Summary: Christians are sinners saved by grace.
Many have a hard time imagining a God who wants to be close to us. They think that maybe God insists we clean ourselves up first. But God says don’t bother to get cleaned up. Just come as you are. Come with all your defects, faults and flaws. Come with your guilt and bad habits. Come as you are and experience God’s love and acceptance. That is what God is saying. And it’s what He wants to say through His people.
But even in church circles we’re tempted to pretend we’re better than we really are. When we give in to that temptation, we’re in danger of allowing religion to keep us from fulfilling our responsibility.
Whenever our true self gets cloaked in a religious facade, we’re on dangerous ground. This is what had happened to the people of Israel under the religious leaders of their day. We pointed out last week that Jesus ran the money changers out of the Temple two times - at the start of His ministry and then at the end of His ministry. Why?
The reason Jesus ran moneychangers out of the Temple was that their religion had gotten in the way of their responsibility - to point all nations to God. Selling animals for sacrifice was happening in the outermost court, the court of the Gentiles, the place where everyone was supposed to be able to go to meet God. Their religion was keeping them from fulfilling their responsibility. The same can happen to us.
I think this is why Jesus was especially angry with one kind of person in particular - the religious hypocrite. When our mindset is to embrace self-righteousness, we’re missing a powerful and life-changing truth: there are no perfect people. The only thing separating the Christian from the non-Christian is the forgiveness of God. As the old saying goes, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”
Paul spoke to this point of there being no perfect people. A key phrase in this passage is “There is no difference.”
1. The law’s purpose - vs. 19-20
Paul says the law’s purpose is to make this truth clear - there are no perfect people! Through the law, we become conscious of our sin and our need for a Savior. Let’s think about this. Let’s consider how we might each measure up to the Ten Commandments, for example.
Most of us know about the Ten Commandments, but studies show that 90% of us can’t name them all. What’s the first commandment?
#1 - You shall have no other Gods before me. Can you say you’ve never put anything before God in your life? That He has always been pre-eminent in your thoughts, affections, and actions?
#2 - You shall have no carved images of me. It’s been said that most of our idols today are in the self instead of on the shelf. This command is about reshaping God according to our liking, instead of believing everything His Word reveals about Him. If you’ve ever had any mistaken or false ideas about God, you’ve broken this command.
#3 - You shall not take my name in vain. This has to do with more than not saying, “G.D.” It has to do with how we regard the name of God. For example, have you always lived up to the name “Christian?”
#4 - Remember the Sabbath. This is about honoring God with what belongs to him. We honor Him as the One who’s provided a living to us by giving Him a 10th of our income; and we honor Him as the One who’s provided life to us by giving Him one day a week. Have you consistently done that? Remember, the lesson of the Sabbath was to rest in God’s provision. When life gets tough, do rest and trust God?
#5 - Honor your parents. Have you never disobeyed nor dishonored your parents? What would they say?
#6 - You shall not kill. Jesus said if I’m angry with someone I’ll be subject to judgment (Matthew 5:22a). Can you say you’ve never been angry with anyone or taken pleasure in seeing harm come to them?
#7 - You shall not commit adultery. Jesus said to think lustfully about someone who isn’t your spouse is committing adultery in your heart (Matthew 5:28). Have you never looked at someone lustfully?
#8 - You shall not steal. Can you say, you have never taken anything that doesn’t belong to you? Whether it be money or credit or praise?
#9 - You shall not lie. Have you always told the truth? Have you ever exaggerated the truth for my own benefit or covered up your faults? Ever told a “half-truth?” Remember, a half-truth is a whole-lie.
#10 - You shall not covet. Have you ever wanted something not yours, or been jealous of someone’s abilities, looks, possessions or position?