Thursday, March 09, 2006

Blast from the past 1. My first sermon ever: Romans 3:21-27

This is quite a blast from the past! Below is the first sermon I preached, in the Wednesday of Holy Week 2002, in the Cathedral. I recently realised I didn't have it on my laptop, but had a paper copy, so typed it up. I might as well include it here for your reading. The theme of the week's sermons by members of the congregation was 'What the cross means to me'.

Our passage tells us that 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' – 'all' so inclusive. What the cross means to me? Forgiveness of sins.

It can be a shock to us, or alarming to hear, as simple as possible, that 'all have sinned'. For us in Northern Ireland, we seem to think that so long as you are decent enough, and don't do anyone any harm, you'll be fine, and God will let you into heaven.

Or someone says, “I've been to church every Sunday, twice, so God has to let me into heaven. Or, “I'm not too bad, well, I'm better than yer man down the street – did you hear what he did last week? Compared to him, I'm fine. I will get into heaven.”

And, as I was growing up, that's the way I thought as well. “Look, I'm here in church, in the choir even, and I'm a lot better than some of my school friends who curse and drink and...”

But God says, that isn't how it works. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. None of us, on our own, can achieve God's standard or glory. Compared to Jesus' perfect, sinless life, we all fall short of God's glory.

As the hymn writer says,
Just and holy is thy name, I am all unrighteousness,
False and full of sin I am, thou art full of truth and grace

As you know I'm a student, and regularly, we do exams. Our pass mark is 45, but the higher the mark, the higher the grade. But that's not the same as the exam of life. In it, every sin is like a mark off, and for God's glory, the pass mark is 100%. Anything else is a fail, whether 99% or 1% - and doesn't get a pass into heaven.

Or to think of it another way. Imagine someone stepping off a cliff while walking along the edge. They just fail to stay to the path. It's like the 99% mark in the exam – it ends in failure – death. Just as much as the person who takes a massive run and jump off the cliff – while they fail in different ways – one totally intentionally, the other just a wee slip, the same result comes to both – death.

For those of us who think that so long as we're decent, and not as bad as someone else, the Bbile has some things for us to consider:

– 'For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.' (James 2:10)
– 'The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ our Lord' (Romans 6:23)

We don't realise the seriousness of sin. Sin brings death. Sin brings separation – think of Adam and Eve after their sin in the garden of Eden – they were banished from the garden. And it brings separation for us from God – he is perfect holiness, and can't have sin in his presence.

So is that it? Do we stand here, condemned, all in sin, with no hope of rescue or salvation? Does Paul tell us we're sinners and leave us? Would God point out sin, in all its seriousness, and leave us like that? No!!

As the passage reads 'All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.' The cross is, for us, 'the righteousness form God.' In the passage, then, we find words that we maybe hear, but don't fully understand. Paul tells us that through the cross we are 'justified' – or in other words, in a right relationship with God – it is 'just as if I'd' never sinned.

Jesus is also the Redeemer. Indeed, this building is dedicated 'The Cathedral Church of Christ the Redeemer'. The Greek word that redemption comes from refers to a release secured by the payment of a ransom, or a setting free. It is through the cross that we are freed from the 'wages' of our sin. Jesus has borne them in his body on the tree.

You see, God had a dilemma. He is perfect love, but also perfect justice and holiness. He loves us so much, but our sins had to be taken away from us, but also punished.

The only way through was that Jesus, the sinless One, should die in my place and in your place, bearing our punishment and bringing us salvation.

Guilty, helpless, lost were we,
Blameless Lamb of God was he,
Sacrificed to set us free,
Alleluia! What a Saviour!

Our sins were so serious, and God so just, that even despite His almighty power, Jesus had to die. When he created the world, it took a word and it happened. But for our sins to be paid for, for atonement, it took the death of Jesus, the shedding of His blood, for 'without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness' (Hebrews 9:22).

There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin,
He only could unlock the gate of heaven and let us in.

It was there on the cross that Jesus died in my place and yours, taking the punishment due to us, where He shed his blood to pay for our sins.

The question now for us is this: What do we do in response? As we heard last night, we have a choice. You can either trust in Jesus' blood to bring forgiveness of sins, or you can reject Him. That is up to you individually.

It must be an individual choice of trust. Simply by knowing that Jesus died on the cross is not enough, We must trust in it. A cure for disease only works when it is applied – it's no good just looking at it sitting on the shelf or in the medicine cabinet.

In Sunday Club we were talking about this last Sunday. One of the boys asked, 'If Jesus has died on the cross, then why doesn't God just forgive everyone?' But He is a God of love, and love never forces. God loves us, but doesn't want robots – we have the freedom to choose or not.

It's like me giving you a cheque. If you never cash it in, it's no good to you – you won't get the benefit of it. It is only when we cash it in, we apply it, that we get the benefit.

For me, I'm trusting in the cross as my means of salvation – where Jesus paid my debt, and has redeemed me.

There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel's veins;
And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there have I, as vile as he,
Washed all my sins away.

'Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.' (Isaiah 53:4,5)

No comments:

Post a Comment