Sermon at Kinmundy and Wesley United Methodist Church on 9/29/19. Title: What We All Have In Common. Text: Romans 1-5. Series: Postcards from the Roman Road.
A couple weeks ago I shared with you the story of my first year in Louisville. My first year at the Southern Baptist Seminary, I went to the Midlane Park Baptist Church. The pastor there was Dr. TA Thacker and he would like to preach typically 25 to 30 minutes every Sunday. And the first 10 minutes was always different but just like a record player– for those of you who remember those old record players. Just like one that would have a big scratch in it, eventually his needle would fall right into a rut and the last 15 minutes of the sermon would always be exactly and the same. And you look over at the whole congregation, there wasn’t a single person there who was different from the week before but the last 15 minutes of the sermon was always what a person had to do to get saved.
Because as he put it, that’s the most important part of any sermon. I believe I heard him say once something like, “I’d be ashamed to preach a sermon where somebody couldn’t get saved because I didn’t tell them.” And you know, I don’t know if he’s right or not but I do know that I stopped listening to the second 15 minutes. But that was a conviction from him and his favorite place to preach, of course, was from the book of Romans. There is a plan of salvation that is called the Roman Road. And I thought, “There’s a whole lot more in Romans than just this.” But I thought to myself recently – “Maybe we should talk about this.”
Maybe there should be a sermon where you would know how to get saved. So let’s start with the first chapter of the book of Romans and travel the Roman Road.
Now, these are postcards. We’re not going to go through every single verse. It’d be a lot longer than 15 minutes! But my hope is to show you just a few scenes from the book of Romans.
Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel… It is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith. To the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it, the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith. As it is written, he through faith is righteous shall live.”
How is it that anyone would be ashamed of the gospel? Paul’s not ashamed, but why would anyone be ashamed by the gospel? Well, in the next verse he starts what a teacher of speech would say is a rhetorical device. He’s leading them in and taking them down the path he wants to go.
He says this in verse 18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men.” And he goes on to drumming up their judgment toward people who aren’t righteous and he’s stirring them up with all these negative feelings toward people who are (in their opinion) more sinful than they are. And finally, he concludes the chapter with this phrase; though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them. There are consequences to what you and I do. And Paul led them in through these words because the purpose of what he is trying to say falls on the first verse in the second chapter.
It’s really a shame because that verse isn’t the end of this chapter, so that everybody understood his point. But here’s his point: “Therefore, you have no excuse, Oh, man, whoever you are, when you judge another, for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself.“
What does that mean? It’s possible that it means that when you judge someone God says, “I’m going to count you as if you’re doing the same thing.” (Jesus indicated this in Matthew 7:1.)
But Paul goes on a literally to say this, not that they are judged because they are judging, but Paul literally says, “because you the judge are doing the very same things.” Now maybe he means the very same things in general. Maybe he means literally the same things.
You turn on the television and someone is condemning someone else because they’re an evil, sick, stupid, bad person, and they do this and this and this and this. If this verse is literally true, guess what, the person who is judging someone else – here’s their dirty little secret: They do the exact same thing they condemn in someone else.
This is very human. Because you know something – what we hate in ourselves, what we hide in ourselves most often, that’s what offends and bothers us about other people because deep down inside they’re just like us.
Friends, this is a problem. It is the second thing that we all have in common. One of the things we all have in common is we think that righteousness is a competition. It’s as if we think God’s going to take the 50 best people in the world and as long as we’re one of those 50 that gets to go to heaven, that’s fine with us. Because we have this impression that what’s important is that we need to be better than someone else, so that God is nice to us, and we escape the consequences of sin. Because, obviously, if we’re better than everyone else we will experience the happy, better consequences.
Guess what, we’re all going to experience the consequences of being sinful because that’s what we all have in common. Romans 3:20, for no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law – by the rules that have come down to us through the Ten Commandments, through the Old Testament, and on into the New Testament. The rules, the law, is there to point out to us where we’re wrong. The reason that the competition doesn’t work is that the more you’re aware of what’s right and wrong, the more you’re aware of the knowledge of your own sin, because the law reveals our nature to us.
“But,” Paul says, “Here’s the Good News.” Here’s the Gospel that he’s not ashamed of.
The righteousness of God has been revealed-– manifested apart from the law. There’s another righteousness that is not one that you do, not one that you earn, but is separate from the law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it.
What is that righteousness? Verse 22: It is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. What you can’t do – be good – Christ can do and has because he is sinless and perfect.
Oh – there’s a second half there. Do you see it– through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. The righteousness of God comes to us when we believe in it
??? is the question. So there is no distinction. This is what we all have in common, the first thing we all have in common. There’s no distinction. Please read it with me– “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by His grace as a gift, a gift through the redemption, which is in Jesus Christ, who God put forward as – here’s a fancy word – an expiation.
That’s the payment. That’s the remedy. That’s what’s in the gap between what we should be like and what Christ is like. To make up the difference, it is an expiation in His blood. But here’s the secret to be received by faith.
There are four things we have in common– number one, we all fall short. We all have sinned. Thing number two we have in common– we all judge other people to try to make ourselves feel better, to make ourselves to feel superior. We fool ourselves into thinking that if we’re better than someone else, bad things will happen to them, and nothing will happen to us. Friends, I’ll be honest with you. You may be good. You’re not that good. You’re not that good. But finally, here’s the third thing we all have in common. Jesus Christ died for each of us.
No matter how bad you are, I guarantee you you can find someone who’s worse than you. It’s a really odd thing– if judgment is so common for us we all know someone that we look down on, and what do you know? We feel better, because they’re worse than us. It’s also true no matter how good you are, you can find someone who’s better than you, but you don’t think about them, because then you feel worse. We need to get away from this competition and understand that we need to rely upon what Jesus Christ has done, because there is no one on this Earth who is so wrong that Jesus Christ did not die for them. There is no one on this Earth for whom Jesus Christ did not make it possible to be forgiven. There is no one on this Earth who does not have the opportunity through faith for God’s love and forgiveness to come to them.
The reality’s always just simply this. If you try to get by by being good, that’s like trying to jump over the Grand Canyon in two jumps. It doesn’t work.
How many of you have been to The Grand Canyon? I was astonished. You hear about it, but you’re there, and you’ll go over the edge, and you go, “Wow. That’s a long way down.” You can’t be good enough, but God can be good for you. And these are the four things we all have in common.
Romans four, next chapter. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be heirs, if it actually secretly is by keeping the rules, then Paul says faith is null, and the promise is void, because the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there’s no transgression. That is why Paul says it depends on faith. The more you’re aware of how you fail to follow the rules, the more you’re aware of wrath.
Let me explain it by the way too. I’m not implying that when you try to jump over the Grand Canyon in two jumps, and you start falling, I’m not at all implying that God is thinking as you’re falling and going, “Well, they’re not so bad. Maybe there should be an exception.” I’m not at all implying that, as you’re falling, that God makes a decision as to whether wrath should happen to you, and that’s because the wrath that they’re talking about here is a little bit like the law of gravity. It’s baked into creation. If you jump over the Grand Canyon, you are going to go down to the bottom and hit the Earth, not because God decided that that would happen to you, but because it’s built in. The consequences of evil are built in. God does not decide who’s going to get hurt when they fall. It’s built into the world as it’s made.
That is why it depends on faith in order that the promise may rest entirely upon grace. And you can trust– it’s like you can trust if there’s a present under the tree with your name on it will remain there, you can trust that that grace will be there as well.
The way I like to imagine it is this. When you find yourself falling in the Grand Canyon, all of a sudden you realize, you’re wearing a parachute. How many people here have ever jumped out of a perfectly good airplane wearing a parachute? Me, neither! — but here’s the point about the parachute. If all the way down, you keep saying to yourself, “Well, I’m better than that guy. I’m better than she is,” you may forget to pull the ripcord. Because you’re so focused on other people that you’re not thinking about what God has given to you already in Jesus Christ. The promise rests on Christ. “Therefore,” Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we are–“ please say it with me– “justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ.” Please read it with me, verse 2. “Through him, we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand. And we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.”
See, you’re in a state of grace. Not because of what you did, but because of the consequences of what Jesus did. It’s not about your righteousness; it’s about God’s righteousness. Romans 5:6, “While we were still weak at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” Why? Verse 7. “One will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps even for a good man, one will dare to die.” Verse 8, please read it with me. “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Heaven is not based on what you have done; heaven is based on what Christ has done. Heaven is not based on the fact that you’re better than someone else. Heaven is based on the fact that Jesus Christ was righteous. And God can give a share of that righteousness to you, as a gift. To me, that, again– it’s a little bit like realizing that you have a parachute. Now, you haven’t gotten to the ground yet but thank God you have a parachute. “Since therefore,” Romans 5:9, “we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
Friends, that’s the gospel. I don’t know why anybody would be ashamed of it unless they thought that they needed to earn their own way, rather than let Jesus Christ present them with the gift.
And of course, Dr. Thacker at Midlane Park Baptist Church gave an altar call every Sunday. Some Sundays he’d get excited and pick hymns that you would only find in the Baptist hymnal – there are a few hymns in the Baptist Hymnal that have 34 verses. It’s actually called “tarrying.” Tarrying is when you sing until the altar is full. We won’t do that today!
But there are people here this morning, you have business with God. You have business with God. And it doesn’t matter whether you do your business at the altar, whether you do it where you’re seated, or whether at one o’clock this afternoon, you turn off the football game, and you give your life to Christ this afternoon– it doesn’t matter. It’s just wise that it would be soon.
I opened my top dresser drawer this morning, and I pulled out this little box. You probably can’t see it very well, but you can tell what kind of box it is, right? It’s one that an engagement ring goes in. Unfortunately, there are so many of us. We know that God loves us, and we know that we love God, and we’re ready to make a commitment. We’re ready to– by the way, this box is empty. Because I did ask her. She’s wearing it.
But there’s a whole lot of people that know that God is committed to them. They know that God loves them. They know that they love God. They know that they want to make a commitment to God, and guess what? They carry the box in their pockets for years.
You may have business with God today because today may be the day that you realize that there’s no purpose in delaying. You know your own heart. You want to make a commitment to Jesus Christ. You won’t ask him to be your husband or wife – you’ll ask Him to be your savior and Lord. But that’s a binding commitment that will last for all eternity. Don’t wait, thinking that some other day will be a better day.
So here’s the call to the altar. Dr. Thacker would be so pleased with me. But I’d like to invite you right now, if you would wish to give your life to Christ. Oh, and by the way, you can give your life to Christ more than once. It’s just like saying I love you, it’s not just for a wedding day. You need to come up with that much more often.
But I would like to invite you if today, you would wish to give your life to Christ, to join me in this prayer, which is a prayer requesting grace. Please stand with me. And again, if you wish to join me, please pray:
Lord Jesus, today I am less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good. Cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me your ways and form in me your nature. Help me to serve you as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner. Please be my shepherd, my savior, and my Lord. Amen.
Friends, God will take care of you. Place your hands and your life into the hands of God, into the hands of your savior. Let us sing …
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?
What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?
Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Raod, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.