Good morning! I am so thankful you are here this morning! The Lord has some truths to share with us today. Through his Word the Holy Spirit is going to lift our eyes from the mud and blood around our feet to the gates of heaven that God has opened wide before us!
Are you ready? Let’s open our Bibles to Romans 5. Paul begins this way… “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Rom 5:1-2
Bible scholars have learned to ask the question, “What is the ‘therefore’ there for?” It means the author is referring back to the case he has already laid out. So let’s review the reason Paul gives for writing his letter. “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed - a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written; “The righteous will live by faith.” Rom 1:17
Paul spends the next three chapters laying out his argument that righteousness before God is something we can never merit or achieve. It comes as a gift. No matter how good or sincere we try to be, no matter how impressive our family lineage, sin has deformed our hearts and twisted our character. We have no basis for judging others as more depraved than ourselves. But God has acted on our behalf. He has made a way for us to be restored.
“Therefore since we have been justified (made right) through faith…” I want you to think back to the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve have just been created and are standing before the Lord. Imagine how erect and tall they stand. How beautiful. They have nothing to hide. There is a glory, a magnificence, a splendor about them that isn’t present in any other animal. They have been given a special role in creation. They are king and queen of this new world.
Then all that was lost in the fall, but God had a plan to restore them to their original position of glory and honor. To be justified means to be restored to our original position. Like a master carpenter who takes his level and his square and rebuilds a twisted, warped, collapsing wall and restores it to strong, square, righteous, and plumb.
Let’s look at chapter 5, verse one again…“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Rom 5:1-2
When we are justified in Jesus, we are restored, raised up, to stand peacefully before our Creator just like Adam and Eve on that first morning in the Garden. God looks at us just as he looked at them before the fall and he says -“It is very good.”
Does the reality that you can stand peacefully, without fear, without reservation before your Heavenly Father excite you? What does it mean to you that Jesus, the master carpenter and squared you up and made you righteous before him? Are you eager to hear him lay out the assignments for which he created you? Are you ready to serve him in the world?
I love those words, “the grace in which we now stand.” When a person comes to faith in Jesus Christ the very atmosphere around us is changed. Before we lived in an atmosphere of fear, shame, judgment, depravity – now, the very air we breathe has been changed.
We live in an atmosphere grace, hope, joy, love, and peace that makes no sense to those in the world around us. We now live in the very presence of God, we breathe the grace charged atmosphere of heaven regardless of our circumstances.
When the Lord appeared to Paul on the Damascus road, he was temporarily blinded, but his spiritual eyes were opened are he realized how depraved he really was. He realized the stench that was in his soul. If anyone deserved the wrath of God, it was Paul. Sin had twisted him, shrunken him, deformed him, robbed him of the glory God intended for him.
But through the cross, Jesus justified him, stood him up straight, made it possible for Paul to stand before God, just as if he had never sinned. A peace Paul had never known filled his heart. Because of what Jesus did for him on the cross, the new Paul looked like Adam on that first morning of his creation, standing before the Lord waiting his assignment!
But we still live in a broken world. We still struggle with our own sin and the sin in the world around us. So Paul continues…“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character produces hope. 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.” Rom 5:4-5
When the Lord restores us to righteousness, like that carpenter rebuilding and straightening out a twisted a wall, everything changes. Paul found that change included his experience with suffering, pain and even death. Before, Jesus came into his life the experience of suffering was chaotic and confusing. Was God punishing him? Was it karma? You get what you deserve? Or was suffering just one more sign that life was meaningless, without purpose and ultimately futile?
Now, in Christ, Paul began to understand suffering in an entirely different way. He could even say he “gloried in his suffering, because no matter how difficult it might be, God was in it.”
In 2 Cor Paul wrote, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us” 2 Cor 1:8-10
When Jesus was living in him, troubles became opportunities for God to be at work, transforming us and changing the environment around us. If you want to find a tough guy, talk to a Christian man or woman or child who has endured through deep suffering by the power of Jesus. You will find a grace, a stamina, courage, character that can’t be found anywhere else. Let’s read verses 4-5 again…“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character produces hope. 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.” Rom 5:4-5
In Rom 8 Paul writes, “What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword” Rom 8:35
He says, “We face these things all day long!” Then he says, “No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom 8:38-39
Let’s jump back to Romans 5:9 “Since we have now been justified (set right with God) by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled (squared up, made right, restored), shall we be saved through his life!” Rom 5:9-10
There is much more here than it may appear! First, Paul reminds us that through the cross our relationship with God has been justified, set right again. Instead of tearing down and burning those sin-warped and twisted timbers, Jesus shed his blood and gave his life to justify, restore square us up to the place and purpose we lost in the Garden of Eden.
But Jesus didn’t just die on the cross and then go to heaven and leave us on our own. In Rom 8 Paul tells us that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father continually praying for us as we serve as his agents of redemption in the world. Imagine what this meant for Paul!
Jesus left heaven to meet Paul on the Damascus road. He didn’t come to punish and destroy Paul, though that’s what Paul deserved. He came to forgave him, cleanse him, reconcile him, restore him, crown him with glory and honor, and commission him to the job for which he created him - just as he did for Adam and Eve. It blew Paul’s mind.
No wonder Paul was so willing to suffer for Jesus, to live every day serving the one who gave his life to save him. How encouraging it must have been for Paul to know Jesus was with him, living inside of him, on the throne of heaven, praying for him 24/7, enveloping him in an atmosphere of grace no matter how terrible the trial might be on that particular day!
Jesus had taken Paul out of the hopelessness and despair of the kingdom of darkness and put him into an atmosphere of grace and light, joy and peace that nothing on earth could ever threaten. He’s done the same for you! Have you laid hold of it? Are you willing to trust him, follow him, serve him? Are you willing to become what he created you to be? Will you pray with me?