Reformation Day “Whole Truth”
October 25th, 2020 – Romans 3:19-28
May you receive from God the forgiveness you have not deserved, not get the punishment you have, and may you have peace with God through the blood of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
This past week, Marion, the kids, and I planned to head out of the house for a drive. Boaz is easy enough to get dressed up and in his car seat – he does not put up too much of a fight. Caleb, on the other hand, decided to not listen. We told him once twice three times “It is time to get your coat on. We are leaving.” And every time he ran away. “No!” he would shout and run into the kitchen and under the table. Finally, after reasoning with him, and saying a couple of times, “okay we’re leaving then, bye!” we finally walked out the door into the garage and shut the door with him left inside. We heard cries of pain and despair as he ran to the door and began pounding on it crying out for us.
It was at this point in parenthood that I began to understand, in a more concrete way, another aspect of God.
Right now, God is like a parent calling to us saying, “It is time to go! Put on your jacket and follow me out to the car.” He says this through His word which tells us the end of time is near. Repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15). God is patient. Telling us and the world over and over again that it is time to go. Stop running away from me, do as I say, and let’s get going! He sent prophets for thousands of years to deliver the message. He sent Jesus who told us the message. He sends Christians out into the world to deliver that same message – both to those outside the church and to remind each other in the church.
He says, “it is time to go” and “a time will come when the door will be shut and it will be too late” (Luke 13:25). And my little experience with my son? I do not blame God in the slightest for shutting the door and saying, “I gave you more than fair warning.”
So repent! Turn away from your evil ways! Even you people who are “good people” you need to do better, you need to be perfect people (Matthew 5:48). You need to sit and study God’s Word daily. You need to put it into practice constantly. Rearrange your life to be perfect as God demands. Jesus says “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin (John 8:34).” Follow Him! The end is coming and there will not be a second chance to listen to God and do what He says. Many will claim you can do whatever you want, Christ will return, and you will have lots of time to repent but that is false. It is a lie. Scripture says you will not have a second chance. Repent now!
How is that for a Reformation Day sermon? Are you feeling the weight right now?
Imagine that being the end of the sermon. Before October 31st, 1517 – that was, more often than not, the end of the sermon.
God’s people were being told one part of Jesus’ message, but they were not talking about the whole thing. You see, it helps light the fire of Hell underneath people’s butts when that is the only thing you talk about. If you threaten others, and yourself, with an eternity suffering in Hell you are REALLY motivated to get stuff done here and now. If tomorrow might be The End, and you are not worthy of Heaven today, you live each moment of every day under the fear of God’s wrath.
Cathedrals get built, people give money like crazy to the church, people set up orphanages to take care of children who lost their parents, establish hospitals to care for people who might not otherwise get any help at all, sparing no expense to send people out into the world in order to warn everyone of the wrath of God. People work hard when they hear this.
Many so-called protestant churches, along with Catholic ones, continue to preach and focus on this part of God’s Message more than the rest of God’s message.
Although part of the truth is better than no truth at all, a partial truth can be very dangerous. Satan himself works in half-truths to bring about chaos, dissention, and destruction among God’s people.
The apparent problem with focusing on the whole truth of God’s Message is that one part of it seems to completely undercut the other.
If I use God’s Word to threaten you with Hell and at the same time point you to Christ who died for you to take away your sin, and remove the threat of Hell from you, that fire under your butt gets completely extinguished. You are not running from punishment anymore. And to many, this is a problem. To many the full message, which includes Jesus’ death for your sins, takes away all motivation to do good. So, they downplay, or get rid of Jesus in order to force people to feel the weight and follow the Law.
In other areas of your life, maybe you only tell yourself one part of the story in order to stay motivated. Maybe you tell yourself you go to work everyday, and you do a good job at it, just so that you will not be fired. Maybe you eat healthy just to avoid becoming fat; only do your schoolwork so you will not fail; only work on your marriage to avoid a divorce. Maybe you live your life running away from punishment and that is how you get yourself to get things done.
When you look at life this way, maybe you are motivated, but what do you do to things in your life? Your boss, who can fire you, becomes your enemy. Eating becomes a moral thing. Your teacher becomes someone you dread, your spouse becomes a project. God? He becomes a mean old man who sits in heaven judging you for messing up over and over again.
God? He is not a mean old man who sits in heaven judging you for messing up. Yes, He does stand at the door, like a parent at the garage door, calling you to turn away from evil over and over again and back to Him. Maybe that makes Him look like a jerk. Pointing out people’s sin and what they need to do better tends to make someone look like a jerk.
But God does not abandon us or not care about us. He calls us. And there is a time when that door will be shut. But He also sends Jesus to RESCUE us from ourselves.
Like a parent calls their child to get ready and head out the door, Jesus is like the parent who goes back inside the house after them to put their jacket on them (prepare them in baptism) and carry them out the door.
The demands of God do not go away. They are still there. But the demands of God are no longer what saves us. Jesus saves us.
Jesus running back in to where we are. In our stubbornness and pride Jesus walks in, forgives our unrepentance, and gives us the Holy Spirit so that we are carried to where God needs us to be. So that we are brought through the doorway RIGHT NOW before the end has come and it is too late.
John 8 speaks that if we commit sin we are a slave to it. If we do not immediately follow God perfectly, which none of us do, we are a slave and have no place with God. BUT, as John 8 also points out, the Son, Jesus Christ, He is not a slave; He is the heir. And if He sets you free, you are free indeed.
Brothers and sisters, you are free because of Jesus’ blood on the cross. Nothing you can do will ever get you this same freedom. It is a gift from God. You did not earn it. You do not deserve it. Yet, it is yours.
Live to God, not because your scared of Him, but because you love Him for what He did for you. Spend your whole life working at paying back that massive debt. Do a good job at work not because you are scared of being fired, but out of thanks to God! Eat healthy because God has saved your body for eternal life. Do your schoolwork as someone who, in Christ, has already passed the class. Work on your marriage out of love for Jesus and love for the gift He has given you in your spouse.
Maybe this shift in motivation will make you lazy, take God for granted, and you will not get as much done, out of thanks, as you would out of fear of punishment.
You know what? This message, in its wholeness, it is the truth. Nothing will change that.
Today we celebrate the fact that God’s whole message it includes Jesus Christ’s forgiveness of our sin. Unearned, undeserved, but given to us purely by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ.
Thanks be to God.