July 31, 2011

Living for the Day - July 31, 2011

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-Pastor Schaller

July 24, 2011

New Management - July 24, 2011

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July 17, 2011

Space Station Salvation - July 17, 2011

We apologize, no Audio is available for this service.


Good morning. Upon entering today you might have noticed a few subtle alterations that have been made to our sanctuary. This past week was Vacation Bible School week.

The music portion of the VBS day was held here in the sanctuary, using music projected onto this screen. We’ve left the screen here today because we’re going to use it as we review the Bible stories that the kids had this week. We’re also going to give them a chance to share a couple of the songs they learned.

We begin our worship today in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Let’s pray. Father in Heaven, thank you for blessing our church this past week during VBS. Thank you for hard working teachers, eager students, and for the light of your word. Help us all to zero in on your word this worship day. Build our faith. Renew our joy in Christ. To Your Name be the glory. Amen.
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As you’ve noticed, our VBS had a space theme this year. It was called “Space Station Salvation”. In our opening devotion we talked about what salvation means. What it means to be rescued by God.

From that point on, each day the kids blasted off to a different star to learn about a different story in God’s Word. The first star they visited was…

ALPHA ONE STAR Genesis 1:1-5, 2:2-3 (NIV)

1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
2:2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

The main teaching point on day one of VBS was that God made the world with His power and words.

In the first two chapters of the Bible, God tells us about the very beginning of our universe. He describes for us the way in which He created everything.

This part of the Bible is strange and wonderful. God is so different from us, and the way that He created this universe is so different than we might imagine. Some of the details God gives us about how He created still cause us to screw up our faces and wonder, what exactly does that mean?

For example, what does it mean that God “separated the light from the darkness” (verse 4)? How does one do that? What did it all look like when light and darkness were all mixed up?

And here’s another thing. If you read on in Genesis one, you find that God created light on the first day, but he didn’t create the light bearing bodies like the sun and the other stars until the fourth day. What was it like for the daylight to come and go without the Sun, because the Sun was yet to be created?

If you read over Genesis one and two, you’ll find over and over that God is immensely powerful. He made the sky, separated the muck into water and land, created the plants, the birds, the fish, and the land animals - all by just speaking the command that they begin to be. And then, forming a human shape out of the dirt, God breathed life into the first human being.

Besides showing that God is powerful, the first two chapters from Genesis reveal that God is good. He created the universe as a gift for humans to enjoy and take care of. And in the beginning, God’s universe was perfect. There was no pain, or evil because man had not yet sinned.
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The second star the kids visited was…

BETA TWO STAR Genesis 12:1-5 (NIV)

12:1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.
2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. 5 He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

The main teaching point on day two, was that God is faithful to His promises.

To begin with, the kids read about how suffering and death entered God’s perfect world. The first two human beings sinned.

People often blame God for the evil in our world. They say, look at all this suffering. God either doesn’t exist or He’s powerless. But really, the blame for the suffering in our world belongs to the first two human beings, Adam and Eve. They were the ones that disobeyed God and tainted His perfect creation with evil, suffering and death.

Even though it was their fault, God promise Adam and Eve that He would send them a Savior. Someone who would crush the devil’s power and sweep away the sins of the human race.

This is why God told Abraham “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (verse 3). The Savior of the world would be one of Abraham’s descendants!

Now, in the picture we see here Abraham is gazing up into the starry sky. When Abraham was an old man, God promised him that he’d have so many descendants that counting them would be like trying to count the stars.

God kept that promise. Abraham’s children became the Nation of Israel.

When Abraham was about a hundred years old, God promised him that a son would be born to him within the year.

God kept that promise too, and Isaac was born to the hundred-year-old Abraham and his wife.

Throughout his life, Abraham found that when God makes a promise, He keeps that promise. We can be confident of the promises God makes to us in the Bible as well. Most importantly, we are sure that our sins stand forgiven through Jesus. Because Jesus was the descendant of Abraham through whom the whole world is blessed.

Now we join in confessing our sins to God, and receiving His assurance of forgiveness. Please turn to page 4 of the bulletin.
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The third star the kids visited was…


8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On day three the kids reviewed the Christmas story. The main point was that Baby Jesus born at Christmas is the Savior and the light of the world.

The Bible tells us that God the Son has always existed with the Father and the Holy Spirit. They are the Triune God. The Bible tells us that God the Son was there in the beginning, and that all things were created through Him.

Though He was used to living in glory at the Father’s side, here we see God the Son born into a dirty stable, to a set of no-name Jewish commoners.

It has been suggested that the Savior was born in such humble circumstances to show that He came to save all people, not just kings and princes, not just the important people of the world, but ALL SINNERS.

And that’s exactly what we find the Angel telling the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (verse 10).

If you’re a sinner, this Baby was born to save you. Think about that wonderful fact like Mary did, pondering it your heart. Holding onto it as treasure. And may Baby Jesus fill you with praise like He did the shepherds, who returned to their work glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
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The fourth star the kids visited was…

DELTA FOUR Mk 15:33-41, Mt 28:1-10 (NIV)

33 At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
28:1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Just as the Angel had said to the shepherds, the angel at the tomb told the women, “Do not be afraid”.

And when these women met the resurrected Jesus on their hurried way back to Jerusalem, He greeted them with those same words, “Do not be afraid”.

God wants us to mark these words well. DO NOT BE AFRAID. The God who made us, loves us. Even though our sins make us unworthy of being His people, through Jesus He has taken us to be His people all the same.

In the darkness on the cross, the just punishment for our sins, yours and mine, was poured out on the Son of God. There is no sin left to suffer for. They’ve all been washed away by Jesus.

In the darkness of the tomb, Jesus began to breathe after three days of lying stone cold and dead. Through His suffering and death, Jesus had done what the Father had asked, and now the Father would show the world that His Son was triumphant, that His sacrifice for all sinners had been accepted. The world had seen the Savior die, now the world would see Him rise.

Do not be afraid. He died for you, and now He lives.
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DELTA FIVE STAR Acts 8:4-8, 26-40 (NIV)

4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. 6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”
30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

On our last day of VBS we read about Philip, who shows us that believers shine like stars by living for the Lord, helping others, and sharing his saving word.

Jesus once said, “I am the light of the word”. What He meant was that He shows us the way to heaven, and the way to live this life with joy, peace and purpose.

Jesus is our guiding star, and as the light of His word shows us the way, it also begins to reflect off of us.

During His life, Jesus preached to the cities of Israel about God’s Savior, and how it was through Him that heaven is opened. So, Philip preached the same message. He reflected the message that he had received from Jesus like the moon reflects the light of the sun.

Philip wasn’t well known in the world. He was just an ordinary guy. But with the word of God, and the Holy Spirit’s direction, Philip made a big difference in the world.

Think about the man that Philip reached with the Good News on that road to Gaza. The Ethiopian man was an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Queen of Ethiopia! When he came home with the Good News in his heart, you can be sure that he reflected that message of love and forgiveness to the people of Ethiopia.

It starts this way. God loves people, so we love people. God wants people to know their Savior, so we tell them about their Savior.

And when we fail to live for the Lord, when we sin, then we can still live for the Lord. For when we trust in Him for forgiveness, we are living for the Lord also. When we come to Him, confessing our sins and expressing our confidence that in Christ we are forgiven, then we are living for the Lord.

July 10, 2011

Depth of Sin, Height of Grace - July 10, 2011

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We’ve all had to make hard decisions in life. Or if we haven’t yet, we will. When the time comes to choose what to do, or say in some hard situation, someone may offer us the following advice: follow your heart.

This little proverb sounds like good advice until you read what God says in the book of Jeremiah.
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? ‘I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds’” (Jeremiah 17:9-10 NASB).
We might be okay in a given situation if we follow our hearts. We just might stumble onto the right choice. The right words. But most likely, we won’t. The human heart is sick. And in it’s sickness it lies, even to itself.

If we want evidence of the sickness of the human heart, we don’t have to go far. Flip on the news and you’ll find a parade of atrocities committed by people following their hearts. Drive to your local library and borrow a book that details the dark careers of this century’s mass murderers, serial rapists and killers. Browse the psychology section and pick up a text book on how to treat one of the many obsessive and destructive behaviors that infect the human psyche.

The human creature is a complex creature. But through all of the complexity runs one common infection – sin. The inability to live God’s way. Sin is the sickness which cripples our ability to fully enjoy life. Sin is the sickness which ultimately leads to eternal separation from the holy God.

Simply put, human beings are buried in a watery grave of sin. And the depths of that sin are unfathomable. For with a single evil word or deed we are so far separated from the sinless God, that there is no hope for us to reach Him.

Picture it like this. The sinner is like a person paddling alone in the open ocean, over it’s deepest trench. Sin is a huge iron anchor chained to our leg. It drags us down to the bottom. Down to the inky black ocean floor. And even if we could somehow detach ourselves from it, we’d have no hope of reaching the surface.

But into this sad and hopeless picture, God sent His Son Jesus. Jesus plunged into the icy waters of our world. He became human so that He could be our rescuer.

Our sermon reading for today is from Romans 5. We begin with verse six. There Paul writes…

Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

You and I were born into this world sinful. Through our choices we have added sin after sin after sin to the anchor dragging us away from God. We have lived as His enemies, attacking His holiness with our sinful words and actions.

And yet, God still loves us. He cares for His enemies. For the ungodly.

This is completely unlike us. When we see someone on the news who has done some horrible crime, we want them punished. We want them to pay for what they’ve done. We wouldn’t take the place of a mass murderer on death row.
Like Paul says, even if we had the opportunity to change places with an innocent person we wouldn’t jump at that opportunity. Paul says “for a good person someone might possibly dare to die”.

But God is not like us. He demonstrates the purity of His love in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Now, there’s something awesome thing to remember from this little section of Romans. A thing to hold onto with all your heart and mind. It says, “Christ died for the ungodly”. Look at that verse again and mark it well. Verse six, “Christ died for the ungodly”.

When you feel as though your sins are unforgivable, ask yourself: Am I ungodly? You answer has to be “Yes, I am ungodly”.

And the Scripture’s response, God’s response to this confession? - “Then Christ died for you.

Be at peace. Your sins stand forgiven through Christ. On the cross God’s Son took the anchor of your sins off your leg and He put it on Himself. He took your sin, and gave you His righteousness. He died your death, so you could receive His life.

And when you feel as though you can’t forgive someone else’s sins against you, remember that same question and answer. Is this person ungodly? Then Christ died for this person too. Maybe that person needs to hear that Christ died for them too. Maybe they need to hear that because of Christ, you also forgive them.

God demonstrated His unconditional, self-sacrificing love in this, He declared the ungodly to be righteous, through Jesus.

In the first half of our sermon reading, Paul has talked about the depth of our sin, and how God’s love runs deeper. In the second half of our reading, Paul speaks of the future that we now have because we have been declared sinless through Christ’s sacrifice in our place.

Romans 5:9-11 (NIV)

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Now, sometimes it’s hard for our modern minds to follow Paul’s train of thought. He was, after all, a Jewish Christian who lived 2,000 years ago. So, I’m going to back up now and take us through Paul’s thought process.

First, look again at verse nine. There Paul says “Since we have now been justified by his blood”. Paul’s thought process beings here. Because of Jesus we sinner have received a new title. Instead of “sinner”, our new label is “innocent one”. We’ve been declared righteous.

Imagine that you’re waiting in line to get into a concert. But the event has been overbooked, and the doors are closed. But then, you see the star of the concert moving through the main line, making his way to the front doors. On his way he bumps into you. You exchange a few excited words. What luck! You think, well, at least I got to meet the guy. But then he looks at the closed doors, at you, and then nods at one of the bodyguards following close behind. And the body guard takes your hand and stamps it “VIP”. That done, the star moves through the crowd and into the venue where the show will be held.

Now things have changed for you in two ways. All the frustrations and irritations of waiting in line are gone. You can move through the line at ease. The line no longer matters.

Also, when you get to the door, you’ll be ushered in with no questions asked. You’ve got the stamp of approval from the star himself!

This is the picture Paul lays out for his fellow Christians in Rome. Justified by Christ’s blood, we have the star’s stamp of approval. Now we can move through life in peace and security. Now we know when we reach the Judgment Day we’ll be swept into heaven, no questions asked.

In verse ten, Paul says because of Christ, “we shall be saved through his life”. In other words, because Christ rose from the dead, He lives to guide us in our daily lives.

All the messed up ways of living we see on the news and in books and movies, we have been rescued from stumbling into those ways by Christ. Knowing that our sins are forgiven, we now follow Christ’s ways. And those ways lead to peace and confidence in this life. In this way, we are saved by the empty ways of human culture and the pain and destruction that we would stumble into if we followed the directions that our culture gives.

In another book the apostle Peter wrote…
“…you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV).

In verse 9, Paul says that because we are stamped innocent by Christ’s blood, we will be “saved from God’s wrath” on the last day.

Now we have a future to look forward to. Even to brag about! We’ve been reconciled to God through the death of His Son. And since that Son has risen from the dead, we’re assured that He lives forever, and will one day take us to be with Him to live in the presence of the holy God forever!

And one of the best parts about bragging about our future is this, we can also tell others – CHRIST DIED FOR YOU TOO! Be at peace. Your sins stand forgiven through Christ. Through Christ, you too have a VIP pass through life, to heaven.

Some who hear this won’t want it. They’ll push the grace of God away in favor of holding onto the sinful ways handed down to them. We can’t do anything about this other than speak of the grace we’ve received from God through Christ. The Holy Spirit has to soften the refusing heart through the Good News of Christ. All we can do is live in that grace and express that grace that we have experienced, to the best of our ability.

These are the blessings we have because of Christ - salvation for life and salvation for Judgment Day. As Jesus once said,
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV).
It doesn’t matter how deep, and sick and dark your sins are. God’s love is deeper and further reaching.

It doesn’t matter how low your heart has brought you, through the grace of God, earned and give through Christ, your are raised far above them. Like David wrote in Psalm 103,
“11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11-12 NIV).

We started this message today by remembering the world’s advice: Follow your heart. I’d close it by saying don’t follow your heart. Follow your Savior, through whom you, a sinner, have been washed clean and brought back to God.

Prayer: Father in heaven, the world offers that advice, follow your heart. But you have taught us a better way. To follow Your Son. Thank you for the free forgiveness that you have given us through Jesus. Help us to shower others with that same forgiveness, and to express your love to them so that they too may believe, and live this life in peace, and with a clear view of the sure future we have because of your love. Amen.

July 3, 2011

Abraham's Faith Credited as Righteousness - July 3, 2011

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Of the 27 books that we find in the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote thirteen of them.

Now, the books that Paul wrote were actually letters sent to different Christians, with different problems and issues that they were dealing with. For this reason Paul didn’t write all his letters in the same way.

Paul did, however, begin a good number of his letters in the same way: by using the word “saints”. Paul was addressing these letters to his fellow Christians and he calls them “saints”.
“7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:” (Romans 1:7a NKJV).

“2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints,” (1 Corinthians 1:2a NKJV).

“To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia:” (2 Corinthians 1:1b NKJV).

“To the saints who are at Ephesus and who are faithful in Christ Jesus:” (Ephesians 1:1b NASB).

“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:” (Philippians 1:1b NKJV).

“To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are in Colosse:” (Colossians 1:2a NKJV).
Now, if you look up these passages in the New International Version, you’ll find the Greek word for “saints” translated as “holy people”. And that’s what the Greek word for “saints” actually means, “holy ones”.

Now here’s the question – how can Paul call these people holy? They were obviously sinners. All we have to do is read a little bit in these letters, and we find that these people were ordinary people like you and me. These people were sinful. They did bad things every day. They said bad things every day. And yet, Paul calls them holy. Why?

Simply put, these people trusted God. They believed what God said in the Bible and were confident in His promises. And the Bible says that when you trust in the true God, God counts that faith as righteousness.

That’s the main point of our sermon meditation today - trust in the LORD is credited by Him as righteousness. Or to put it even more simply – By faith sinners are considered sinless.

Now, you may remember that last Sunday’s sermon reading was from Romans 3. This Sunday’s reading is from Romans 4. Throughout this summer we’re going to be working our way through Paul’s letter to the Romans. We won’t cover each and every verse, but we’ll move through the main thoughts of each chapter.

The congregation in Rome was made up of Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. Some of the people had grown up knowing the God of the Bible, studying His message, going to His temple. Somewhere Along the way these Jews had come to believe that Jesus was God’s promised Savior. They had become Christ followers.

Other people in the Roman congregation had grown up not knowing the God of the Bible perhaps they had worshiped other gods in the pagan temples of Rome. Perhaps they had bowed down to images carved in wood or stone. But somewhere along the way they had come to believe that the true God was the God of the Bible, and that Jesus was His Son and the Savior of the world. They had become Christ followers too.

Now, these two groups within the Roman congregation were prone to judging each other. After all, they were sinners. But in his letter, Paul reminds them that it isn’t what nation or culture or family that you’re born into that makes you holy before God. It’s faith in Him.

Both Jews and Gentiles were on the same level before God - condemned sinners. And, both Jewish Christ followers, and Gentile Christ followes were on the same level before God - declared sinless through faith in God’s Son.

In Romans, chapter 4, Paul addresses his thoughts to the Jewish Christians in Rome. They had great pride in their nation. They were proud to be the descendants of Abraham. Paul uses this national pride to remind them where their righteousness came from.

In the beginning of Romans 4, Paul says…
“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’” (Romans 4:1-3 NIV).
Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. This idea of faith being counted by God as complete righteousness is found over and over in this chapter. Eight different times, in this chapter alone, Paul talks about faith in God resulting in righteousness.

I’m not going to read all those references, but go ahead and do that on your own at home. Read through Romans 4 and see for yourself how many times Paul says that faith counts as righteousness before God.

Paul goes on, in Romans 4, to prove that Abraham wasn’t holy because of the ritual of circumcision. His faith was counted as righteousness before he was circumcised.

Paul talks about how Abraham wasn’t righteous because he obeyed all God’s laws and never sinned. Ever since Adam and Eve humans have been breaking God’s law, not keeping it. Abraham was no exception. You can read about his life in Genesis and find that he too was a sinner.

Paul proves that Abraham was counted holy by God because Abraham heard God and believed Him.

Now, before we read what Paul wrote, let’s read the scripture that Paul based his writing on.

Genesis 15:1-6 (NIV)

15:1 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision:
“Do not be afraid, Abram.
I am your shield,
your very great reward. ”
2 But Abram said, “Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.”
4 Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” 5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

On this foundation, Paul then wrote to the Romans…

Romans 4:18-25 (NIV)

18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for [because of] our sins and was raised to life for [because of] our justification.

Again, Paul’s point to the Jewish Christians in Rome was this – what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Romans 4:3)

Paul’s words here are so important. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been taught, or what your personal opinion is – what does scripture say? What does God say? Sinners are declared righteous by faith, not by anything we have said or done, not by any nation or culture or family we’ve been born into, or anything else. It’s a faith thing.

It was a faith thing for Abraham, and it is a faith thing for us sinners today. We believe that God’s Son was crucified because of our sins, and He was raised from the dead because His sacrifice in our place was accepted. Through that sacrifice our sins were erased, and through faith all the blessings of his sacrifice become ours.

Romans 4:3 is a great passage to tuck away. Maybe you’ve got a Jewish friend you can use that passage with. Abraham was holy before God because of his faith. And we are holy before God for the same reason. God promised a Savior, sent that Savior, took our sins away, and gave us faith through that Savior’s message.

Tuck this passage away for yourselves too. And the next time your heart is weighed down with guilt over some sin you’ve done - remember, you aren’t a saint because of what you’ve done, but because of what God did for you.

Like Paul says in Ephesians
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).

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