Romans 5:1-11 1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
As I started to prepare for this message the children and teens of our church were heavy on my heart. I believe God has given me a timely word to share with you as school starts back. I want to give you the crux of my message in three quick sentences. Because of what God has done for us through Christ Jesus:
- We have peace with God. (VS 1)
- We have access to God. (VS 2)
And because of these two realities
- We have hope in God. (VS 2, 4, 5)
I guess we can all go home. I have already unveiled three points for the message this morning; three points that if I said nothing else are powerful truths regarding our position before God and our reality in this life, these three points are enough to give us courage and strength to face every tomorrow. These three points are realities the world needs to know are theirs to possess.
Peace with God to me means I am at one with my Creator who is also my Heavenly Father. He knows why I am supposed to be here. He knows why I was created. He holds the blueprints to the role I am supposed to play. How many of you know it is good to be at peace with the One who holds the plans for your life, the One who created you for a specific reason? He knows what your life is supposed to be about. To live disconnected from Him is to live without knowledge of why your life is important, invaluable, and why you absolutely positively matter and are supposed to be here. And I have peace with God because I have accepted what Jesus has done on my behalf on the cross when He paid the price for my sin and opened the way for me to be at peace with God.
Access to God to me means that I can access understanding about my destiny. I can call upon God when I am confused or in trouble. I have a way in to the presence and power of God and can see my circumstances as being guided by a loving and powerful God. Having access to God is having access to the One who can do anything at any time. He is the One who always has the final say, and as a result of that peace with Him I know He is working on my behalf and is willing to share His thoughts, plans, and power with me. The God of the universe wants me to succeed, and I have access to everything He possesses.
Hope is the result of peace with God and access to God. Because I know my eternity is secure through peace with God, I can scratch off fears about eternity and hell. Check. I don’t have to wonder or worry about where I will spend eternity. I don’t “hope” that I will make it to heaven in the way the world uses the word “hope.” Our English word “hope” carries with it uncertainty. It may or may not happen, but it is your desire that it will. However, for the Christian, we understand “hope” to mean something entirely different as it isn’t a wishful thought or desired outcome that may or may not happen, but the hope we have of Heaven is a secured reality that was purchased for us by the blood of Jesus Christ. If you are in Christ, you don’t have to hope you’ll make it to heaven; you can start dreaming of the colors you want on the walls of your mansion because it is a guaranteed promise by God Himself that heaven will one day be your home.
Not only is eternity settled due to my peace with God, but I also have hope for my daily life because I have access to God. I am never alone. I am never without help. I am never without resources. I am never out of options. I am never defeated. With God in my daily life and His resources of wisdom and power to draw on (and you’ll have to admit He has a pretty good network of people to work with that He can bring into our lives when we need a little extra boost) because of those things that I can access on a daily basis, I am NEVER without hope for life.
But there are many people who don’t possess the peace, access to God and daily hope that many of us have come to rely on. Many, many are living hopeless lives. Many look to earthly relationships to make them feel significant. Many people turn to drugs and alcohol to dull life’s pain. Many cut themselves to try to relieve tension, anxiety, and loneliness. Many develop eating disorders from pressures within and without so that they feel they have some sense of control over life’s chaos. Many seek to be popular in order to feel a sense of worthiness and value. Many, seeing no way out of their current pain, seeing no options left, wind up taking their own lives. God has sent me today to remind you that we are never without hope.
A sense of hopelessness is pervasive in our culture today. What so many people haven’t yet heard or don’t yet understand is that life is worth the living because Jesus lives. Life is worth the living because eternity can be settled. Life is worth the living because you can have a daily relationship with Jesus in which you will never be out of options!
The movie, “To Save a Life” deals with all kinds of challenging issues teens face today from unwanted pregnancy and cutting to drugs, divorce, bullying, peer pressure and suicide. Take a look at this preview:
As our young people return to school and face the kind of pressures that movie trailer just touched on, be reminded that you have access to a loving God who will enable you to overcome life’s pressures and trials. I am 47 but I was 15 once. I do understand the feelings of wanting to be accepted and wanting to fit in. The pressures may have been different and the intensity may have been different, but the feelings are the same. God wants to be your Rock.
Not only do you have the opportunity to know peace every day and hope every day as you access God’s presence, but you also have the promise of a church family and youth group that will stand with you to support you, to pray for you, to encourage you. If you are struggling with a destructive behavior or a destructive thought, please talk to an adult you can trust. You are not without options. Ever.
Notice verse 11 of our Romans 5 text again: Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
We have received reconciliation. This reconciliation which is peace, access and hope is ours to possess, but it is also ours to share. What we have received comes with a responsibility to make sure others know they can receive it too. You see, the Gospel isn’t merely supposed to change our address for eternity, but it is supposed to change our lives so that our life becomes the life of Jesus. If Jesus lived and died to reconcile us to God, which He did, then our goal, our aim, our obsession should be to help other people be reconciled to God.
II Corinthians 5:18 and 20-All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
As people who have been reconciled to God, we now have the ministry of reconciliation to make sure others plug in to the peace, the access and the hope. What we should experience should change us into people whose mission is to help others experience the same kind of reconciliation. Watch this:
What’s the point if we don’t let God’s love lead us to love others. What’s the point if we don’t let God’s peace lead us to help others live in peace? What is the point of reading the Bible if we don’t do what it says? What is the point of coming to church if we leave the same way we came in? What’s the point if we aren’t changed into people who do the work of Christ and help others find Him?
We are to connect people to God and other believers, and when we do we have connected them with peace, access and hope! Like the main character in this movie we need to ask ourselves, “What can I do to help save a life?” “What can I do to bring light to someone’s darkness?” “What can I do to lift someone who has fallen?”
James 1:22ff 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does. 26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
We became believers because we were hearers of the Word, but we become followers when we become doers of the Word.
In James 1:27, James used orphans and widows as examples of people who are in distress. They need help. They need friendship. They need support. They need encouragement. I met a man this past week in OH who is a Christian leader in his church, but his mom and none of his siblings are believers. His dad died when this guy was just three years old and his mom was left to raise five kids on her own. He said she left the church when after that tragedy no one from the church called, came around or offered to help her in any way. She was disillusioned and discouraged and as a result she disconnected from the church and made her own way, never remarrying, and raised five kids on her own. It broke my heart to hear that story. While I praise God that one of the five children is a believer and Christian leader, how different could the story have been had the church been present to connect her with God’s peace and hope? How different could her struggle as a single mom had been had she been nurtured to maintain access daily with God? We must not be asleep on the job when people are struggling to survive all around us.
There are all kinds of people in distress. We can’t fix every problem, but we can reach out to let someone know they aren’t alone. During this time of helping people recover from flood devastation as we have pooled our resources we have made a significant difference in the lives of people who need hope. We can’t be everything to everyone, but we can be something to someone. We can reach out to try to save a life from loneliness. We can reach out to save a life from destruction. We can go sit with the person who sits by themselves at the school lunch table, we can remember to invite that person who lives alone when we are having a gathering, we can reach out to ask how someone is doing and let them know we are here to listen and pray for them.
The main character in the movie, Jake, was dealing with the regret of not reaching out to his former best friend, Roger, the one who took his own life. Roger was different. He walked with a limp. Once an athletic soccer player, Roger became an outcast at his high school. He was bullied. He was left out. He was left behind. He wasn’t born with a limp. He became injured when he pushed his best friend, Jake, out of the way of an oncoming car. Jake went on to be the most popular boy at his high school. Roger went on to be forgotten; forgotten until he went to the high school, stood in the hall, pulled out a gun and took his own life.
While wrestling with his regret over Roger’s death, Jake connects with a youth pastor at a church, Chris, who teaches him about the life and message of Jesus. As a result of giving his life to the Lord, Jakes resolves to look for those who are on the edge, at the fringes of life, outcasts, those bullied and disenfranchised, and he makes up his mind to find a way to befriend them and to connect them to the hope he found in Christ. The result was incredible. Watch this:
Powerful, right? So inspiring to see people making up their minds that they will reach out to let people know they aren’t alone and that they are wanted, and the movement for Christ grew at the high school in the movie.
What this movie inspires is simply this: As Christians we should desire more than a change of address in eternity, but we should desire a change of heart here on earth and to change other lives for eternity.
Through Jake’s commitment to make sure that other lives aren’t lost, he winds up helping many draw close to Christ and find healing from their destructive behaviors. He even winds up influencing his pregnant girlfriend not to have an abortion, saving yet another life.
When we connect people to God we have connected them with PEACE. When we connect people to God we have connected them with daily ACCESS TO GOD. When we connect people to God we have connected them with HOPE and they are never without options.
Hear these poignant words of Jesus about what matters most to Him.
Matthew 25:35-43 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
Every life is important. Every life matters to God. When we pay attention to those at the margin, those who need some extra support or encouragement, those who need the hand of friendship, we are ministering to God Himself. Salvation often results from the ministries of mercy and justice. And this Matthew 25 passage begins by saying we will have to give an account for our actions when it comes to being merciful and to seeking justice for those who need one or both.
I am talking about more than kindness this morning. Kindness is a start, but it isn’t the totality of what we are called to do for those who are hurting around us. Kindness is socially correct. It is socially excellent, but mercy and justice are sacrificially Christ-like. Mercy reaches to those who have done nothing to deserve it, at our own expense just as God in Christ reached for us. Justice reaches to those who are in bondage, at our own effort and expense just as God in Christ reached for us. Kindness costs us what we can afford and won’t miss, but mercy and justice require we dig deep and give sacrificially. Kindness may inconvenience us, but mercy and justice will change us.
I want to be changed. I want my eyes to be open to those who are struggling to survive, who are struggling to find a way, who are on the verge of losing all hope. I want to partner with Christ to save a life, as many lives as possible.
We have been reconciled to God. Let’s take our peace, let’s use our access, let’s share our hope in an effort to reconcile the world to Him.