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Nov 24, 2019

Are You Good Enough?

Passage: Romans 3:9-20

Preacher: Jess Achenbach

Series: Romans

Keywords: sin, justice, salvation, law, confession, honesty, total depravity, good deeds, poison, pet scan


This message deals with another portion of Romans that is talking about sin and how we deal (or don't deal) with it. It's a wonderful call to life together in a spirit of honesty and confession and how God's Word seeks to help us with that.



Jesse Achenbach

November 24, 2019

Here at Mosaic, generally we preach through the Bible section by section as opposed to topic by topic.  So, I drew the short straw and got this section, the part where Paul tells us that we are all completely unworthy and destined for judgement.  Some pretty bad news.  And though this section ends just short of the good news, I feel compelled to also share some of the good news which we will see at the end.

This morning as we dive into the next section and review some of what we have heard already we can see where our secular society might get the notion that as Christians, we are just professional “Bible Bashers” Do you know that phrase? Have you been accused of this?  Been talking to someone and sharing the gospel only to be told that you are a hater and stop pushing your beliefs on me.

Sometimes these are the perceptions that people have and their reason for not following God, not going to church.   “Church is full of hypocrites”. 

An idea that we see in movies or talking with people in general that God loves people, and when we die, He will weight our good deeds against our bad deeds and if the good outweighs the bad, I will get into heaven.  If my bad deeds outweigh the good, you go to the “other” place.  H. E. double hockey sticks.   

You can see on the cover of the bulletin this idea that justice is blind. Reference.com says “the scales of justice are a symbol used in many Western presentations of modern law. They symbolize the idea of the fair distribution of law, with no influence of bias, privilege or corruption.”

For the last number of weeks, we have been going over the book of Romans and for the most part it has been dealing with the law.  The law of God that is.  From what we have read, it leaves nothing to the imagination, and this concept that God allows us into heaven based on our good works is nowhere to be found, in fact it says quite the opposite.

Paul has been outlining the law of God and its importance.  Firstly, through nature, in Romans 1:18-20

 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

So, the law of God is made known to us through creation, we are without excuse and he continues in chapter 2:14b-15a even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness.

Now we have the law shown to us not only through creation but also it is written on our hearts, there is an understanding of what right and wrong are. 

These concepts of good and evil are then twisted by our sinful nature and culture begins to dictate what is right and wrong.  I am sure we can all think of examples of that in our own culture, I have one from another culture though.  For example, how can some people esteem abortion as a moral positive and others see it as murder?  It is more that just culture but the sickness of sin over time corrupts the values and morality that God has written on our hearts.

Many of you know that I was raised in Indonesia on the Island of West Papua which was once called Irian Jaya.  It is the western half of the island of Papua New Guinea located just above Australia.  There is a book called The Peace Child by Don Richardson.

Have any of you heard this story?  This missionary Don Richardson went into the Sawi tribe which was a group of cannibalistic people that were still apart of the stone age.  He began to translate the scripture into their language and when he got to the part in telling them the story of Jesus where Judas betrays him.  They all began to cheer, you see in their culture their highest virtue was treachery.  They would befriend someone from a neighboring tribe and fatten them up with fancy meals in their honor, and then would kill and eat them. 

We have several things here that we know to be wrong and indeed, even our culture tells us that it is wrong.  Cannibalism for starters, but also treachery.  Yet in the Sawi culture over time and with sin, the moral decay totally changed what their value system held in esteem.

So we have these two methods of transmission of God’s law, Nature, our conscience and as Eric shared last week the Jews at the time of the writing of this book have the Old Testament.

Paul in this next section goes on to string a bunch of old testament passages together.  Each one is condemning our behavior.  He does this to show that it is not his own words that is doing the condemnation but rather Gods words.  If you look at a reference bible you will see that on the side or the bottom it lays out all of the verses that Paul is quoting in the section from verse 10 through 18.

This passage is like a court room scene. Paul is not the judge, he is the prosecution.  God is the judge and the jury.  Like every trial Paul starts with the arraignment in verse 9. 


An arraignment is a court proceeding at which a criminal defendant is formally advised of the charges against him and is asked to enter a plea to the charges. Paul then goes on to make his case in verses 10-18 and at the end he has the verdict.  Let’s read:


Romans 3:9-20

No One Is Righteous

9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.

10 As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”
13 “Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
14     “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.

 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

Lets start at verse 9. 

9 What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.

This is the arraignment I mentioned, and he is making the case against Jews and Gentiles alike. In another translations (the NASB) it says What then, are we better than they?  Are the Jews better than the gentiles? Not at all!  In the Jewish mind there are only two types of people, those that are Jewish and those that are not.  So by including these it is just another way of saying ALL. You don’t get a free pass just because you are a Jew.

What Paul does next in this section was called “pearl stringing” by Jewish Rabbis, it was taking truths written in the old testament and laying them out one after another.  Remember that Paul was a trained Jewish scholar prior to his conversion. The verses he uses are primarily from Psalms:   14:1-3; Ps 53;1-3  Eccle 7:20; Ps 5:9; Ps 140:3; Ps 10:7; Isa 59:7-8; Ps 36:1 and he is using it to make the strong case against the human race.  Each of these verses are like another witness on the stand.

This is one of the passages where theologians get a doctrine, does anybody know what that is?  You might not fancy yourself a theologian, but this is a term that I think Christians should know.  Total depravity. 

Total depravity is the idea that all of mankind is corrupted. That on our own we would not do good.  When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden that sin was introduced to the world, we see the effects of it in our human nature.  Later in Romans chapter 5:12 Paul tells us Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.

King David says in Ps 51:5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me”

I was reading RC Sproul (a theologian) and he laid out this definition of the doctrine really well, so I am going to read what he says about it here:  In the Reformed tradition, total depravity does not mean utter depravity. We often use the term total as a synonym for utter or for completely, so the notion of total depravity conjures up the idea that every human being is as bad as that person could possibly be. You might think of an archfiend of history such as Adolf Hitler and say there was absolutely no redeeming virtue in the man, but I suspect that he had some affection for his mother. As wicked as Hitler was, we can still conceive of ways in which he could have been even more wicked than he actually was. So, the idea of total in total depravity doesn’t mean that all human beings are as wicked as they can possibly be. It means that the fall was so serious that it affects the whole person. The fallenness that captures and grips our human nature affects our bodies; that’s why we become ill and die. It affects our minds and our thinking; we still have the capacity to think, but the Bible says the mind has become darkened and weakened. The will of man is no longer in its pristine state of moral power. The will, according to the New Testament, is now in bondage. We are enslaved to the evil impulses and desires of our hearts. The body, the mind, the will, the spirit—indeed, the whole person—have been infected by the power of sin.

This concept of total depravity defines the consequences to the human race because of that first original sin.

This quote puts it simply: “We are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners”.

Now back to the passage:

It says in verse 12. All have turned away, they have together become worthless, there is no one who does good, not even one. Not that there are no “good deeds” done by anyone, but there are no good deeds done that lead to salvation.

But let’s pause on the good deeds bit.  A good deed is only good when it is good from the concept to the action and even years later, not bragging about it.  Last year I was down in Boise with my boss and another co-worker and typically when we get together after work is done, we go out and have a nice dinner and visit.  It was in early September and so it was really light out still and we had plenty of time after 5 to hang out.  You know how 5 pm in summer feel so much different than 5 pm in winter. 

I was waiting for my boss in her hotel lobby and I read through the free local paper and in it there was a request for volunteers to come down and help feed the homeless and needy.  I thought that would be something to do, and part of me just wanted to see what my boss would say.  She was up for it and all three of us went along. But what about my motivation?  We went and served, and then we took pictures, my boss posted them on facebook and tagged me.  Part of my motivation was I wanted to talk to someone where the event was being held.  Part of me was trying to impress my coworkers.  They know that I am a pastor outside of my regular job so there was that also.  My point is that the good work we did was tainted by our motivation, it was no longer good, our good works are actually ugly in Gods eyes.

We see in the next section which is verses 13-18 that he addresses the whole body from the head to the feet. 

The idea is a picture of the body being poisoned.  Think about a glass of water with a drop of cyanide.  Is there a part of that glass you could drink from to avoid tainted water?  No, diffusion causes all the water to be poison. 

In this case against mankind that is being made here, he addresses the body, the throat, tongues, lips, mouths, feet and eyes and he paints a miserable picture of what it is to be like mired in sin. Verse 16 Ruin and misery mark their ways and the way of peace they do not know.

As Eric shared last week, sin is death.  All have sinned and all will eventually die, but our sin brings about a living death and, in my case, a quicker death.

Since this last summer I have been on a diet.  Do you know why I went on a diet, because I was fat!  Actually, I was obese, probably still classified as obese, but I am working on it.  Three years ago, after I was diagnosed with cancer, my doctor shared that I was at much higher risk of getting cancer again because I was too heavy.  There is a correlation between being overweight and illness. 

I know how bad it is for me to be fat, how unhealthy, but I didn’t do anything about it in fact I felt guilty because I knew I was sinning with gluttony.  This sin was causing my body to die faster than it needed to.  Not only am I dying faster, but my quality of life is less.  There are things I can’t do being this fat.  And it doesn’t affect only me.  It affects my family as well; do I have the energy to do things like I would if I were healthy? Have you ever flown Southwest Airlines, and when you get on and the plane is basically full?  The only seats that are available are generally the middle seats between two large guys.  As a large guy myself, it makes it a little squishy.

What does the world tell us about sin?

We have this notion today that sin isn’t that bad.  Whatever doesn’t hurt anyone else doesn’t bother me… What we are missing is that when we sin, it DOES affect other people.  When sin it damages me, and when I am damaged, I lean on others.  Private sin seems to have no effect on others because they don’t know about it, but scripture warns us that Be sure your sin will find you out” Numbers 32:23

Even if our sin goes uncaught for awhile there is guilt which changes our actions.  Guilt causes stress, irritability and bad attitudes, people with a guilty conscience tend to sleep less, and it can even cause depression.  Secret sin over time causes damage to others even if I think it does not.

Yet we are shamed for talking about sin and told that telling people they are sinners is mean that it is hate speech.  What we really need are safe spaces, where people don’t have to face reality.

What we have though is the end of the trial, now we have the conviction.

Rom 3:19-20 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

This passage leaves no room for us to work our way to heaven.  If we sin, we will be held accountable to God and we do sin, we are born to it.  This law that we are to keep is not an answer for us.  We can’t do it.  The law is like a PET scan.  When diagnosed with cancer I went in and they injected a radioactive dye into my system.  The cancer cells love sugar so much that they rob the other cells around them and then move all over and light up the scan showing the doctors the size and location of the tumor(s).

Does the scan heal my cancer?  No!  I had to have surgery and months and months of chemo to cure the cancer.  The law is just the test of what the standard is for us.  And for us it is an impossible standard.

James 2:10 whoever keeps the whole law but stumbles in one point is guilty of all. 

Imagine you get pulled over and you didn’t even know you were speeding.  You thought the limit was 30 but turns out you were in a school zone.  The sign had blown down, but the officer still tickets you.

So you go to court and you feel like you might get out on a technicality, the sign wasn’t showing right? How could you have even known? – I mean, you were going 30 in a 20.  You did the deed.  And well it was 3:00 and you were driving by an elementary school, and you had lived there for several years, and seen the sign previously. How surprised would you be if the Judge convicts you of murder? Adultery? Of every possible crime?  You have sinned, even unintentionally, we also haven’t even talked about the sins of omission.  The things we are told to do but fail to?  So what do we do?  We are guilty we are on the way to judgement.  So far today we have be arraigned, tried and convicted. That is the bad news, the good news is that there is one that took the place for us, that bore our punishment in our place. 

We no longer need to be shackled by the sin that so easily entangles us. 

 Romans 8 1-4

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life [a]in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, [b]weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of [c]sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Chances are that you already know that you are a sinner, isn’t it great that we have a way of escape?  But what is the practical way that it might look like.  The way we need to deal with sin is not to deny that we are sinners or to hide what we are doing but as Proverbs 28:13 says: "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy"  God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness 1 John 1:9 and Matthew 4:1-11 tells us to resist temptation like Christ did by relying on the word of God.

It starts with confession. 

GEOFF T. Testimony.