the inside. James 1 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

app.: that’s the reason we need someone to intercede for us, to interrupt this corruption in our minds.

t.s.:  And this is Paul’s next focus as he quotes in Psalm 14 about what the corrupt person does.

2. What One Does (11-12)

exp.: In Romans 3, we pick up in 11b: no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. From Ps 14.1 & 3;

…They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;

there is none who does good.

    The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,

to see if there are any who understand,

who seek after God.

    They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;

there is none who does good,

not even one.

exp.: Where no one knows the thoughts of man except God, our thoughts are soon made known through our actions. Consider this: when you’re younger and you do something stupid… you dad says to you, what were you thinking. Even those actions done in secret, the one’s we think no one knows.

ill.: We’ve seen different news stories over recent years of crimes committed 40 years ago where the culprit thought he got away with the crime. And yet, DNA evidence identified the criminal.

app.: our sinfulness makes its way out of our heads and hearts into the world through our behavior…what we do.

t.s.: But both David and Paul identify another way our sin manifests itself… and that is through our speech

3. What One Says (13-14)

exp.: you see this in v 13-14 of our text this morning in Romans 3: throat, tongue, lips, mouth. And note the imagery; grave, deception, venom, cursing and bitterness. Jesus said in Mt 12.34: For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. And in Mk 7: 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Maybe that is why David prayed: let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Oh, Lord.

ill.: It is amazing how the heart and the mouth go together. Sometime in the last few years someone made a comment in a Bible study time. I think it was in Paul’s class and I think I remember who said it, but I’m not sure. The comment was that this man writes in his bible the letters H&M everytime he comes across a verse that has a reference to both the heart and the mouth in it. ex.: Proverbs 4, 15, 16. I’ve marked in other places too and the man was right. There is an uncanny, mysterious, really incredible supernatural connection between the heart and the mouth – just as Jesus said.

app.: What you do is connected to what you think, say and do. There is this inter-connection to it all. The spirit thinks and the body does… or says… or acts.

t.s.: which is the connection here with this last section…

4. The Way One Lives (15-17)

exp.: rd 15-17; there is one word for way, path, road in the Gk; it is used twice here in this text. Note the presentation by Paul demonstrating one’s activities: feet, path, way; feet shedding blood is a way to describe a person’s life of bloodshed. Listen to Isaiah, whom Paul is quoting: Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways. The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace.

app.: this really is a beautiful way to bring about his charge – and I mean beautiful in how much thought and preparation Paul puts into bringing this all together.

t.s.: You can see his brilliance and intellect pouring through his preaching and teaching and illustrating here.

Conclusion: The conclusion of this matter is that we’re all sinners. There is no fear of God before their eyes. I know that isn’t Good News: we’re all sinners. I know that is offensive, but for me to remain silent and not tell you is no better than a Dr. who won’t tell you that your sick and your sickness will lead to death.

You and I are corrupt in our nature and it comes out in all we do. We need someone to intercede for us. We need God’s grace to be poured out on us that we might be able to have a relationship with him. You see, in this story, that is the Good News. That’s why Jesus came. He came to earth as a little baby, born of a virgin. This season is why we celebrate as we do, because of what God has done through Christ. And this hope is so much greater than any doctor can give you as a remedy for whatever sickness may ail you.

So, what will you take home with you today?

Application:

  1. We are all under sin.
    1. There is no one righteous: not even one!
  2. Sin corrupts us.
    1. It damages us as individuals. It leads to depression and an unhealthy psyche.
    2. It hurts our relationships.
      1. 1st, with God. We cannot have a relationship with God in our sinful state. We need Christ to remove the barrier of sin and guilt.
      2. 2nd, with others. At the heart of every damaged relationship is sin. Divorce, separation, estrangement – you name it, sin is the culprit.
    3. Sin separates us from God.
      1. V 18 says that there is no fear of God before their eyes.
      2. You don’t have to stay separated… that is why Christ came. That is why we celebrate this time of year.
    4. And that’s the Good News! Your sickness of sin has a cure!

If you’ve never accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, I offer you him today. In a moment, we’ll be dismissed and I’d like to invite you to the Cornerstone Area to meet with me or maybe one of the elders or staff. We’ll have some coffee and cookies and can visit for a little while.

5. If you have, then don’t let someone who doesn’t know die without hearing the Good News… tell them.

Whatever is on your heart, let’s sit quietly before the Lord and reflect upon what God is doing: drawing you closer to him, calling you to repent and come to him for forgiveness, sending you to tell someone about him, maybe he’s calling you to join the church… whatever, let God have his way in your life today. I’m going to ask… ______ to pray for us after our moment of silence and then we’ll all move toward the Cornerstone area for some coffee, cookies and fellowship.

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The Absolutely Incredible Greatness of God!

Text: Romans 3.1-8

Introduction: What do you do when you encounter two truths in the bible that seem to be contradictory? Surely you’ve crossed some. Surely throughout the time you’ve been reading Scripture, either you’ve encountered it or someone one brought it to your attention – maybe in a dialogue or a debate about something: two immutable truths that contradict each other…at least as far as you can see.

That’s what we have today: something that looks like two irreconcilable truths about God. The question for us this morning is: what do we do when that happens? Here is my answer and the direction I’ll be headed all morning: Your confusion should lead you to the Absolutely Incredible Greatness of God.

In the text today, Paul will introduce an imaginary person to debate with him. I say imaginary. He may have been a very real person from one of Paul’s discussions with the Jews at one time or another. Or maybe these are different arguments raised by various people at different times.

Scripture Reading: Let’s read this short text. Read: 3.1-8

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

Boy, let that last sentence resonate in the air: Their condemnation is just.

If you’re confused here, join the crowd. This is a tough passage. Tom Schreiner, professor of NT at Southern Baptist Seminary, says in his commentary on Romans that this is the toughest passage in Romans. I hope to make it not so tough by the time we’re through.

To start out, I don’t want you to focus on the relative pronoun their. Typically, I think one would ask such questions as who, what, when, where, why, But let’s take this differently. I want you to focus in on what. What is happening here or what is going to happen?

Someone is being condemned for their behavior, for their actions and God, who does the condemning, is just in this action.

And don’t forget v6 which says God will judge the world. This is where the text is headed: condemnation. That is really where Paul has been headed all along. That’s why he so desperately wanted to preach the gospel to both the Jews and the Gentiles. It is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first, but for the Gentile also.

But back to the beginning of this text, he’s just been declaring in 2.25-29 (the passage we looked at last week) that God will regard uncircumcised Gentiles who keep the law as circumcised Jews. And, to add insult to injury, circumcised Jews who do not keep the letter of the law (which is impossible) will be judged by those Gentiles. If that is so, Paul’s imaginary friend asks, then what advantage is there to being Jewish? Which is what we see there in verse 1.

 

Objection #1: what advantage has the Jew?

Paul, you’re wrong. If what you’re saying is true, then there is no advantage in being Jewish. It would appear that Paul is being trip upped here. You’d expect him to say that there isn’t any advantage, but he doesn’t. Instead, he begins a list of the advantages the Jews have. rd v 2; It sounds like he is starting a list here. And, he really is, it just that he only mentions the first item on this list at this time. Turn to chapter 9 in this book where he continues this list. We pick up in v 4: They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. Now you know where the list is… let’s get back to our text. 1st off, Paul says, the Jews have the oracles of God (lit.: τὰ λόγια τοῦ θεοῦ). So, they have God’s Word and in that Scripture, they have His promises to them.

That is huge! No one else has recorded what God has said. It was given to them. All of his promises and predictions. Their heritage, his love, his intercession.

Transition: Well then, speaking of his oracles, his sayings…with that in mind – if the promises of God are true and Salvation is of the Jews, then what if some of the Jews are unfaithful? What if they never turn to him through the Messiah? He said he would save the Jews – He said the Messiah would come and save them… what if they never do respond? What if they are unfaithful… as the overwhelming majority of them appear to be? Rd v 3;

 

Objection #2: What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?

This sounds like a pretty good question. If the advantage is theirs in every way, then what if some Jews are unfaithful? If 1) salvation is of the Jews, and 2) you can only be saved by coming to Christ, then will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? Yeah, Paul! If indeed the advantage is theirs, then can they jack all of this up by not following God? Does that mess up what God is doing?

Paul, answers quickly in v 4: μὴ γένοιτο; May it never be! Let God be true though every one were a liar! Paul is saying that it doesn’t matter what anyone does – God is faithful, that’s his nature. He can’t be unfaithful. His promises will stand and it doesn’t depend on humans. At All!

Then, to clarify and put an exclamation point on his declaration, Paul quotes from David to back up his statement. His quote comes from Psalm 51. Let’s go there. Rd Psalm 51.1-4 …so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. David is saying that his sin is what God uses to magnify his own glory. David sinned and God now uses that sin to show his own perfection. He alone can judge that sin. He alone can condemn that sin. Do you catch that? He says: Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

Wow! This is some pretty deep theology here. I act according to the will of God. And God, then, is justified and blameless in his judgment against me.

Here’s the conversation: Paul says the unbelieving, circumcised Jews will be judged by the believing, uncircumcised Gentiles. These Gentiles will get into heaven and the Jews will not. “So, Paul, let me ask you a question then: if that’s true, then what advantage is there in being Jewish?” They expect the answer to be none which they know is wrong. But Paul says what they know to be true. Every advantage! I mean, they have the very oracles of God! The Jews know the oracles of God promise salvation to Israel. They then offer a very real possibility: What if some Jews are unfaithful? Won’t their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? You can’t have it both ways! Paul says: No! It isn’t just if some Jews are unfaithful, but even if every single man who ever lived were found to be a liar, God is still righteous and true and faithful!

Here is what Paul is saying: God doesn’t need man to do anything to vindicate Him. He is vindicated in himself. He is perfectly sufficient in himself.

David, a hero to the Jews, says that God uses this sin of David’s to glorify Himself. David, a man after God’s own heart! God is just to judge his sin of murdering Uriah. He is just and blameless to judge his adultery with Bathsheba.

So, let us sum up what Paul has said to this point:

  • Yes, Jews have advantages, like having the very Word of God entrusted to them.
  • However, that doesn’t bring entitlement. If they are unbelieving, then they will be judged for their unbelief.
  • This action by God does not call into question God’s faithfulness (his truth or his righteousness). Let every man be found a liar and God will still be found faithful!
  • Instead of God being found unfaithful, the sin of those God judges vindicates God in his judgment. David teaches us this truth in his colossal failure. The sin of Israel is the very thing that magnifies God’s righteousness in judgment. God is justified and blameless in his judgment.

Transition: Ok… You’re saying that when we Jews who are the elect of God and have all of God’s promises and covenants, when we sin, God is justified in his action against us.

Contradiction: If God is vindicated in his judgment against our sin and our sin brings glory to God, then what right has God to judge us for our sin? You said it yourself, Paul: we’re glorifying God and you can’t judge God Glorifiers!

This is their third objection. We see it in v 5:

 

Objection #3: But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us?

Paul adds this little parenthetical statement: I speak in a human way. It is his subtle way of saying that the Fear of God fills him just to utter these words – to speak against God in this manner. What person in their right mind would make such an objection!?! But these Jews who debate him utter such words. They say: Paul, if you’re saying that our sin glorifies God, then isn’t God wrong to judge us for the very thing that brings him glory? Paul screams out: μὴ γένοιτο. May it never be! Rd v 6; If that were the case, then God couldn’t even judge the Gentiles (which, of course, the Jews are fine with).

I think some would consider v 7 another objection, but it appears to me to be a repeat of the previous arguments, only pushed further. Rd v 7;

This can be seen in two ways:

  1. This is Paul’s defense against their accusation. Paul is saying, if you truly believe this, then why do you accuse me of being a liar, and condemn me as a sinner? Why don’t you call me a God Glorifyer? You, are the one talking out of both sides of your mouth. I don’t think this is what he’s doing. I don’t take v 7 this way. Here’s how I see it:
  2. This is a repeated argument of v4, which is their objection and pushed to the extreme. My sin, my unfaithfulness, my lie glorifies God, huh? Then, why am I condemned as a sinner? And v 8 clarifies. Rd v 8; And, if that is the case, then why not sin all the more to bring God even more glory?

Paul’s answer is in today’s jargon: Really?

You see, these are not new objections being raised at all. These are the same arguments, only pushed to the extreme with the hopes of making Paul’s thesis look lame.

Here is their problem:

  1. They think too highly of themselves.

a.They think they’re entitled because God chose them to be his people. And this comes in spite of the fact that they’ve been told that it has nothing to do with them. Deuteronomy teaches us that it wasn’t because they were larger than other people groups. Indeed they were smaller. It wasn’t because they were already successful and independent. They were slaves! They had forgotten from whence they came. They had forgotten the rock from which they were hewn.

b. They think they’ll avoid the judgment of God because they have his law, ceremony and the temple. But this is what that means: They began to love the things of God and not God. They began to love his laws and use them by which to measure his love. They loved their ceremonies – because they were festive and fun and traditional. They loved their rituals, because they were memorized and they followed them so closely. And it all became about them. They thought too highly of themselves!

2. They don’t think highly enough of God. I think it is so easy to replace God with God things. And this is something they were guilty of, too. We have to be very careful… watchful, even, that we don’t begin to love the things of God more than we love Him.

Application: Paul is showing us how great God is, but these people just don’t see it. This is all about God and how Great He is.

  1. God is Good. He has been so good to the Jews to choose them as his own. He gave them an inheritance. He made them into a people, a nation. He gave them his word and his promises. He has, likewise, been so good to us in much the same manner.
  2. God is faithful. Though all humans through all of human history fail God and prove themselves to be liars, their actions would not nullify the faithfulness of God. You can bank on that today. What he has said, he will accomplish. God is faithful and true!
  3. God is righteous. He is righteous in all of his deeds. He is righteous in his judgment. He is righteous in his punishment. He is perfectly righteous in all His ways.
  4. God is sufficient in Himself. God doesn’t need us to do anything to get done what he wants. Sure he uses us to accomplish what he desires, but he doesn’t have to. He isn’t lonely. He didn’t create us because he was alone. Paul will get here in chapter 11. We don’t have any counsel he needs. We don’t have any gifts or talents to bring that makes him say, ‘Oh, thank you, I needed that.’ God is totally sufficient in Himself.

Can I ask you this morning some questions:

  1. Do you think more highly of yourself than you ought? Is it too rude of me to say: Get over yourself! God chose you, but not because there is anything particularly good in you. You don’t have anything to bring him, except this filthy bag of bones and flesh.
  2. Have you replaced your love for him with God things? Is Christian music your devotional material? Do you listen to preachers on the radio listening for sermons that make you feel good about yourself? Motivational Preachers? Or is your first love God and do you run to his word to hear from Him?
  3. Do you see God for the Great God He is? Are you awed by His majesty? Overwhelmed by his mercy? Overcome by his goodness? Swept away by His glory? Don’t let the things you don’t understand push you away from God. Instead, let the things you don’t understand demonstrate your weakness and his profound greatness.

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Fulfilling the Law

Text: Romans 2.25-29

Introduction: Good morning. We’ll be in Romans chapter 2 this morning – finishing up chapter 2. Later we’ll turn a couple of pages forward to Romans chapter 8. Romans 2 & 8.

I learned an outline of Romans from Bill Howery. This isn’t my outline. You don’t know Bill, but he was church planter in Italy for 40 years. He lost his wife to cancer in Italy, while serving there, planting churches. I love missionaries and the sacrifices they endure. So, this is a shout out to him…of sorts.

Sin (1-2)

Salvation (3-5)

Sanctification (6-8)

Sovereignty (9-11)

Service (12-16)

It might be a little over-simplified, but that fits me just fine. So, today we’ll finish out section 1 of Bill’s outline.

A preacher is taught in seminary to answer three questions when presenting a message. It works well for those who lead a Bible Study, as well. This was brought home to me in an interview I heard between Mark Dever and John MacArthur. Denver asked McArthur how he prepares his messages and his basic answer was answering these three questions:

  1. What does the Bible say?
  2. What does the Bible mean?
  3. What does it mean for me?

I’d like to outline my message around these three questions this morning. So, let’s begin with question #1.

 

What Does the Romans 2.25-29 say? Let’s read that together:

Romans 2.25-29: 25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps (fulfills) the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

(Prayer)

Well, we read the text, but what does it say? Paul is in the midst of his argument toward the Jews. His argument is simply this (this is what the Bible says): God will regard uncircumcised Gentiles who keep the law as circumcised Jews. Gentiles are regarded as Jews if they keep, and the better word is fulfill, the law. Rd v 26; the answer is yes, and I’ll show you later why that is.

Since Paul has been laying it on pretty hard about works and obedience, this would be a good time to review how we got here.

You probably remember from the last few weeks that Paul has been presenting his case against the Gentiles and the Jews who dishonor God by their behavior. Jews have no room to be judging the Gentiles when they behave in the same manner. Paul says: Your behavior dishonors God in the same way the behavior of the Gentiles dishonors God.

I shared this flow or outline with our Community Group Wednesday night as we sat down to dig in a little deeper and it went well. So if you guys don’t mind, I’d like to get the flow of the passage to pick up on what Paul is saying:

  • Romans 1.8-15: Paul tells the Romans that he longs to preach the Gospel there in Rome.
  • Romans 1.16: Is the thesis of his book: The Gospel is the power of God for Salvation!
    • V 17: the Righteousness of God is revealed.
    • V 18: the Wrath of God is revealed, also.
  • Romans 1.18-32: The Wrath of God is revealed against the sinful behavior of the Gentiles and thus, they need the Gospel. What is their sin? Immorality and Idolatry.
  • Romans 2.1-16: As the Jews are getting excited at Paul’s preaching against the Gentiles and their sinful behavior that dishonors God, Paul pulls the rug out from under them and turns the tables on them. You Jews are no different, he tells them. You dishonor God by doing the same things they do. And so, you justly deserve the wrath of God that is coming.
  • Romans 2.17-29: Paul continues with what makes this so bad: you have the law! Paul tells the Jews not to think for one second that they are exempt from God’s judgment because they have the law and (and, he’ll continue in our passage today) because they have the sign of circumcision that they are his people.
    • So last week we looked at the Law portion of this text: v17-24
    • This week we’ll finish up this little section with a look at circumcision in v 25-29

Transition: So this is what the Bible says: God will regard uncircumcised Gentiles who keep the law as circumcised Jews. Now, let’s answer the 2nd question:

 

What does the Romans 2.25-29 mean?

At this stage, Paul’s argument against the Jews can be summed up in two of these verses (26 & 29): 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? And, 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

So, simply put: anyone can be a true Jew by being obedient to the Law, or fulfilling the law. Because, being a true Jew has nothing to do with external signs (circumcision), but rather, an internal commitment – it is a mater of the heart.

At this point there should be some confusion. Paul’s stuff can be weighty. I’m reminded of what Peter said in reference to Paul: 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. He almost sounds contradictory, but if you’ll follow his argument through to the end, I think you’ll begin to understand what he is doing.

Does this mean that we’re supposed to want to become Jews? Are we supposed to follow the dietary plans, enjoy the feasts and festivals, and practice the law as the Jews do?

If Chapter 1 is Paul’s declaration that he wants to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles because their behavior dishonors God and Chapter 2 is Paul’s declaration that Jews do the same and need Jesus, too. Then, why would he say such things like: He will render to each one according to their works and if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision. Why does Paul say they need the Gospel and then intimate that their salvation will be through works… by keeping the law?

I think it will help us if we’ll take the whole context into play. It looks like Paul’s argument is as follows:

  • Jews are sinners (just like the Gentiles they judge) and are in need of being saved from the wrath of God (just like the Gentiles they judge). Jews need his righteousness and that righteousness doesn’t come (and indeed it can’t come) through a bunch of do’s and don’ts.
  • Being Jewish isn’t a matter of external signs that show election, it is a matter of what one lives out (i.e.: obedience to the Law). So, Gentiles are truly Jews when they live out the spirit of the law. And, Jews who do not live out the spirit of the law are not really Jews. For having the law, and, as he says in these verses, having an external sign of God’s election upon them (namely, circumcision), doesn’t make them true Jews, either.

app.: So, here’s what I think Paul means and what he’s doing: Paul’s desire here is to get the Jews to see that they did not understand the Law and the prophets. By their actions, they think simple possession of the Law and circumcision is the key to their salvation. They miss… from their very own law… that salvation comes through faith in the grace of God. Faith is seen in the action of one’s life. A changed heart is detected by a changed life.

This was Jeremiah’s message. Allow me to read it: The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’

“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.

“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord.

They’re still holding on to the law, their traditions and the temple!

But there really is more here: Paul wants to push the Jews off of their fence called tradition. Sure, they’ve accepted Jesus as the Messiah, but they also are still clinging to the Law and ceremony, circumcision and the Temple. Paul is teaching them that the Gospel isn’t Jesus plus anything (i.e.: Jesus plus circumcision; Jesus plus dietary laws; Jesus plus ritual; Jesus plus tradition; Jesus plus…)

Think about this – that is what I’m asking you to do and that is what Paul is trying to get them to do – think about this: if Gentiles can get saved without the Law and a record of dos and don’ts, and if they can get saved without circumcision, then it stands to reason that the Jews have totally misunderstood their Bible! Now that, is a slap in the face.

But that statement means even more than that! Paul is gonna really pile it on think: it implies that the Gentiles are getting into the kingdom ahead of, and even in place of the Jews! And here’s where you should respond: (Pause) No! That’s right! Natural born Gentiles who don’t become Jews by tradition, but rather through a life change are taking the place of Jews in the Kingdom of God.

What does this mean for me?

How would you feel if I said: You’re not getting into heaven. No, the Mormons will go in your place. Feel that? That is why he is pushing the Jews like this. He wants them to feel the weight of their sin and the incredible message of the Gospel. For, in it the righteousness of God is revealed and so is His Wrath!

Look back with me at v 27: 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. This is your yes to v 26. Now look at v 28; for…

28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. Jews, don’t miss this, no one is a Jew… a true Jew through rules and rituals (the law & circumcision). And it brings it home in v29:  29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

By the Spirit: this prepositional phrase brings it all together. Jews, this isn’t the work of your hands through ceremonial exercise. The Spirit of God does this on the heart, not by the letter (of the law) on the body. The Holy Spirit is the one who makes Gentiles Jews. Jews don’t make Gentiles into Jews by external practices to the letter of the law. No, The Holy Spirit circumcises the heart and changes Gentiles into Jews.

The former brings death: 2 Cor 3.6: Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Ladies and Gentlemen, if you’re clinging to the hope of heaven through anything other than the Spirit’s life changing infilling, then you’re headed for a certain death … for the letter kills, but the Spirit brings life. The Spirit brings us into this wonderful new covenant. Where God promised in Ezekiel that he would replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh and give us a circumcision, not of the body, but of the heart. It is like there is this old, crusty hardened part of our hearts and God cuts that away, revealing the soft, healthy, fleshly tissue.

This new covenant is made available to you through the work of Christ on the Cross of Calvary. His shed blood at Calvary washes away sin through the faith that is placed in Christ.

When Paul says in v 27: 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? He is saying that the Christian Gentile has had the Holy Spirit circumcise his heart and the Law has become to him low hanging fruit in his life as he lives by this new moral code.

Let me tell you what this is not:

  • This is not legalism.
  • This is not salvation through good works.
  • This is not ceremony which has to be observed.

This is a changed life by the work of the Holy Spirit.

I want to show you where Paul is headed here: Turn to chapter 8.1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. So there are two laws here: freedom and life or sin and death. For those who are in Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit has set you free from the law of sin and death. Rd 3a: For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.

The Law doesn’t bring life. The Law is weakened because people can’t keep it. It is impossible! But God has done for us what the Law could never do. And what is that? rd 3b: By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, Jesus who God in the flesh, lived this perfection of the Law. In him no sin was ever found. Keep reading in v4: in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled (here is that word for us again) in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

I have to admit: at this point I was intrigued! What is it about this thing called the law, it’s fulfillment of it and how Jesus fulfilled it and how we fulfill it?

Listen to this repeated theme:

fulfills NEAR law

Rom 8:4

 

in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

 

Rom 13:8

 

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

 

Rom 13:10

 

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

 

Gal 5:14

 

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

Gal 6:2

 

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

 

James 2:8

 

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

 

John 15.13

 

13 Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

 

   

 

To love is to fulfill the law. Love the Lord your God with all you heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. And, Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s Jesus. And that’s the fulfillment of the Law. And we fulfill the law when the Love of God changes us and we begin to love like him.

1 Jn 3.14:  14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.

What is the first fruit of the Spirit: love…. Gal 5.22: against such things there is no law.

1 Jn 3.20: 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; 1 Jn 4.8: he who does not love does not know God.

 

Application: Having answered these three questions, what will you do?

  1. We are born into this life lost. Lost is a good word. If you were raised in the church, then get on your knees and thank God for your heritage – but many of us wandered through this life early on without a sense of purpose or meaning. We were lost and headed nowhere.

I’m reminded of John 3.16 – probably the most popular verse in Scripture. Say it with me: For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. What we miss is the next part in v17-18: 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. We’re condemned already…we’re born that way…all of us! We’re born into this life lost. That is your starting point.

With this in mind, let me ask you: have you ever done anything about it? A good way to know is to see if you love others. Do you love others more than you love yourself? I’m not asking if you love some people. I’m sure you love some people – people who are close to you. What lengths would you go to in order to show others that you truly love them? An honest assessment of this concern will reveal your heart – either of stone or of flesh.

  1. If you’ve never confessed your sins to God and found the forgiveness, you stand condemned today. Don’t let this moment pass. If you’ve assessed your heart and found that you are not a loving person – toward other believers or the lost, don’t let this moment pass. Come to Christ!
  2. Maybe you’re sitting here this morning and you’d say: you have, but you’re not where you should be. If so, would you pray that God would take your unloving heart of stone and replace it with a loving heart of flesh.

To be honest, there are always decisions God leads us to as he convicts us. I remember being convicted of my sin of not surrendering to the ministry when he had clearly called me. Maybe that’s where you are today. Maybe God is leading you to join this church and join us in ministry.

Whatever it is, I’d like to invite you to come talk with me or one of the staff members or elders. In a moment we’ll have a moment of silence to contemplate these questions. After a moment of silence, reflecting upon whatever God is doing in your life, I’m going to ask Frank Burgess if he’ll lead us in our closing prayer. When he is finished, I’d like to invite you back to the cornerstone area for some coffee and cookies and fellowship. Come talk to one of us, we’d love to help with whatever is on your mind.

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Filed under Romans, Sermons, Sin, The Law

The Unyielding Glory of God

Text: Romans 2.17-24

Introduction: This morning I’m in two texts: Isaiah and Romans. Turn to Isaiah 50 and mark your place there. Then, turn to Romans 2, beginning in v 17.

Last week we looked the first part of Romans where Paul pulled the ole’ bait and switch. He took a page from Amos and got the Jews riled up and excited against the Gentiles. In Chapter one of Romans, Paul confronts the Gentiles for their gross immorality and their vile idolatry. And the Jews are just lovin’ it. They think they’re safe because they’re Jews. They’re God’s people. They have the law and they have circumcision. They have the Temple of God.

After Paul has pulled them in and got them acting all Pentecostal with Praise the Lord and Amen and Hallelujah! Paul then turns on them and says, Hold on, now, you’re not any different. And then, Paul unloads on them. And yes, he’s pretty harsh.

 

A Word of Caution:

I think this would be a good time for us to talk about anti-Semitism. These passages and others like them have often times throughout history led people to act hatefully toward the Jewish people. That isn’t Paul’s point. That isn’t his goal.

You’re probably most familiar with the holocaust, but there have many times throughout history where God’s chosen people were targeted and attacked with the attempts to wipe them off the face of the earth. We hear that cry coming from Iran and other Muslim groups today.

But Paul is Jewish. He himself says later on in this letter: For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Jesus is Jewish – our Messiah! So, don’t misinterpret what Paul is doing here.

So, what is Paul doing here? Where is he going? At the moment, Paul’s point is that even though the Jews have the Law of God and the Ceremony of Circumcision, they are not exempt from needing the Gospel. He’s already made the point that the Gentiles need the gospel, but so do the Jews. Paul is pointing out the fact that we all need the gospel. And, yes, he’s being harsh, but that is the goal – a shock, effect if you will.

 

The Goal: The Unyielding Glory of God!  

So the one point of this passage is the honor and the glory of God. And the way we see God dishonored and not glorified is through the bad behavior of our lives.

If you go back to Romans 1.21, you’ll see that Gentiles dishonor God through their behavior; rd 1.24, 26; And last week we looked at this Chiasm presented in 2.7-10, those who honor and glorify God and those who don’t. Paul’s referring to the Jews, who here in 2.23, dishonor God through their behavior. Rd 2.23; 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.

Evil, wicked behavior dishonors God. It does not glorify him. And we’re so quick to amen the 1st section about those who through idolatry and immorality dishonor God. We hear about the homosexual, the Gay, Lesbian and Transgender persons in chapter one and we stand behind Paul and shout, Amen!

But he gets our attention when he says such things as, God’s Righteous Judgment is:

  1. Unexpected for those who think their religion makes them exceptional.
  2. Rendered according to each one’s works.
  3. Perfectly impartial.

Application: Bringing it home

For me, this passage hits closer to home than the previous passages. I say closer to home because I’m standing behind Paul eggin’ him on, shoutin’ “amen’s” and “praise the Lord’s”. The offense of chapter one is blatant and in your face. Many today don’t care if their immorality offends. Gay marriage, Cohabitation, Adultery, Fornication…all of these are flaunted today and even encouraged in our society. But for most of us here this morning, we don’t struggle with these very public sins. I didn’t say all of us, but rather, most of us. In reality, we would be classified more in this 2nd group, the Jews (even though most of us here this morning are not Jewish) because it is the principle that is applied.

So Paul has unloaded on the Jews. Let’s read that text together: 17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

I’m going to take this passage out of context – for just a moment. I want you to see this like they see it. I want you to read this like they read it. Maybe even to feel a little bit like they’re possibly feeling. See what happens if I read it this way (I’m going to put it up on the screen, follow me in 2.17ff):

17 But if you call yourself a Christian and rely on the bible and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the bible; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the bible the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the bible dishonor God by breaking its teaching.

Paul’s message is relevant for the Church today. We’re being bombarded by messages of moral relativism. The cry is for tolerance – that is we should be tolerating the sinful behavior of people. And, we should tolerate it in our lives, too. And the one argument the world has against us is precisely what Paul accuses the Jews of here: You talk a good game about the Bible, but you don’t live it!

As the Church, we’re doing a pitiful job of preaching the Bible and living it out what we’re preaching. Countless pastors caught in sin; The Catholic Church and the story of its priests and their abuse of children; Pentecostals and their abuse of finances and/or women. Our purpose is to live out the honor and glory of God before a lost and dying world. But that is precisely Paul’s point. This will lead us in turn, as we see is Paul’s goal in chapter three, to rely on the righteousness that comes from Grace.

Yes, Grace is so important, but so is the behavior of those who live in God’s Grace. Evil, wicked behavior dishonors God.

And Paul drives this home with a quote from the Old Testament. The quote comes from Isaiah 52.5. Understanding this verse in the context of it’s original use will allow us to understand more of what Paul is trying to drive home for us.

23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Context: to gain context for this verse, we have to that portion of Scripture in Isaiah. The people of Israel were not in exile, yet. But Isaiah is talking to them of future events as if they were currently taking place…in the present tense of future events (i.e.: like it has already happened). He speaks to them this way because he sees it that way. And, they do eventually go into exile. And of course, his prophecy of them comes to pass. In Isaiah 50, 51, and 52, Isaiah has been telling them of their salvation. It sounds in the present tense, but that is to say for them what will be has already happened. For them, they are experiencing the wrath of God as a cup being poured out on them. But, one day – on that day – salvation would come to them. The wrath would end and salvation would be eternal, salvation would be everlasting. That is the hope they have for the exile they will endure. But that isn’t the way it is in that moment of exile.

Rd Isaiah 52.3-6:  3 For thus says the Lord: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.” For thus says the Lord God: “My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing. Now therefore what have I here,” declares the Lord, “seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their exile displeases God. He doesn’t like at all. Their rulers wail,” declares the Lord, “and continually all the day my name is despised.

God is displeased because the Gentiles hold God with no regard. There is no honor. There is no glory. The actions and behaviors of the Jews have sent them into exile. God has kept his promise to do so if they rejected and rebelled against him. They did and so God did exactly what he has always told them he would do: vomit them out of the land! This isn’t God’s fault – No! It is the fault of the Jews who have lived their lives worshipping idols and committing immorality (which if you remember, is the very thing Paul has been accusing the Gentiles of in Romans 1). And it breaks God’s heart that his people are in this position: that their behavior has caused the Gentiles to dishonor Him.

Looking at the Jews in their pitiful state, who would want to worship their God? He can’t take care of them. He can’t protect them. He can’t provide for them. And so God’s Name is despised. God’s Name is blasphemed by the Gentiles.

And really, the Jews are to blame. Their behavior, their actions have resulted in all of this. That’s Paul’s point – and quoting from this passage, Paul brings it all home. Not only have the Gentiles exchanged the glory of God for idolatry and immorality, but so have the Jews. They are no different in their behavior and action. And Paul will conclude in 3.10 – none is righteous, no not one. And in 3.23, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God exchanging it for idols and immorality.

 

God’s Unyielding Glory!

Isaiah 42.8: 8 I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. God isn’t going to share his glory with anyone or anything. Period.

The context of Isaiah 52.5 is so fitting because Isaiah is telling the Jews how bad it is going to be, but there is hope because they have salvation eternal. But, how – how is this possible? How in the world will God get them there? Turn with me back to Isaiah.

How is this possible? Isaiah 52.13-53.12;

Here’s the thing: where you and I have failed, Christ has been victorious. You and I have reflected the image of God poorly. You and I are sinners and our sin plagues us. But Christ, however, reflects the image of God perfectly. He has restored honor and glory to the Father.

As Paul works his way through this letter entitle Romans, listen to his conclusion in this matter: (Begin Reading in v 4: For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Romans 15.For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.

Christ came to restore God’s glory and honor among the Jews and the Gentiles because that is what He is most interested in: His Glory.

Application – take-a-ways:

  1. Nothing is more important to God than His Glory. That’s a bold statement, but I believe it is accurate. Nothing is more important to God than His Glory. And my guess would be that no one here puts God’s glory on the same level of importance that God does. So, let me ask you a question that might help you be honest with yourself: Am I glorifying God with my life and my actions? Let me ask it another way: Do the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart honor and glorify God?
  2. If you’re like me, then you’ll answer no to that question. At some point you recognize your utter failure to glorify God and honor him as you should. Do you know why? Romans 3.23 tells us: Because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That is why Christ came! Remember Romans 15.8? Romans 5.8 tells us that Christ died for us – the ungodly. Isaiah said in our passage this morning: we all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – everyone – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Do you understand that is why Christ came? God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us – so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God.
  3. Invitation –

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Filed under God's Glory, Romans, Sermons