Roger's Postings

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Romans 4:13-25.                                                                                 4/3/12

            Made right with God not by works, but through faith alone

 13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

 This morning we are confronted in our readings with one of the most important issues facing the church today – as it has been throughout history. Here, more than in any other area of the Christian life, we have many heading down the wrong track without even being aware of it. At the same time it is a danger that we can all run into; and so we all need to be wary.

 To help us grasp the significance and importance of this message I would like to relate a story that might help us in this regard.
Bill Jones had lived all his life in Adelaide. He was one of those all round good guys - one of the best. He worked hard and made a success of his business, despite a difficult beginning and hardships along the way. He was actively involved in his community and church: a good family man; and had a go at various sporting activities. So in almost every way he could hardly be faulted, particularly when compared to many others about. However, he still had his faults and failings.

 Now when Bill started to get up in years it was asked whether he would get to be with God in heaven. Everyone around said that of course he would because he was one of the best. If anyone deserved to get there, he did. In fact they were all envious of him. But Bill was not so sure. Yes, he had worked hard and tried to do the best he possibly could; particularly in trying to be the kind person that he thought God would want him to be. He had tried desperately to live the way that he knew God would expect; and yes he was doing pretty good; better than most anyway. So if anyone should get there, he would.

 But he was not so sure. What if? What if there was something he'd overlooked? What if he had slipped up somewhere along way and hadn’t considered it? What if he died at the wrong moment? But no; surely God would accept him; he had tried his best: he had done all he could possibly do. So he would just keep on working at it. Keep on trying to do the best he could; and surely it would all come right in the end.

 Now Bill died shortly after and the time came for him to face his Maker. Out comes the Book of Life with the list of all his sins; and he fell over backwards. All the trust that he had placed in his own goodness and work was gone: even his religious activity counted for nothing. His goodness did not measure up to God's expectations. So Bill was left with nothing but to face the wrath of God.

Now if you were die at this moment, would you be entering eternity with God? Are you sure about getting to heaven? Why?
Scripture tells us, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Throughout the Bible God has promised us that as result of Jesus' death on the cross eternal life is ours for the receiving. That call to join God in eternity goes out to all, no matter who they are or what they have done. Jesus died for everyone here in Adelaide. Everyone has the opportunity of certainty in heaven. All he simply says to us is, trust in the Lord Jesus and what he has done on the cross and it is all there for us.

But unfortunately, that is not the way many want it. They can't, or don't want to, take God at his word and don't believe. They have conditioned themselves and one another that it must still depend on our goodness; even if only in a small way. They think that as long as they live up to a certain standard; as long as they have responded appropriately; as long as they now live as a Christian should; as long as do the right things, then they will be OK.

 So what do we find in this thinking: I, me and myself comes to the fore. The focus has shifted from Christ and what he has done, to me and what I must do. And this thinking is disastrous. Because I will fail to be perfect: I will fail take God at his word: I will not trust him above all things: therefore I am in trouble if I look to me and myself.

 At this point, let us stop and think back to Abraham for a minute. Here is this homeless guy and his wife who are both getting well on in years. They are on their own in a far country, without any support and roots; and in that situation, at that time, a person like that was considered a nobody and a nothing. To add to that fact, they did not have any children: no sons to carry on the family name; and that would have been considered a sign that God was dissatisfied him. So as a result we would have to say that he didn't have a future. For him there would have been nothing to live for or look forward to.

But God says to him to get up and go to this land far away that God would show him, and God would make of him a great nation and all people would be blessed because of him. And we are told that Abraham believed him: he believed him, despite what looked a total impossibility, for he and his wife were on their own, and they were too old to have children. How could he even become a small nation? There was no way that humanly they could do it. It was impossible. He had nothing going for him; and yet he believed God when he said otherwise.

Abraham believed God and there God was happy to declare him a righteous man. He left himself in the hands of God, allowing him to control his life. So he went were God led and did what God commanded, leaving himself open for God to do as he pleases; and the result was that he was credited as living in the right with God. Not that he was so good or always did what he should have, but he was credited as such because he believed his Lord. And we know that in the end he and us were richly blessed as a result.

Now God says to us here today; because of Jesus death on the cross our transgressions are forgiven; our sins are covered over; eternal life is there for each and every one of us,        without us in any way having to earn it: without us having to struggle in order to be accepted. All he says is that we are to simply trust him. Trust him and allow his words to fill us, and to allow his Spirit to lead us and guide us. His call is for us to allow his love to flow through us to others around us: To have faith in him for he is a 'God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

 There we have THE great message for us to give us hope as we go forward as God’s people: To give us a right perspective with which to look at life; and with which to go forward with. It is the message that sets us apart from every other ideology and religion; and from many other denominations. Because we don't have to go out and seek to find and keep God happy in order to be blessed and attain heaven. It is God’s  free gift to us all, because of Jesus death on the cross. All we are called to do is to believe it: To have faith.

So now we can live like Bill not in order to be acceptable; but because we have that certainty of salvation and eternal life that God promises us; and because we are so very grateful for his acceptance of us for Jesus sake. We can be very confident, not in our ability, but in God's ability and promises as we face life every day; and particularly as we look toward heaven.

So let us hold unswervingly to this Good News: to this great and glorious message that has been given to us. Let us allow that to inspire us to live and be the people that God wants us to be. And let us commit ourselves again to work hard as people who have been saved and who want others to know this simple but vitally important message. Let us turn again to our great God and saviour, trusting him and him alone; and giving him all praise, glory and honour, now and always.   AMEN

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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