June 6, 2010

This Grace in Which We Now Stand - May 30, 2010

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Obviously, this one's late. It's last week's sermon. Later today I'll post Micah Gamble's confirmation examination. In Christ, -Caleb


Grace and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our living Savior, Jesus Christ.

You know what a really good feeling is? Already there. That’s a good feeling.

Imagine this. You’ve been on a family vacation – road trip style. It was fun at first, but before long, it was just time to be home. It was the last leg of the long drive home and you drove first. Then someone else took the wheel for a turn and you settle down to rest.

Out like a light.

Then your body sensed the car slowing down and you began to wake up. As the car came to a complete stop you were still in the land of post-sleep grogginess. Then you ask, “Where we at?” Which on the last leg of the trip, is another way of saying, “How much longer do we have to be in this stinking car?” And your wonderful spouse turns and says to you, “We’re home.”

That’s a good feeling. One moment you’re miles away from your comfortable bed, the next, you’re already there.

That’s what Paul says in the part of Romans that we’re going to read today. He’s talking to his Christian brothers and sister that live in Rome.

Mankind has always known there’s a God out there somewhere. And over the years man has developed many religious systems intended to “bring us to God”. You know, get us in touch with God in a good way. Most of these systems amount to a bunch of rules and directions: do this right and you might be able to WORK your way to God. Pray this many times a day. Give this amount to the poor. Be nice. Recycle. Whatever.

But that’s not Paul’s message. He says, “Hey Christians, you’re already there.”

Our theme for this message is “This Grace in Which We Now Stand”. From God’s own Word we’ll be able to see that through trust in Jesus and what He’s already done, we have peace with God now, hope of future glory beyond our wildest expectations, and through God’s Holy Spirit living within us, we receive a powerful new perspective on life.

Turn to the book of Romans…

Romans 5:1-5 (NIV)

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

The congregation of Christians that Paul was writing to were both Jewish born and Gentile born people who had come to trust in Jesus. Both of these groups were tempted to look down on the other. So, before this part of his letter Paul has already spent a good bit of time emphasizing that it doesn’t matter what your ethnic heritage is, before God we’re all sinners. All people are unworthy of any kind of relationship with the Holy, sinless and ultimately powerful Creator.

In our reading, Paul turns to the fact that this group of people were not only sinners, they were people that had come to trust in God’s solution to sin: Savior of sinners, Jesus Christ.

When God the Father took pity on the fallen race of man, God the Son took action. He voluntarily became a human being. He was born to humble parents. Lived a human life. Offered Himself to be sacrificed in the place of sinners. He could do this because He Himself had never sinned. He was pure. Holy. Perfect. The only sacrifice that could restore mankind to the Holy God.

When the people in Rome heard about Jesus, they believed it. And through that simple trust – all that Jesus had done was credited to their account. They were, as Paul says, “Justified through faith”.

In other words, Jesus bought their forgiveness, and through faith it became theirs. They were declared “righteous”. Before, they were God’s enemies. But through faith in God’s Son, now they were at peace with God.

The revolutionary thing about Paul’s message was this: it was already done. Jesus did it for them. Nothing else was left to accomplish.

True Christianity is not a “kit” that needs to be but together. That’s what mankind makes of religion. Here, do this, put that here, act this way and maybe you’ll make something that gets you enough “karma” points with God that it’ll make a difference. You know, make Him happy enough to forget about your past.

Paul speaks God’s message when He says,
“…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (Romans 5:1b-2).

Think about it in one other way: false religion says, “Here’s your dream car” but it only gives you pieces that you have to put together. Ever try putting the pieces of a Lamborghini together? I don’t even have the right tools. Good luck.

In Christ Jesus God says, “Here’s your dream car” and it’s not only all together, through faith you’re already sitting in it!

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you get to the end of a day and think – boy, I screwed that up again. Maybe the devil tries to use the fact that you’re sinful to beat you down, telling you that God won’t love you unless you fix yourself first. Won’t forgive you until you successfully avoid all those sins you so often find yourself stepping.

Don’t listen to that line. Ask yourself this: Did Jesus die on the cross? Yes. For other people’s sins, or mine too? Mine too. Then the Bible says, I stand forgiven. Like Paul says,
“…we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law” (Romans 3:28 NIV).

Paul moves on from this point in at the end of verse two,
“…And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2b NIV).
Paul says, all who trust in Jesus have peace with God NOW. But they also have something else to look forward to. We have the hope of future glory at God’s side.

Now, in our language, the word “hope” is sometimes a little weak. I “hope” I win the lottery. I “hope” the car doesn’t break down when we drive to Wisconsin for convention this year. I “hope” it doesn’t rain again tomorrow. But that’s not the kind of hope Paul is talking about here. The “hope” Paul is talking about isn’t a “maybe” hope, it’s a “holy cow, look what’s coming NEXT!” hope.

Thousands of years ago, God promised the world’s first sinners that He’d send them a Savior to make things right. Well, He did. Jesus came, lived, died and rose from the dead to get the world’s attention. And God has also promised that everyone attached to Jesus through faith will one day see their Creator face-to-face AND LIVE. In sinless perfection. In unimaginable joy. FOREVER.

When Paul looks forward to God’s keeping of THIS promise, all he can say is “Hallelujah”.

Paul wrote this message in Greek, but the Hebrew equivalent for “rejoice” is “Hallel”, you know, like “Hallelujah!” (which means “Praise Jehovah God!”).

What Paul is saying is this, when we see that our feet already stand in the land of God’s grace, and then look up into the distance and see the glory that is yet to come, all we can say is “Hallelujah!”

But then Paul gets really weird. Look at verse 3.
“3Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings…” (Romans 5:3a NIV).
When this letter got read to the Christians at Rome, I suspect this is where some really puzzled looks appeared in the crowd. We also “Hallelujah” in our sufferings? Paul, the first two things sound pretty good, free forgiveness through Christ, peace and glory with the supreme Creator of the universe who was about to consign us to an eternity of hell, but what’s this about “rejoicing in our sufferings”? How does that work?

It works like this: Through Christ we sinners have been put in a safe place. Through Christ we have a unbelievably bright future. No suffering that comes in this lifetime can overshadow these things. The grace in which we now stand gives us a whole new way of seeing and dealing with the pressures and anguish of our lives.

Think about it like this. Remember what happened to the world back in Noah’s day? Just about everyone had stopped paying attention to God. They went about their lives with their backs to God. Nobody worshipped Him anymore. Nobody talked to Him. Nobody wanted anything to do with the Creator who made and provided for their every need. Only Noah, and a handful of people in his family still trusted God and worshipped Him.

So God showed the world how serious sin was. He destroyed the face of the earth: the places, animals animals, and the people – with a worldwide flood.

But the small handful of God’s people were herded onto a big boat. God put them in a safe place and closed the door. Unlike everyone else in the world, THEY had a future to look forward to.

Now, I’m sure it wasn’t easy in the ark. But the heavy rains that fell from above just hit the ark’s roof and rolled off it’s sides. The terrifying deep that sprung up from below didn’t swallow them either, it only lifted them high above the destruction below.

I’ll say it again. I’m sure it wasn’t easy in the ark, but the trials of feeding and caring for a ship full of living, breathing animals didn’t break this family. If anything it made them stronger.

If I told YOU that you were going to have to spend a year cooped up with bunch of sweaty, stinky animals you might complain. But really, when you look at the alternative, janitorial service on the ark begins to look a lot better.

Standing fully forgiven in the gracious hand of God, Christians are given a powerful new perspective on life. Our inner sinner still loves to complain. Our inner sinner tries to get us to look at the empty part of the glass at every turn. But the Holy Spirit who brought us to faith, God’s Spirit, continually leads us to see the truth.

Suffering produces perseverance just like lifting weights produces muscles. As we face temptation and fail, we learn to depend completely on Christ for forgiveness. As we meet people who laugh at our God and the things that we believe in, we learn that our faith isn’t about what other people think, it’s about God’s truth.

The Holy Spirit leads us through a process of maturing. This process reveals our faith to be true, and builds Christian character in us. And this process continually brings us back to hope. Hope that one day, these life of struggle and faith will give way to a life of glory and sight.

In the book of James it says…
“12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12 NIV).
In 1 Peter it says...
“…Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed” (1 Peter 2:6 NASB).
And Paul says later in Romans…
“…I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38 NIV).

You know what a really good feeling is? Already there. That’s a good feeling.

We may have a bit of life’s road to travel before we reach the end. And we’re not standing in heavenly glory yet. But as far as salvation is concerned, as far as getting right with God, as far as being good enough to stand before our maker, IN CHRIST we’re already there.

For this indescribable gift: Hallelujah! to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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