Summary: A sermon about loving God, ourselves and others.
"While We Were Still ____ Christ Died For Us"
Have you ever gone through a deep, dark time where you just could not find any peace?
Have you ever found yourself thinking: "I am no good."
"God couldn't possibly love me."
"I have missed the mark."
"There is no hope for me."?
I would assume many of us have.
Perhaps you are feeling that way this morning.
Or perhaps you know someone else who is feeling that way.
When I was in college, I went through a period of time when I felt like that.
I felt really bad about myself.
One day, as I was feeling and thinking this way, I walked into a music store on campus.
In that store, I heard, coming from the overhead speakers, Billy Joel's song: "I love you just the way you are."
And in that moment, it felt as if God were speaking to me through that song.
It was as if God were saying: "Ken, don't be so down on yourself.
I know you even better than you know yourself.
I created you.
And before you were even born, I died for you.
Ken, I love you just the way you are.
Now get on with the amazing life I have planned for you!!!"
That night, when I got home I was reading from Colossians.
And I came upon a passage that gave me a tremendous amount of relief, and also made me want to jump for joy!!!
It's found in Colossians 2:13-17:
"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.
He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."
The reality is found in Christ!!!
I think this is what Paul is telling us in Romans as well.
The reality is found in Christ.
And what is that reality?
That reality is that God loves us.
God loves us!!!
God loves us!!!
"While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Or as our bulletin cover says for this morning: "I loved you at your darkest."
What is the worst thing you have ever done?
What is the lowest you have ever gone?
Don't say it out loud, just think about it.
Search your mind.
What causes you most shame?
What sin have you committed that you are most worried about finding forgiveness for?
Have you ever done or thought something that you wouldn't even share with your closest friend--for fear that that person would no longer love you or even want to be around you?
I bet most, if not all of us have.
We all live with deep, dark secrets.
We have all done things or thought things that haunt us.
Many of us have said hurtful things to others that we can never make amends for.
Some of us think about things that we would never tell anyone about.
Some people are brought to the brink of suicide or insanity because of things they have thought or done.
Self-hatred very often comes from guilt and shame.
Paul says, "Don't let anyone judge you--the reality is found in Christ."
And whatever you have done.
Whatever you have thought.
Whatever you have said.
God has forgiven you of those things, cancelling that which was against you and that stood opposed to you; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.
Do you believe this?
Coming to accept and believe this is what the Good News of Jesus Christ is all about.
Coming to accept and believe this causes us to discover a whole new life opening up before us.
It's a new life marked by grace, and an increasing appreciation for what God's mercy offers us--what God has done for us in Christ Jesus!!!
The Founder of the Biggest Revival to hit this world in the past 200 years, John Wesley, was a man who was searching for "peace with God."
One day it came to Him, when he was listening to someone, in a Bible study, read Martin Luther's Preface to Romans.
Wesley wrote: "About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.
I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."