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Sermon blog: Good news!!

October 10, 2015

  Romans 3:21-24

The gospel is good news.

That is what gospel means.

4 books in our Bible tell the story of the life death and resurrection – of Jesus Christ. We call them the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The story of Jesus’ is good news for humankind.

Mark starts his gospel:

“The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God,”.

Still in the opening chapter he records:

“14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’”

For many people today, the Christian message doesn’t seem like good news. The gospel of Jesus doesn’t seem to say anything to them. How can it possibly make a difference?

And Christians don’t seem to be particularly happy people. For many people “church is boring”, and having a good life is all about the things that I can experience or the things that I can possess, things which Christians probably don’t have any time for.

And sometimes as Christians we are guilty. We don’t always give the right impression. The Bible talks about Christians as being full of joy. But the impression people often get is quite the opposite.

There’s another thing we do. We share only half the truth. We tell people the problem but don’t give them the answer!

And the thing that upsets me, is we will take one verse from the Bible and then only tell people half of it.

It’s the sort of thing that we might have seen someone carrying on a banner in our city streets years ago.

How about this?

“For the wages of sin is death.” – Romans 6:23

Now that does not sound like good news! That is really bad news. The worst.

But it’s not the whole story. And in this case it is not even the whole verse!

For that verse continues on with a “but”. “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Sometimes we need to hear the bad news in order to enable us to grasp the good news. We need the doctor to tell us what is wrong with us before we can appreciate the need for a cure, and the importance of undergoing treatment.

The Bible is clear that living life my way is a recipe for disaster. Sin leads to death, but there is good news.

There is one sentence in our reading this evening, spread over 2 verses, which can be similarly abused.

Again you can see it on the banner:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:24. That is not good news, but again the sentence goes on into verse 24, and turns the message on its head:

“and are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Take that sentence in one take over the 2 verses and it reads very differently.

So let’s spends some time looking at these and the surrounding verses in Romans to see what this good news is, and how it has come to be true.

In the first chapter of this letter, Paul, writing to Christians in the great city of Rome, people he longed for the chance to meet, exclaims proudly:

“I am not ashamed of the gospel”. Of course why would he be? Why would he be ashamed of good news? He wants to share it.

This gospel is so much more than a story to enjoy. Paul describes it to his readers as “the power of God”. The gospel is not just pleasant, it is powerful. God is in it and working through it.

The gospel saves people. And no one is disqualified for the gospel will save “everyone who believes”.

But in between that verse and chapter 3:23, Paul has plenty to say. And generally it is bad news. He leaves his readers in little doubt where they stand.

Two of the chief strands that run through the early chapters are firstly God’s justice, shown through his law, and leading to his judgement; secondly the position of the Jews to whom Jesus came to bring the good news, and the gentiles (the non-Jews) who now also were being presented with the gospel.

The church at Rome would probably have included both Jewish Christians and gentile Christians.

Firstly Paul reminds us that God has given his law. We think of the ten commandments, but there are hundreds of laws given by God to Moses, and many more added by the religious leaders.

But Paul points out that there are those who claim to be religious, who fail to live up to God’s law. There are those who have no claim to know God, but live good lives. Ultimately keeping the law of God, or claiming to do so doesn’t work, because we know by the bitter experience of life, that none of us can live that way. We just cannot measure up.

There is much discussion to about the Jews and the gentiles. The Jews were God’s special people. He had a covenant relationship with them. They were his chosen people, his children. He had rescued them from slavery and brought them to a land full of milk and honey.

And it was to these people that Jesus came. Born as one of them. Growing up and working among them. And sharing the good news.

So Paul asks is there an advantage in being a Jew. There are clearly some advantages, in what they have seen God do for them, in the fact that they have been privileged to have Jesus the Son of God walk among them.

Paul tells us that none of us can claim to be right with God by keeping the law. It is when we look at the law we realise what is wrong with us. We see how bad we are. We are sinners.

So in the verses we read, Paul moves on to talk about a new righteousness. Righteousness is to be right with God. To have him view us as without sin.

But says Paul, the law does not have anything to do with it. Righteousness comes from God. The Old Testament law has prepared us for this. The prophets have pointed to this too.

God gives us righteousness through faith. It isn’t about living a perfect life, because none of us can. It is a matter of faith. Our trust is no longer in us, but in something else.

Most of us here know that it is actually someONE else. How do we get right with God?

Through faith in Jesus Christ.

Faith alone.

But who can qualify for this? Who can receive this gift of God through faith.

It is all who believe.

There are no exceptions.

You don’t need to be from a particular race.

You don’t have to be from a particular class.

You don’t have to have had a religious upbringing.

It doesn’t depend upon your gender.

Or your age.

Or your colour.

Or your parents.

Or your job.

Or where you live.

All who believe – all who have faith in Jesus can stand righteous before God the Father.

And this is where Paul drives home his point.

There is no difference.

Jew and gentile are in the same boat. Religious people and atheists are all in the same place.

We’ve all sinned.

We all live wrong.

None of us measure up. God is perfect. We will fall short of his glory. We cannot compare or even come close. Or even get half way there!

Whoever you are this evening. This is for you.

But it is good news for you, because we don’t have to end in our sin.

We are completely wrong but the promise of verse 24 is that we can be justified. We can actually be put in a position where we stand before God. And all that was wrong is made right. Justification.

God accepts us.

Can we earn it? No God gives freely. The greatest gift of all.

But actually whilst it is free for you and me, it is not free for God. A price has been paid.

Paul says that we have been redeemed. In other words we have been bought back. We are slaves to sin. There is no escape, but then Christ Jesus comes and pays the price.

The price is his death. That he willingly went to death on the cross. To die in my place. In your place.

God gave Jesus as a sacrifice. A death that would be died inn our place.

This sacrifice is for atonement. Literally to be atoned means that we are made AT-ONE with God. Any barrier between us and him is broken down.

And again the reminder of our part in this.

Through faith.

Through faith in Jesus.

Through faith in his blood.

Recognising that his death is for me.

His death is not a defeat.

Not a disaster.

Not a failure.

But a victory.

In which you and I can share.

Today.

By faith.

So this evening we bring you good news.

  • That you can be right with God
  • That you can be justified before God
  • That you can be at one with God

Through faith:

  • In Jesus
  • In his death on the cross
  • In the price that he paid
  • In his taking our place

So what will you do?

Will you recognise that you cannot earn your way to God?

Receive the gift that Jesus bought at great cost.

For he rose again and now lives forever.

You also can know new life.

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From → Christianity

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