“Right with God”
From time to time, various people research and publish "Top Ten" lists. Those lists include such things such as the best places to live, the best foods to eat, and the best occupations to pursue. There is also a list published periodically that identifies the most influential people during a certain period of time. That list includes presidents, athletes, religious people, and even entertainers. Yes, we are all familiar with such lists and we see them quite often. The 27 books of the New Testament part of the Bible have powerful and significant messages; yet, if I were to pick just one that has most influenced my life and the lives of many people I know I would say it is the book, or the letter, of Romans. It is at the top of the list. In it, the apostle Paul identifies the sinful and lost state of all mankind and lets us know there is an answer for it in the person of Jesus Christ. Paul writes about sin and salvation, faith and grace. He teaches unity among Jews and Gentiles, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and anticipating the time when God will make all things right. Oh, the letter of Romans contains perhaps the most influential message of all time. It contains the life changing truth how all of us can be right with God. For the next few minutes we will highlight some of Paul's statements found in this letter. Without a doubt, they can transform our life, our walk with God, and our eternal destiny.
One of my family members attends medical school. He has often told me it takes more than two years of study and understanding of how the human body works before one can begin practicing medicine. We understand that. Indeed, it takes a number of years of study and insight and understanding and preparation before one can become a medical doctor. In a similar way, it takes a considerable amount of time to know and to understand who it is that provides salvation and how we can receive it. Yes, it cannot be reduced to a simple list of facts and figures that we might impose upon ourselves or upon other people. Yes, the story of Jesus Christ that is found in the New Testament part of the Bible reminds us that He is responsible for it. Paul's letter called Romans proclaims Jesus as the One who provides the free gift of salvation to all people. For the next few minutes I want us to think about that story and think about the salvation that comes from God's one and only Son. The letter of Romans was written to a group of Christians living in the city of Rome whom the apostle Paul had never met. Oh, he hoped to meet them someday. He anticipated that and he looked forward to receiving a mutual blessing and encouragement with them. Throughout his letter, he reminds these Christians of the Good News message of Jesus Christ. It is the gospel they have already received and responded to in days gone by. It is the message of salvation that makes them right with God. It cleanses away their sin and then gives them that promise of an eternal home. It's a message they had previously responded to. Paul begins by reminding them of the powerful story and the powerful message of Jesus Christ. Listen to these words that are found in the very first chapter, beginning with verse 16. <I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed —a righteousness that is by faith from the first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”> Paul reminds his original readers and us today that the message of Jesus Christ is powerful. It comes from God. And through our faith in Jesus Christ, we can receive that salvation. Throughout these 16 chapters, Paul highlights a number of things which I believe deserve our attention. First of all we notice the world is in need of God. Yes, the world is in need of God, and that is true today; and, the reason is sin. The apostle Paul mentions that a number of different times in the early chapters here in Romans. For example in chapter 3 and verse 10, "As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one;'" in chapter 3 verse 23, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;" and also chapter 6 verse 23, "The wages of sin is death." Paul reminds each and every one of us that we are all guilty in the sight of God because of the sin in our life, and the wages, or the consequences, of that sin leads to death. Several examples are provided in the first few chapters here in Romans of what that sin looks like. Both Jews and Gentiles are guilty. Severe consequences come if one continues to live in that sin. Yes, there is coming a day, even, when God's judgment will come upon them. It seems that Paul begins his letter with some negative news, and yet, there is some good news found in his message. That good news revolves around the fact that one can be released from the penalty of sin; that there is a solution to that sin problem in our life; and, we can escape the guilt and the condemnation that comes from living a life of sin. Additional good news is the fact that it does not matter who we are. As Paul wrote in chapter 1, as we read a moment ago, both the Jew and the Gentile, which includes all of us, had the opportunity to be set free from sin's penalty and consequences. One can also be released from the power of sin. Oh, Satan's influence in this world and in our lives is powerful. He continually tries to separate us from a relationship with God and move us closer to himself. And yet again, as Paul pointed out there in verses 16 and 17, the power of God is much more powerful than Satan. The powerful gospel message of Jesus Christ allows us to escape from the power of Satan and to experience the Lord's salvation. So as we take a look at Romans, Paul's letter begins by stating that everyone is guilty of sin and are condemned because of it. And yet, there is a great solution for our sin problem and that is were Paul goes next. Being right with God comes through faith. It comes through our faith in Jesus Christ. Very carefully, Paul outlines, in chapters 3 through 8, how this has already taken place. The salvation and becoming right with God is something that Jesus has already done on our behalf when He went to the cross of Calvary. He then presents that; Jesus, as the solution to our sin problem. It is the free gift of God's one and only Son. We know from reading Romans and studying Romans, salvation is not something that can be achieved or earned by the effort we put forth. Oh, other religions might teach that. Other religions might say the more you give or the more you sacrifice, the more you pray, the more gods you worship, or whatever it is, the better off you will be: you will have that right relationship with God. Yet, we know if that was possible there would be no need for a Savior by the name of Jesus. So, Romans teaches us salvation is found only in Jesus. It is the only way any of us can have a right relationship with our Father in heaven. He points that out in the third chapter. I want to begin with the reading of verse 22 and go through verse 25. <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.> That's good to know, isn't it; that through the blood Jesus shed upon the cross of Calvary, and through our faith in Him, we are set free from sin. That blood atones for the sin that is in our life. Because we cannot save ourselves, many people turn to someone or to something they believe will save them. And yet, Paul makes it very clear, Jesus is the only One and what He did on the cross is the only thing that brings about our salvation from sin. The one-time sacrifice He made by giving His life for all of mankind is sufficient for all time. No other sacrifice needs to be made. Oh because we cannot save ourselves, many people then turn to something else. They turn to their own efforts. They begin to look inward; what can I do to have that right relationship and to secure my salvation? Throughout the letter of Romans, Paul basically says there is absolutely nothing. For what Jesus has already done provides so many blessings and promises and benefits. More than you could ever imagine. Paul gives us just a brief summary of those in chapter 5. Notice verses 1 and 2. <Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.> In a world where many people are searching for peace, Paul writes, "We can have peace with God through what Jesus has already done." We also notice that we have the hope, we have the promise, of seeing God and experiencing His glory and His presence for all eternity. As we think about this free gift of salvation, I want to go to one passage of Scripture which I believe is one of the apostle Paul's most important statements, not only in the letter of Romans but in all of the writings of which we have a record. Listen carefully to these words from chapter 5, beginning with verse 6. <You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.> Paul reminds us that Jesus died for the ungodly. Jesus died for those who were wrapped up in sin. It all came as a result of God's love for mankind and His longing and His desire to have a relationship with us. Yes, God so wants to have that right relationship with us He made it happen, through the giving of His son Jesus. Once we understand that we then respond to the salvation that has already been purchased. And that's where Paul goes next in the 6th chapter, as we continue to read beginning with verse 1. <What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.> Isn't that a beautiful statement! And as he writes those words he basically mirrors what happened with Jesus Christ. We know that story; don't we? We know that Jesus died on a cross. He was then buried in a tomb. Then, on the 3rd day, He rose up to live again. And that is exactly what Paul points out. We die to the sin in our life. We are buried with Jesus Christ in baptism, as we are united with Him. After that, we then rise up to begin living a brand-new life with Jesus Christ as our Savior. Knowing Jesus as our Savior, believing in Him as the One who solves our sin problem, leads to receiving God's amazing grace. It leads to us turning away from our sin, not being a part of it. It leads to being united with Jesus in the act of baptism and then beginning to live a changed life as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus. Those three responses, faith and baptism and repentance, always work together and never apart. It is the natural response that we have to what Jesus has already done. It is the natural response to the salvation He purchased on our behalf when He died and was buried and then rose again. As we think about all of that, we go to the first two verses of the 8th chapter where Paul offers what we might consider a summary of everything he has shared up to this point. Notice verses 1 and 2: "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death." Through Christ Jesus, we are set free from the law of sin. We are set free from the penalty of sin and the power of Satan. And now, we can experience a brand-new life that comes as we have given our lives to Jesus. I do want to pause for just a moment right here and say something about Romans chapter 8. If Romans is considered to be the most important book or letter in the entire Bible, then perhaps chapter 8 is the most important chapter. It contains many great and wonderful passages. For example, Paul writes about the role of God's Holy Spirit in our lives, as the guarantee and the assurance of our salvation. He writes about the certainty of heaven, the certainty of a relationship with God, and how we can never be separated from Him. He also writes about the hope that we have of someday seeing Him and experiencing His presence for all eternity. Oh, I would encourage you to not only spend time here in Romans, but especially in the 8th chapter. The next thing Paul does, as he works his way through the story of salvation, is that he mentions the fact that both Jews and Gentiles are one in God's sight. That is found in chapters 9 through 11. In these three chapters, Paul lets the Gentile readers know that they too are included in God's salvation. And with Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, He provides the only way for them to become a part of God's family. Yes, the Jews had been God's special and chosen people for a long time, going all the way back to the days of Abraham. And even though some of them remained unfaithful and continue to do so, even now, God did not give up on them. He simply opened up the door of opportunity for everyone who was not a Jew, which includes the Gentiles. Therefore, everyone can receive the free gift of salvation. Everyone now has access to God's saving grace. No, it does not matter who we are. It does not matter what our background or our heritage might be. All of us now have the opportunity to receive what Jesus has provided for us. Finally then, we notice what a right relationship with God looks like. That is found in the last few chapters, beginning in chapter 12. As the free gift of salvation that comes from Jesus is received, we now begin to live that changed and transformed life. He begins this section in verses 1 and 2 of the 12th chapter: <Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God —this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —His good, pleasing and perfect will.> Because of the salvation we have received, it changes the way we live. In these last five chapters, Paul paints a picture of what that transformed life looks like. He addresses such things as loving one another and submitting to governing authorities. He encourages the followers of Jesus to not be judgmental but rather to be patient with those who are weak in their faith. Oh, he mentions a number of things that take place in a believer's life that may not have even been there before. Receiving Jesus' salvation is about living that transformed life. And then finally, Paul ends this most important letter by stressing again the importance of both the Jews and the Gentiles getting along with one another and receiving this free gift of salvation; that, one cannot receive it and the other can, but everyone has access to it. And since it is available to everyone, there is no room for disunity. There is no room for any kind of division among those who follow Jesus. I think about these words in chapter 15, verses 5 and 6: <May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.> Oh, that may be one of the most important statements that is found here in the letter of Romans; that, everyone is united, and with one heart and one mouth we praise God for what He has done for us through His Son. In the book of Acts, which we studied not long ago, we read how people responded to God and became one of His children. There are many examples of people being added to the number of those who were being saved. And what they did, in each and every case, was that they demonstrated their faith in Jesus, they turned away from their sin, and they were baptized, or immersed, in the name of Jesus Christ. In the letter of Romans, we read why people responded the way they did. They knew Jesus was their sin offering, which made them right with God. Oh still today, we can be set free from sin and death and eternal separation from our Father; and, we can also be free to experience His amazing love and grace in our life, and all the wonderful blessings and promises He provides to us. Being an excellent physician, as we talked about a few minutes ago, requires one to know the body extremely well. And likewise, in order to receive the salvation that comes from Jesus Christ, we are in need of knowing our Savior very well. We are in need of reading about Him, and knowing about Him, and believing in Him, and experiencing what it's like to be lost and then to be saved; to know what Jesus Christ has done for us and to give our life to Him in obedience and submission and in baptism as we are united with Jesus and we begin to walk that brand-new life. I would invite and encourage you that as you continue to read and study the letter of Romans seek to become right with God through a relationship with His son Jesus Christ.
If you do not read any other book in the entire Bible, I hope you read and study the letter of Romans. In a very powerful way, Paul presents God's love for mankind and offers the free gift of salvation through His son Jesus Christ. That is the greatest message any of us could ever receive. Paul teaches that our salvation does not come by our own good works, our church, or even our religion: It comes through Jesus Christ, alone! You might feel abandoned, unloved, or all alone in this world. Yet remember, God loves you and in Him there is hope. In the midst of our sin and rebellion, God sent His very best, so that through our faith in Jesus we are made right with Him. Yes, Romans is about salvation in Jesus, now, and in the world to come.
Thank you for tuning in to today's message. The letter of Romans is powerful and greatly impacts our lives. Indeed it is life changing and I hope you spend lots of time reading this most influential message. At “Key to the Kingdom” we offer a variety of ways to help you study the Bible. One of them is a six lesson series which you can request by phone. Simply call the number on the screen, leave your name and address, and we will send one to you by mail. The other way is to download this same study through our website. You can work through it at your own pace and we will be happy to assist you in that process. Previous lessons which have been broadcast on “Key to the Kingdom” might be of benefit as well. They are easily accessible and can be downloaded in a variety of formats. I would also encourage you to look at some “Key Moments.” They are short, two-minute messages that relate in various ways to life in today's world. If you have a smart phone, why not download the free app? It will give you quick access to our ministry. Oh, all of these opportunities to study the Bible are absolutely free and require no commitment or obligation of any kind. I hope you will take advantage of them. Thank you for joining us for today's lesson from the letter of Romans. Remember, it contains the message that makes us right with God. I trust you will tune in again next time, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”