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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 1, 2015

We Have Been Justified (Accomplished Action) - March 1, 2015 - Second Sunday in Lent - Text: Romans 5:1-11

Computers are great inventions, at least, I believe they are. I remember getting my first computer and being very hesitant about doing anything wrong, after all, it was rather expensive and I did not want to break it. Then I discovered the “reset” button. I also remember my first word processing program. And then getting into a more powerful word processing program. Today these programs almost type what you want before you even think it. Most word processing programs have spell check and even a grammar checker. I tried using the grammar checker a couple times on my sermons, but I found that they do not really work, at least on sermons. Let me explain. The times I checked my sermons for grammar I kept getting corrected on using the passive voice. At first I was not sure what that meant, but as I learned, I realized that, grammatically speaking, I should use the active voice, in other words, I should be talking about how things are and how we are doing things, instead of the passive voice, that is how things were and how things are done even without any action or initiative of our own. Then I realized, although the active voice is good grammar and the passive voice should be avoided, that does not make for good theology. The passive voice and not the active voice are what make for good theology. In other words, I do not preach about what we have done or are doing or even have to do for our salvation, rather I talk about what God has done, how God acts on us, and how we are simply done to and given to. Now, that may not be good grammar, but that is great theology. And so, this morning we get even more great theology as Paul continues to use the passive voice in describing who God is and what He continues to do for us and in and through us.
 
We begin with a very familiar passage of Scripture where Paul talks about peace in suffering. We begin at 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).
 
As we know, faith is not something we get, do or proclaim, indeed as we confess in the explanation of the Third article of the Apostles’ Creed, “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him.” Rather we know and believe that God gives faith. God gives faith, not directly, but indirectly, that is through means. Through the means of grace, the Word, the Bible, Holy Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, God gives faith. It is this faith which God gives through these means that grasps all the other gifts God gives. Faith is the instrument which is what takes hold of and makes God’s gifts and blessings ours.
 
God gives faith and it is this faith which grasps forgiveness of sins, the most important gift. Perhaps you have heard me say this before, that the most important gift we are given is forgiveness of sins and maybe you have wondered why I say that. Forgiveness of sins is the most important gift we are given because without forgiveness of sins, we are left to suffer the punishment for sin, which is eternal spiritual death. It is only with forgiveness that we have life and salvation. And so we see the need, every Sunday, and even every day, for confession and absolution, that is to confess before God, all our sins in thought, word and deed, sins of omission and sins of commission. And it is important that we hear God’s words of absolution, that our sins are, that our sins have been, past tense, passive voice, forgiven. This is not something we accomplish but what has already been accomplished for us, outside of us and given to us.
 
God gives faith which grasps forgiveness of sins. With forgiveness of sins we are given peace. This peace is not a moment of calm during one’s hectic life, but this peace is true peace. This peace is the peace we have from the removal of sin and guilt. And that is true peace.
 
God gives faith, God gives forgiveness, and God gives peace. And with faith, forgiveness and peace we also have the hope of eternal life in heaven. This hope of eternal life in heaven is not a far off hope, but is a hope which is ours now. This hope is not a wishy washy maybe hope, but is a certainty. And this hope is a present reality, it is ours now. Certainly we will not move into our heavenly home until after we pass away from this world, but our place in heaven is secure, right at this very moment.
 
And so, while we remain in this world there may be suffering. This suffering is a result of temptation and sin. Ever since the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden, the whole world, the earth itself has been groaning, waiting for the end. Because we live in a world that has been tainted by sin, we will incur temptation and sin.
 
Last week we were reminded that God tempts no one to sin. We were also reminded that God may allow testing in our lives. This morning we are reminded that God uses suffering to produce endurance, character and hope. So, again, always pointing to that fact that God is the one doing the doing and we are being done to, that is, passively being done to.
 
But Paul is not finished. He reminds us even more of what God is doing and how He is doing it according to His own perfect timing. 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. 9Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (v. 6-11).
 
Paul says, “at the right time,” that is at just the right time, the right time according to human history, the right time according to our need for a Savior. God’s timing is always perfect timing. When all the events of the world were where they needed to be, God sent His Son to give His life for ours. And Paul shows us the difference between man’s love and God’s love.
 
Man’s love is this that someone, some human being may give one’s life for a good person or even for a good cause, but for a person or cause we deem unworthy, probably not. Certainly we have heard of situations where a person may give bone marrow or a kidney, or some other “spare” body part, but not one’s life. Or, we may have heard of someone giving their life for someone deemed worthy as we understand the secret service men are to give their lives to save the president. But, that is about as far as we human beings will go.
 
On the other hand, God’s love is so much greater and He shows how His love is so much greater. God’s love is so great that He was willing and He did give His life for us while we were sinners. Well, after all, we are conceived and born in sin. Our natural inclination is to sin. We talked about that last week, even the fact that we love to sin because sinning is fun. And yet, to call ourselves sinners really does not do justice to how bad we really are. Not only are we sinners, but we are also enemies of God, actually fighting against Him. We are not simply passive sinners, but we are active sinners. We actively fight against God. We actively refuse and reject His gifts. We actively disobey all His commandments. And yet, God’s love is such that while we are active sinners, He gave His life for ours.
 
God’s love is shown in the shedding of Jesus’ blood. He shed His blood, that is He paid the price of His life, the price or cost for sin, for us. What we owed, He paid. Thus, we are saved from the wrath of God, because the wrath of God was taken out on Jesus.
 
When we talk about partaking of the Lord’s Supper in “remembrance” of Him, we understand that remembrance is a participation. Thus, we understand that Jesus’ life is our life. Jesus’ death is our death. And now, how much more do we understand that His life is our life.
 
All that is left is the rejoicing. All we can do is respond and interestingly enough, that is something we do passively as well. It is the Holy Spirit who moves in us to rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    What Does This Mean? In and of ourselves, apart from Christ, we are lost and condemned persons. When we attempt to take an active role, our active role is that we are spiritually blind, spiritually dead and actually enemies of God, fighting and striving against Him. Of course, that is our nature after all and bad habits are hard to change.
 
Thanks be to God that Christ has taken an active role. In His active role Christ has taken care of everything. He has paid the price, notice past tense, that we owe. He paid the price, which is eternal spiritual death, by shedding His blood. Jesus actively obeyed all the law and the prophets perfectly, doing for His people, the children of Israel, what they were unable to do, and doing for us, His children by faith, faith given to us, what we are unable to do. He lived perfectly for us in our place. He took our sins upon Himself and suffered and paid the price for all our sins. He died, for us, in our place. And yet, death and the grave, as we know, had no power over Him. He rose, for us, in our place so that we know that we too will rise again.
 
Our response, then, again, is a passive response. Yes, God gives and we are given to. God has done it all and we have been done to. That may not be good grammar, but it is great theology and that is what is more important, great theology.
 
Christ does it all; dying to pay the price for our sins, while we were yet His enemies, fighting and sinning against Him; giving us faith so that we have peace, which comes from forgiveness of sin and guilt; strengthening us during times of suffering so that we have true hope which does not disappoint us; and stirring in us to rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And so, our response is to passively be given to and to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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