As most of you know, I am involved with a church in Karachi, Pakistan where I teach a Sunday school class for Revival Sunday school by way of video each week. What a privilege and honor it is for God to think enough of me to allow me that opportunity to minister in another country on the other side of the world.
Kiran and her husband Chris are two of the leaders in that ministry there and they listen in to our Facebook messages each week and that is actually how we got connected to work in this ministry together. I am so thankful for Kiran and Chris because, you see, I speak English and the children speak mostly Urdu. So, needless to say, my messages to them must be translated from English to Urdu.
So, I am thankful that Kiran and Chris are my translators. They are my mediators in this ministry. Mediators are often needed to get two parties on the same page. Businesses frequently use mediators, legal disputes sometimes call for mediators, and unfortunately, many marriages have the need for a mediator. When we need reconciliation, a mediator can save the day.
But today I want to talk about one area where we all need a mediator and that is in our relationship with God. Much like me and the Sunday school class in Pakistan is separated by language, WE are separated from God by our sin. And that separation is something that we can’t fix on our own. We desperately need a mediator to step in. Thankfully, God has provided a mediator when He sent Jesus.
I said last week that we are unworthy to come before God because of our sin. But Jesus made it possible for us to come before God. Let me back that up by having you turn to 2 Cor. 5:21. READ.
It’s kind of amazing how Americans are fascinated with British royalty. We closely follow the lives of the royal family, seeing them as elevated above the rest of us. In a moment we are going to see what Paul says in Romans 3. In the book of Romans, Paul was writing to a group who acted like royalty; they believed their birthright allowed them special access to God.
The way they saw it, they were God’s chosen people, and God had given them His law through Moses. That law governed daily life for the Jewish people. It even allowed the people to offer animal sacrifices to atone for their sins when they couldn’t live up to the law. But here’s the catch—possessing the law wasn’t the same as keeping the law, and in that regard, they were no different than the worst sinner.
Paul says to them, “There is no way you will ever become righteous on your own because even though you have the law, you can’t keep the law to its fullest extent.” But then he tells them and us that righteousness is still possible. So, Paul writes and says, “He (God) made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Of course, God’s law is definitely a part of God’s redemption story. That’s one reason we were given the Ten Commandments in the first place so that we might know what the law is. By revealing our inability to achieve righteousness on our own, Paul points to the grace of God and what Christ has done to achieve righteousness for us.
And here it is in simple words. Jesus was born into the world. He is righteous and never sinned. He lived a perfect life, yet He died a sinner’s death. Jesus kept the law perfectly but died in the place of us who couldn’t keep the law. He is completely righteous, and He credited righteousness to us. The sin Jesus died for was ours, not His. His death paid for all the wrongs that we commit. And it is through Jesus’ sacrifice for us, we’re declared righteous by faith in His blood that was shed for us. “He (God) made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
With that in mind, let’s turn to Romans 3:20-22. READ.
We spend much of our lives striving for approval. We work at school to get good grades and to receive academic awards. We work hard at our jobs in hopes of being noticed or rewarded in some way. We do all that we can so that our family members will return the love we show them at home. Our goal is to be validated for a job well done. Many people approach a relationship with God the same way. We say or think, “I’m going to do a lot of good things so God will notice and approve of me.”
But thinking that we can do the right things to earn God’s approval is a trap. It’s kind of dangerous because we’re not holding ourselves up to the right standard.
The right standard is God’s perfect law, which says that to be righteous one must be without sin. So, that leaves all of us out.
In theory, keeping the law would bring us into a right relationship with God, but the reality is none of us can keep the law. The law requires absolute perfection and, once again, that leaves all of us out.
When we compare our efforts with the demands of a perfect law, we all fall short, don’t we? The law shows us how sinful we are and it points us to Christ who perfectly fulfilled the law. You see, we will never be able to keep the law perfectly. How many of the Ten Commandments have your broken……..TODAY?
So, we can’t keep the law, but Christ kept it perfectly. It’s through our faith in Jesus alone that we are declared righteous. We aren’t actually righteous, but because of our belief in Jesus Christ as our mediator and Savior, we are COUNTED as righteous. Again v. 22 says, “The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction.”
You see, we have a big problem—sin and the separation it causes between us and God. Paul repeats that fact over and over in the first 3 chapters of Romans. But to say it simply: WE’RE LOST. We can’t work our way to God. We can’t be good enough to please God. We will never be right with God by virtue of our own efforts.
Because sinful people need God’s righteousness and yet have no ability to attain it, God sent His Son to provide the way. Jesus told us, “I am the way.” It’s not that difficult. For us to have a right standing with God, we must be counted as righteous, and to attain that standing, we simply place our faith in Jesus Christ.
And notice that Paul didn’t use general terms nor did he allude to a GENERAL trust in God. You can step out on most any street and ask anyone if they trust in God and most will say, “Yeah, I trust in God.” But that is a general trust in most instances. Paul was specific. He linked our faith to Christ who came to earth to die for sinners. And it was Christ’s sacrifice that paved the way for our salvation.
Again, we can’t earn our salvation. READ Romans 3:23-24. We’ve all sinned. That means that no one is able to reach the standard set by a holy God. But v. 24 is just as important. READ v. 24. So, again, we sin, Jesus paid the price so we are redeemed, and we are SAVED. SAVED. What does that mean exactly? Saved…
When we are saved, we are justified, or made righteous before God. At the judgement seat, we will kneel before God and He looks in the book of all that we have done that is labeled as sin. God says, “I can’t let you into my heaven with weight of sin that you have.” Jesus steps forward and says, “Father, I paid the price for him/her.” And God says, “Because of what my Son did for you, I now count you as righteous. Enter into my heaven.”
I said last week and I’ll say it again, God’s gift of salvation is free of charge. It’s hard for us to understand that fully. People can give a gift, but they often have a subtle—or not so subtle—expectation that they will get something in return. Yet God freely gave for our justification and expects nothing from us but our faith in Jesus Christ.
But even though Christ’s work of justification for us is free, it’s not cheap. God won’t declare anyone righteous without dealing with that person’s sin. Insert Jesus! Jesus gave His life to bring us back to Himself.
Why would God do that? We were hopelessly lost and utterly incapable of fixing our own problems. But while we were still messy and broken God gave us the incredible gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. That’s what has given us the opportunity to have a right relationship with God. THAT is what has saved us. JESUS SAVES!!!
I quoted Ephesians 2:8-9 last week but let me mention it again right here. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Do you know what that is saying?
It is saying that God has made a way for us to be made righteous, but His way requires no effort on our part. All we do is place our faith in Jesus and God makes us righteous through faith. Salvation doesn’t come by works or by being good. Salvation comes solely through faith.
We can’t buy our way to heaven. But we can receive God’s grace and be declared righteous by God and go to heaven with nothing but faith to show for it.
Hear me on this: in Christ, we don’t need to try to please God. Did you hear that? He has already declared that He is pleased with us because of what Jesus did at the cross. We no longer need to try to be good enough to earn salvation (because we’ll NEVER be good enough anyway.) God has already given us His own righteousness if we have placed our faith in His Son Jesus.
In Rom. 3:24, we are told that the righteousness that God provides to believers comes “freely by His grace.” That means it can’t be purchased or earned. Did we deserve it? No! But God gave it to us anyway because we could never earn it. And we don’t have to pay Him back for it. It’s ours—no strings attached.
READ Romans 3:25-28. Ok. I’ve already said that we can’t work for our salvation. Yet, when we become a child of God, we tend to WANT to work for the Lord. We want to do good things. We want to witness and build God’s kingdom because Jesus told us to do just that. So how does that all come together?
These verses are sometimes difficult to understand so I want to read it from the NLT. “For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.” (Do you believe that? Do you believe that Jesus sacrificed His life and shed His blood? If you do, then you are made right with God. Yes, it’s that easy)
“This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. (So, believe in Jesus and you will be made right in God’s sight.)
“27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. (And there it is. We can’t do anything to be accepted by God because it’s already been done by Jesus Christ. We can’t earn our salvation)
“28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.”
Now, don’t go away from here today and say the pastor said we don’t have obey the law to be right with God. I didn’t say that. V. 28 just told us we are made right with God through faith. That’s it. Our faith in Jesus makes us right with God.
Obeying the law does not make us right with God. In other words, trying to imitate Jesus is a good thing. And it would be wonderful if we were ALL more like Jesus. But it is not that, that makes us right with God. It is part of being right with God but it doesn’t MAKE us right with God. Our faith in Jesus does that.
And that is the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And if we try to put any of ourselves into that equation, we lose the power of the gospel.
This isn’t to say that our works are unimportant. On the contrary, our works are vital in our faith, but only because they’re an expression of the faith we have already placed in the work of Christ.
James wrote in James 2:17, “Faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.” Our works aren’t a part of our salvation. But they’re a meaningful expression of our faith in the One who saved us.
Salvation is about our relationship to Jesus Christ. Without Him, there is no salvation. We believe in Jesus Christ. We place our faith in Him. We must have a relationship with Jesus in order to experience salvation. Let me close by explaining it this way.
On July 8, 1978 Caran and I were legally married. A record of that transaction is documented at the Bexar County Courthouse. Because of that, I can introduce her as my wife. She can sign papers as Caran Cosper. A legal transaction occurred.
But what if that were all there is to our marriage? We don’t live together; we don’t sleep together; we don’t eat together; we don’t talk; we seldom see one another.
There would be something significant missing in that marriage. Even though the marriage puts me in a certain legal standing with her, marriage is primarily a relationship! If you take the relationship aspect of it away, you’ve removed the most important part.
In the same way with salvation, if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, then you can’t be saved. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.”
So, I am inviting you to come to Jesus and be saved. Believe in Him. Place your faith in Him. And you will be saved.
So, there’s the Who, the what, the how, and the where which brings us to the WHEN. When will you come to know Jesus as your very own? Come and make it NOW.