“Got Faith?” – Sermon for 07/02/2017

In the series “Grace Is for Everyone”

Romans 1:16-17; 3:21-31closeRomans 1:16-17 The Righteous Shall Live by Faith 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 3:21-31 The Righteousness of God Through Faith 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his spanine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (ESV) closeRomans 1:16-17closeRomans 1:16-17 The Righteous Shall Live by Faith 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (ESV) The Righteous Shall Live by Faith 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 3:21-31closeRomans 3:21-31 The Righteousness of God Through Faith 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his spanine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (ESV) The Righteousness of God Through Faith 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his spanine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. (ESV)

 

Writing to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776 after the Continental Congress had voted on July 2 to declare independence from England, John Adams shared his dreams and worries about this important step the colonies were about to take and about the future that would unfold.  John Adams concluded his letter with the words, “I must submit all my Hopes and Fears, to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable [as] the Faith may be, I firmly believe.”[i]

Today we begin a series based on the New Testament letter called Romans, which is regarded as the Apostle Paul’s masterwork.  The series theme is “Grace is for Everyone.”  Paul is determined to go to Rome, where Caesar is lord and announce the good news that Jesus Christ is Lord.  So near the beginning of his letter, Paul confidently declared, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17closeRomans 1:16-17 The Righteous Shall Live by Faith 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (ESV) closeRomans 1:16-17closeRomans 1:16-17 The Righteous Shall Live by Faith 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (ESV) The Righteous Shall Live by Faith 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (ESV) )   In city after city when Paul has ministered, he has discovered that announcing good news that there is one God who claims the world through the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ is powerful and effective for changing lives and transforming the world, because the power belongs to God.

Paul went on to discuss the human condition, which he sums up in 3:23 this way:  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  This is the state in which every human being is apart of Christ.  All of us – whether we have never known Jesus Christ, we came to him later in life, or we were born and raised in the Church – without Christ are in the same boat.  We are all sinners before God.  Our sin has ruptured the relationship between God and us.  We cannot reach God on our own. There is nothing we can do to repair the relationship from our side and reach God.  There is no way to get there; there are not enough good things to accomplish to earn God’s approval. We don’t have any qualifications to prove to God that we deserve to be in relationship with God.  We have all compiled a long record as sinners and proved that we are incapable of living the abundant, blessed lives that God intends for us to live.

That probably doesn’t sound like good news, does it?  Yet that reality is key for us to accept so that we can receive the gospel as the good news it is.  Romans 3:23closeRomans 3:23 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (ESV) closeRomans 3:23closeRomans 3:23 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (ESV) 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (ESV) is not the end of Paul’s message, but a beginning. He continued on with the good news:  “They [meaning the all who have sinned] are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.”

Since we couldn’t repair the relationship with God ourselves, God took the initiative and did it for us.  It was God’s grace through Jesus Christ. This is God’s gift to us– not one with strings attached, but a free gift of being set right with God that God offers to everyone.  God redeems us and claims us.

Back when I was growing up in the 70s and early 80s, before plastic containers were widely used, we would buy pop in glass bottles. At the time, there was no curbside recycling service, nor were there any recycling centers to take items to.  Instead stores would simply buy them back or return a cash deposit on each bottle.  In other words, we “redeemed” them.

Redemption refers to a transfer of ownership, and in Paul’s day, slavery was a common practice.  People could be bought and sold, but some slaves were able to buy their own freedom, to “redeem” themselves.  In Paul’s mind, sin is a power that enslaves human beings; it owns us and calls the shots in our lives.  In response to this reality, God delivers people from sin and claims us as God’s own people.  We are redeemed from the oppression of sin to the freedom of life with God.

God has done all this for us as a gift.  It is offered to all people, regardless of our background, our history, our mistakes, our failures or our shame.  Jesus saw our need and he loved each of us and all of us so much that he gave up his life so that our relationship with God might be restored and our lives renewed, both now and forever.

So God in Christ invites us into a new relationship, based solely on grace and made active as we respond in faith.  Faith is our acceptance of God’s gift of new relationship.  It is more than simply agreeing with and understanding a set of ideas and principles.  Faith means placing our trust in God through Jesus Christ and living our lives in ways that experience more fully the grace, love and peace God intends for us, in every circumstance of life.

Faith is to be our way of life, as Paul wrote, “The one who is righteous shall live by faith.”  It has been noted that if you want to find out what a person really believes, don’t ask them – watch how they live.  In that sense, today’s message reminds those who already received God’s gift of grace and believed to examine how they are living.  If someone is curious about if you’ve “got faith,” can they tell by the way you live?  In other words, does your life match your words?  If not, then seek God’s help in reordering your life to testify with gratitude to the grace, love and mercy of God.

Perhaps today you’ve recognized something about your status before God and you’ve heard about the grace that is available to you thanks to Jesus Christ.  For you, the question “Got Faith?” is an invitation to receive God’s gift to you and put your trust in Jesus for the first time or again.

Let’s pray.  Thank you, God, for our worship today. What a blessed day it is. There’s no better place to be than in your presence. We acknowledge our status before you as fallen, sinful people who have trusted more often in ourselves than in you. Lord Jesus, thank you that you saw our need and responded in love by giving yourself up for us.  God, show us how to respond to your grace that is available to everyone, even me. Help us place our lives into your hands and to let our faith in you shine in our lives. We rejoice with you for anyone who is turning to you, and we pray that you might use us as witnesses to the power of the gospel in our lives.  Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

[i] “Your favour of June 17 …”, https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=8&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjXxPbPq-bUAhXrx4MKHbZ4BaMQFghPMAc&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.sas.upenn.edu%2F~cavitch%2Fpdf-library%2FAdams%2520letter%2520to%2520Abigail.pdf&usg=AFQjCNET36QfKojxMlXvx2tNgMGasATCIw. Accessed 2017/06/30.

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