Paul speaks on being saved by grace
From The Message
God Has Set Things Right
But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public- to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now– this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.
So where does that leave our proud Jewish insider claims and counterclaims? Canceled? Yes, canceled. What we’ve learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.
- There is a song that has been shared with me that makes me laugh EVERY time I hear it. It is called Perhaps you have heard it? (For those of you who don’t know what a “selfie” is- this is when we use our cell phones to take pictures of ourselves with famous people, with friends, in amazing locations, or, sometimes, in compromising situations. The point is that we make sure the CENTER of the picture, and its subject is, OURSELVES – thus it is called a “selfie.”) This phenomenon is so indicative of our society today – we are somewhat OBSESSED with ourselves. And I believe that this expresses the human condition also.
- In Genesis 3 in the conversation between the Serpent and Eve, the Serpent assures Eve that if she disobeys God and eats fruit from the forbidden Tree – she will not die, She will become like God. For me, this an explanation of Original Sin – the sinful condition in which we find ourselves – we want to be in charge of our own destiny – the center of attention.
- Martin Luther states that all of sin is disobeying the First Commandment that we shall have no other gods – only the One True God – the Creator of Heaven and Earth – the One who raised Jesus from the dead.
- This includes ourselves! We shall not lift ourselves up as our own God.
- Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying it is a sin to take a “selfie.” Even Pope Francis is seen with hundreds of people taking them. I am using this cultural expression as a symbol of what is wrong with us. WE ARE SELF CENTERED. This, is sin.
- Paul says that “there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
- My understanding is that God created us to be in a loving relationship with God. We are created to love God above all else, and each other as well. To be somewhat selfless.
- Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that we are to have the “mind of Christ” who emptied himself and became an obedient servant of God – even dying on the Cross.
- When I’m at my best, I try to serve others. When I’m honest with myself – I find that I am a bit self-serving.
- Today’s passage from Romans, in the Revised Standard Version is sometimes rather difficult to grasp. The image that helps me is this: God is right. God makes right. God creates us to love God above all else, and gives us the Law as the guide and instruction for our lives. We break it in so many ways – going our own way instead of God’s.
- (I will actually be using this image in church today.) Imagine a chair. Its purpose is to be sat upon. When it is turned on its side, it is not useful. In order for it to be useful and fulfill its purpose, it needs to be set upright.
- It is the same with us. Our purpose is to be loving children of God – caring for each other and creation. We need to be set upright to fulfill our purpose. We are not capable of righting ourselves; so God sends Jesus to fulfill God’s will and trusting in that act of gracious giving to us – is what sets us right.
- We are made right with God. We become righteous.
- One might argue – well at least I have power over my destiny by having faith in Jesus; I’ll have THAT MUCH POWER.
- Faith = Trust. Trusting in God’s amazing grace. And even this trusting is the work of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- In Romans 10, St. Paul has this to say: RSV: But how are people to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him in whom they have never heard? And how are they hear without a preacher? And how can ones preach unless they are sent? . . . So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.
- Think of it this way – you have lived on a deserted island all of your life – with no contact with the outside world – no cell phone, TV, newspapers, internet – nothing. Could you conceive of a God that loves you unconditionally, and shows that love by sending one Jesus of Nazareth to die for you and be raised from the dead? Of course not. Someone would have to tell you about it. Faith comes from what is heard.
- Martin Luther states in the Small Catechism – a document that is to be used in our homes to instruct us on the Christian faith – in the explanation to the Third Article of the Creed – concerning the work of the Holy Spirit: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; just as he calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” FAITH COMES FROM WHAT IS HEARD.
- Even trusting in the unconditional love of God – given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus – is a gift itself.
- It all depends upon God. It all depends upon Jesus Christ and his sacrificial giving up of self for us. It all depends upon the Holy Spirit bringing this message of love to us and moving us to trust in it above all else. IT DEPENDS UPON GOD – not you and me.
- As The Message version of today’s 2nd lesson says: “What we’ve learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.”
- So the next time you take a “selfie” enjoy it. Laugh. Have fun. Just remember – you are not the center of the universe. God is. And trusting in God’s unconditional love sets you right with God and the world.
- Acknowledging this can be a very freeing experience. It can bring joy – even in the midst of sorrow. And it can bring amazing peace to your heart.