Vision: Broken Sinners Becoming Whole Through the Love of Christ Romans 3:21-24; 6:22-23; 8:18-25
1/8/2019 1:04:24 AM
January 6, 2019
Rev. David Williams
Scripture: Romans 3:21-24; 6:22-23; 8:18-25
Imagine you own a business – how do you know your business is growing? You might measure sales or profits. You might measure customers served. If your company is large, you might measure market share, or even stock values. If you take the time to consider if your company is growing, and you find it isn’t growing, you start to think about ways to change that. You expect your company to grow. Maybe it won’t grow in size, but it will grow in efficiency or profit.
Imagine you are a parent (maybe you don’t have to imagine!) How do you know your child is growing? You see change. You may not see change day by day, but year by year you sure do! When Megan was 1 month old we loved her. She didn’t do much, other than spit up and fill her diapers! But that was ok. She was a month old!
By a year, she was sitting up. By Two she was running around and talking. By 3 we were playing in the rain together. By 5 she’s making cookies, painting crafts and giving her dad the “Oh Dad” look! Do we love her more now than when she was 1 month old? No! Of course not! But because we love her, we expect to see her change and grow. If she were not growing, it would be a sign that there was a problem. We would be concerned. We would do everything we could to get her help!
Growth is a sign of life. Growth is a form of change. We expect children to grow up and change. God expects us to grow and change as his children too. God expects us to mature as we walk with the Spirit. He expects us to be transformed through the power of the Spirit to be more like Jesus. God expects his children to grow up and show fewer signs of sin, to be less captive to sinful desires and more fruitful in the things of the Spirit.
This doesn’t just apply to people though. This is actually God’s plan for all of creation! God’s plan for creation is for it to grow and be transformed. This transformation is part of God’s plan for all of his creation as we are going to see in a few moments.
Most of us as Christians think of our faith in very personal terms. That’s good! But we must also come to see that our faith, our faithfulness, our maturing in the Spirit also has consequences for all of creation! The whole of scripture includes this flow, this progression, this movement towards an ultimate goal, and ultimate transformation at the end. Let’s take a look!
Romans is Paul’s longest, most complex letter. I rarely “cherry pick” verses but I want us to see some highlights of the movement, the progression through Paul’s letter that is reflective of a bigger theme both in Romans and all of the Bible.
Please turn to Romans 3:21-24; 6:22-23 and 8:18-25.
What It Says
There is a movement through these 3 passages. The first passage, Romans 3, describes a tremendous opportunity that has arisen in Jesus. The second passage, Romans 6, describes what happens when we take the opportunity offered to us, the radical transformation that happens as a result of that opportunity. The third passage broadens the horizon or changes the scope of the results of taking that opportunity. This third passage shows that the opportunity God provides in Jesus applies not just to individuals, not even just to people, but has ramifications for all the creation!
Consider our first text from Rom 3. “Now” means something new has happened. A righteousness from God contrasts both some people’s unrighteousness and other people’s self-righteousness! Righteousness is a relationship word- our relationship with God. It is new in that it has come to be, but it’s not new to God’s plan. The Old Testament testified about it beforehand. This righteousness comes through Faith in Christ Jesus – faith and belief, in Scripture include commitment. It is when we commit ourselves wholly to Christ that we are reconciled to God, that God says our relationship with him is good- we are declared by God to be righteous.
This righteousness from God is offered to all because it is needed by all. We have all sinned- we have all
rebelled in various degrees against God. All of our hearts are hardened against God to a degree, greater or lesser. We are all contaminated by sin which makes us toxic to God’s presence. We are all contaminated by sin, whether Jew or Gentile, Christian or non-Christian, male or female, black or white or anything in between! We all have this same problem! But God provided a solution to this problem which provides an opportunity for us to be reconciled to God- to be declared righteous.
There are two images in this passage that are important. Righteousness and justified are legal words. Redemption is a commerce word. Righteousness and justified are actually the same word in Greek, just different forms like an adjective, noun or verb. They are legal word which relate to being “declared innocent.” It is when God declares us innocent that we can be reconciled to him, our relationship with him is restored.
Redemption- or redeemed- is a word taken from commerce. Slavery was a reality in the Greco-Roman world. In the marketplace, when a person went to buy a slave in order to set him or her free, the term used was “redeemed.” Let’s see what it means for God to redeem us!
Now turn to Romans 6 to see the effects of this opportunity God has presented. Paul says, “ Now you have been set free from sin.” But not set free to run off on our own! Instead, we who were slaves to sin are now slaves to God. That might seem startling- slaves to God? But in the Roman world when a slave was able to buy his freedom, or somebody bought their freedom for them, there was a special process. The slave took the money to a particular temple and gave the money to the priests there. The priests gave the money to the slave’s former owner (likely minus a fee) and then the slave, now a free man or woman, was considered the property or slave of the god of that temple! So the idea of being set free from slavery to an earthly master but becoming the property of a deity was normal in the Greco-Roman world.
The opportunity offered, then, is to change masters- from being slaves to sin to being slaves of God. Even when we think we are autonomous, free to be ourselves, our own masters, we are actually still slaves to sin!
The wages paid to slaves were the “per diem” or the amount given for their daily needs. This term may not have applied to all slaves, but it was what soldiers were paid. When our master is sin, that daily wage is death- eternal separation from God!
The wages God gives, however, is not just for our daily needs, but eternal life! That’s an eternal, intimate relationship with God! That’s what God gives us compared to what sin gives us.
Eternal life is pretty awesome. Being in an eternal, intimate relationship with God is pretty spectacular! It’s actually what we were made for, but sin gets in the way. And most Christians think that our relationship with God, our eternal life, will be in Heaven- some other plane of existence. BUT this is not the Biblical witness!
Consider Romans 8- Paul is contrasting our current experience on earth with our future as those who have taken advantage of the opportunity God has offered. He contrasts our present suffering – “the suffering of the now time” with the glory of the future age, the age to come.
Our sin affected all of creation. God’s redemptive plan includes all of creation. All of creation waits in eager expectation- literally “is on tip toe” looking towards the horizon from where help will come.
What is that help? The revealing of the sons of God! – that’s Christians! That’s us if we take the opportunity God offers. Notice the change in the description of God’s people by the way- from slaves to sons! God not only justifies us, pardoning our sin, he not only redeems us, setting us free from captivity to sin, he goes to far as to adopt us into the royal family with full rights and privileges!
See God’s plan laid out here- for creation to be redeemed along with his children. God subjected creation to frustration (effect of sin- see Gen 3). Frustration means being unable to attain its God-given purpose.
But God didn’t do this out of mean-ness or cruelty. He did it with the hope (future) of its liberation in the glorious freedom of his Children!
We are also subject to frustration- our purpose is to glorify God forever! Our frustration is seen in our ongoing battle with sin, even as the Spirit begins to dwell in us and transform us. But our hope is that one day we will be able to attain our God-given purpose of knowing him intimately and glorifying him forever.
What It Means
I hope you can see this grand progression in God’s plan of redemption for you and me. Often we reduce Christianity to a personal experience, saying a prayer, making a decision. While it’s true that is where our walk with Christ begins, it cannot be where our walk with Christ ends!
God expects growth. God expects our transformation. God’s plan includes not only our transformation but all of nature’s!
God has presented us with a tremendous opportunity: to be freed from sin, reconciled to God and adopted into his family. This is completely life altering! And not just in this life, but all of eternity! This is the triumphal good news of Jesus that has earth shattering consequences! To take part in this opportunity is to change everything that matters! It means moving from death to life, from being slaves to sin to royal children of God.
Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking only in terms of our present circumstances. We think of God’s work in our lives merely in what it means for our experiences today or this week. We wonder why God hasn’t solved this problem or that problem for us. But this is such narrow thinking! We must keep in mind God’s grand plan for the transformation of all of creation! At that point, whatever problems you face now, big or small as they may seem now, will be insignificant! They will be more than dealt with, God will actually wipe away every tear of sorrow or pain you’ve ever shed!
The consequences of salvation are more far-reaching than we imagine. Being a Christian is about more than just you. It’s about more than where you go when you die. It’s about more than being a good person. It’s about participating in God’s tremendous plan of redemption and transformation for all of creation!
God’s plan is for all of creation to be healed from the wounds of sin. Romans 8:21 – all of creation liberated from bondage to decay and brought into freedom- these are the images used for us! Redeemed from slavery and brought into the freedom of attaining our God-given purpose!
We don’t experience this in its fullness yet. When we become Christians, we still groan under the frustration of sin. We have the first-fruits of the Spirit at work in us, but even that can remind us that our redemption is not yet complete! So we must hold on to our hope, looking forward to the completion of the transformation.
Physical redemption is our hope. – our bodies will be set free (redemption//slavery word!) from the frailties of sin, along with all of creation. That’s transformation. We have been spiritually redeemed, set free from the eternal consequences of sin, but not from the power of indwelling sin and the effects of living in a world tainted by sin. Redemption like this means a kind of transformation. Transformation is change and growth.
As we wait for our redemption to be completed, God still expects us to grow. We’ve looked at the grand picture. We’ve considered what God has done and where he is taking us. We acknowledge that we are not there yet, but we are moving in that direction. We are moving in the direction of being revealed as God’s children, like Jesus in our transformation both physically and spiritually and even morally.
This is a great big picture. It covers the length and breadth of the universe. It involves all of time and beyond. What does it mean for you and me? What does it mean for us this week, month or year?
Zero in on the fact that God expects us to grow. It’s no coincidence that the NT speaks of us being “born again” and “children of God.” As God’s children, born anew by the Holy Spirit, He expects us to grow and mature.
Being transformed, being redeemed has (or should have) an affect on us in our day to day lives. [pic] Our growth does not earn God’s love or redemption. That’s a free gift! Just as we don’t love Megan because she’s growing, but we love that she’s growing, we expect it, encourage it and look for it. If she’s not growing and maturing, we worry! We correct her. We direct her, etc. This growth is normal, expected and part of the transformation of becoming an adult.
As a church, we expect people to grow. Our vision is “We see broken people becoming whole through the love of Christ.” That brokenness to wholeness is the transformation of redemption. It’s the transformation of growing into our status of being God’s beloved children. It manifests in growth and change.
We are all broken in sin. And that’s ok, God loves us just as we are. God’s righteousness is not based on our attempts to overcome sin on our own. That’s self-righteousness and it doesn’t work!
But realize that it’s NOT ok to use brokenness as an excuse not to grow! Yes we are sinful people, we stumble, screw up, hurt one another, let God down. There is grace for that! But our brokenness is not an excuse. The power of sin has been broken in Jesus! We must not wallow in our brokenness. To believe in Jesus means to commit to Jesus and that includes committing to cooperating with his bigger program of transformation.
God loves you just the way you are, and too much to let you stay that way. And so do we! Yes you are broken in sin. But no, you don’t have to stay that way! We see broken people becoming whole through the love of Christ! Our vision is to be a community in which people start growing into mature Christians- reflecting the character of Jesus in their own character. We expect it.
What does this mean? Let me ask you, how long have you been coming to Priory? Are you still the same as when you began coming? I hope not! I’ve been at Priory for 15 years now and I’m not the same as when I first started. I hope you’re not either!
Ask yourself, are you more like Jesus now than when you first started coming here? Because that’s our job as a church community. That’s our small piece in God’s big plan.
Becoming whole, even through the love of Christ, takes work. That’s what we are here for- to be a community in which we can work at becoming whole through Jesus. We help one another. We work on ourselves. But we expect to change and grow. This is part of being revealed as the children of God. It’s part of God’s plan of redemption for you and me, but also for all of creation!
Do you realize you are a broken person? Do you know you have a tremendous opportunity? Have you taken that opportunity? Are you growing as a result of that opportunity? Will you partner with us in relationship to help all of us grow and mature as God’s beloved sons and daughters, becoming whole through the love of Christ? Amen.
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