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Jun 28, 2020

Gospel Power & Your Past

Passage: Romans 3:22-26

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Great Gospel

Keywords: faith, power, gospel, redemption, grace, salvation, past, resume, rap-sheet

Summary:

It's been said that "you can't change your past." True for mere humans. Not true with Jesus Christ. This message looks at some of the ways the Gospel of Jesus Christ utterly transforms our past.

Detail:

Gospel Power & Your Past

June 28, 2020

WELCOME & UPDATE: 

  • New summer schedule: 2 Sunday services, mid-week groups, Wed. prayer, Saturday CL.  Let us know if you are looking for a home group and we’ll help.  We’re not requiring Eventbrite sign-ups since we seem to have plenty of space to social distance in our services at present.  If that changes, we’ll let you know.
  • Thanks for working with all the “COVID conditions”. As you saw this morning, we’re still taking temps, giving hand gel, masks, cleansing bathrooms between uses, trying to practice social distancing.
  • We’re doing all that so we can continue to enjoy what we count dear to our faith—things like praying for one another, studying the word together, worshipping together, sharing the Lord’s Supper together, ministering God’s gifts to us to one another, encouraging each other, loving one another, etc.
  • We’re continuing to “reinvent” church too. Over the next month, we’ll be developing plans for experiencing all these and more in new (and old) ways of being the church together.  We’ll be talking about these new/old models throughout the summer so that when we hit the fall, everyone has multiple options to continue to grow in Christ, develop your leadership capacity, share Jesus with others and BE the church gathered. 

REVIEW:

  • What was the verse Andrew taught us last week? Romans 1:16—“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes….”
  • What were the 3 parts of the Gospel in this verse?
    • The Power of God: must acknowledge that God exists and is powerful enough to do what we need done.
    • Salvation: we are sinners who need saving—past, present and future.
    • Belief: put your faith and life under Jesus Christ the only Savior of mankind. 
  • Three questions we’re all going to get familiar with in every gathering we have from here on, whether worship services or micro-church gatherings:
    • What did the Holy Spirit say to me? (Might be from His word, from a song, from another person’s testimony, from something someone said that God used to challenge you, etc.)
    • What is God asking me to do with/about that? (Change the way I think, what I do, who I am?)
    • How can I help you do that? (Prayer?  Resources?  Meet for coffee?  Counsel?  Love?  Compassion?  Food?  Kindness? ???)

So at the end of every service, every group, every study, we’re going to be asking these three simple questions.  God is speaking; we need to learn to hear Him and respond to Him. 

PRAY

            If you’re just joining us today, we’re in a short series on This Great Gospel.  Andrew did a great job of giving us very simply, in one verse, what IS the Gospel:  God and what He has done to provide salvation; us and what we’ve done to need salvation (i.e. sin) and what our response needs to be about that (belief). 

            TODAY we want to talk about the POWER this Gospel has to change our PAST.  Next week Bob will look at its power to change right now, the PRESENT.  And then Jesse will lead us to look at what the Word of God has to say about the Gospel’s ability to change our FUTURE. 

            We’re all familiar with the statement, “You can’t change the past,” right?  We’ll, I’m here to contradict that this morning!  While we can’t change history, we can change how that history is understood, how it impacts us in the present and how we have to deal with it going forward.  This is one of the miracles of the Gospel: when we embrace this Good News, it actually changes the effect of what we’ve done in the past. 

            This is actually a concept we’re all familiar with.  In fact, we often appeal to the past in order to move into a better present and future. 

ILL:  What’s the difference between a rap-sheet and a resume?

  • Rap-sheet: a list of all the accusations, arrests, convictions for crimes…effectively all our dirtiest laundry recorded on us and available to law enforcement officials, attorneys, judges, newspapers and enemies. 

What does a rap-sheet do for you?  (Condemns, enables others to think less of us if they want to, tarnishes our reputation, our good name, etc.)

  • Resume: a compilation of all our achievements—our educational achievements, our work achievements, our community achievements, our awards, in short, everything designed to make us look good.

What does a resume do for you?  (Hopefully helps people see your good characteristics, your hard work, your potential to be of value to them as an employer.  Hopefully, it gets you a good job!) 

Reality is, we ALL have a rap-sheet.  Only it’s not because we broke some human laws.  It’s much more serious than that. We didn’t just cross the line on a somewhat arbitrary speed limit…or our neighbors property…or use of a dangerous substance.  No, we broke divine laws.  We morally and spiritually and relationally punched GOD in the face. We defaced His beautiful creation.  We murdered His deeply loved Son…and other people we’ve hated and harmed by our words and actions.  We lied to him about so much in our lives.  We have violated so many of His laws that all flow exactly who He is. 

            Because God IS perfect justice, evil never goes unaccounted for in the universe or in our lives.  Every evil we’ve ever done has a just punishment that must be carried out if God is to continue to be just.  Every morally responsible human being will be held accountable for every thought, word, action and attitude they have ever had.  According to Rev. 20, at the great judgment to come of everyone who has ever lived, those whose names are not in what is called “the book of life” (20:12; 13:18) will be judged based on both their rap-sheet and their resume.  “The dead [will be] judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”  Every excuse for bad behavior will look pitiful and every sin of every day will look horrible. 

            “But,” someone may say, “If unbelievers are going to be judged “according to what they have done”, isn’t it possible that our “spiritual resume” will outweigh our “spiritual rap-sheet”?  After all, there are a lot of truly ‘nice’ and ‘good people’ in the world who do a lot of good things in the course of a lifetime. Maybe a few really exceptional people will have better resumes than rap-sheets???

ILL:  How we look at “spiritual resumes”—we grade ‘on the curve.’  Who’s one of the most evil people you think ever existed?  (Hitler—50 million dead; Joseph Stalin—25 million min; Mao Zedong—40-70 million fellow Chinese; Pol Pot in Cambodia—3 million; Margaret Sanger who championed abortion and eugenics, Founder of Planned Parenthood—latest count is 8 million babies aborted by P.P alone…61 million across the U.S.?).  Those ‘world-class sinners’ are certainly at the bottom of the ‘curve’ or scale. 

Who would you put at the top?  (Mother Teressa, St. Francis of Assi, the Apostle Paul???)  And where might YOU fall… somewhere in between? 

            What does God have to say about the “resume theory” of salvation? 

            Not long ago we were in a series in the book of Romans.  There we encountered this passage in chapter 3:9-10 where Paul quotes the O.T. [Psalms (14:1-3; 53:1-3) and Ecclesiastes (7:20)] when he writes,

9 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….”  He continues in vs. 20, 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.

            Here’s the problem.  In “our sight”…we have very limited moral vision.  We all compare ourselves to others and deceive ourselves about ourselves.  But “in God’s sight”…the One that counts… NO ONE will make the ‘passing grade’ of moral perfection, of holiness, of righteousness needed. 

‘The works of the law’ are essentially God’s measuring stick, not ours.  If you want to try and pass the course of life with your own ‘spiritual resume’, then you’re going to have to do better than anyone in human history…all the Jews and Gentiles who tried to keep God’s law and couldn’t do it perfectly.  And as much as I think highly of all of you, I don’t know anyone at Mosaic…or in this world or its history…who will be able to point to their ‘spiritual resume’ and say, “See, I did it.  My resume wipes out my rap sheet!” 

            As Paul writes, the real problem is that “the law” just makes me more ‘conscious of [my] sin.’ 

ILL: Here’s a silly but timely little example of how the law/standard we try to keep to measure up to God’s good, righteous and holy character actually makes us more of a sinner.  The more “law” you create, the more impossible it becomes. 

  • HIPPA & ADA laws made it illegal for me or anyone else here today to ask anyone not wearing a mask WHY they aren’t. That’s private medical information that I’m not allowed to ask or use for or against you and your being here today. 
  • On the other hand, our Governor this week declared that it is a misdemeanor punishable by $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail if you don’t wear a protective mask either indoors or outdoors in any public gatherings. That applies to walking down the sidewalk, sitting in church or going to the drycleaners. 

So here you have two “laws” that conflict.  If I’m going to obey the Governor, I’m going to violate HIPPA & ADA laws…or perhaps even more laws by telling someone they can’t come in here without a face mask.  But if I obey the HIPPA & ADA laws and let people self-monitor based on their own health needs, I can’t uphold/fulfill the Governor’s mandate.  Before he made this new rule this week, I wasn’t a law-breaker.  But today I am…and I haven’t changed my behavior one bit from the last 6 weeks of church.  You get the point? 

ILL:  Our spiritual resume is about as effective as this wannabe actors resume [see slide]: “Earnest and energetic!  Leading Man.  Just finished playing a rapist in a film.  I’d love to audition for [your movie]. Daryl. 

So that’s all the bad news about each of our spiritual rap-sheets and resumes. 

            But the Gospel, the “Good News” about what happened to us when we put our faith and trust in Jesus comes in the same passage in Romans 3:22-26 when Paul writes about Jesus’ resume:  (green = character quality of God; red = HOW we get God’s work for us; blue = WHAT He did for us.)

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

            Remember I talked about God being “just” at the beginning of this message?  His justice demanded there be punishment for our sins.  This passage tells us that His forbearance kept him from punishing us immediately, in the moment, every time we sinned.  His righteousness in Christ provided the perfect substitute we needed to take our sin-penalty for us.  His death was the “sacrificial atonement”, the payment applied to our debt. And all of that was done because God is a god of grace—giving us what we don’t deserve--blessings upon blessings, atonement, redemption, justification, forbearance, grace, love, etc. 

QUESTIONS:

  • According to 24, what is the “Good News” of the Gospel?

[That we are justified—declared to be right with God himself… when we were enemies because of our sin.]

  • According to 22, 25 & 26, how do we get this ‘perfect spiritual resume’? [It’s a gift we take by faith and belief.  ILL:  giving $1 to someone…must take it!]
  • Our bad ‘spiritual rap-sheet’ demanded the wage sin pays, namely death. But according to 24-5, how did God pay off our just penalty? 

We could state it this way: 

The message of Christianity is that

we are more sinful than we ever realized,

but we are more loved and accepted

than we ever could have imagined in Jesus Christ.

The Bad News:  I am so sinful that Jesus had to die for me.

The Good News:  I am so loved that Jesus chose to die for me.   

 

ILL:  Some of you know the feeling of sitting in prison, awaiting your sentencing date.  Some of you have known the horrible feeling of being convicted of crimes that you knew would put you away for years, sometimes decades…sometimes for the rest of life. 

When it comes to sentencing, judges often consider your entire past record.  How would it feel if you knew you had a horrible rap-sheet, page after page of all kinds of crimes from destroying people’s lives by stealing their life work and retirement accounts to kidnapping, torturing, raping and murdering person after person after person?  What if any one of those crimes could put you away for life? 

What would you feel IF, when you arrived in the courtroom that fateful day, the Judge read the list of all your convictions and then said, “Sir…Mamm…, this morning, my Son handed me your rap sheet…and it is completely empty.  There is not a single crime here, not even a parking ticket! 

Furthermore, I’ve been presented with what is THE most amazing resume about you and what you are capable of doing under my Son’s employ. 

The court would like to hire you to work under Him, with recently arrested people…just like you used to be…to help them understand how they, too, can completely clear their rap-sheets and come to possess a resume that will open doors of employment they never dreamed possible.” 

HOW WOULD YOU FEEL???  Relief is an understatement.

APP:  You see, this is why most people without Jesus fear death.  They know intuitively that it is going to be their judgment day.  As Ecc. 3:11 says, God has “set eternity in the human heart.”  We know there is life after life.  And we know there is going to be a judgment before the only true God. 

This IS the true miracle of what has happened to anyone who has put their faith in what Jesus Christ did for them by dying on the cross.  Rather than having to stand before God as our judge and be ashamed by page after page of the things we have done in this life that have been evil, wrong, sinful and destructive, we will stand before God and God will cherish and embrace us as if we were His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ…because that is what the Father will see when he looks at our spiritual rap-sheet and resume.  He’ll see the beauty, sinlessness and perfection of Christ.

            So, what difference does that make to our past?  What difference does the Gospel/Good News of what Jesus has done for us DO to our past sin and failures? 

  • It actually takes it away.
  • It actually replaces it CHRIST--with the massive and complete perfection and beauty of Jesus. Rather than trying to prove I’m better than I have been, I get to just try and live into the life of Jesus he offers me daily. 
  • It actually sets us free from the power that sin had, the shame it brought, the guilt it produced, the bondage it held over us. Rather than piling up more sins, I now get to pile up more right-living in Jesus—more blessing others, more thinking truth, more loving rather than hating, more longsuffering patience than anger and impatience, etc. 

How much of what we do and how we live out the present is haunted, influenced, shaped and almost determined by what we used to do in the past? 

  • Family: our families of origin determine so much how we react to others, respond to crisis and challenges, feel about certain incidents, etc. We all come from sinful families so we tend to perpetuate sinful family patterns.  Divorce and issues that led to divorce tend to pass generation to generation.  Addictions from drugs to sex, work to laziness tend to go generation to generation.  How we parent, how we react as spouses, how we feel about things can flow directly from what we used to experience in our families.  NONE of that has any more power over us than we let it.  While it takes for most of us a process of really looking at how we keep living out of those past wounds and hurts, none of those things can hold any power over us except what we give it.  ILL:  Perfectionism—the need to gain self-worth from doing things perfectly.  I now realize there is only 1 perfect person, Jesus.  I will never do anything perfectly…and that’s okay.  I can stop before I drop.  I can rest when something isn’t perfect.  I can revel in what God thinks of me even when I failed big or small.  How?  Thinking not about my failure or imperfection but about how God rejoices and revels in Jesus, the Savior in whom I now hide and who is everything perfect about which I am so incomplete. 
  • EX: present CHURCH crisis:  in the past, due to modeling (parent) and years of experiences of self-centered depression, I reacted to anything I viewed as unsolvable or hopeless with depression. But over years I’ve learned to let go of that way of relating to experiences of life that may be difficult as well as learning how to live into those same experiences as Jesus did and wants to today through me.  EX:  the ‘impossible’ challenges of reinventing and rebuilding church in this new age.  Before I would have reacted with depression to this humanly impossible task.  Today I’m actually excited and energized to start again, rebuild again, discover new spiritual family, raise up new spiritual offspring, etc. 

APP:  What about your past keeps negatively determining your present?  What actions, thoughts, feelings, passions, desires, dreams of the ‘old you’…not of Christ…keep pulling you back, dragging you down or robbing you of the life of Jesus? 

            The Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus dealt with all of that on the cross.  It all got forgiven.  It’s power over you all got broken.  It all got erased from your record.  And a whole new resume got put in its place. 

            We can keep copying our old resume and handing it out to ourselves and others OR… we can frame Jesus’ sinless ‘rap-sheet’ and ‘spiritual resume’ and hang them on the hallways of our hearts to be marveled at, reveled in and rejoiced over day after day. 

CLOSE:  There is a story in the Gospel of John, chapter 4, that graphically pictures the kind of change Jesus’ clearing up and forgiving our past can have on the present person we are. 

VIDEO:  https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2262755974028732

There is a scene with the Samaritan woman at the well in a new miniseries called, “The Chosen”, Episode 8, that does a beautiful job of picturing the emotional impact the Gospel and person of Jesus Christ can have on any human soul weighed down by sin.   

Back story—there has been a scene where her current and 5th husband, who is a cripple, won’t give her a divorce by just signing the divorce papers she brings him, even though she’s living with another man presently.  He throws the papers in the fire.  She leaves and you see her going through the street market, stopping to buy an orange but being spurned by a fruit vendor because everyone knows this woman in Sycar and knows the immoral life she’s leading. 

            We pick it up with Jesus talking to her at the well of Jacob there in Samaria outside Sycar as his disciples are in town buying food. 

CLOSE:

  • Call to believe in Jesus just as this woman did…with all the baggage of your past, all your failures, all your shame and guilt. Have you come to receive Him, the gift of eternal life God offers you simply by putting your faith in Him?  (Invitation.)
  • If you are a follower of Jesus, what about your past have you not let Jesus take care of? What have you not let Him forgive?  Sweep away?  Rearrange?  Redeem for His purposes?  Free you from?  The Good News of the Gospel of Jesus really can “change” your past…if you will let Him.  Willing to let Him?  Invite Him?  Ask Him by faith to change? 

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