Therefore, we have peace with God5 Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness,[a] we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. 3 But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, 4 endurance produces character, and character produces hope. 5 This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
6 While we were still weak, at the right moment, Christ died for ungodly people. 7 It isn’t often that someone will die for a righteous person, though maybe someone might dare to die for a good person. 8 But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
What a year we've had so far, 2020. Are you having fun so far? First, the virus. Then the shutdown due to the virus. Millions are laid off. People arrested for protesting the shutdown or trying to open their store. Churches are closed. Gathering considered too dangerous. Next comes the murder of a man under arrest and in handcuffs. "Thou shall not murder." Murder is a sin! Protest against unjust action is not only an American right, but an obligation. But thousands flood the streets ignoring social separation. I don't understand. Rioters and common criminals destroy and take what is not theirs. "Thou shall not steal." Destroying other people's property and stealing are sins.
Another great sin is racism. I love a verse from I Samuel, "But the Lord said to Samuel, "Have no regard for appearance or stature...I don't look upon people like people do What appears to people is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart." --I Samuel 16:6 Racism is a sin. Jesus elevated "Love thy neighbor as thy self." Judging people by outward appearance is a sin. Like what Martin Luther King Jr. said we should judge each other by character.
I know. I'm a man who has benefited from white privilege. I know others have been held back because they are not male or white. Yes,
I know! Everyone who does bad acts should be held accountable, even law enforcement. The thing is the vast majority of blacks are good people, and the vast majority of law enforcement risk their lives for our safety. We should no more judge a person dressed in blue than a person with a black face.
I cry as much for a black man who is murdered trying to defend his life's dream of owning his own business as I do for a man unjustly murdered during an arrest. Don't all black lives matter?
We live in a tough time. Locked down. Locked out. Day after day fighting an invisible enemy from without, and a struggle from within. People are not only dying from the virus, but from an increase in suicide, addiction, domestic violence, and even an increase in deaths on the road. Students forced to spend 24/7 in dysfunctional homes. These are difficult times.
Corrie Ten Boom, the great author and philosopher, once wrote, "If you look at the world, you'll be distressed. If you look within, you'll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you'll be at rest."
Regardless of your politics, or faith, or feelings today we are called to ask, "Where is the good news? What are we to do as Christians to live into the Kingdom of God?
This morning's scripture is about hope in a seemingly hopeless world. Paul's chapter on love finishes with this verse, "Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and greatest of these is love." --I Corinthians 13:13 If you've gone to church over past few years you've heard a thousand
sermons on love. You've even heard hundreds of sermons on faith. You've probably even heard a few sermons on hope, but not as often as love or faith. In this most interesting year HOPE is needed as much as faith and love. Faith, hope, and love, these three. All three gifts from our Heavenly Father, but hope is often the forgotten one.
One of my favorite verses from Paul is our scripture today, "We take pride in our problems, because we know trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn't put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." --Romans 5:3-5
Let's back up for a moment. Paul teaches us we can even take PRIDE in our problems. Why? Who takes pride in their troubles? Paul was suffering for his faith. He understood trouble as part of his calling. We can face our troubles because we are justified by our faith in Christ Jesus. It's the action of Christ's death that frees us even from ourselves.
As Christians we can have a relationship with our Heavenly Father not because we've done anything to deserve it, but because of the suffering and sacrifice of our savior. Glory be to Christ!
I found an article written by a woman named Diane Turner Sharazz. She writes on this subject, "Those who believe have been brought into a relationship with God, have fellowship with, and are in unity and harmony with the God of all creation." This enables us to say to each other, "Grace and peace to you." [repeat]
This grace and peace is not real by our own action but given to us as a gift from Christ Jesus. It enables us to utter the prayer, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." --Romans 15:13
In ancient times only the privileged could enter the King's courts. In the modern days those who are rich and privileged have an advantaged in our judicial system. Yes, I have benefited from white privilege, but money and fame has more privilege regardless of what we look like. My prayer is we work to fix this injustice. Every child is a child of God. It is our calling to love each other. Loving even the unlovable is not a sin.
Imagine you are arrested for being a sinner. You have no privilege, no money, and no hope. Just then, a public defender is appointed to you. Most public defenders are a waste. Most of them don't care. They get paid whether you get justice or not. But this public defender is different. It turns out he represents you better than the best of lawyers. He is Christ Jesus. With him you go before the Heavenly Father. You get better than justice. You get mercy. You are given a new hope, because Christ died for you. "Christ died for us all—undeserved, unmerited, loving act on our behalf by our Lord, who now gives us access to God. God in Christ has done so much
for us." --Sharazz
It is the theme of that great hymn, "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see. Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed!"
I love its message, but I was told not to sing this song because its writer was a captain of a slave ship. His name was John Newton. I've told the story before but those who have not heard the story I want everyone to know. After John Newton gave his heart and soul to Christ, he discovered he could no longer trade on God's children. He resigned his commission as a slave ship captain, went back to England, and worked to end slavery there. Christ saved him. He was a changed man. He did what Paul urges all of us to do, "Whatever you do, whether in Word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." --Colossians 3:17
Consider what has happened to us. Being shut in and shut down either teaches endurance or despair. Many of our leaders don't like to talk about the despair this virus has created. Suicide, addiction, and domestic violence has caused many people to lose their breath as much as the virus itself.
Those of us who are enduring this crisis must reach out to those who are despairing. It is what Christ would want us to do. Ask yourself, "Who do you know you can help?" I was given this doll with long arms and legs that has written on it, "Give me a hug." Social separation means we cannot hug each other, or even shake hands, but we should ask, "How can we give hugs to those in need of a hug in other ways?"
Talk about privilege. I am one of the lucky ones. I have someone in my home who can hug me, who still loves me, who still cherishes me. She loves unconditionally. Thank you, my love, Sharon.
The good news is Christ Jesus loves us all even more and with condition. He hugs us with his spiritual arms. Like Pastor Ross said last week our Heavenly Father sends us the Holy Spirit. If you open your heart you will always have that love. Praise be to God.
These days are tough. I don't know about you, but I know my endurance has made me more of a character. Of course, I've always been a character, but God wants us to be more than characters. Our Heavenly Father is giving us a heart to be the character he wants us to be to find ways to help those around us to find the hope to believe God has our back.
Everything seems out of control, but don't let the chaos fool you. Insanity seems to be the order of the day, but God is still in control. Yes, we are all weak in many ways "But God proves his love for us while we still were sinners Christ died for us." --Romans 5:8
I'm not saying getting through these days will be easy, but with help from the God of hope we will endure. But if you think these days are tough think of those who were born around 1900. Before they were out of high school World War I was fought in which twenty million people died. In 1917 the Spanish Flu took another twenty million lives. When that generation was entering their thirties, the great depression hit. In just ten years more when they were around forty years old World War II began in which fifty million died. During that same time Polio struck. That generation was in their fifties when the Korean War was fought, which was followed by the Vietnam war. They were in their golden years as their leaders were assassinated, and new wars begun.
What was amazing is that generation was the embodiment of Paul's vision of faithful Christians. They endured. Their character developed. They lived lives of hope in Christ. They were people of faith for the most part. They believed in Christ Jesus. They went about their lives believing in the God of Hope.
Will we be Christians who can endure through our suffering, so that we can develop the character that produces hope not only for ourselves, but for those around us. Choose then today, will we be a people of hope or ones of despair? Christ died for us. Will we live for Christ?