What: Sunday Morning Message
Where: Gateway Community Church
When: April 10, 2011
Pastor: Randy Hageman
John Stott, in his book The Cross of Christ, says: “When God justifies sinners, he is not declaring bad people to be good, or saying that they are not sinners after all; he is pronouncing them legally righteous, free from any liability to the broken law, because he himself in his Son has borne the penalty of their law-breaking.” (p. 187). Justice has been satisfied, though the punishment was not handed out to us who deserve it but to Jesus Christ, who never sinned and did not deserve it.
Notice justification doesn’t change us or our being at all – only our status before God. We are made right so that now we don’t have to carry around with us the guilt and burden of our sin and can now concentrate on starting to live right through the power of the Holy Spirit. And we receive this gift of justification not by how much good we try to do to overcome the bad we’ve done but by faith, by believing, that we cannot save ourselves but that God has offered us salvation and forgiveness and right standing with Himself through Jesus Christ.
Romans 3:28 (TNIV): “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”
Romans 3:28 (NLT2): “So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”
Faith is not what saves me – God does that through His grace – faith is what enables me to receive this free gift of salvation. I don’t deserve it – all I can do is believe the biblical account & humbly receive it. And since I don’t deserve it, I can’t brag about it or feel like I somehow earned this or was rewarded this on my own merits.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV): “8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — 9not by works, so that no one can boast.”
You see, I can’t look at anyone else, sinner or saved, and place myself above them. We’re all guilty, we’re all condemned because of our sin, but because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we don’t have to stay that way. We can receive by faith God’s free gift of salvation and find ourselves no longer a criminal in God’s eyes, for, when we place our faith in Christ, God now sees not me but Jesus and his sinless perfection in my place.
And again, in gratitude for what God has done for me through Jesus Christ, I not only seek to obey Him, but I also seek to serve Him, to do what is right for the sake of others.
Ephesians 2:10 (NLT2): “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
We serve and love sacrificially as Christ followers now because we have been made right with God through Jesus Christ – it’s what we were made to do. And if we claim we are Christ followers and we do not attempt to serve and love others, then did we really understand and accept the free gift of salvation?
James 2:17 (NLT2): “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.”
Jesus said you can tell a tree by its fruit, and if there is no fruit, that tree must be dead. If we are not actively living for Christ & serving & loving others, then did we accept and receive God’s salvation, or did we just try to trick God and ourselves? That’s why Christ followers must serve – whether it was yesterday in the Great Day of Service or today in our children’s area or just helping a friend or neighbor or family member. And when we do receive by faith what God did for us in Jesus Christ and therefore live it out in our lives, we are saved & nothing and no one can take that away from us.
Romans 8:33-34 (NLT2): “33) Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself (justifies). 34) Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.”
As Christ followers, we are no longer condemned in God’s court of law but declared not guilty, and nothing can ever separate us from the love of God that is clearly given to us in Christ Jesus. So, we are redeemed & justified, but through the cross God also offers Reconciliation. In this image of salvation we move from the slave markets or the court room and now come into the home with friends and family. Reconciliation is the most personal of these three images we’re looking at. Because of sin, our original relationship with God has been damaged and we have been separated from God and His friendship, but now, through the cross, this relationship is reconciled & restored & we have peace with God.
We are no longer alienated from God, and we discover that our relationship with Him is the answer to feelings of inadequacy and emptiness and materialism and superficiality. Reconciliation with God is what atonement is all about – being made “at one” again with God, like we were in the Garden of Eden.
Romans 5:9-11 (NLT2): “9) And since we have been made right (justified) in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10) For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11) So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”
We are once again friends of God, but Paul says this reconciliation through Jesus Christ goes even a step further. Through Christ’s death on the cross, God now adopts us as His own children.
Romans 8:15-17 (NLT2): “15) So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ 16) For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17) And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.…”
We are adopted as God’s own children – not just redeemed slaves or justified sinners – and we share in His glory as God’s heirs. That means that Christ’s victory over sin and death, which we celebrate at Easter, is also our victory – we are promised the same future.
In the meantime, because of our reconciled relationship with God, we do two things – we seek to grow our newly restored relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And we do that by reading His Word, the Bible, by praying, by worshipping, by serving and a whole host of other things. But, we also strive to help others be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (NLT2): “17) anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18) And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19) For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20) So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’”
And that’s part of why we’re here today – to urge any of you who have not yet received this free gift to do so – today, this morning, now!
Our Prayer Team at Gateway Community Church will be ready to talk with you about this at any time. Make that decision today.
If you have received this good news of salvation, then because we are reconciled with God and adopted into His family, we have the responsibility, the joy, of offering that salvation to others, to be ambassadors for Jesus Christ. The only folks who aren’t ambassadors are those who are not Christ followers.
If you are a Christ follower, then you are an ambassador, and you are called by God to reach out to others and share this Good News. There are lots of ways you can and should do this, but one easy way over the next couple of weeks is to reach out to friends and family members and co-workers and neighbors and invite them to our Easter services.