Sermon, Lent 2, Sunday February 25, 2018
The Good Reckoning
13 It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. 14 For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. 17 As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’[a] He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
18 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’[b] 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ 23 The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
Friends, I would like you to do some reckoning with me this morning.
I would like to ask you, “what do you reckon” about where we are as people. I am asking ‘what do you reckon’ about the average human being. What is your assessment, thinking, evaluation about how people are?
Is your reckoning anything like some of these people?
I think that God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability.
Oscar Wilde (Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet 1854 – 1900)
Man is the only animal that laughs and has a state legislature.
Samuel Butler (English composer, novelist, & satiric author 1835 – 1902)
If it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that he’s evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he’s an underachiever.
Or another anonymous thought: I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that they haven’t made contact with us! T. S. Eliot (British (US-born) critic, dramatist & poet 1888 – 1965)
Is humanity in really such a bleak existence? Or, is the truth about us really more positive, as these people have said…
“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty”. Mahatma Gandhi
“My message is the practice of compassion, love and kindness. Compassion can be put into practice if one recognizes the fact that every human being is a member of humanity and the human family regardless of differences in religion, culture, colour and creed. Deep down there is no difference”. Dalai Lama
What is your assessment of the human situation; your ‘reckoning?
The New Testament is the story of men and women trying to express what they are learning about the huge ramifications of the coming of the promised Messiah for how to be human, how to live in the freedom and acceptance of God, how to respond well to this great grace of God.
In his letter proclaiming the dynamic impact of Jesus on life as a sinner, St Paul gets right into this question about how we human really are, for his people in Rome.
From the Old Testament, his experience of Jesus and years of working with people armed with only the gospel of Jesus, Paul gives witness to God’s reckoning about the human condition.
Even as we begin to try to take in God’s reckoning of the human condition we need to acknowledge something: Woody Allen said. “Human kind cannot bear much reality”. Paul agrees. He says that human beings naturally “suppress the truth” of things – about themselves, others and God, in Romans 2:18.
Romans 2:18-21 Because of this natural human propensity to ignore God’s truth, Paul says that human beings are always prone to make inaccurate, untruthful reckoning of their situation and themselves.
We humans make three bad deals – bad exchanges, bad judgement calls about what it is to be fully human.
Romans 2:22 We have this problem of serving created things rather than the One who creates all things. We love to spend our time, effort and talent on anything other than the Lord and his will. With a stone-cold hear toward the Lord, we don’t give thanks to God for all that much.
Romans 2:25 We reckon that serving ourselves is the truth. Serving ourselves will restore us, make us happy and whole. Problem is that we are not that good! We let ourselves down and then have nowhere to go.
Romans 2:26 We exchange healthy human relationships for relationship based on our own self- feeding desires which make us unhealthy and an offence to God’s love and holiness. We seem to be more “takers” than “givers; more “users” of people we love than simply “being with” the people we love.
In the end Paul gives us God’s reckoning of how it really is for human beings.
Because of these unwholesome, unhealthy and ever worsening bad exchanges, humanity is,
“full of every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity….full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. People have become gossips, slanderers, heartless, ruthless (Rom 1:29-31).
What’s worse is that Paul is quite clear on the truth that all of us, by ourselves cannot do any other. The words he uses give the meaning that these things are spinning out of control, faster and more frequently to destruction of human life and relationships.
The end of all this, the wages of this is Godless death – a chasm between us and God – God’s judgement and wrath.
….Not sounding too good at the moment!
But this brutal honesty about us leads somewhere else; somewhere good. This truth leads us the very best thing.
“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, first the Jew and then the Gentile. (1:16).
Yes the gospel of Jesus Christ is the “Good Reckoning”. The grace of God in Jesus is the only thing that lifts me from myself and recalibrates my understanding and experience of who God is and who he has made me to be and what it cost him to do the heavy lifting and what that means for living now.
I kiss my self-righteousness goodbye as I hear of this other righteousness revealed, a righteousness that is “by faith (in Jesus’ cross) from first to last”.
These gifts of God, this story of the Lord’s involvement with us and his deep and wide love for us is not a ‘Johnny come lately’ thing, here today and gone tomorrow, or a mere ideology or philosophy of human construction. It is from ancient of days and divine and lasting on into our future.
It all starts with Abraham.
Abraham, is the beginning point of God’s promise to deal with our human problem. Abraham is the prototype and holder of the promise of human beings restored by faith in God’s grace.
God has always been about grace. Abraham, a 100 year old wandering sheep herder from the east and his elderly wife, Sarah, were given the promise that from them would come millions of descendants – even kings and indeed the King – the Messiah.
So, it was not through keeping of the law, or being obedient to God’s will that Abraham was reckon by God to be righteous, but through faith in God’s promise that God gave Abraham. “Righteous living is nothing more than simply trusting the promises of God for you.
It is God’s promise, his will, his giving of a new deal for humanity through Abraham that is the heart of the matter – not Abraham’s response to it. And that make all the difference for Christians, Paul says.
Christian man or woman, like Abraham you are saved from your own false reckoning of yourself and of God, by God’s promise, fully revealed in Jesus now, and this is given to you through faith in God’s grace, not by your keeping of any law. 4:23
The remedy for our trusting of the wrong things, the damaging things, the untrue things, the unhealthy things with all its brutal effects is not trying harder or getting it right or performing for God, but the simple receiving of God’s unconditional and unqualified acceptance of us, in all our dirt and deception.
And this has been fully given in Jesus and received it can only be by faith and with a heart of thankfulness; a simple trust; a direct trusting of God’s word as the truth about you – you are a dead sinner and a fully graced, fully resurrected immersed, baptised saint by his grace.
Joy comes from the “good reckoning” of the Lord. Joy for your suffering, your challenges, your shame, your regrets, your heart-ache your plans. Friend, you have peace and joy with God.
And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we[c] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
Friend, you have already been restored, made righteous and this will last forever. Romans 5:6-11
And our response?
Repentance: Repentance is simply returning to what has already been won for you in love – freedom from sin, the evil one and death itself.
And then praise! Praise God for he has given us a new birth into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus from death, and an inheritance of life forever in the Lord our God that cannot rot or rust or fade because God protects it and us.
Life: My whole life in all its parts
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1
Or as Jesus put it – “take up your cross and follow me”.