170618 Romans 3:21-28

Last Updated on Sunday, 18 June 2017 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Guest Speaker: Pastor Larry Schlomer

Romans 3:21-28
The Right Kind of Righteous

Summer is here. School is out. Thunderstorms are booming. Temperatures are climbing. Vacation days are being planned. This week we officially move from Spring to summer and I trust your plans are coming together to spend some good time being refreshed and renewed. I hope it is not too late, but I would like to make sure you add a very important trip to those plans. This is big. Pastors Pagels and Schmidt have offered to be your tour guides and have been busy making all the arrangements to help you spend a Summer in Rome. One of the many perks of this trip is that you won't have to spend 12 hours on a plane, worry about passports or figure out how you could afford to come along. It is going to happen right here. Our summer sermon series is going to dive into a study of Paul's letter to the Romans. Whatever your plans are for relaxing and vacationing this summer, these Sunday mornings can't be missed. Everyone is invited to spend a Summer in Rome.

There is also a very timely reason to spend this summer traveling through this book. This year in October we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. And this letter to the Romans was an essential part of what Luther rediscovered about the truth of God. And I know that an invitation from our pastors to spend this summer in Rome is more than enough, but even so, listen to what the Reformer himself gives as advice about this book:

"This epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament, and is truly the purest gospel. It is worthy that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. We can never read it or ponder over it too much; for the more we deal with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes."

At one time Luther found himself locked in a struggle that has been a struggle for human beings since the fall into sin. It is the struggle that, like it or not, every person on this earth has to face. It is the struggle to be right. We have lived this struggle to be right from little on. A three year old is convinced that she is right, not Dad, so the toddler insists with all her might, "If you let me stay up another hour I won't be too tired." The student's answers on the last math quiz stand out in black or red, Right or wrong. The teenager just knows he is right and that Mom is wrong when she expresses concern over the movie he wants to watch. The husband learns very early in marriage that the right color of towels for the kitchen is whatever color Katie wants. But though any one of these struggles to be right can be intense they all pale when compared to the struggle to be right before God. That is what troubled Luther. The rightness or righteousness of God jumped out of him in the pages of the Bible. God demanded perfection in every way to achieve his level of righteousness and Luther knew he did not have it. Luther also understood what it meant to come up short in this struggle to be right. Without this righteousness that God demands he was condemned to hell. Luther worked and worked. He became a monk. He fasted. He prayed. He beat his own body bloody, but deep down his conscience screamed out it was not enough. He was not perfect. Luther admitted that he grew to hate the word "righteousness of God" and though it sacred him to realize it was true, he even was growing to hate this righteous God who hated sinners. But God would help this diligent Bible student. By the power of the Holy Spirit through the words of Romans, Luther would finally understand. And this is where we begin our summer in Rome. We stand next to Luther in awe of the pattern-shattering words of our text. The righteousness God demands throughout the Scriptures is impossible to achieve by our own thinking, choosing or working. But it still is ours. It is given as a gift. Listen closely to what God himself inspires the apostle to tell us about this righteousness of God and how we are made sure it is ours.

Romans 3:21-28: 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. 27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

All over the world there are examples of people trying to appease consciences and convince themselves that they are right, righteous, before God. A simple temple in Nepal isn't enough, the 50 foot pinnacle needs to be coated in Gold. Burning 10 sticks of incense as you face the four directions on the compass at a Buddhist temple in Beijing is going to make you more right with the divine than burning just one. Walking up a Colombian church altar's steps on your knees must gain more of the Virgin and God's favor than just using your feet. Giving $1000 to the American Red Cross to help disaster victims has to be much more right than just giving $10. All of these ways have seemed right to human beings, but they are not close to the righteousness that God demands. In fact they all fall short of the glory of God. In God's eyes none of these are right enough.

And that gets us to the heart of the mater. There is only one path to rightness with God, because there really is only one kind of righteousness. God's righteousness. There are no short cuts. Humans don't get to set the standard. When God talks about being right he means it. Sin-stained attempts by humans can never be good enough. God's righteousness means being perfectly right all the time – in everything you ever think or do.

Take a look at the example our text points to. Do you want to see what being right looks like? God demonstrated what it meant to be right. He brought his Son, Jesus into this world. That is the kind of righteous that God is talking about. A human who never doubted, never lied, never let ugly pride get in the way of true love. The God-man who was so willing to love that he gave up his life for those who hated him. And that is the amazing truth that explains the only way to truly being right with God. God didn't send Jesus just to rub our faces in an example of just how far we have fallen short. In truth, he sent Jesus to make sure that none of us would fall short. Here is the eternity-changing, peace-giving, iron clad treasure: Though all fall short of the rightness God demands, because of who Jesus is, how perfect he is, and the price he paid for every time we fall short, God has made a declaration about this world. In the measure of right and wrong, God declared us right. He has declared us who did not deserve to be right to be clean – washed in the atoning flood of Jesus' blood. That is the right kind of righteousness. It is the only kind that satisfies God and he gives it to us freely.

But that doesn't stop the Devil from trying to convince you otherwise. We are wired to believe that nothing this good, this eternal-life-changing could possibly be ours unless we have done enough to earn it. And that is where the Devil stands ready to whisper in our ear. He echoes words that your conscience already has told you. You're not good enough. God knows what you think. God sees your pride and self-centered world view. God sees your hate and anger. God knows that even your best planned tries at being good fail miserably before too long. As it always is with the Devil's best attacks, this one is based in truth. The Devil is all too happy to point out that if your relationship with God depended on how good you have been or how good you will be you are doomed to hell. But to this truth the Devil adds his lie. He whispers, prods and pushes you to try harder. He appeals to your pride and tries to make you trust in what you are able to do. But that is not the right kind of righteousness. That will never be good enough.

Let's let the truth of this text ring out in these rafters and every other building where the people of God gather. Let's let the words of God stand, unfiltered by human wisdom and untarnished by the Devil's lies. God's verdict cannot be broken. God's declaration stands. When God says you are justified in Jesus he means it. His word, his promise, his will trumps everything else. You are as right as God's own Son. And here is all the proof you need. God said so. And by the power of the Spirit of God himself you have what you need to make sure this is your own. God has given you the very faith you need to make sure this is your own. Believe it.

So we don't boast about what we have done for God or others. There is nothing we have done to earn or deserve what God has done in us. It is completely apart from any working or attempt that we have accomplished. It is a free gift, won by Jesus, earned by his life and death, confirmed by his resurrection and given to this world. Given to you. We recognize that without this gift we are nothing, but with this gift we have everything.

It probably won't surprise you to hear that for me every text is a mission text. This truth that we have reviewed today is a truth that everyone needs to know. As you meditate again this week about how right God has made you in his eyes, take the time to consider what life could be like without this truth. The constant chants in pagan temples, the suicide bombers and truck drivers, the prayers to ancestors and animals, even the attempt to deny that there even is a God who cares, are all symptoms of the same problem. Humans know they need to be right. And grasping at straws they will cling to anything and never realize they aren't even close. You know what they need to hear. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. It is true that there is no point in boasting about what we have done, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't boast about what God has done for all. Let that be our mission until God brings us home.

Yes, we like to be right. Yet we are nothing more – or less – than God makes us. We need to stay connected to God and his promises or we quickly forget. I hope you set time aside this summer for a trip to Rome as we review and ponder this letter to the Romans. What a great time to be reminded of the truth of the Reformation. It will be a great time to be reminded of the right kind of Righteousness – the only kind, God's rightness, given to the world in Christ. Given to you. May our time in Romans solidify our sure hope of eternal life with God. May it keep us looking forward to the day we see God face to face. In the meantime may it spur us on to tell everyone what God has done. A summer in Rome and an eternity in heaven. We are ready to go. Amen.

 

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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Oconomowoc, WI 53066
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