Summary: You don’t have what it takes to win a place in heaven by your good works.
[If you would like to receive free weekly sermons by email, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sometimes at carnivals you will see what is called a high striker (also known as a strength tester or strongman game). A person is given a mallet, which he uses to hit a lever as hard as he can. When the lever is struck, a puck is sent up a tower. If the lever is struck with enough force, the puck will rise high enough to hit a bell.
High strikers are usually used to impress others (maybe a date, maybe a group of friends). But they can often end up embarrassing a person. A young man might discover he’s not as strong as he thought he was. He doesn’t have what it takes to make that bell ring.
Today we are starting a new series called “You Don’t Have What It Takes.” This series is about three things you will never be able to do no matter how hard you try:
• You can’t be good enough.
• You can’t control the future.
• You can’t please everyone.
You can try to be good enough to win a place in heaven. You can try to control the future. You can try to please everyone. You can pick up your mallet and swing with all your strength. But you will always fail.
There is good news, though. When we finally admit that we don’t have what it takes, we free ourselves to find help from God.
YOU WILL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH
The Apostle Paul was a person who discovered that he wasn’t good enough—even though, compared to others, his life was very impressive.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless (Philippians 3:4-6).
Today, people have their own Christian list of accomplishments: (1) I was born into a Christian family. (2) I was baptized when I was a child. (3) I have been a church member for 40 years. (4) I give ten percent of my income to the church. (5) I have served on church boards and committees. (6) I never miss a church service.
I can never gain God’s approval by what I DO or what I DON’T DO.
• Abraham – “I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27).
• Isaiah – “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).
• Peter – “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8).
• Paul – “Christ Jesus came to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Timothy 1:15).
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin (Romans 3:20).
OUR NEED: JUSTIFICATION
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith (Philippians 3:7-9).
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood (Romans 3:21-22).
1. Justification is God’s declaration that a sinner is RIGHTEOUS in His sight.
The word “justify” in the NT (Gk. dikaioo) has a range of meanings, but a very common sense is “to declare righteous.” For example, we read in Luke 7:29 that “even the tax collectors justified God.” The tax collectors did not make God to be righteous. Rather they declared God to be righteous.
The opposite of justification is condemnation. To “condemn” someone is to declare that person guilty. To justify someone is to declare that person not guilty. Paul writes, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns?” (Romans 8:33-34). God’s people cannot be condemned (declared to be guilty) because they have been justified (declared to be not guilty). “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).