Thursday, February 25, 2010

You Can Be Forgiven!


ROMANS 10:8b-14

The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? [1] And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

In the name of Jesus:

When the mail arrived at our house this past Tuesday, Luann got this letter, which states on the envelope:” You’ve been pre-forgiven, open to find out how.” My first thought was, how nice, my wife is pre forgiven, which means that she is forgiven of a wrong even before she does something wrong. I was so happy for her, that I immediately ran the envelope to her so that she could open it. And then I looked for mine. After all, if she is pre forgiven, shouldn’t I be? After all, I am a minister, I am in the forgiving business, so if Luann would be pre forgiven, I would be as well. But I looked and looked, but couldn’t find an envelope with my name on it. Perhaps it was an oversight. So I looked at the mail the next day, no pre forgiveness for me. And none on Thursday as well. Here it is Sunday and I have not received a pre forgiveness notification!

Luann is such a gracious person, she allowed me to open her mail so that I could find more out about this pre forgiveness. Upon further inspection, the pre forgiveness comes with buying the insurance of the company that sent the letter. A phone number is listed so that Luann (not me) could call for a quote. So the bottom line is that you have to buy pre forgiveness. You have to do something to get it. It isn’t free, and no one is just going to give it to you.

The question which has plagued humanity is: “How can I get right with God?” It is a question asked by those who are in the prime of life and those who are facing death. People talk about getting right with their Maker when one lays on the death bed. All throughout life people are attempting to become justified before God.

It goes back to the Garden of Eden. There Adam and Eve tried to justify their actions before God. It wasn’t my fault, said both of them, it was someone else’s fault that caused me to disobey You, God. It was the serpent You made, Lord, it was the woman You gave me, God, that caused me to do what was evil in Your sight. What Adam and Eve said was essentially “I am blameless, justified in my actions, so go find fault with someone else.”

Mankind seeks justification for one’s own thoughts, words, and deeds. God speaks in Leviticus and states: “Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live.” And so, mankind in its wisdom seeks to keep God’s laws and even tries to fool itself into believing that it has keep God’s Law when it hasn’t. The Bible is consistent and teaches that one may get eternal life if he or she can keep the Law. This is the way of becoming right with God, by one’s own behavior. This is what Paul calls in our text the righteousness of the Law, a righteousness that comes from one’s own efforts and endeavors. This is the becoming right with God that Jesus speaks about in Luke 10:28, when He speaks to the rich young man and says: “You have answered correctly, do this and you will live.”

But this won’t work. It can’t and won’t work. Why? Because it is the wrong righteousness. Paul says that he wants the Jews to be saved, that is his desire. But they have the wrong righteousness because their relationship with God is based on what they do or can do. The Bible says that there is a way which seems right to man and that way ends in death. To seek our own relationship with God on our own terms ends in our own death, and ultimately, eternal separation from God which is eternal death and damnation. To seek God on our own terms, our own efforts or self justifications denies the justification that God gives in Jesus, for God’s righteousness only comes in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has brought an end to the delusion that the righteousness of the Law can save man.

Why has Jesus ended the delusion? Because God gives to all access to Him in Jesus. This right standing with God comes not from man, but from heaven. God the Father brought this all about by sending His Son from heaven, to live rightly before God and man, and to die rightly in God’s sight on the cross. To prove that God has made all things right in Jesus, God raised His Son Jesus from the dead on Easter morn.

Jesus gives you this right relationship with the Father in His Word. God doesn’t say in His Word: Do this and live with Me, because that is impossible, it can’t be done. So what God says in His Word is that all is done. Jesus spoke from the cross: It is finished. Nothing else needs to be done for everything has been accomplished. Man can not nor does he need to discover it, man can not nor does he need to devise it, it has been done. Jesus, God’s only Son has done it and He alone gives it in His Word. This divine work is proclaimed to you in and through the Word of God. It is proclaimed in the Word and given in the Word.

In Baptism God has given this to you. In His Word He tells it to you. In the Supper He shares it with you. You are God’s child. You are forgiven. You have been made right with God in Christ. You have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, and this is not of your own doing. This is a divine work, a Godly gift to you all on account of Jesus.

By faith you receive this gift. Faith takes God at His Word. Faith receives the gift the God gives. Faith trusts that Word of God saying: Yes, this is mine, because God has made it so and because God says so. God says that in Christ you are cleared of your guilt. It is so. God says that in Christ you are forgiven, it is so. God says that in Christ you are saved, it is so. God says that you are His child and will live with Him now and forever, it is so because God says it and makes it a reality in Jesus.

This faith is a living an active faith. It proves itself as sincere as you confess with your mouth your faith in Jesus. It shows itself in its life as you seek to live your life to God’s glory because of what God gives in Jesus. NO ONE WHO IS A DISICPLE OF JESUS IS A SILENT DISCIPLE. NO ONE WHO HAS THE LORD JESUS HAS HIS LORD REMAINS A SILENT SERVANT OF HIS LORD, BUT SERVES HIS MASTER IN WHAT HE SAYS AND WHAT HE DOES. God has forgiven us in Christ, and this fact permeates all that we say and do.

In a Danish village there was a Lutheran Church where each Sunday the people would walk into the church by way of the center aisle. At the front of the church, there was a break between the pews and a blank white wall. Every Sunday, the people of that church would walk down the center aisle to the front of the church and genuflect at the blank wall. A man visiting the church did not understand what the people were doing; when he asked them they said that they had always done this. Upon further investigation, he learned that hundreds of years before there had been a painting of the Virgin Mary on that wall. At the time of the Protestant Reformation when the church became Lutheran they had painted over the display of the Virgin Mary. Since the people had always bowed before the Virgin Mary, they just kept on bowing even though there was nothing there. There are many people in church who simply go through the routine Sunday after Sunday. They know all the prayers by heart and could go through the entire service without ever opening the hymnal. For some that is all it has ever been. They do it because they have always done it that way before. But God wants to move beyond the routine. He wants the gospel to become so real that we confess with our own lips that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. God wants his love to be routine no longer but to be very real in our lives.


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