Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 6 years ago

You Are Not Good: Part III (Romans 2:12-29)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Christopher Chelpka

Well, let's continue on in our reading and preaching of Romans Chapter Two. This is the end of Romans Two, verses twelve through twenty nine, Romans Chapter Two, verse twelve, for all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is for it is not the high hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when gentiles who do not have the law by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves. Even though they do not have the law, they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accused or even excuse them on that day when, according to My Gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and a proove what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law, and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness and instructor of the Foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth. You, then, who teach others, do not teach yourself. While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You, who abhor idols, do rob temples? You, who boast in the law, dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, the name of God is blasphemed among the gentiles because of you. For circumcision indeed is a value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes UNCIRCUMCISION. So with a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law, will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For No one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly. Nor is circumcision outward and physical, but a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart. By the spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. God bless this word to us may be seated well, Paul has been. I'm bringing before us, as I've mentioned in the last two sermons, these examples for us to be reminded of. He brings before us these particular kinds of people, to have us look at them and thereby look in a mirror, to look at our own hearts and see the way that sin and the flesh are working within us and in each of these examples. Now, coming to the third one, we will see, as we have seen, that sin is not good, that we who sin are not good,...

...that we, in our sin, in our sinfulness, disobey God rightfully come under his wrath and his curse. So, of course, is not a happy message. So the kind of thing that you might struggle to like if you are posting such a thing on facebook. It's a it's not something that you just immediately say, yeah, that sounds great, but it's it's so true, and the truth should always be liked loved. We love it because it exposes something within us so that we can turn to something else. Using that old analogy, it's the doctor who points out the disease so that we can know the cure. One Who doesn't believe they have a problem isn't going to go talk to the doctor, isn't going to believe the doctor when he offers a remedy. And here, at the beginning of Romans before, Paul really brings forward in a robust detail the remedy to the problem, namely Jesus Christ dying on a cross to forgive you of your sins. He's telling you that you have sins deep inside, sins that are deeply rooted and not easily brushed away. Paul's been showing us these different examples, each of these different kinds of people that we see in ourselves. The first person was a sinner whose conscience is conscience is seared, who knows God's law, knows what he requires, know the word, knows the worship that God requires, and then simply says I don't care, I want something else. And not only does the does he want something else, but he even approves of others who likewise disobey with him. Then last week we considered those who openly recognize God's law. They say it's a good thing and even judge others by it, but you'll yet at the same time or self contradictory. They say don't commit adultery, and yet commit adultery. They say don't steal, and yet steal. Now those lines that I just quoted also come from this passage and there's definite overlap. But the difference is this. Here Paul is not just addressing people who know the law, but people who know, in particular the law of God as it is revealed by Moses, who have, in particular, received the holy scriptures and have heard it and have been told the stories of God's redemption, of the requirements that they have. He has first and foremost in his mind the Jews and he addresses them directly. He first addresses them directly by pointing out sort of the contrast. It's sort of an argument from the lesser to the greater. Later he's going to say, you who have the law, you should know these things, you should do you do them. Well, if that's true of you, that's true, because the gentiles who don't have the law do these things on themselves. But before we come to that, we'll just make this simple point that having the religion, or true religion, having religion that's from God is most certainly better than not. So, if you take the last two examples, having a sense of morality and openly acknowledging it, even if you're contradictoring it, is better than not opening will openly acknowledging it. It's better than hiding it or pretending that there's no law or standard by which we live and likewise having religion, so to speak, being a spiritual person, is better than not. Of course,...

...that doesn't save us, as Paul says, but the truth still stands, and there's all kinds of studies that show this kind of thing, what a benefit it is to grow up among like minded people, to have a bigger perspective on life, to have direction and guidance on how to live. These are the kinds of things that religion offers to be able to be of help to someone in need and to help someone at a time when you need to be helped. But at the same time, when we talk about the religion of God, we talk about Christianity, when we talk about the old covenant that came before the new, we're not just talking about religion in a general sense or spirituality in a general sense. Are we we're talking about the Lord God of the Universe delivering these things, particularly in a very specific way, to his people, reading the Ten commandments there on Mount Sinai. These aren't just principles that people come up with and ideas, but these is what we might call true religion, true spirituality. And when we when we when we think of it that way and we see it as God gives it to us, we realize that the church, Christianity, religion, is not just a neighborhood of people or a community organization, and the ways that all these other benefits I mentioned earlier might also fall under, because we're a people not just centered around ourselves as a community, but we're people centered around God. As I mentioned earlier, we are a worshiping people. We are a people who are are gathered around his throne. We're not just linked up against one up and with one another, or, to use the metaphor of a body. We are many members and we belong to one another, but all under the head of Jesus Christ. And so, first and foremost, we're not just a community, but we are a community, a people, a body of worshippers of God, and that means that, like the Jews. We are those who have been entrusted with worship. We have been entrusted with, what Paul will say in chapter three, the oracles of God. We have been given the things of God. We don't protect God like an idol or a golden calf or something like that. We protect the things he has given us, his worship, his people. But what Paul is saying here is, though, that is a very good thing, and he'll make that point explicitly in chapter three when he asked this for corps of rhetorical question. Then what advantage has the Jew or what a value is circumcision? And he says much in every way and explain some of that. So these things have value in and of themselves. But his point here is that it's not enough to just hear these things. It's not enough to stand at the bottom of Mount Sinai and see the clouds and watch the lightning striking and the thunder crash and can be trembling in your boots at hearing the law of God. If you turn right around and begin making a calf, what's the point? It's not enough to be known by God in this way, to have his law revealed and impressed upon you in such a way that you are fearing for your life if you don't do anything, if you don't actually do the things that he is commanded. When God gives the law, he gives it in his way to impress upon us his Great Holiness and authority, that he is the one who...

...gives life and takes it away. I will not hold him guiltless who takes my name in vain. I am a jealous God, visiting the Iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. Or is we read in the call to worship? God will not forget those who are harmed and and and oppressed, but he will avenge their blood. Over and over throughout scripture, God reminds us what a what a weak word God impresses on us. God pounds it into us that he is an authority, that he is a king, he is powerful and he does not accept no for an answer. He does not accept a mere hearing of the law, of being in his presence, of knowing the things of God. If we simply turn around and walk away from him, lip service is not good enough, for it is the hearers of the law who are right, for it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. Here Paul, Throughout this section, is speaking in very black and white terms. You do the law, you will obey and you will be justified, and rightfully so. You will be one who was obedient, one who did the right things. But if you do not obey the law, then you will not be justified. And what is the opposite of justification? Condemnation and all the penalties of God that come with it. And so that's God's point here. He's impressing this on us. If we go before God and we say, Hey, I know things are good between you and me because you've spoken to me, you've told me your requirements and I openly acknowledge them. I think that these ten commandments are very important and I want to put them up in my house and I want to teach them to my children and I want to belong to a church that that requires these things and teaches these things and preaches these things. I know that we're okay. And God says it's not enough to do all that. You must actually obey the law. He points this out by saying in verse Seventeen, if you call yourself a Jew and rely and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent because you are instructed from the law and I if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind and a light to those who are in darkness, and instructor to those who are foolish and a teacher of those who are children, having in the law the embodiments of knowledge and truth. You, then, who teach others? Do you not teach yourself? You hear the expectation that Paul has. In some ways, Paul is both mocking them but also putting before them exactly what should be. He's no way saying that they shouldn't be teachers, or that they shouldn't be lights in the darkness, or that they shouldn't be instructors. That's what they should be. They've been given the law of God, the Oracles of God, the word of God. The problem isn't that they have them. The problem isn't that they've been given these responsibilities and privileges. The problem is that they're not obeying them. The problem is that they're not doing them. Yesterday, someone was telling me a story about an English teacher who wrote badly worded and punctuated emails. It begins to...

...a discount the authority of the person to do these kinds of things, doesn't it? If you say that you are something but you are not acting in those ways, what does that say? And you we can ask this of ourselves. Do we punctuate our lives according to the grammar of God and all the divisions and parts and thoughts and the beginnings and ends of how we live? Is it according to his syntax and diction? Is it according to the way that he has taught us to express ourselves? Do we live our lives with him? The grand story that he is telling US is true? Do we think of ourselves as those who are under him and obligated to obey him? If you are Christian, do you think of yourself as one who has been forgiven, one who has been rescued, one who has been bought with the very blood of Jesus Christ? Do we live this way? Do we are we lights in the darkness, the lights that we have been made to be? Well, I think all this undoes us. It reminds us of our sin. The gentiles in a sense have knowledge and experience. They look at the world, they see and feel the law of God in a sense written on their hearts. They don't need the Law of Moses to tell them, though, obedience that they have. Paul says this. They do by nature of the things that are required. They have these things by knowledge and experience. But the Jews have even more, as do we. Not only do they have knowledge and experience, but they're credentialed, so to speak. They've been given the certification of God, they've been given his special attention, his oracles, his writings, his mentoring. But that's not enough. It's not enough to be religious, it's not enough to know the one true and Holy God and to know him in this very intimate way, because, as we all know, living our lives only in obedience to God is very, very hard, even impossible. Think about it really, consider and examine your lives at each and every point of the law of the ten commandments and ask yourself, am I obey or am I doing exactly what the Israelites did, exactly what the Jews did, and professing to be one who walks in the light and yet doing deeds of darkness? Believing things we ought not to believe, hiding things that they might not be exposed. We know from our lives the sin is always lurking around the corner, isn't it? Pride is always wanting to take us in an opposite direction. There are lusts, passions, misordered and disordered loves that pull us again and again and again into sin. What we see in the world is that people face this reality, the reality that sin is buried deep within them, that their consciences have a problem, that their souls are malformed, deformed. Some people just give up, don't they? Maybe you have a certain times you just give up and decide you're not even going to try. I know the rules, but honestly, I...

...don't care. It's just too hard. I've wanted to maybe do something, but I want something else too. Have you ever wanted something so badly that, though you knew with a hundred percent clarity that this was the wrong thing to do? What you're going to do, you didn't that it and you do it anyways, even when the consequences of sin are right there, right around the corner. You know that if I do this thing, I very likely will lose my job, lose my marriage, hurt my children, and yet there you are doing it. That's this power of the flesh. It is very powerful in such a way that scripture tells us that we cannot merely acknowledge it, but required to be at war with it, to put it to death. And some don't do that. They simply give up. They stopped trying, and we meet people like this. We've been people like this, people that just don't care and they're going to do what they want to do. Others don't go quite so far. Instead, they don't live their lives in open rebellion, but they they pretend. They send just as much, but they try to cover it up, they try to convince themselves in all kinds of ways that they're okay. That some people, some of us, we lower God standards and we say, well, yeah, life is hard and complicated, it's not all black and white, surely this will excuse away my sin. Or, if we don't lower the God's standard, we raise up our own righteousness and we say, well, I know this thing is bad, but look at all these other great things I've done this week. I was so nice to her yesterday and I help that guy at work we think of all these various ways in which we really extended and maybe dead truly extend ourselves. But really will one or two decent and human acts cover up all the ways in which we have destroyed others, hurt others, ways in which we find ourselves entirely unable to repair a relationship, to bring healing even in our own souls? Or if we don't pretend that God standards are lower than they are or that we're better than we are, we just sort of try to wash away the whole problem. We think that we can cover it up with sort of being involved in a system of religion. I go to church every Sunday. I look Nice, not too nice, I have a Bible, I know some hymns, maybe even some from memory. I can dry name drop of theologian or two. I'm checking the right boxes, I'm doing the right things. People know that I'm serious. But is it real? Does it touch the heart? Does it translate into action, or is it all just a Sunday dress that gets taken off as soon as you get home? Self sacrifice, I commitment. Love with all of your heart, with all of your mind, with all of your soul, with all of your strength. That's what God requires. And if you're a Christian who has this law written on your hearts, that the Holy Spirit has worked in your lives, you have two things going on simultaneously within you. On the one hand, this deep love for the law. Yes, that is what...

I want, I love it, I desire it, I want to be that, I want to please God, and yet, at the same time, this sense of I am not doing that, and that hurts so bad and you feel guilty and ashamed. When we feel these things, when we feel the weight of the law, when we see how tightly sin is wound around us, wound around our hearts, that's when we are to call on God and to say I can't do this, so help me, I have nowhere else to turn. My friend next to me, my brother, my friends, My Enemies, they're in the same position that I am. The governments that we make, the communities that we organize, the plan ends that we go after, it's all organized by the same sinning people. We need something that's different, something that's truly holy, something that's without impurities, something that is righteous and good in every aspect. And that's why God, in all of His grace, offers US Jesus. He gives us himself in the son of God, who dies on a cross, not to just show us how bad sin is, which it certainly does, but to forgive our sins, to be a sacrifice for sins, to endure the wrath and condemnation of God for all these things that we've been talking about, to take the guilt and the shame that we feel in our hearts and to heal it and to say it's okay, not because your sins okay, but because I've taken care of your sin problem and I declare that you are justified. Now, in my sight, as one who has put their faith in God through the a son on the cross, trusting in him and in his gracious promises, you don't stand before God is one who is burdened down by all this guilt and shame and sin. You stand boff before God, is one who has been washed and cleansed. That's what we believe. When we believe in Jesus, we're believing in the sacrifice of another to take care of our sin problem and to make religion, which is the worship of God, as centered in Jesus Christ and seeking to live our lives in a way that is obedient to him. And it takes all of that. And it's not just US standing alone with the law, but it's US standing in Christ, who has freed us from the burden of the law so that we can be set free to do it, to love it, and even in our sin and even in our imperfections, he continues to be there, interceding for us, praying for us, cleansing us, making us holy. If we don't turn to this Jesus, this one who has been given to us by God, where are you going to turn? I asked that in all seriousness. If you're not going...

...to rest in this savior that has been given to you by the God who also gave the law, where are you going to go? Are you going to ignore the problem? Are you going to just keep feeling miserable and ashamed and guilty? Are you going to just try harder? Maybe one more crack at it, maybe one more week, and you'll finally get it together? No, you won't. It's going to be the same old story again. My friends, there's nowhere else to turn but to Jesus, and that's not a grin and barrick kind of message. It's not just a thing that we have to do because there's nowhere else like Jesus is a dead end or something. He's the doorway to eternal life. He's the way that we go through so that we might enjoy all the blessings and promises of God, and he gives it to us all freely. Come, he says, without money, without righteousness, without anything, just come to me. This is the good news of our Savior. May God help us to believe it. Let's pray.

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