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Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Justified for Hope - March 23, 2014 - Third Sunday in Lent - Text: Romans 5:1-8

Two weeks ago we were reminded of the reason that Jesus came into this world, true God born in human flesh, true man. It was because of the sin of Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden, sin that has now infected our whole world. Jesus, who is true God and who had to be true God so that He would be holy, sinless, and perfect, humbled Himself, giving up all the glory that was His in heaven in order to be born as a true human and He had to be born as a human in order to be our substitute. Jesus came to fulfill the promise God made to Eve and Adam, and to all people, in the Garden of Eden, He came to be our Savior. Last week we moved forward to hear God’s promise reiterated to Abraham and his part in God’s plan of Salvation. This morning we see and hear how Jesus is the Savior for all people. We see and hear how Jesus came so that we, you and I, and all people might have forgiveness of sins, faith, life and salvation.
 
Paul begins by helping us to understand how we are made right with God, in other words, how our sins are taken care of so that we are brought back into a right relationship with God, a relationship that was broken in the Garden of Eden and is constantly broken as we daily sin much. We begin with verse one: “1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (v. 1-5).
 
By nature, we are conceived and born in sin. We daily sin much and add to our sinfulness. As sinners, we cannot stand in the presence of our God who demands perfection from us. Thus, in our sin we would live in fear and terror of our just and righteous God. Paul comforts us by telling us that we can have peace with God. We have peace with God as he gives us peace. Yes, in and of ourselves we are at odds with God, we are His enemies and there is nothing we can do to build bridges or to get Him to like us, that is why He takes the initiative. Paul says, “since we have been justified,” this is a past action, it has already happened. We have already been made just and right in God’s eyes, not by something we have done, but by something God has done. Or actually, because of what Jesus has done. Being made just and right before God, by (or through) forgiveness brings us peace, true Godly peace. Because we are forgiven we no longer need to be afraid of God because He has taken care of that which terrorizes us, our sins.
 
This justification brings us hope. And here I would remind you that our definition of hope, as Christians, is different from that of the rest of the world. When the world speaks of hope it is speaking of something that is an uncertainty, something that is a maybe, something that might happen. When we Christians speak of hope and use the word hope in the context of faith and forgiveness, it means a certainty, it is something we can count on. Justification brings us hope that is a certainty of heaven.
 
And so, we have forgiveness, we are made just and right and brought back into a right relationship with God the Father through Jesus’ work on the cross, yet, we remain in this sin filled world and as we remain in this sin filled world sin abounds, thus suffering continues. And here we see that suffering is a result of sin. Some suffering is a direct result of sin, that is when someone disobeys the law and gets hurt, that is a direct result of sin. However, some suffering is not necessarily a direct result of sin, but is a result of the sins of our society as a whole. When a baby contracts AIDS because of a blood transfusion, that is not a direct result of the baby’s sin, but a result of the sin of our society in which sexual promiscuity runs rampant and sexual disease is a result.
 
Paul exhorts us to rejoice in our suffering, not for the sake of suffering, but because, as he tells us, suffering produces endurance. Endurance is an attitude of perseverance. As a Christian our attitude toward suffering is to understand that suffering draws us closer to our Lord who is always with us to take care of us. And to be closer to the Lord is indeed a good thing.
 
But even more, as Paul progresses, this endurance produces character, which is a genuineness in one’s life. Our character is who we are and certainly we know some people who are more of a character than others. Today we may be more familiar with the word reputation instead of the word character. Our character is our reputation, that is, how others know us. Are we known for our patience and longsuffering? Or for our short temper? Are we known for being gentle and kindhearted or for being rude and mean tempered? Are we known for our humor and joyous spirit or for being serious and sullen? Are we known for our faith in Jesus or for our religious struggles, not knowing where to turn? We know and understand that our Lord never tempts us to sin, but He does allow us to be tested so that we might be the people, the characters He would have us to be.
 
But Paul is not done yet, he goes on to add that character produces hope and here again this is the hope we just mention, the certainty we Christians have, the certainty of eternal life in heaven. And that certainty does not disappoint us.
 
Paul then goes on to tell us why we can have such confidence. We pick up at verse six: “6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 6-8). While we were in the middle of our sinning, Christ died for us. Yet, even after justification, that is even after we have been given forgiveness because of Jesus death on the cross for us, sin continues to abound. In the Old Testament Lesson for today we see the children of Israel, God’s chosen people, the people He did so much for, including deliver from bondage of slavery, continue to rebel against Him and we are no different as Christians in our world today.
 
Paul lays out the usual conditions we may give for giving one’s life for another and that is that perhaps for a good person one might possibly dare to die, but for someone who is not a good person, forget it. Certainly we have our standards as to who is worthy and who is unworthy to have us put ourselves on the line.
 
But not so with God. God’s love is seen in the giving of His life, while we were sinning against Him. Remember, our nature is to sin. Our nature is to do everything we can against God and this we do, well, every day, without thinking, without practice. And yet, it was us, you and me that Jesus had in mind when He went to the cross to give His life for ours. What great love our God has for us and greater love can no one have than this.
 
What does this mean? Each week, and especially during the season of Lent we are reminded that sin entered the world through Eve and Adam in the Garden of Eden. We are reminded that immediately after Eve and Adam sinned, separating God from His creation, His creatures, He, God stepped in so that He might bring us, His creation back into a right relationship with Himself, by promising to send a Savior to take care of the penalty which was due for the sin of the man and the woman, the eternal spiritual death penalty.
 
Jesus is true God and true man, who was sent into the world and who came into the world to take care of the sin of Adam and Eve and our sin by paying the price for their sin and for our sins. Jesus came not just to save some people, but to save all people. In our Gospel reading for today we are reminded that Jesus came to save all people as we see Him in Sychar speaking to and giving faith to the Samaritan woman and then to many other Samaritans in the village. Jesus came to save us, you and me as well.
 
Following His resurrection and ascension, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit who comes to us to give, strengthen and keep us in faith. The Holy Spirit works through means, namely through the means of grace, the Word, the Bible, Confession and Absolution, and Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Perhaps you may wonder why I always harp on these means of grace. It is because we need to be reminded, again and again, that this is how our Lord usually works with us, namely through these means, reminding us of the importance of making regular and diligent use of these means. Most of us make regular visits to the grocery store, understanding that if we do not make regular visits we will not have any food and we may starve. Likewise, if we fail to make regular visits to these means of grace we may starve spiritually, they are that important and so I continually stress their importance lest we forget or take them and our faith for granted.
 
And yet, even though our Lord created us, our Savior redeemed us, and the Holy Spirit brings us to, strengthens and keeps us in faith, sin still abounds in our world. Thanks be to God that we still have God’s continued promise that our sins have been forgiven and He helps us to be the people He would have us to be.
 
Which brings us back to Paul’s opening words, that our suffering produces endurance, which produces character which produces hope which does not disappoint us.
 
As we continue through this Lenten Season, my prayer for you is that the Lord will continue to help you to see your own sin and your part in Jesus’ death on the cross, even to the point of understanding just how big your part and my part was in putting Jesus on the cross. My prayer is that we do not try to justify ourselves and belittle our part, because that could in our own minds make Jesus’ work less necessary for us, meaning we would not fully comprehend His love for us. But, the  greater we see our part in Jesus death, the greater we will come to understand how great His love is for us and how all sufficient His sacrifice of Himself was for us, for you and for me. So that we might rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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