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Jun 18, 2017

Passage: Romans 5:6-10

Preacher: Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa

Category: Sunday, Pentecost


Text: “6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will scarcely die for a righteous person though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – 8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. People can have fun with philosophical questions: “What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?” Interesting, but the paradox means that the existence of one cancels the existence of the other. If an irresistible force is that, then there can be no immovable object and vice versa. Indeed, some questions are just silly, “What does triangle taste like?” “How fast is a brick wall?” “How much does blue weigh?” Here is another question in that category: “Why did God create sin?” But sin is not a created thing, so the question itself doesn’t make sense, etc. So just because a person may ask a question, doesn’t mean that it’s a good question and it may very well be that it can’t be a real question (or at least one that is intelligibly answerable).

Such questions make false assumptions and have faulty presuppositions. But there is another question that comes up in the hearts and minds of people – even Christians – all the time and it’s a question that inherently makes a faulty assumption: “How can God forgive me, love me, and save me when I am so bad, so sinful, so ungodly, and so weak? When I fail God so many times; when I am in constant turmoil; when I disobey Him and let Him down so often?” There is – at least frequently, if not always – a major false assumption built into this question that assumes that there must be something in ME that qualifies me for God’s forgiveness! If not based on what I do, then maybe a right disposition, a proper sincerity, a regular prayer life, an opening of my heart, speaking the right confession, faithful church attendance, sacrificial giving, a trek to the Holy Land, a better conscience, forgiving an enemy…something! And whatever it is – whether it’s something we suspect we do or think or need to be -- then God might be moved to forgive me and to love me.

But we know, we just know deep, down inside that this is a bad question, so we are left in a way with a dilemma:

  1. On the one hand, God is – supposedly – forgiving.
  2. But I – on the other hand – can do nothing to make myself worthy of forgiveness.
  3. So how can I EVER be forgiven?

Or here is another way to put it:

  1. God is forgiving.
  2. But I am unforgivable.
  3. Therefore God cannot forgive ME!

Yes, we know the truth: our question is a bad question. Or maybe it’s a legit question and the answer is a dreaded one: God can’t forgive me! It’s impossible! I’m too terrible! I’m too far gone! I’m too horrible! I am – bottom line – unlovable! Besides, even though I can seemingly even care about this question – more-often than not -- I don’t really! So maybe, we just already know the answer! We’re damned!

And yet if someone believes this, they prove – ironically and almost insanely – that they DO care, but because they do they are either overcome by despair or anger or all the above.

Thank God, however, that this whole question: “How can God forgive me (with the built-in assumption that I need to attract Him)?” is a very bad question. It’s one of those questions. Bad question, false question, wrong assumption!

But we think it’s reasonable. Why? Because we have standards about how we think people should be treated. We try to practice helping people. We know it’s a good thing. But even at that, we have-to be moved to do it. We don’t want to necessarily admit it (no, wait a minute, we DO want to admit it!): we want what we give to and help to be for a good cause! A worthy cause. If we are going to commit our resources, then we need to be good stewards. We have standards! Does this organization deserve our support? More specifically, is this PERSON worthy of our help?

And truth be told, if we think someone is righteous and if we believe someone is good, then – and pretty much only then – are we going to feel better about helping that person. Again, we want to make sure that they seem to be a “worthy cause.” But even at that, it’s still one thing to consider giving clothing or food, or money to someone (and therefore be interested as to whom we are giving it to); but it is entirely another matter to consider giving our life for another.

Who would you do that for by the way? There might be some husbands here this morning answering my question in their minds, “I would do it for my wife.” There may be some women here this morning who would say, “I would do it for my child.” We know it’s been done on the battle field. Some rare soldiers have done it. So it is possible that someone might even dare to give their life for a righteous and good person. Maybe. On a really-good day when the flesh would not detract us from saving our own necks. How often do we hear of violent crimes taking place when there are crowds of people witnessing them, but at the same time, doing absolutely nothing to help the victim? Most people are cowardly or quite simply too inclined to hold to their survival instinct. Sacrifice ourselves for another? Not very likely.

All of this relates to finding good friends. Those of us who have lived long enough have learned. There are friends and then there are fair-weathered “friends.” Lots and lots of people can be really-nice to you; be complimentary, seemingly generous, etc., but when life hits and things get tough and you really, really need help (you know the kind of help that will represent a burden to anyone who chooses to be there for you), those people are very, very few and far-between. Those people are RARE because they are willing to truly sacrifice. And such folks are truly friends.

But still, give up your life for someone else? Only way possible – even minutely possible – that person better be a very, very good person; otherwise, it ain’t happening! In other words, we have astronomical standards for really sacrificing for someone…but would you even BEGIN to consider doing this for a pathetic person? For an ungodly person? For an overt sinner? For your enemy? Are you kidding?! Not a chance! No way! Not even a consideration! Forget about it! Don’t make me laugh! That’s our standard!

But if this is REALLY our standard, then maybe the whole idea of God forgiving us ain’t happening either!

But brothers and sisters in Christ, our standard is not God’s standard! Our way is not His way. Thank God!

God tells the truth. He keeps His Word. He doesn’t ask bad questions and He doesn’t give bad answers. And He has made it astoundingly clear about how He operates. At the time of your deepest need; at your most desperate moment, when you were beyond down and out; when you were weak; when you were ungodly; when you were a sinner; and when you were an enemy of God. Not only NOT worthy, but actually fighting against God! Not only NOT caring, but actually cursing Him.

When you were the real “despicable me,” THAT was when Jesus Christ died for you. THAT was exactly when Jesus decided to give everything He had FOR YOU! THAT was when God showed His love for you. THAT was when God justified you by His blood! And THAT was when you were reconciled to God! When you were weak, ungodly, a sinner, and an enemy…that was PRECISELY when you received the greatest love that has EVER been known! Proven, stamped guaranteed, beyond a shadow of a doubt – no longer allowing us occasion for stupid questions – God is ABSOLUTELY on your side! The blood of Jesus PROVES it!

God doesn’t use our system! Thank God! He doesn’t employ our math, but is using a computer for His computations and algorithms we know nothing about. It is pure love. Love that knows NO bounds. Love that covers ALL. Mercy applied to ALL. All sin – not some, not most – is covered. When you were weak – that is powerless – when you were ungodly (truly separate from the Holy God) – when you were a sinner (a violator of God’s Word) – and when you were an enemy of God (actually fighting against Him), Christ died for you. That is God’s standard! That is God’s way!

And here is the logic that Saint Paul is using. If God did all of that for you in Christ – through the death of His Son IN YOUR PLACE – while you were still anything but worthy and deserving (and He did), then how much more will God do to keep you in His grace, in salvation, in His love and mercy through the resurrected life of Jesus? The ancient church father Ambrosiaster said simply: “So if he died for his enemies, just think what he will do for his friends!” (Bray, Gerald, Ed., Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture, New Testament VI: Romans, 1998. 131)

If God has already given through the death of His Son the unthinkably undeserving salvation when you were His enemy; how much more will He do for you now that Christ is risen and has made you His forgiven child? How much more? So much more that we cannot even begin to describe the ETERNAL blessings that are now yours…for the justified and for the reconciled; for those like you DECLARED RIGHTEOUS in Christ for you; and BROUGHT BACK into friendship with GOD! And you already know what Jesus was willing to do for you when you were His enemy…what about NOW?! You have overflowing love, mercy, patience, help…it is guaranteed. It is done. It is finished. It is yours on-account of Jesus!