Summary: We cannot be on target with God unless we have the courage to grab hold of the gracious realities of peace with God.
“Between the Lines: How to Hit the Bull’s Eye”
During my high school years I spent two summers working as a counselor at the local YMCA Day Camp. In that capacity I was often an instructor – including teaching archery. Being totally inexperienced in that field, I quickly learned that I could not hit the target unless I had the courage to take a shot, and I could not hit the bull’s eye unless I had the benefits of practice. Little did I realize then that now, some 47 years later, I would discover a similar principle in the Book of Romans. In the first 11 verses of this 5th chapter, Paul wrote that we cannot hit the bull’s eye in life – we cannot be between the lines and on target with God – unless we have the courage to reach out and grab hold of the gracious realities of peace with God.
Paul’s whole premise is stated in verse 1: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” The first reality is WE ARE AT PEACE WITH GOD. This is not a matter of feeling or emotion – it is a fact. Paul has taken great care in demonstrating that we all have been at war with God. We all rebel against Him. We all miss the target repeatedly. Our self-centered desires pit us against God in a war we cannot win. We were condemned to die. But Jesus died in our place. And since God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, the war is over. We are at peace with God. It’s a fact. It’s an external fact, however, that many do not experience internally – and that’s because they have not grabbed hold of the reality of peace with God. Are you experiencing the realities of being at peace with God? Do you know what those realities are?
The second reality of peace with God is that GOD HAS PROVEN HIS LOVE FOR US. Listen (Verses 6-8 NLT): “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” We Americans concoct a lot of slang in our language. It’s our way of emphasizing something way out of the ordinary. So something’s not big – it’s humongous. It’s not a large church – it’s a mega church. It’s not “double the order” – it’s “super-size” it. When someone serves a cake with extra chocolate, it’s not mega or super – it’s “Death by Chocolate!” And when something or someone is the ultimate, it’s “to die for.” “Look at him – he’s to die for!” “Wow – look at that Cadillac – isn’t that to die for?” Similarly Paul, trying to emphasize God’s extraordinary love, said that God, in Jesus, looked at you and me, considered us the ultimate, and said, “YOU’RE TO DIE FOR.” While we were still sinners! There was a movie, starring Tom Cruise, called Minority Report. It was about an elite police task force that routinely arrests people who will commit crimes in the future – in other words, this force can see the future and they arrest people to prevent crime from happening. It makes me wonder what God sees when He looks into my heart. What sins did He see in me as He hung on the cross dieing for me? Knowing full well what was in my heart, knowing fully all the times I would come up short and miss the target, still He loved me and died for me.
During the war in Vietnam, a young West Point graduate was sent over to lead a group of new recruits into battle. He did his job well, trying his best to keep his recruits from ambush and death. But one night, when they had been under attack, he was unable to get one of his men to safety. The soldier left behind had been severely wounded. From their trenches, the young lieutenant and his men could hear him in his pain. They all knew any attempt to save him – even if it was successful – would almost certainly mean death for the would-be rescuer. Eventually the young lieutenant crawled out of hiding and got dying man to safety; but before he could save himself he was killed. After the rescued man returned to the States, the lieutenant’s parents heard that he was in their vicinity. Wanting to know this young man whose life was spared at such a great cost to them, they invited him to dinner. When their honored guest arrived, he was obviously drunk. He was rowdy and obnoxious. He told off-color jokes and showed no gratitude for the sacrifice of the man who died to save him. The grieving parents did the best they could to make the man’s visit worthwhile, but their efforts went unrewarded. Their guest finally left. As the dad closed the door behind him, the mother collapsed in tears and cried, "To think that our precious son had to die for somebody like that." Yet that’s what Jesus did. When we were utterly helpless, in total rebellion, with no way of getting into a right relationship with God, Jesus died for us. At our worst moments in life, we can look deep into the heart of God and see the words, “You’re to die for.” JESUS LOVES US ENOUGH TO DIE FOR US.