08/30/2015 – Romans 3:21-26; 8:35-39 – “God’s Perfect Grace”

Mark Wheeler

Romans 3:21-26; 8:35-39

“God’s Perfect Grace”

August 30, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

Remove, O Lord, any tension or anxiety, any stress or worry, anything, which may keep us from fulfilling Your wishes of who we might become. Fill us with the grace of the Father, the strength of the Son, and the hope of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Three weeks ago Jennifer and I got to go to my old PPC Youth Group Reunion – over 30 years, for some nearly 40 years, shared life-stories, prayed with each other, laughed, cried … and we all knew we were friends for life. Separated by 3,000+ miles and more than 3 decades – and Christian brothers and sisters for eternity!

Two weeks ago Jennifer and I got to go to The Fellowship Community gathering in San Diego, on CA freeways – one wrong turn and miles of separation from our planned destination. Maybe you’ve seen the TV commercialyour driveway connects to the roads that lead to the ends of the earth”, true, but a few wrong turns and we’re lost for a good long time – separated from peace of mind and joyful car-ride.

Right out of college Caitlin moved to Thailand for 1.5 years – separated from mom and dad by thousands of dollars and thousands miles, and two days of flying.

Straight out of grad school Brianna moved to Shishmaref for at least 2 years – separated from mom & dad by thousands of dollars and thousands miles and 28 hours of flying.

Directly out of university Andrew is moving to Italy for 3 months – separated from mom & dad by thousands of dollars and thousands miles and a boatload of jealousy/envy!

Last week Adam taught us from the first part of Romans 8 – and we were faced with the guilt and shame and missed opportunities that seem to separate us from the love of God. Has anyone here ever wondered if God could possibly ever want to have anything to do with you again? After a choice made, after an act of vengeance or stupidity or selfishness ….If you’re thinking, “Not me! I’m fine. I have never done anything that really deserves the wrath of God.” Let me remind you of Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That “all” includes yours truly, and you (truly). And 3 chapters later Paul reminds us that the wages of those sins is deatheternal separation from God Almighty. But let’s look at the entire Romans 3 pericope and see what Paul is saying …. —-

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Earlier in the same chapter Paul quotes Psalm 14, 53 and Ecclesiastes 7 when he says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; … All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

All have sinned (earning the wages of death), but (verse 24) all (the same all) are also justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails.

I heard recently about a young man who used to cry himself to sleep most every night because he was afraid that he might have forgotten, or was ignorant of, some sin he may have committed that day. He was afraid that he was doomed to hell for not confessing that sin.

Are you like this young man?

I know others who carry such extreme guilt because, even though they have confessed their sin, confessed it to God and to the victim of their offense, they believe they are unforgiveable – and therefore doomed to hell.

Does this guilt describe your own conscience?

Maybe you know someone who lives under such a giant shadow of shame – they know they have sinned, they have confessed and repented of that sin, but they feel so much shame over their actions that they cannot forgive themselves and they believe their shame weighs their eternity against them. The Microsoft Word dictionary lists “disgraced” as a synonym for “shame”.

Has shame disgraced (removed grace) from your soul?

I look back on almost every day with regret for having missed almost uncountable numbers of opportunities to be more faithful to my calling as a Christian believer, as a follower of Jesus. I shoulda/coulda said/done something more deliberate to share the love of God to that person behind me in line/in that situation at the corner of Chance and Obedience. But I didn’t. And I go to sleep wondering if that missed opportunity will cost someone else their relationship with Almighty God.

Do you ever worry that your own fears might remove God’s Perfect Grace from your life?

Let me take you to another word from Paul in his letter to the First Century Church in Rome: Chapter 8:35-39 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Psalm 44:22)

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, [nothing], will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Did you see that list? Trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword. And this is not an exhaustive list. It’s just the beginning. After quoting again from the Psalms Paul adds to the list: death or life (what else is there?), angels or demons (any kind of spirit-being your mind might conjure – gremlins included), present or future (past is already behind us, so Paul concentrates on today’s and tomorrow’s worries), any kind of power at all (governmental, religious, employment, educational, utility, you-name-it), height or depth (now I think he’s just reaching for another reason someone might wonder about their salvation or about God’s Perfect Grace), nothing at all can ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In Romans 8:37 Paul says “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us”. What does that mean? Anyone?

Does it mean we will never lose a battle? Is Paul suggesting that I will never need to prepare for a debate because I am assured victory? Is Paul telling you that cancer or stroke or diabetes or arthritis or divorce or unemployment or a failing grade are all beyond the scope of possibility because we believe in Jesus?

Of course not. That’s why the incomplete lists of tragedy are already so long. Because we will face trouble and hardship, maybe persecution and famine and nakedness, possibly danger and sword (look at what is happening to followers of Jesus in Islamic State controlled regions of Syria right now). But the victory we have is in Jesus.

In 1939, at the age of 54, a very successful businessman named Eugene Monroe Bartlett wrote a Southern Gospel Song that goes like this:

I heard an old, old story
How a Savior came from glory
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me
I heard about His groaning
Of His precious blood’s atoning
Then I repented of my sins
And won the victory

O victory in Jesus
My Savior, forever
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory
Beneath the cleansing flood

When I was in seminary Jennifer and I worshiped, and I was privileged to lead, a very diverse church (diverse in every way imaginable), where a future best-selling author also worshiped (maybe some of you have read some of her books), Anne Lamott. She very wisely once wrote: “I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”

It’s a great re-do on the old bumper-sticker theology that says, “God accepts us just as we are, but loves us too much to leave us there.” That is God’s Perfect Grace.

Confidence in faith, assurance of what we hope for and of what we do not yet see, grows only as we put it into practice – step out, trust God with something new today – your finances, your marriage, your Christian vocation, your afternoon planstrust Him and see what He does. He sought you and bought you with His redeeming blood; He loved you before you ever knew Him, and all your love is due Him; friends, He plunged you to victory beneath the cleansing flood.

And, just like thousands of dollars and days of plane-travel do not really separate children from their parents, that’s even more true of our relationship with God through Jesus Christ – if we have received His gift of salvation through His death and resurrection, we cannot ever be truly separated from our heavenly Father, ever!

If you know this song, let’s close by singing “Victory in Jesus” together:

I heard an old, old story
How a Savior came from glory
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me
I heard about His groaning
Of His precious blood’s atoning
Then I repented of my sins
And won the victory

O victory in Jesus
My Savior, forever
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood
He loved me ere I knew Him
And all my love is due Him
He plunged me to victory
Beneath the cleansing flood

“Dear God, by Your transforming grace, help Your church point beyond itself through word and work to the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord. Fill this room again, with Holy Spirit power take hold of each person that is open to Your spiritual gifts and anoint us in ways everyone will know is from You. Fill this place, ignite our faith, fan the flame, and burn brightly through Your people into our neighborhoods, by Your Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Resources:

Lamott, Anne; Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith; Anchor Books; NY, NY; 1999.

Lucado, Max; Grace: More than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine; Thomas Nelson; Nashville, TN; 2012; Pp. 205-208.

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