Summary: Before we can appreciate the good news of the forgiveness of sin through repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we must face the bad news that we are, by nature, lost sinners.
A Collection We Can Do Without
1. Sometimes the line between right and wrong is blurry; take this story:
SAN JOSE, Calif. (Reuters) All Tamar Sherman wanted to do was pet a dog and give it some water. Sherman’s act left her with a criminal record.
A few months ago, Sherman was walking near her South San Jose home and encountered a dog left outside in the cold while its owners were inside.
Sherman, a member of a national group called Dogs Deserve Better, decided to pet the dog on a few occassions and once gave it water. That didn’t please the dog’s owner.
"When I went out there to fill up the dog bowl, this woman was standing in my back yard," attorney Ron Berki told the San Jose Mercury News. "My response was, `Who ... are you?’ She told me, `I’m here to pet your dog.’"
For that, Sherman pleaded guilty this week to two misdemeanors — trespassing and prowling — and was sentenced to 75 hours of community service and a year of probation. She also was ordered to stay at least 100 yards away from Berki’s home.
"I just wanted to find out if a dog that seemed to be in distress was OK," Sherman told the paper. "I do not think my actions were a crime in comparison with abuse or neglect of +animals+."
Berki denies that his dog, Bailey, was abused or neglected, saying the dog sleeps inside with him every night.
"If Miss Sherman was so concerned about my dog, it would have been easy to come to my front door and speak to me directly," he said.
2. We can sympathize with both sides in such a story, and we are left with the thought that someone made a mountain out of a molehill. Or maybe that both parties are doing so.
3. If that is as bad as human nature got, we’d have a pretty decent world.
4. But the Bible is clear that we sin in ways that greatly offend God. All of us are guilty.
5. But some people take convincing. They think they are good enough to please God and that they are pretty good people.
6. This is nothing new. The human propensity to minimize our own wrongs while amplifying the wrongs of others is as ancient as mankind.
7. And today in the section of Romans we have come to, Paul addresses this very issue.
Main idea: Before we can appreciate the good news of the forgiveness of sin through repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we must face the bad news that we are, by nature, lost sinners.
In today’s section, Paul is leading us to conclude that we are lost and in need of God’s mercy. He begins building his case, but where is he leading us? To several conclusions found later in Romans (remember, Romans was originally written to be read in one sitting). Here are several of those conclusions:
3:9-11, “What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.”
3:22b-28, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished--he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”
4:4-5, “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
To nudge us toward these conclusions, Paul shares several bedrock realities.
I. We Are Held Accountable to the Same ____Rules_________As Everyone Else (1)
1. Paul is acting the part of the prosecuting attorney. He has thus far argued his case against those who violate their consciences and urge others to adopt their depraved value system.
2. In today’s sermon, Paul is focusing upon the man or woman who has an excellent value system. And though he or she holds others accountable to those values, the person himself excuses himself from obeying them.