Thursday, July 15, 2010

so i'm going to start posting my lessons from youth group every thursday, since i write most of them out anyway.


“but now the righteousness of God has been manifest apart from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. this was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. it was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-26)

ok, so we’ve got a lot of work for tonight, a lot of ground to cover, so we’ll get right to it. which of you has had a time where your reputation was under attack? where you did something, and because of it, people questioned your character?

ok, so if you’ll remember the first time i was here, we talked about the prodigal son, and the grace that God shows to both the rebellious younger brother and the self-righteous older brother. and three weeks we talked about God as father, and His adopting grace to us. two weeks ago was the faithfulness of God’s love toward us. notice a pattern? now, last week things took a different turn. we talked about the holiness of God, how God is perfect, and that there is no darkness in Him at all, as 1 John says. does anyone remember where we left off?

we left off with the problem that this holy God has left sinners go free. now, think about your friends at school. if confronted with the wrath of God, or with hell, what would they say?

most, if they didn’t completely shrug off the whole idea, would probably say something like “why can’t He just forgive us? why can’t He just be loving and act like it never happened?” and that makes sense to them, because their mindset starts with them, and how their needs and wants get met. it’s a humanist mindset, and it’s what all of us are born with. most of us are still wrestling with that.

yet a Biblically-rooted mindset starts not with us, but with God, with who He is and what His purposes are. and this brings us to our text, Romans 3:21-26. paul has gone through the first nearly three chapters of this letter to show that no one in the world can stand before God. and he sums it up here with verse 23: “for all have sinned and fallen short the glory of God.” here, we run into another word that we use a lot in church, but might not know what it means. what does this word “sin” mean to you guys? don’t worry, i’m not looking for what you think i want to hear. i want you to tell me what it means to you.

here, we see sin tied into this idea of falling short of the glory of God. a very literal translation of that would say that we lack the glory of God. right now, we’re short on time, so i’ll come back to this later, but the Bible shows in a number of places that sin is the belittling of God’s glory. it’s trading God as our object of worship, and putting up something else in its place, or “de-goding God,” as d.a. carson would say. if you are treasuring anything above God, you are by definition sinning.

now, our sense of justice would tell us that the punishment you deserve depends on the person you have offended. if you squish a bug, no punishment. *** otherwise, fly-swatters would be illegal, right? i mean, we’d all be done for every time you swatted at a gnat, you’d be like “i hope no one saw that, or i’m in big trouble.” no jailtime for insecticide. but if you kill a dog, you get a big fine, and a few months or years in prison. if you murder a person, you get either lifetime imprisonment, or the death sentence. now, since God is infinitely worthy of our worship, and we haven’t given it to Him, we’ve committed an infinitely punishable crime. *** that’s the definition of hell: conscious, eternal torment, because for a finite being like us, it takes an infinitely long time to meet out infinite punishment. now, we all know we’ve done this, and paul has spent nearly three chapters of this letter proving that everyone has. so we all deserve hell.

now for a moment, let’s look at the opposite of this. the opposite of sin would be? righteousness, or justice (in greek, they’re the same word, just so you know). and so that word, by the Bible’s definition, is properly esteeming the glory of God above all things. and we know that God is righteous, so God values His glory above all things. i’m going to show you this is true a lot more thoroughly and with a great deal of Scripture in a couple weeks, but for now let’s run with this.

now God has let sinners, those who have dishonored Him by treasuring other things more than Him – He’s let them go. He’s forgiven us, right? but what would that say about God, if He lets God-belittling sinners go free? wouldn’t that be, in effect, agreeing with them, that His glory isn’t all that important? and wouldn’t that make God a sinner? it’s like, if there was a murderer on trial, and he’s convicted, and right before they cart him off he says he’s really sorry. wouldn’t the judge be unjust if he let the murderer go free? this is the problem that paul is faced with as he looks back over history, at God over and over showing mercy and kindness to those who have, in effect, flicked Him off and wanted nothing to do with Him. how can God do this and remain just, remain righteous?

this is why there has to be the cross. let’s look back at the text. verses 23 and 24 tell us that we have sinned and God has justified us, or counted us as righteous, through Jesus Christ. it says in verse 25 that God “put [Him] forward as a propitiation by His blood [that is, by His death], to be received by faith.” that word there, propitiation (or in the niv, an atoning sacrifice) means that Christ on the cross took for us the wrath of God against us, which we deserved because of our sins, the many times we’ve belittled the glory of God. then look what it says: “this was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins.” so God is righteous, He does uphold the value of His glory and His renown, and He shows this by placing the just punishment for our sins, the sins He has forgiven or “passed over” on His own Son. now ponder this question with me: according to this text, did Christ die for us, or for God?

now of course, Christ died for us, in the sense that He set us free from our sins so that we might be reconciled to God. but did Christ die primarily for us? let’s look back at the text. it says that God sent Christ to be this propitiation, “to show God’s righteousness [in] pass[ing] over former sins.” the cross is primarily about God being vindicated, and His glory being upheld, because in love He forgives our sins, “so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus,” as verse 26 says.

this might seem strange to you at first, that God is primarily about God, but give it some time, and this truth will become wonderful to you. i plan on spending the week after we get back from the mission trip on showing you more clearly that God’s greatest passion is for His own glory, and the week after that on why this is the best news in the world. but let me just point you a little bit to what we’ll talk about in three weeks, and it’s in 1 John 1:9. God here says, “if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” this idea that God is first and foremost about God, is the most solid bedrock and firm foundation of your faith and of your assurance of salvation that you could imagine. we’ll get there. let’s pray.

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