Now that we’ve gotten an overview of the gospel, and have discussed Christ’s work at length, I’d like to dig in a little deeper to what Christ has done for us and apply it to our lives. I’m going to do that by taking a look at Romans 3:23-26, which Martin Luther once called “the center of the Bible”. It hits on all 4 of the major points of the gospel that we’ve covered so far. Let’s read it again together.
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Before we can understand what this passage is saying, we need to define a few things. Who knows the repeated word in this passage (the answer from question 5b)? Right – it’s just. (box on board 5x) We see it in two forms: Just/Justice, which is God’s justice – that he does what’s right and punishes sin. And then “Justifies/ed. When we use Justify today we are often saying, “you’re just trying to justify yourself”, where in the bible – justified means “right with God” or on good terms with God. So remember that.The second thing we want to define is what the pronouns are – because with all the he’s and his’s in this passage, it’s easy to get confused whether they are referring to God the Father or Christ. I hope you were able to do that in your group. Let’s do it now together to make sure we’ve got them all right. (go through).
So with our newfound tools and definitions, let’s read through this passage together, thinking about what this passage tells us about the Gospel.
Let’s zero in on this last sentence. Who is the one who is just and justifies those who have faith in Jesus? It’s God! How? How can he be perfectly just, punishing sin but allow sinners like you and me to have a relationship with Him? It’s through the cross. Through the cross He punished our sin like the good and just God he is, but that punishment we deserved fell on Jesus. As the hymn says: This, the pow’r of the cross: Son of God—slain for us. What a love! What a cost! We stand forgiven at the cross. We often think that Jesus is the one who saves us…and in a sense He does. But here it says it is the God of the universe has decided to save us! It was His will and plan to love sinners like you and me and bring us into a right relationship with Him.
If you are not a Christian (I just say that because I can’t see into everyone’s heart here) there is nothing more important than believing this truth. Today, God is seeking worshippers to worship Him in spirit and in truth. This could be you. Please talk with a friend here before you leave today if you’d like to know more about what it means to be right with God.
But because most if not all of us here are believers today, what does it look like for us to live in light of this truth? I have three applications for us.
First: Christian: Rest and rejoice in God’s work for you. Your standing with God, your being on good terms with him is not based on anything you’ve done. It’s not based on your church attendance or how
many quiet times you’ve had this week. It’s not based on how you’re feeling right now or how many
times you have failed today. What a happy and freeing thing!
But we easily forget this. One test for whether you’re resting in God’s finished work for you, is to see if you frequently experience pride and/or despair. Pride and despair come when we try to justify ourselves to God, ourselves, or others. There’s pride when we meet our perceived standards, and despair when we fail. Both show we’ve forgotten that the standard has already been met.
As an example, awhile back I was feeling pretty good about the quality of mom I was. Other parents
would comment on how polite my kids are, how obedient. Instead of thanking God for the kids He’s
given me and all the support I’ve had in parenting, I’d be thinking to myself “I’m a good mom. God must
be glad I’m on his team”. I was also starting to look down a little bit on what I would consider to be
“overprotective” moms who want to practically keep their kids in padded rooms. I’d be thinking, “I’m a
relaxed mom, I don’t sweat the small stuff like them”. Well, this past week, I— fell down the
stairs…twice. The second time, I had to take her to the doctor because the fall was so bad (she’s
miraculously ok). And one of my kids is all of a sudden acting out terribly and frequently. Instead of
resting in God’s love and acceptance of me despite my failures, I have been thinking to myself, “I am the
worst mom”. The truth is, I am not the best mom – I am a sinner saved only by God sacrificing His son for
me. And I’m not the worst mom – God has saved me and is working through me.
Just a caveat on that – I hope this goes without saying, but knowing God has accepted me isn’t an
excuse to do nothing. If my kids are sinfully out of control I don’t just throw up my hands and say “God
accepts me, so now I don’t have to parent them.” In fact, when I am resting in Him it motivates me to
love and parent them better because I’m not sitting around hanging my head in despair.
The second application is that we see in this passage that God’s love is an action. It is not sentiment,
warm fuzzies, at least at first – remember, we were sinners who rebelled against Him. His love is shown
in His sending His son to die to make sinners right with Him. After He makes us right with Him, then His
affection flows, caring for us as our Father. God didn’t love me because I was beautiful , His love has
made me beautiful. And we can live out the beauty of this truth towards others. We don’t have to
always like our husbands, our families, or fellow church members, to love them. We can consistently do
good to them no matter how we feel towards them because God has loved us in this active way. The
demonstration of His costly love for us in the cross and our love for him motivates us to love others.
The third application is to faithfully seek forgiveness from those you have wronged and to forgive
others. God has forgiven us so much by sending His son to die for us. Some of my husband’s earliest
memories were his Dad asking his forgiveness when he had gotten angry or sinned against him. The Lord
used this powerful example to save Dan when he was four years old. By seeking forgiveness from your
children, and forgiving them when they sin, you teach them that you are a sinner just like them, in need
of God’s grace. And you show them the sweet fellowship of a restored relationship that forgiveness
brings, just like you have with the God you know and love. And adults can appreciate it as well.
Let’s be the generation whose children call us “blessed” because, instead of assuming, we have
cherished the fact that God has made us right with Him through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Lord, we pray that your Gospel would never grow stale to us. Teach us to walk in light of this truth so that you would be honored in our lives and in the lives of many others.