October 25th & 26th, 2008
In school there
are many things to learn, both in and outside of the classroom. I think most teachers would agree that some
items are more essential than others. If these items are not learned early on in
ones education, everything that follows will be a struggle. For example if one does not learn to read,
other subjects learned in the latter grades in school will be impossible to
understand. Almost 500 years ago, a
group of Christians, said that there is one teaching in Christianity, upon
which the church either rises or falls.
If you get this right everything else falls into place, if you get this
wrong everything falls apart. In a 450 year old document titled the Augsburg
Confession, 27 key Christian beliefs are confessed. This document served as the foundation for
week you may have seen this message on the church/school sign. “If God seems distant, who moved?” (Romans
5:6-8). This is a law statement that tells an important truth. Not the whole truth, but an important
biblical truth. (The whole truth is found in Romans 5:6-8) That is the problem we face are not just our
environment, not poor government, not those we work with, or others who in our view make our lives
difficult. Ultimately this problem is
not God, who created all things and keeps all things going.
Rather it is a sin problem, and if it’s a sin problem it’s an us problem. How do we know this? On the musical, the Sound of music, the Father is talking with Maria about the seven caretakers they have had to watch the children. None of whom had stayed very long. Maria asked Mr. Von Trapp “what is wrong with the children?” He responded, there is nothing wrong with the children, I just haven’t found the right governess.” He was duped; he had put the fault in the wrong place. What he didn’t know that ultimately he had a role, a large role in the problem. Even when on the outside we try to blame others and maybe even our God for our lot in life, deep down we know, even if ever so faintly that we aren’t as we should be toward God, and yes toward our neighbor. We are the ones who have moved away from God.
In the first three chapters of the book of Romans Paul, in a logical but devastating way, cuts all humanity down to size. He even takes on his own “religious” background, that is those who had the law. Any form of human performance that elicits or attempts to prove that we are worthy of love ends up falling short. But oh, do we try. We say “we have tried to do our best?” Or how about this “We aren’t as bad as some people, I mean we haven’t killed anyone?” That is God should look at us and make us righteous because of some moral standard we have kept or tried to keep. Yet isn’t it fascinating that the whole purpose of God’s standards, his moral standards, are ultimately to keep us quiet. “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 held accountable to God.” (Romans 3:19) If this is truly God’s standard, then our good intentions, our “I’m not as bad as some people” approach simply is not going to cut it. All our attempts to prove ourselves to God, are simply empty chatter to God. In essence he says, “Stop talking, stop trying to do it your way.” You see “no one is righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10) In Isaiah it says “all our righteous acts, are like filthy rags.”(Isaiah 64:6) The wages of sin is death, and no one, and I mean no one will miss this payday. The law reminds us that you and I not only have a problem, but that in fact we are the problem. Whether we like it or not we are guilty, we have moved to our self made prison, and there is no way out.
now a righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.” (Romans
3:21) Did you hear that? There is
another approach. Another way to be
close to God, and it is not dependent on anything in you or I. It is not based on our keeping or not keeping
the law. It is not based on what is
inside of our heart. Rather someone
from the outside has made a declaration that we are right before God. “For there is not distinction: for all have
sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And are justified by his grace as a
gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a
propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith”. (Romans 3:23-25a) There is a Word here used that is so
important, and that is propitiation. The
word means that God himself in Jesus took on the anger, and the wrath that we
deserved. Here we see that God is Just,
as well as merciful. Why doesn’t
God just snap his fingers, and by grace save everyone? If this happened he may be merciful, but he is
not just. On
Why are you declared not guilty. If God seems distant, guess who moved.” Certainly we have moved away, but Jesus has also moved to bring us back from our retreat. Like a lost sheep, Jesus is the one carrying us back to a relationship with him. Jesus has moved your way, and he offers you the riches of his forgiveness, life and salvation. In Christ you are holy, perfect, and justified. In him you have life, even in the face of death. Through Jesus Christ, you are free from the power of sin. You are free from having to defend yourself before God, you are free to live both now and into eternity. Justification means he declares you not guilty. Believe it, speak it, and live it. Amen.