Good morning, my name is Phil Human and welcome to Journey Church. We’d like to especially welcome those of you who are here with us for the first time today. We are glad you are here. We started Journey Church 9 and a half years ago with the idea of making it as easy as possible to discover the real Jesus. Because we’ve found that when you discover the real Jesus, you’ll find him irresistible. You’re going to love him.
So wherever you are in your spiritual journey – you might be a long time follower of Jesus – you might be extremely skeptical that God even exists – we are glad you are here. And we hope you walk away with something for your soul to chew on in the course of the week.
Today we are in week two of a study we are doing on the book of Romans. Roman’s was a letter written by a man named Paul about 58 AD or so. We learned last week that Paul began his life as a persecutor of Christians – eagerly pulling Jewish men and women who had become followers of Jesus- out of their homes and throwing them into jails.
You know, I don’t know where you might be coming from today – you might think this Jesus thing is a big joke – all I can say is that from the first moments of Christianity’s birth , there are stories of people who were once were staunch opponents of Jesus discovering the real Jesus and becoming staunch defenders of the faith.
Paul is one of them. In fact – when Paul first becomes a Christian – the church isn’t sure they believe him. They hear that Paul, who was once killing Christians, has become a follower of Jesus, and he wants to meet the leaders of the church. And they’re like – It’s a trap! He’ll kill us all! And it takes a brave soul named Barnabus – who risks his life to meet and help Paul grow in his faith. So all that to say – there’s plenty of people in this room who once thought Jesus was a joke – who have come to think highly enough of Jesus to trust him with their entire lives.
In fact – if I’m describing you – I’d invite you to take a book off the table in the lobby before you go by a guy named Lee Strobel. Lee was a pulitzer prize winning journalist who decided to once and for all show the world what a sham this Jesus myth was – and he, like Paul, ends up instead becoming a follower of Jesus. And his book, The Case for Christ, details how he came to the conclusion that Jesus must have truly been who he said he was. Take one – free – we’ve got a bunch.
Last week we learned that Paul is writing to a group of believers who were living in Rome at the time, who didn’t have a great deal of knowledge or understanding about Jesus and the faith. Some people from Rome were in Jerusalem and heard about Jesus and they went back to Rome and started telling people about Jesus and they began a church – eager, enthusiastic, but without a strong theological foundation to their beliefs.
Paul sits down and writes a letter to them that is bursting with theology. It’s loaded with truth about God’s plan to bring humanity back into a right relationship with himself.
Last week we learned that Paul starts his letter off by covering the basic of basics – who is Jesus? He is God in the flesh.
Next – Paul is going to make another important theological statement. If we don’t get this truth – then not much else Paul teaches will make sense. It’s a foundational element to Christianity.
And that truth can be summed up in this sentence. Your goose is cooked – unless you swap places with Jesus.
If you ever bought a book on Theology – there would be a chapter in there somewhere early in the book entitled “The Depravity of Mankind” And what that means is Your goose is cooked.
And Paul is going to break down three types of people and explain why their goose is cooked. The Atheist. The Moralist. And the Religionist.
First – Paul wants people who live their lives as if there is not enough evidence that God exists – that they are without excuse. The day will come when you will stand before God the righteous judge of all mankind and you will be found guilty for your godlessness.
Check it out. (I’ll be using the New International Version)
Romans 1: 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people,
Now the reason that I’m using the NIV today is because of this word wrath – we use wrath to mean out of control rage! But God is never out of control. Wrath here means God’s righteous indignation. It’s being angry for the right reason and at the right people. And as a righteous judge, there awaits for the condemned the righteous wrath of the justice system.
So Paul is referring here to the judgment seat. When we die, we will face God. And we will face his judgment and his wrath if… nothing is done for us.
Romans 1: 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Remember the last time you got pulled over for something? And the police officer comes up to your window – what did you say to try to get out of the ticket? What excuse did you try? “Did I do that?” My speedometer must be stuck – I’ll get it looked at! Believe me officer I’m just as shocked as you are! Or do you go for ignorance? I had no idea that the speed limit wasn’t – how fast did you say I was going? I had no idea the speed limit wasn’t 87 miles on hour here on 370.
Someone once asked famous Atheist Richard Dawkins – what would you say if, when you die – you found out there really was a God? What would you say to him? And Richard Dawkins rather smugly replied, “I’d say to God, ‘why God you didn’t give me enough evidence.’”
And what Romans 1 tells us is that’s baloney.
The bible makes a rather stunning claim – deep down – everybody knows there is a God. Regardless of what we claim – deep down we know – this isn’t an accident. God has given each of us enough hints as to infer an existence of God.
These aren’t proofs – but Paul says, it’s plain enough to infer the existence of God. – There is too much order in the world for this all to be an accident. There is too much beauty in the world. And listen – I know there’s ugliness and hate in this world too, but there’s far more beauty and love – things that cannot be explained by Evolution.
Just this week I ran across this article where researchers are spending hundreds of hours studying apes in an effort to try to figure out the origins of generosity.
Why are they doing this? Because generosity – selflessness – cannot be explained easily by the theory of evolution. Because the rule of nature is, what? The strong eat the weak.
So how did we turn out to have impulses for generosity? I’ll tell you why – It’s because God is generous and we are made in the image of God.
Now I’m anticipating someone saying – well if we are made in the image of God, then why then do people murder one another? And I’d say – the bible gives a clear answer to that – it’s because people live as if there is no God and they will do what they want to do.
And that’s Paul’s thesis statement, really. We know better. We know there is a God and yet people suppress that truth in order to do what we want.
That’s a powerful statement. We suppress the truth. Ever suppress the truth? No… I see. Ever take a picture of yourself and then look at it on your phone and then say -oh that’s a terrible picture – delete it and let’s try again. Oh yeah you do! So do I!
Why? We suppress the truth. This picture does not accurately reflect the truth. Let’s try again except let me put my hand on my hip and bend my leg and let me look up a little to get rid of this flabby chin. We regularly suppress the truth. We don’t want the truth. We can’t handle the truth.
And for the person who wants to live as if there is no God – is there any truth more necessary to suppress than the truth that there really is a God in this world. Because if there is a God – wouldn’t it mean I may be held accountable to him for the manner in which I live my life?
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.
And the result? Paul writes… 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts… Each ends up doing whatever they want to do.
I hear this phrase sometimes and I don’t mean to pick on it – because I think it can be used appropriately, but it’s this phrase – “you do you. I’ll do me.” You do you, man. It’s kind of a modern version of “to each his own.”
The problem is this – no one really believes that. No one believes you do you. Imagine going in a time machine and meeting Hitler in 1939 and he lays out for you his plan to eliminate the Jews. What are you going to say? “You do you Hitler.”
No – what we really mean is, I do me. Thank you. I don’t care what you do so long as you don’t cross my will. I’ll do me. We suppress the truth about God and we live as if We are the creator of our own life. As if we decided to wake ourselves this morning.
No – the Bible says to anyone who tries to live as if there is no God – Your goose is cooked – apart from Jesus.
Now – let’s talk about the next people that Paul wants to address. People caught up in their own goodness. Moralists – are people who are trying to live a good life – whether or not they believe in God.
And when Paul talks about Moralists – I will sometimes hear people who don’t believe in God say, “I can be an atheist and still be a good person” – and I say of course – that’s called a moralist.
A moralist is described by Paul in Romans 2:6 as someone who says – “I’m basically a good person and I just want God to judge me based on what I’ve done.” And Paul says, well, that’s exactly what will happen and guess what? Guess what your goose is? Cooked baby! Why?
2 You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.
The problem is that we are all – apart from the help of the Holy Spirit – we are all hypocrites. I know we like to reserve that term for religious people who say one thing and do another, but it’s appropriate for the moralists as well.
So Paul is making the same argument that Jesus makes in Matthew 12:36,37 where Jesus says that on the Day of Judgment – we will be judged according to our own words. What does that mean? It means even people who don’t live by the bible – who don’t want to be judged by the bible – they will be judged by their own words.
Meaning – anytime you hold someone to a standard you yourself didn’t live up to? Guilty. Can you believe that so and so lied? The shock of it all! The nerve? You ever lie?
See, you might want to believe that you are above that, but you too are suppressing the truth. Jesus is quite confident that the moralist will be found guilty of holding others to standards they themselves didn’t live up to. So to the Moralist who wants to be judged by their deeds – God says. No, you don’t. Because you will be judged by your own words. And you will cook your own goose.
Lastly, Paul wants to address the religionist. Paul says, how much more so for the person who knows God’s law. Who knows God’s standards…
17 You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him.
23 You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it.
Religion is a particularly deadly kind of poison. Religion shrinks God down to a set of rules and checkboxes and shrinks God.
It is possible to be religious and yet not be godly. Religion demands external conformity to a set of acceptable behaviors. it sets up this long list of rules not to break. And boxes that should be checked.
But it doesn’t actually change a heart. It’s not a natural and easy life – it’s a grind.
My guess is that there are people in this room who have experienced the grind of religion. Either you or your parents didn’t obey the clubhouse rules and got kicked out or ostracized or marginalized or embarrassed by graceless rule keepers – and it left you feeling like, what kind of God is this?
Ultimately, author Timothy Keller points out that there is one thing that is in common with these all three of these kinds of people – the atheist, the moralist and the religionist – The one thing that unites them? Ultimately, all three mindsets leave the person in control. Not God.
None of these people have surrendered to a God who may ask anything of us he chooses to ask.
That’s the God of the bible. There’s nothing he may not ask of us. And we need not fear that, because he is the kind of God who died for us. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep.
Paul is writing to the Romans to explain to them the basics. And he starts with God becoming man to rescue us – and then he talks about how deeply we all need to be rescued. And – in case he left any of us out- He sums up the guilt of all humanity in Romans 3:10 “No one is righteous-not even one.
So how do we respond to this? Should we just be glum? Sad? Despondent?
Well, no. I think we respond by being thankful! Thank God, my goose is cooked.
I mean – what a relief. What a relief for the person out there wondering if you’ve done enough to get God to give you a passing grade.
I mean if you’ve been living your life thinking that God has some kind of scale and he weighs the good deeds against the bad deeds and if you have enough good deeds you get in – that’s torture!
The uncertainty of not ever knowing? It would drive you batty. Make you shrink in constant fear. Good news for you – you will never get the scales to tip in your favor by being a really really good person. It’ll never happen. Praise God you get to stop the song and dance.
Place your faith in Jesus. Think highly enough of him to trust him with the day to day governance of your life – that’s all that God asks of you. Jesus did the work.
Listen, maybe you’ve been thinking that you’re too sinful – too immoral- to ever get God to allow you access to himself. You think – everybody else has a head start on you and you’ll never catch up.
Good news. There’s nothing you’ve done that the death of Jesus couldn’t atone for. He invites you to trade places with him. Receive his goodness – he takes your regrets and shame and sin on the cross to die an ugly death.
See – Paul is leveling out mankind. No one has the upper hand. No one has a head start. It doesn’t matter whether you are rich, or poor. Jewish or not. Religious or not. Moral or not.
We are all equally guilty as sin. We are all up a creek. We are all in trouble. UNLESS!!!
We are all equally needy – and that means we should all be equally thankful.
The reason Paul says that he is a herald of good news is because
Unless God intervenes – and praise God that’s what he does.
22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
So here’s how we respond. We recognize that we are equally needy. And that means we should be equally thankful! Equally grateful. God has done the work for us. And we respond with gratitude.
This week – I’d like to encourage you to take time in your prayer life to be thankful. Spend ten minutes a day in solitude and think about this message that the bible preaches over and over again.
I guarantee you – that if you spend ten minutes a day in solitude – thinking about this good news – not thankful for your stuff, or for your car or your job – I’m talking about simply thanking God for liking you. Thanking him for loving you.
We talk a lot about thinking highly enough of God to trust him. Can I just say that this message the bible teaches – is that God thinks highly enough of you – highly enough to die for you. In order that you and He together might be able to get some stuff done in this kind of world.
For God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten son – that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish but have an everlasting life.