Sunday, July 12, 2015

Stand Up, Jesus

One of the biggest problems you’re going to have in listening to sermons—maybe this weekend—is that the speaker does not start from a Christian foundation that will affect you beautifully, as God intended.

Because of the constraints of time or the desire to be immediately effective, the speaker will identify a problem in your life that needs to be fixed, and then give a prescription to overcome it.  It will conclude with a kind of “get to work now,” as you go out the door. “How practical!” you might say.  But you’re in danger if you accept it.  Let me tell you why.

No matter what the preacher says, no matter how well he or she says it, you won’t be able to conquer sensual cravings with sensual abstinence. You won’t be able to overcome sexual immorality with sexual morality.  You won’t be free of anger, jealousy, hatred, envy or impurity by praying hard and by building barricades against them.  None of that is how a Christian lives.  Not really.  All of it will stumble you because all of it is by the flesh and by works, and not by the Spirit and by grace.  It won’t work. 

The everyday foundation upon which you and I rest and from which our messages and sermons must proceed if we’re going to do well, could be summed up this way, from Romans 5:25:  “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” If we truly start there, we’ve truly started well, and everyone benefits.  Anything else is a bad beginning.

I’ll show you.  Pretend my sermon began with the above verse, and follows below.

According to the verse, all of your sins—every one of them—He forgave and took, as though they were always His.  You cannot have them back because, as far as He is concerned, you didn’t do them.  He became your sin, and there’s nothing you can do about it now.  Besides, they’re gone—no matter what, even if you do more.  His act was both retroactive and future.  You’re never going to sin-up-a-mountain-full and be identified by God on the basis of what you’ve done; He knows you only on the basis of His life and your birth.

Your being “okay” with God is forever secure and out of your reach.  You cannot improve it, you cannot worsen it, you cannot change it—it’s perfect!  100% stellar.  Jesus earned it.  He did pretty well, didn’t He?  And He gave it to you.  Not only has Jesus’ resurrection made you as having never once sinned—you’re a sin virgin—but He has made you as having always done everything perfectly right.  That is your past and that is your future, because of Jesus.  Yeah, you actually are a perfectionist.  You’ve been given a score of 100% on every test, all of the time.  That is justification!

That’s how it is.  The Great Sin Thief has forgiven and taken your sin, you’ve been justified by the Righteous One Himself, you’ve been made at peace with and by God, and you’ve been brought into harmony and compatibility with and by God.  He did it!  It’s over!  You’ve got it.  What did you have to do with it?  Zero.  Zip.  Nada. 

“Amen,” sermon over.  How do you feel right now?  Pretty good?

Pop Quiz:  What are the odds on you running out right now and sinning up a storm?  Poor, right?  Why?  Because you don’t want to!  You have no taste for it, because grace is working right now in you.  In other words, you and I have been looking at and marveling at Jesus and His grace (all that He has done for us) in a single verse, and—Oops!—He is at work in us!  We feel great about it, too.  And it was easy, wasn’t it?  According to Jesus, isn’t it supposed to be?  You know, that whole “my yoke is easy, my burden light” kinda thing.  Right?  All we’ve done here is look at Jesus and what He did for us through the cross and resurrection, and He has done the rest.  He’s done you!  And He has done me.  Aren’t we glad?

To grow in Christ means we ‘re increasingly convinced that He is perfect for us and with us and in us.  It means we’re increasingly attracted to Him—during any moment, ugly or pretty.  And that attraction takes advantage of the secure connection He made with us in such a way that He becomes obvious to us—to ourselves and to others.  That’s the plan:  we have The Way, The Truth and The Life, and others get us as a picture—an everyday video playing out right in front of them—of what that looks like.

But, and it’s a big but(!), if the message you hear—maybe this weekend—doesn’t start from Jesus as your foundation—that He has forgiven and stolen away all of your sin, and that He replaced all that with His life and righteousness—then you won’t be built up in Christ, you won’t be attracted to Him, who is happily inside, and Jesus, Grace Himself, won’t be standing up in you, capable and trustworthy and evident. 

Instead, you’ll have work to do, principles to apply, promises to keep, integrity to worry about, and “Christian responsibilities.”  And that won’t go well.

Here’s our picture of Grace at work in us: 

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation (or “soundness”) to all people. 12 It teaches us (literally, “Grace stands up inside of us”) to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  (Italics mine.)

That’s you!  And Jesus is inside, the one who stands up when we look at Him, when we marvel at Him.

What you want and what you’re fit for is to wonder at Jesus . . . at what He did, at who He is, at where He is, and how compatible the two of you are right now.  He did all of that!  Take a look, and He will stand up in you and work, just like He always has.  That’s the deal.  It’s pretty good, right?

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