Saturday, November 11, 2006

Saturday Sermon: The Ultimate Issue

For those of you who graciously come over to my place on your weekend, allow me to introduce to you a feature that perhaps I will be able to do more often, that is, when my sermon manuscript is done early. Without further ado, here is your Saturday Sermon...

Romans 2:4-10 – The Ultimate Issue

Vs.4-5 – In verses 1-3 Paul spoke to people who thought that they must not be so bad after all because they aren’t filthy like those others are, and that is why they have a better life. Paul is saying they have a better life in spite of who they are not because of who they are. They are just as guilty and they are without excuse. Point # 1 – God’s goodness is meant to lead us to address the ultimate issue. Paul tells them here that the goodness of God has kept the wrath of God from them and from you for now, not forever. People presume on God’s goodness and think they can just play the game of their lives any old way they want to. Paul is telling us all no way. Jesus tells us to store up treasure in heaven but some are storing up wrath in hell.

Those hypocrites who may not be doing those outwardly bad things are inwardly the same sort of person, and they have done some of the same things at least some of the time in their life. The point is not that they haven’t done them as much or aren’t doing them now it is that they have done them at all. It is not a matter of degree but of doing it even once, which means that they are not perfect (James 2:10). They may conform on the outside, but they are corrupt on the inside. They are not surrendered to God they are slaves to sin and self. Of course nobody sins just once, and conversely, many are not as bad as the vilest, but don’t let these things confuse the issue for you. All our righteousness is as filthy rags compared to the holiness of God (Isaiah 64:6).

We spoke before about common grace and we see it here explicitly. God’s kindness is giving you a chance to repent. These verses are directing our attention to the eternal state, to heaven and hell. This is not a matter to trifle with; it is about the eternal state of our souls. If you leave here today with just a casual thought about what is being said, and then just simply go out to play, as most here in America will do, then you are making the biggest mistake of your life. Because of God’s goodness, you can play now, but you will pay later, if you do not stop playing around. If you continue to presume upon the goodness of God, one day, perhaps today, you will find yourself alone and without God in the blackness of darkness forever. I am talking to both young and old, you do not know what will happen to you when you walk out that door.

Point #2 – we presume on God’s goodness and avoid the ultimate issue. So many want to just play around and pretend that if we ignore this issue, THE issue, that it will somehow go away. Paul was saying that we had better make sure of what we are doing, because they thought they were alright because they weren’t as morally corrupt as others, but Paul says they are heaping up wrath to be revealed. The wrath of God is thereby separated into two different categories: (a) that wrath which is presently being revealed against sinners as we saw in the first chapter, and (b) that coming wrath of God, which is yet to be revealed against sinners.

Presuming on God’s goodness is more than deadly. It is a shame to see old people who have presumed on God for so long and become so hardened that they don’t want anything to do with spirituality. Even when faced with the grim reality of death, they want nothing to do with life after death, they only want enjoyment and entertainment. It is the same in hospitals and hospices; we see a television in every room. I don’t blame them, we are all constantly drilled with the notion that the most important thing we have, the reason for all that we do, whether work, school, or whatever, all of this is so that we may entertain ourselves, so that we can have some fun, so that we can avoid the ultimate issue. That was the problem Paul is describing and it is the same problem today; we are avoiding the ultimate issue, but no matter ho hard we run from it, it will catch up to us, if not now, then in eternity, where it will be too late (Hebrews 9:27).

All through life and even at death’s door people want to ignore the issue and distract themselves and medicate themselves with their chosen poison. Adults grow up and want to blame someone else for their problems, and we hire people to lead us back into the past to heal our wounded heart. Christians ought to know better than this. They should know that sin is the problem, and that sorrow is a part of Christian life. It reminds us this world isn’t all there is and we are to remain repentant. But many have been sold the idea that emotional pain is a “disease” that must be cured. It is just like those people Paul is talking about, “it isn’t us, it’s someone else’s fault”. The goodness of God may bring us pain and sorrow, better than comfort today but hell tomorrow.

Some people may see their sin but they don’t see the solution, and that is why they medicate, ignore, distract, avoid, deny, and do anything they can to escape the coming wrath, and the wrath against their conscience. They do this so long and so strong that their consciences are finally what the apostle Paul calls seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2). Paul describes it as being past feeling (Ephesians 4:19). They will look to anything and everything but Him. They will even try “being good”. They are hard and cold and dead to God.

The truth is that this hardening has been going on since we were children. We think we can let our children “off the hook” of making them go to church, read the bible, and such, but we are only setting them up for ultimate failure. We think they will grow out of it but they won’t because we won’t. It is ironic that we know we are supposed to mature out of wanting nothing but fun; we teach children this when they are young, but wonder why they don’t follow it when they are old. It is because while we teach this we don’t live this, we continue to foster the idea of fun as the ultimate pursuit. We either train them in the Lord or they are trained by the world.

When training children, we don’t talk like children we get them to talk like us; we don’t act like children we get them to act like us. However, when the only thing we do different than our children is smoke and drink and cuss, well then no wonder that is what our children do when they want to sound and act grown up. And then we want to punish them for imitating us, for doing what we taught them to do. Ironic. We are teaching them to do it when we define adulthood as being able to do these things, instead of modeling and defining maturity as Christ does, not as what you are allowed to do, but as what it is best to do. Maturity is not learning to develop our self-indulgence but learning to deny it.

How many people have you known who are old in years but are still as self indulgent as a teenager? It is no wonder our children grow up the way they do. We have such a confused conception of joy, we think to have joy means the same thing as to have fun, and we have lost the value of doing things meaningful, significant, and truly fulfilling. We are teaching our children to avoid the ultimate issue. We presume on God’s goodness, thinking we’re okay, and we teach our children, our spouses, each other, and ourselves this deception.

Vs.6-10Point #3 – we all must face the ultimate issue. He has just told us that all the Gentiles are under the wrath of God and has indicted the Jews and the moralists as well, saying that none of us are righteous and that all of us are without excuse. But now he tells us that we need to pursue goodness and the path of righteousness in order to inherit eternal life, and that if we do not, we will have eternal wrath. Is Paul saying that we are all going to hell? Yes, unless there is a remedy, and that remedy is the gospel, the righteousness we need to inherit eternal life. We need to face the ultimate issue, and we can do so without fear if we have Jesus.

The Jews and the Gentiles are in the same boat. The judgment of God will be applied in the same way using the same standard. God will be just. It doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or if you are a Gentile, all persons are going to be judged according to the same standard. That standard is perfection. No amount of goodness by any individual in history is enough to justify them. No one has been or will be holy enough to merit eternal life; only Christ was and is perfect.

He is showing us once again the need for the gospel and in the same way that he said it is to the Jew first and also the rest now he is saying it again, “each” means individuals regardless of class, race, gender, location, nationality, or the like. The eternal life of every one in this room depends on the kindness of God, not our goodness. But it is not something we can presume upon. He gives it to those whom seek it with repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).

This text is saying the only path to eternal life is the path of righteousness. But what Paul has said before this and in the New Testament and our lives and the world all reveal to us that none have or ever will walk it except Jesus. But we can follow Him on that road by faith. We will not walk it perfectly, but His walk not our walk is what saves us. That is the gospel and out of gratitude for it and love for Him we attempt to walk that same path, knowing that our walk will be imperfect and that we will stumble and fall, but that God will pick us up and if we will get up and want to walk again He will empower us to do so. Like a child learns to walk so too we learn to walk and we grow stronger as we walk, but we must be careful to keep our eyes on the One who walks before us and that is what under girds us and keeps us from stumbling. Humbly look at the goodness of God, and repent of straying from or staying off of the path. Follow Jesus.

Someone who is saved does not presume upon the goodness of God, they act in accordance with it. The Jews whom Paul was chastising here were God’s called out people, they knew about God; they weren’t like those people in Romans 1. They knew they were called out ones, and yet they presumed this meant that they could just coast along, and they are wrong, dead wrong. God is calling you out; you must answer the call with humility and repentance and not with hypocrisy. Just because you know the truth doesn’t mean you are trusting in it. Those that do not walk the path at all are saying that they have no faith. Wrath or mercy, which do you want? Follow Jesus, and you will have mercy, follow your heart and you will have wrath.

THAT is the ultimate issue.


Charles e. Whisnant said...


I was over at ExpositoryThoughts and noted your comment. You use a manuscript. How does your study of sermon preparation go alone with Matt's?

I enjoyed your Saturday Sermons... Romans is a great book to study.

If I remember correctly I preached some four years in Romans. And I have the manuscript of each message. I did this the old fashion way, hand printed them.

Thank goodness for Word Perfect.


Taliesin said...

but His walk not our walk is what saves us

How important is it that we get people to realize this in our society?

Someone who is saved does not presume upon the goodness of God, they act in accordance with it.

And to get the church to acknowledge this?

You are correct that we have many distractions that keep us from dealing with eternal matters. Because of the discussion over at Centuri0n's blog on Johnny Cash, I've had an old John Mellencamp song (Void in My Heart)running through my head this weekend. One line is "I see a billion just like me, with a void in their heart and running from eternity." But, one day, "we all must face the ultimate issue."

Even So... said...

Hey, Charles, thanks for coming over.

I'm not sure I understand your question. I commented on the second interview, but I believe you want to me to comment on the first one. IOW, how does my sermon prep compare with Matt's, right?

I try and find the start / stop point of a passage, not necesarily the whole thought, perhaps only a smaller portion, but one that can illustrate what Paul, for example might be saying or revving up to say, or describing what he just said, or going from doctrine to practice in transition, etc. I believe he and we call this the pericope...

I believe I can say that without question Matt's Greek skills are far superior to mine, in that he says he starts without the tools because his Greek is strong enough, and then uses them a little to check certain things. I however, must have the tools with me always, my Greek is too weak not to employ the tools all the way through. In all candor, they are more than a crutch they are a necessity, I am still learning.

When I have done the exegesis, I try and form the sermon into a viable homiliy, and add illustrations after my points are clear. Sometimes the points are not as well defined, and the message is somewhat like a commentary, and sometimes it is more like a simple outline and then a lot of additions. I am still learning my way through this as well. This is not to say that I "don't know what I am doing", it is understanding that I will always be learning, and I am not so convinced that I need "three points and a poem" all the time. It depends on the text.

Thesis statements are good, but I won't make one where it isn't there naturally. I like to make sure the original intent is clear, i.e., I will say "this is the point Paul is making here, ...", and then sometimes venture to give application right at that point, but sometimes I leave all application for the end. Again, everything depends on the particular text, in no way will I leave myself locked into a system for a sytem's sake, save being expositional 98% of the time...

I guess I could go on, but if I was wrong and didn't answer what you wanted let me know...

Charles e. Whisnant said...

Even So JH

You answered my question, thanks. I need tools as well.