Thursday, June 24, 2010

But Wait....There's More

I had to prepare a sermon to give for a class I took in May. It was based on Romans 5:1-11 NRSV

I am a sinner. I have no problem admitting this, because it’s just who I am. I know where I’ve been, I know what I’ve done and I know that I don’t deserve any of the blessings that God has put into my life.

About 8 years ago I decided that I was going to help out with the VBS at the Church I had recently started attending with my family. I figured that was something that a “good mom” who wanted to raise her children in the Church in the summer did. Let me tell you, I was so lost and confused! I had NO CLUE what was going on. I had no clue what I was doing. I was relieved to have been given the preschool aged children and even more thrilled that there were only a couple of them. It would be easier to fake my way through the lesson that way, I thought. On the evening of closing we were getting ready to walk down the aisle of the sanctuary with the kids and we were all given little flash lights and told to sing “This Little Light of Mine”. Again I was lost. I did no know this song. It wasn’t one that we had sung during our week at VBS WHY were we singing it now?? So, again, I faked it….I figured I’d just move my lips and hope no one noticed that I didn’t know the words.

Over the course of the next four years, God continued to nudge me into opportunities to grow in my faith and each time I was able to have a little more confidence in what I was doing and I began to fake it less and less.

Then God brought me the fork in the road of my life. I needed to decide if I was I going to continue to be the driver or hand the wheel over to My Creator.
We’ve each been at that fork in the road where we’ve had to decide which direction we were going to travel. For some of us it was an easy decision, others it was a little harder. Some of us may have gone in circles only to come to the fork again and again until the decision was made. But when we make that choice to choose life over death, the blessings from that begin immediately.

The life-saving moment of choosing the path in which we become justified, or made right with God is just the beginning. If I were trying to sell a relationship with God when I got to the selling point of justification, I’d say, “But wait….there’s more!!” There is so much more. This scripture from Romans tells us of all the good things that are to come after you have been made right with God.

It took me 29 years to get to that point and I kind of feel like I really missed out on some good things that I really could have used earlier in life and that I’m playing catch up. But I rejoice in the fact that I am where I am.
Being made right with God not only brings us the gift of salvation but we also find ourselves at peace with God, we find ourselves standing in His Grace and we are filled with the hope that God will not disappoint. All of these fruits are what make life now a little bit sweeter.

The scripture says, “Since we are justified by faith we have peace with God” Peace WITH God….We are no longer pushing God aside, we are no longer ignoring God ; the battle to save us is finished and God has won because God has won us. We no longer live in fear of death and judgment because at the very moment we were made right with God we were completely forgiven. That fear has been replaced with an intimate loving relationship with God that we are to nurture. Being in relationship with God helps us to know God; when we know God we can’t help but love God. When we are at peace with God, we will be at peace with ourselves when we are at peace with ourselves it is easier to be at peace with others.

Paul does not say that at the very moment we accept Christ as our Savior that we are made sinless. We are still only human and we will still continue to struggle with sin. But, since we are at peace with God we now can grow His grace.
“We have obtained access to this grace in which we stand” The grace that we are privileged to stand in is more abundant than we could ever imagine. One of the lyrics in the song “How He Loves” which is performed by the David Crowder Band helps to give a visual of just how vast God’s grace really is ….it says, “If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking”

Since being justified by faith, we have an unending supply of God’s grace, available to us at all times. We don’t have to prove that we are worthy of God’s love….He just loves us. We don’t have to earn his grace by doing good works…..His grace is freely given. We don’t have to worry about a tally sheet with our name on it of all our faults and failures….the slate has been wiped clean.

When we have access to God’s abundant grace, it is so much easier to extend that grace to people around us. Don’t be quick to judge, because God isn’t going to be quick to judge you. Forgive people, because God has already forgiven you. Smile at a stranger, hold the door open for the person behind you, don’t make assumptions about your family, friends or even strangers that could tailspin into an out of control, unnecessarily sense of anger in you. Offer grace instead, even if you don’t think those around you deserve it. God has given this to us and we don’t deserve it either.

When we are able to not worry about ourselves and not worry about others because grace is at work it leaves so much more time in our lives to put towards nurturing and growing in our personal relationship with Jesus.

Even though we have peace with God and are standing in God’s abundant grace, life still goes on. We don’t have peace with the world. We don’t have peace with flesh and we don’t have peace with sin. Our justification has not made us immune to the trials, pain and suffering that may surround us. Having access to God’s abundant grace and being at peace with God does give us hope. This hope gives us the comfort in God’s sustaining presence during the moments in life where the road becomes bumpy or broken.

Suffering can promote a chain reaction of spiritual growth in our lives if we endure it the right way. God doesn’t want us to suffer, but when we do, not only will He walk with us, but He’s going to use it as an opportunity to teach us about patient. Patient will lead to a stronger character and bring us hope. When we live with a strong sense of God’s hope on a daily basis, that can be our testimony to others of how important it is to be in relationship with God during the times in our life when the road is smooth. Rejoicing in our suffering will show those around us that God’s hope will not disappoint

The peace, grace and hope that are given to us once we are justified with God do not come to us without a price. We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Since God’s love for each of us is so much bigger then any sin, at the most perfect time, “God proved His love for us in that while we still were sinners, Christ died for us”
In the Old Testament, the word atonement meant “covering.” People would bring animals to the temple to be sacrificed and the blood was used to cover their sins. Jesus then made the final sacrifice for us. His atonement, His blood was used to cover all of our sins. Animals were no longer needed because Jesus covered everything for everyone.

Have you looked closely at the way atonement is spelled….A-T-O-N-E-M-E-N-T…..At One-Ment…..Christ’s death made it possible for us to be One with Him and for us to be reconciled to God.

These gifts that have been given to us through justification need to be used in our everyday lives. These gifts need to be shared with the world. We need to be at peace with others, we need to offer grace to others and we need to tell them of the hope that God brings to our lives. No one is going to want a relationship with Jesus if they can’t see a change in us. God has given us these tools to be used as part of our witnessing through our everyday actions and interactions with others. They are gifts that we should be using to show others the love that Jesus has for them too.

I am a sinner. I have no problem admitting this, because it’s just who I am. I know where I’ve been, I know what I’ve done and I know that I don’t deserve any of the blessings that God has put into my life.

But I do know that God has made me so much more than that.

I am a sinner who has been justified by faith, at peace with God, standing in God’s abundant grace filled with a hope that God will not disappoint. And so are you!!! So rejoice in the fruits of justification and give thanks for the peace, grace and hope that has been given to you freely and use them to bring glory to your Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

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