Summary: We have 2 advantages over non-Christians. Because of God's blessings in our lives, we are better off than many in this world, but we must be careful not to see ourselves as being "better" than others.

For the next few weeks we’re going to be focusing on what can we learn from Scripture as it applies to a popular new TV series (now entering its 3rd season) called “This Is Us”. It’s been nominated for 8 Emmys because of the power of its writing and its acting, and it has literally brought many of its fans to laughter and tears… because they see themselves in this story.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it’s the story of the family of Jack & Rebecca Pearson. They have 3 children: Kate – an overweight girl that often struggles with her self-image because of that weight problem. Kevin – a handsome (sometimes self-absorbed) man that becomes an actor. And Randall – a highly dependable and responsible young black man that the family adopted when he was a baby. They were all born on the same day. One of the geniuses of the plot of this show is that it bounces back and forth between stories about when the kids while were children, teens and adults. Sometimes the story line bounces back and forth between the different ages in a single episode. This is an example: (timestamp – 0.0 thru 4.20)

A friend of mine told me how amazed he was at how much like his family these characters in this TV series were. In fact, it seems that everybody who becomes a fan of “This Is Us” says the same thing: “THIS IS US”. They literally see themselves in the stories of this TV show.

Now, a little disclaimer here. This is NOT really a Christian show. God, Jesus, and the Church are rarely if ever mentioned. The actors often use curse words, and the family members struggle with betrayal, anger, selfishness… and just plain old sin. But the folks in this series are not portrayed as devious or nasty or evil… they're just PEOPLE. People just trying to get by in this world.

Now THAT is what I want to focus on in these sermons: THIS IS US. These people are just like us. Romans 3:23 says “… all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.

Too often, church goers see themselves as somehow superior to those who are outside the church. I’ve not seen that too much around here… but it does happen. And here in Romans, Paul is trying to get the Christians to understand that as Christians – we’re just like everybody else. EXCEPT in two major areas…

The first major area we’re NOT like everyone else is this: Christians tend to live better lives than those who don’t have Christ.

ILLUS: A study done about 9 years ago by the University of Chicago found that those who attended church weekly and took part in other religious activities performed an average of 128 acts of kindness a year versus 96 such acts by people who never attend church.

(National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago circa 2005, reported in Gazette {7/2/05})

ILLUS: A recent study, surveyed 795 college men at a public university and found that college girls were safer with men who were religious. They found that religious men were less likely to be sexually promiscuous, or to force themselves sexually on women and were less likely to be consumed with pornography. And men with a religious affiliation tended to drink less alcohol — which has been linked to increased aggressive and violent behavior, which included aggressive sexual behavior.


ILLUS: In addition, I have numerous studies in my files that have shown that Americans who are regular attenders at church are generally happier and healthier than those who don’t go to church.

In other words… spending time with God in church, Bible study, and personal prayer makes us better people than we would have been if we didn’t do those things. Belonging to Christ gives us a decided advantage over those who aren’t Christians.

But there’s a danger here we need to avoid. The danger is believing that because we are BETTER OFF than others that we are somehow BETTER than other people. It’s the old “Holier Than Thou” syndrome. Now, we ARE better off than non-Christians, but we’ve got to be careful not to use OUR righteousness as some kind of yardstick to compare ourselves with people who don’t go to church. And there are 2 reasons for that:

FIRST – we’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (you’re going to hear me quote that verse quite often in this sermon). and that means that - since we’ve all sinned - some non-Christians are gonna be nicer than we are sometimes.

ILLUS: In the TV clip we watched we were shown a powerful story about one brother giving up something that was very important to himself so that he could be there for his brother in his hour of need. Now, I don’t know about you… but I could see that happening. I could visualize a person doing that for his brother.

But I also know there are a lot of Christians out there who wouldn’t make that kind of sacrifice for a family member. Or for a friend. Or for anyone. The idea just never occurs to them.

So if I’m going to compare MY righteousness with someone else’s (even non-Christians) there will be times you and I will not measure up. There will be times when non-Christian people will be more righteous than we are.

The 2nd reason we’ve got to be careful about using our righteousness as standard of right and wrong is that OUR righteousness doesn’t even compare with God’s.

Romans 3:19 “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.”

God is righteous, and His Law (called the "Law of Moses") is the description of God’s righteousness. God’s Law is the gold standard. And His Law is the benchmark of all that is good and righteous (not my righteousness or yours). Our righteousness is NOT the yardstick by which righteousness is measured. When we measure OUR righteousness against God’s, Isaiah 64:6 says: “we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

If I compare my righteousness with yours… I might look a little cleaner than you do. Or you might look a little cleaner than me. But, if you or I compare OUR righteousness with God’s we’re all going to look pretty dingy. So comparing our righteousness with that of non-Christians is foolish. In fact II Corinthians 10:12 basically tells us that if we compare ourselves with others we show that we’re not very smart. God doesn’t want us to be “Holier Than Thou”. He wants us to be humbler. And He wants us to recognize that we didn’t EARN our salvation. It Was A Gift!

And that points to the 2nd advantage we Christians have over non-Christians. We didn’t earn our salvation. It was paid for by the blood of Jesus. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… just like everybody else. THIS IS US! Just like everybody else if it weren’t for the grace of God we’d all DIE for our sins and go to hell. THIS IS US! But our advantage over those outside of Christ is that we realized we couldn’t make it on our own.

One poet said it this way: "He paid a debt He did not owe; I owed a debt I could not pay. I needed someone to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand new song; Amazing Grace!' Christ Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay."

The people you or I might look down on are just like us… except they haven’t found Jesus yet.

Romans 3:23-25 tells us “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a PROPITIATION by his blood, to be received by faith…” (make special note of that word “propitiation” – we’ll be coming back to that in a moment).

Essentially this passage is telling us that it’s the blood of Jesus (and not our righteous deeds) that allows us to be saved. It was not earned – it was a gift we received because of our faith in Jesus Christ.

Now, stay with me on this... because this next part is really important.

Romans 3:23 says “All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Have you sinned? Do you think I’ve sinned? Of course we have – God said it, and it must be true. And the unique thing about what God tells us about sin is that - it’s just like going to work. You get a wage for working… and you get a wage for sinning. Do you know what the wages of sin are? (that’s right - DEATH). Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death…”

The Law of Moses declared that every sin was to be punished by death. According to the Law of Moses ALL of us deserve to die because we’ve all sinned.

Now this is where it gets good: Did you see that word “Propitiation” there? (You should have, I put it in all Capital Letters on the screen). That word propitiation is a $20 word --- but what does it mean? Well, just for you I studied up on that word and I found that the word “propitiation” here in Romans 3 is translated from the Greek word that's pronounced “hi-las-ter-ion”. And that Greek word is also translated “MERCY SEAT” in Hebrews 9:5.

Hebrews 9 tells us that “the ark of the covenant (was) covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant (the 10 Commandments). Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the MERCY SEAT.” Hebrews 9:4-5

Now this was what the ARK looked like (I showed a picture found at on the internet). Do you see that the “LID” of the Ark has blood on it? That is the mercy seat of the Ark. Once a year, the High Priest would come into the Holy Of Holies to sprinkle the blood of an innocent sacrifice on the Mercy Seat. And that blood was to COVER the sins of the people for the previous year so they wouldn’t DIE because of their sins.

Now, do you see the lid is pushed back… and you can see something inside the Ark? What is that inside the Ark? It’s the Law of Moses isn’t it? It's the 10 Commandments. This is the Law of God that decreed DEATH to all sinners. II Corinthians 3:6 tells us “the letter (the Law) kills”. The Law killed. And that was literally true.

Do you know what would happen if someone were to looked inside the Ark saw the Law? They died! I Samuel 6:19 tells us that when the Ark came to a village named Beth Shemesh, some of those folk got curious and looked inside, and …“God struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they had looked into the ark of the LORD.”


In fact, the Law was so potent and fatal… that just touching the Ark could bring death. A young man named Uzzah touched the side of the Ark and we’re told that God “struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God.” I Chronicles 13:10


The Ark of the Covenant was an object lesson to the Israelites. The Law was INSIDE the Ark and the Law decreed: that every sinner should die. ALL the Israelites had sinned and therefore, they all deserved to die (just like us). But on top of the law (covering the law) was the Mercy Seat, and every year the blood of an innocent sacrifice was sprinkled on that Mercy Seat that blood COVERED the sins of the people so that they could live.

And NOW we Christians have been told that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a PROPITIATION (the mercy seat) by his blood, to be received by faith…” Romans 3:23-25

Just like the Mercy Seat of old, the blood of Jesus covers our sins so that we won’t die for our sins. We’re just like everyone else – we’ve all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We deserved to die, but the blood of Jesus covered our sins and broke the power of the Law and its condemnation.

As Romans 8:1-2 declares: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

It was because of our sins that Jesus died on the Cross. We didn’t force Him to die there… He chose it willingly. But it was for our sins that Jesus went on the Cross.

CLOSE: I want to close by telling you of a famous artist by the name of Rembrandt. There’s a famous painting by Rembrandt called “Raising of the Cross” (painted in 1633) and it’s a beautiful painting… but an odd one. (We put the picture on the screen). Do you see that man at the foot of the cross with the blue beret? Do you have any idea who that is? That’s right, it’s Rembrandt.

Why would he do that? Why would he paint himself into the picture of Christ’s crucifixion? It looks almost as if he’s one of those who drove the nails into the feet of Jesus. Do you know why Rembrandt did that? He did that because he wanted us to know that he knew the truth. He was guilty of sin, and Jesus was dying for his guilt and shame. Jesus was dying for him… and THIS IS US, because Jesus died for us as well. And when we accepted that truth, and believed in Jesus, repented of our sins, confessed Jesus as our Lord and Master and allowed ourselves to be buried in the waters of baptism and risen up a new creature… the blood of Jesus covered our sins and defeated the power of the Law.

That’s what I Corinthians 15:55-57 is saying: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”


(Attachment to the sermon): According to

“In Romans 3:25 and Hebrews 9:5 (A.V., "mercy-seat") the Greek word hilasterion is used. It is the word employed by the LXX. translators in Exodus 25:17 and elsewhere as the equivalent for the Hebrew kapporeth , which means "covering," and is used of the lid of the ark of the covenant ( Exodus 25:21 ; 30:6 ). This Greek word (hilasterion) came to denote not only the mercy-seat or lid of the ark, but also propitation or reconciliation by blood. On the great day of atonement the high priest carried the blood of the sacrifice he offered for all the people within the veil and sprinkled with it the "mercy-seat," and so made propitiation.

In 1 John 2:2 ; 4:10 , Christ is called the "propitiation for our sins." Here a different Greek word is used (hilasmos). Christ is "the propitiation," because by his becoming our substitute and assuming our obligations he expiated our guilt, covered it, by the vicarious punishment which he endured. {Compare Hebrews 2:17 , where the expression "make reconciliation" of the A.V. is more correctly in the RSV "make propitiation.”}”).