Jesus for three points

Romans 3:20-24  20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:27-28  27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

Jesus for three points

Romans 3 is a theological gold mine.  In just a few verses, Paul sums up the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.  He sets them straight on the difference between their efforts and the grace of God.  I do not find it all strange that Paul had to instruct the people that it wasn’t all about them.  He had to tell them that they couldn’t earn God by following all the right rules.  The truth is, everyone by nature is a mess.  Everyone’s life is a trainwreck… without the saving grace of Jesus.  This is the truth of the gospel.  You’ve got nothing to brag about except Jesus.

It’s kind of like a basketball game.  There are performers who are quiet, there are performers who talk trash, and there are non-performers who talk trash.  You know, its the guy on the court who is talking all the smack and yet has contributed absolutely nothing to the score of the game.  “You’re going down!”  “In your face!”  And you want to say, “dude, you haven’t made a single shot.”  Now this guy might be fortunate enough to be on the winning team, but he has nothing to do with that outcome.

We are kind of like smack talk dude.  “Oh yeah, I’m going to heaven baby! I’m all that!”  Really?  You’re gonna talk that trash?  That’s what Paul is saying to the Romans in verse 27.  Do we really think that we have something to do with God’s grace?  Do we think we have something to do with a freebie into heaven thanks to the main man on the court, Jesus Christ?  Maybe it’s time to realize that we should be talking about how good he is, how many 3-pointers he has made.  Well, you know what I mean.

Jesus Christ Mutual

Romans 2:6-9 6 God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

Jesus Christ Mutual

I can tell already that reading the book of Romans is going to be like eating at an all-you-can-eat buffet.  There will be no lack of food in this book and I will probably walk away each day having eaten way too much.  But a spiritual stomach ache probably won’t hurt much.  It just might give us all a headache as we try to digest and figure out all that Paul is talking about.

Today, Paul is giving a dissertation in God’s judgment.  This is the “reap as you sow” principle at work.   He uses the Old Testament (Psalm 62:12) to support his point here.  When we think of this principle, most of our minds go to a financial investment place.  So let’s go there.  There is a big difference between making an investment in a mutual fund and making an investment in the state lottery.  Well, there used to be a difference; maybe not so much anymore.  But stick with me here.  The first is a long term strategy to build wealth.  The latter is a gamble, a waste of money.  The first provides you with some sort of return.  The second provides you with an empty wallet and an empty pantry.

Paul tells us here that if we persist in doing good, we will be rewarded by God.  When his judgment is poured out, we will find favor; we will find eternal life.  But if we play the lottery, er, I mean… do evil, God’s wrath and anger will be poured out.  When we are self seeking and reject the truth (that God will provide for instance) we better look out.

Now I know that there are millions of people in this world making bad choices.  There are thousands who are purposely doing evil.  Many of them are successful.  Many of them seem to be happy.  They don’t seem to be receiving God’s wrath and judgment.  Here’s the deal – they will.  I hate to say it, but they will.  This life that we live is an eternal one.  Paul is reminding us today that what we reap, we sow.  Our spiritual investment decisions here will determine our eternity.  A quite sobering thought really, isn’t it?  There are really only two investment choices:  You can either choose the world’s lottery system or you can invest in Jesus Christ Mutual.  Make a wise investment.

Do I know you?

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Do I know you?

This year on Extreme Home Makeover they are having celebrities come and help with the build.  It’s probably either to attract ratings or freak out the recipients, or both.  At any rate, they are somewhat a guest of honor for the week.  There have been a couple of times this season, that there was a celebrity on that I didn’t know.  The homeowners were excited, but I had no idea who they were.  I thought it would be funny if when the homeowners were surprised with a celebrity, their response was: “who’s that?”  I can see it now…  The bus arrives at the home and Tye shouts out,” good morning Johnson family!”  They come out screaming and jumping up and down.  Tye announces, “this week we have a special guest helping us with the project – Taylor Swift!”  The family looks at each other puzzled and says, “who’s that?”   Now that would make good TV!   It’s oddly a given that people should know public figures’ names.  We are supposed to want to meet them, be like them, idolize them.  We are supposed to freak out when we meet them.  But what about God?  What about recognizing Him if He were to walk into a room?

Here in this section of Romans, Paul is writing about the wrath of God that is going to be poured out on those who are wicked.  Verse 21 tells us how they arrived at their condition of depravity.  That is, even though they knew God, they neither glorified him or gave thanks to him.  The failure to do those two things led them to a place of depravity, where their hearts were darkened and they fell away from God.  These two things are simple things really.  But it seems as though both Christians and non-Christians alike can easily live life without doing them.

How is it that we can receive the grace of God and have new life and yet not give Him glory with our life?  It seems that if we are going to have relationship with God two things that we can do without much effort are giving Him the glory and giving Him thanks.  These two things are really a natural response to what He has done for us.  They are a life response to the new life He has given us.  The question is: do we respond?  Would the world around us know that God is at work in our lives?  Do they see us glorifying God and do they see us giving Him thanks?  It all starts in the heart.  It starts with an internal response to God, wanting to turn to Him with thanks.  When we don’t, Paul says, we give way to futile thinking and spiritual heart disease.  Today, I will be thinking about how my life is marked.  Hopefully it is marked as one who gives glory and thanks to God in all things.

That would be a big book

Well, we have reached the end of the book of John.  I have read it many times before, but I got so much out of it this time!   Since we have just covered much of the book of Acts in our most recent sermon series, we are going to go next to the book of Romans here on the blog.  So tomorrow I will begin in Romans 1.  Feel free to read along with me and stay daily in the Word.  Now for the last chapter of John.

That would be a big book

John 21:25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Have you ever gone to see a movie that was made from a book you have read?  Of course you have.  The movie version is usually great, because it brings to life the characters and the scenes of the book.  The only problem is that they have to turn it into a screenplay.  When that happens, parts get left out.  The same thing happens when you try to take a person’s life and put it on paper.  You can capture lots of things, but you can’t get it all.

Thus is the case with Jesus.  When we read through the gospels, we see so many miracles.  We see so many people find life in following Jesus.  In fact, when I look at the life of Jesus I am amazed at what he accomplished in just three years.  I am amazed at the number of people he touched.  And when I read John 21:25, I am even more amazed at Jesus’ words “greater things will you do.”  That has always been an overwhelming statement to me – a little intimidating really.  Greater things than Jesus?  Really?

Here in the last chapter of this book, John is sure to point out that there was no way he could contain all the Jesus did.  His statement that Jesus did many other things was quite the understatement.  In fact he says it best when he says that there would not be enough room in the world for the number of books it would take to write down the entire ministry of Jesus.  And you thought the Bible was long?  Imagine a book that contained all that Jesus did.  I think this must be one of the coolest verses I have come across.  It is such a huge statement!  Today as I think about Jesus and all he has done for me, I am thankful for him.  And when I think that there are thousands and millions of things he has done that I know nothing about, it makes me want to stand before him with my jaw hanging open.  That is the kind of awe I have for my Savior.  I guess that is what happens when you don’t contain him to words on a page, but see him for what he truly is – alive and active and still at work today!

I’m the boss

John 19:21-22  21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.”22 Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

I’m the boss

This chapter in the book of John really draws us to an internal conflict that Pilate is going through.  He clearly sees no crime committed by Jesus and yet the Jews are demanding that he be put to death.  As a leader in the justice system, this just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  He tries to tell them to handle it themselves.  They say, “no, you handle it.”  He tries to set him free, but they won’t stand for it.  They just push Pilate around like he is a pawn.

And these same kinds of things happen everyday.  You have a leader that, with good intentions, is trying to balance hearing from the people and leading the people.  There are some organizations that end up in a place where the leader is a pawn and just does whatever the employees tell him to do.  It’s probably hard to lead a company that way.  I would venture to say there are churches with that same dynamic.  The pastor becomes intimidated by the people and stops moving forward with the vision God has given him/her and just works on keeping people happy.

But I do like what Pilate does in verse 22.  He says, “what I have written, I have written.”  He’s had enough.  It’s bad enough that he let the people talk him into killing an innocent man; they surely are not going to tell him what to put on the sign.  He finally put his foot down on something.  I have two takeaways from this.  The first is that as a pastor, I must place a great weight on what pleases God.  In fact that weight is to be much heavier than on what pleases people.  I must stand before and answer to people today, but I will stand before God and answer to him eternally.  I’ll choose to focus on the later.

The second takeaway is that we need to do a better job walking in our spiritual authority than Pilate did in his physical authority.  We have been given all authority by the power of Jesus name and we ought to walk in that.  But we allow ourselves to get pushed around.  We allow ourselves to compromise what we know is right.   At some point, (and I suggest that point be right now!) we need to put our foot down and walk in the authority that God has given us.  Pilate had to come to that point and so do we.

He’s with me

John 18:15-16 15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

He’s with me

Everyone wants to be significant.  Everyone wants to be important.  It’s just that some people go more out of their way to point out their importance.  This passage in particular really cracks me up!  Here you have Jesus headed in to see the high priest and two disciples are following him.  (It sounds like a bad joke, “two disciples walk into a bar…”)  One of those disciples is Peter and the other is only referred to as another disciple.  This other disciple is actually John, the author of the book.  He refers to himself in a variety of ways throughout the book of John.  It’s pretty funny really.

This whole scene reminds of a New York night club in a back alley.  The people are lined up waiting to get in and hoping they will get selected.  The line is long but some people go straight to the entrance.  The bouncer checks his list, nods, and lets them in.  They must be on the list or something; they must know the right people.  In the meantime, all the losers get to stand outside in the cold and act all desperate and loserish.  John must have been on the list, as he writes it.  And Peter must have been one of those standing outside acting all loserish.  But the cool disciple, the one who knew the right people, helped out the not as cool disciple.  He goes to the keeper of the door and says, “he’s with me.”  So they let Peter in too.  Peter is so lucky to know someone as amazing and cool as John.

Now why in the world is this in the Bible!?  What can I actually glean from these two verses?  After I had stopped laughing at John’s lame attempt to be much cooler than Peter, I realized that all John really wanted was significance.  Later in the book, he refers to himself as the one Jesus loved.  He wanted to be noticed.  He wanted to show that he was important.  (And maybe he had a little disciple sibling-like rivalry going on with Peter.)

Significance.  Don’t we all want that?  Don’t we all want to have value and importance?  Paul writes in Philippians 3:8-9 that he wants to “gain Christ and be found in Him.”  This is where significance really starts.  It really isn’t about knowing the right people.  It is about knowing Christ and Him knowing you.  It is about discovering who you are in Him.  Without Him, we are truly all lost.  We wander around trying to figure out who in the world we are.  But in Him, we are found.  In Him, we discover significance; we discover value.  That’s how I want to be defined: not by the value and importance that others place on me or even what I place on myself, but what Christ places on me.  I want to be defined by how He sees me.  And I think when we arrive at that discovery, we will no longer need to tell anyone how important we are.  We won’t have to demean anyone else to make ourselves feel better.  I have confidence that John eventually figured out the same thing – that  being better than Peter needed to take a backseat to growing in Christ.  I have confidence that it did and I have confidence that it will in my life too!

Eternal Life Starts Now!

John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Eternal Life Starts Now!

I don’t know about you, but when I think about eternal life, I think about what happens when I die.  Is that crazy, that eternal life starts after you die?  After all, life here on earth doesn’t really feel eternal.  There seems to be a definite beginning and a definite end.  And I can’t quite get over the fact that something with a beginning and an end isn’t eternal.  But now this statement that Jesus makes in John 17:3 is messing with my head, quite frankly.

He says that this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and [me] Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  Okay if that is eternal life, then my mind just got a little bent out of shape; my paradigm just changed.  Here’s why – I know God and I know Christ.  I would even go as far to say that I actually spend time trying to know both of them more.  It does help that they are one and the same; it’s actually a nice time saver.  Okay, back to the point.  If knowing God is eternal life then I am experiencing eternal life right now.  That’s what Jesus said, eternal life is knowing Him.  So I don’t have to wait until I die to experience eternal life?  You mean it has already started?

But I live like a person on earth who cares about lots of things that have to do with my beginning and my end here on earth.  I have much to do around this place.  But Colossians 3:2 says set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Hmmm… eternal thinking.   Understanding that eternity is not something out in the distant future will change the way we approach our lives.  We don’t need to do good earthly things now to effect our eternity later.  Rather, we need to be pursuing kingdom of God type things now, which will effect both our now AND our future.  By knowing and pursuing God, I am unlocking the eternity of life that God has for me today.  It doesn’t have to end.  The great things of God in my life don’t have to end.  They will just go on from today until forever.  Because eternal life starts now!

In Your Face!

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

In Your Face!

When I was young and immature, I was also in shape.  I could play basketball if I wanted and not double over to catch a breath every five minutes, er – five seconds.  And by young and immature, I don’t mean a few weeks ago.  I mean junior high or maybe high school… okay, college too.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a little competitive. So a good basketball game back in the day needed some good trash talking to spice it up a bit.  I remember my friends and I had a favorite line.  It was when you were one on one with a guy and you nailed a jump shot with him right up there in your grill.  “In your face!” we would say.  Technically that is accurate, since the shot was made in his face.  But “in your face” was a classic taunt anyway. I don’t know where these lame lines come from.

As Jesus neared the cross, he prepared his disciples for his departure.  He told them about the Holy Spirit and he told them that he would be gone in a little while and back in a little while.  He told them that through the Holy Spirit they would have peace in the midst of trouble.  Then he comes out with it: “in your face Satan!”  At least that is how I read it.  This word overcome means to have a complete victory.  It means to win your case in court.  It means to overpower your rival and hand him defeat!

I find it interesting that Jesus makes this declaration before going to the cross rather than after.  We often say that the power comes from the victory at the cross… which is true.  But Jesus says it before the cross.  In fact, the Father gives him all authority before the cross.  So the cross wasn’t anything near defeat for him, it didn’t even resemble it in the heavenly realm.  He had already overcome by the authority given to him.   As he walked the earth by the power of the Holy Spirit in Him, he overcame the world and the prince of this world.  The cross was kind of like the nail in the coffin.  It was the final blow.

Jesus did not live a defeated life in the least.  He lived the life of an overcomer.  He lived the life of a champion.  He lived the life of one who would take a shot (with Satan all up in His grill) and would boldly declare, “IN YOUR FACE!”  What kind of life do you live?  Is the enemy taking shots in your face?  Or are you going to stand up and take the authority that Jesus left for you by the power of the Holy Spirit and trample all over your opponent the way Jesus did?