A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on July 10, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether Our Christian Faith One Word at a Time - Reconciled!Romans 5:1-11Children, I want you to think back to when you had a disagreement with your parents. Maybe they wanted you to get ready for bed, but you wanted to play longer. Or, they wanted you to eat your vegetables, but you wanted a cookie. When your parents told you what they wanted, did you immediately say, “Okay”, or did you try to change their mind? There’s nothing wrong with asking. But when your parents didn’t change their mind, did you get upset, or maybe stomp your feet, or shout, “I want to play longer”, or, “I want a cookie?” You know, even if you get your way, it’s a lonely feeling. You can see it in your parents’ face, and hear it in their voice that they’re angry and disappointed with you. Deep down inside that hurts. The Bible calls this pain “guilt.” When we’re feeling guilty, we don’t need another 5 minutes to play, or we don’t need another cookie. We need forgiveness and acceptance. That’s what God’s Word this morning is about – having forgiveness and acceptance not just from others, but from God! Adults, have you ever had a disagreement with God? A lot of people have. For example in the verses after our text, it says that everyone is born sinful and deserves death because of what Adam did in the Garden. Some argue that’s not fair; then contrary to what the Bible says, they insist they can make themselves good enough to go to heaven. Here’s a part of a devotion I recently found on the internet. The author was Mormon. He writes: I have felt impressed to speak today about the need for integrity – old fashioned, personal, practical integrity. To me, integrity means always doing what is right and good, regardless of the immediate consequences. It means being righteous from the very depth of our soul, not only in our actions but, more importantly, in our thoughts and in our heart. Personal integrity implies such trustworthiness and incorruptibility that we are incapable of being false to a trust or covenant. This is a nice standard, if we could truly live up to it. The problem is we don’t. So, maybe we pretend we’re righteous from the very depth our soul, yet God’s Word says we aren’t. Or, maybe then we try harder to be righteous in our thoughts and in our heart; except the harder we try, the more we’ll realize we’re still coming up short. That’s not a good feeling, and so at this point some up their disagreement with God. They get angry with Him for not accepting their standards, so they can feel good about themselves – as they are, doing whatever it is they’re doing. And then add to that, if God’s not giving them the things they want or feel they need, they may start accusing Him of being unloving or else much of the Bible has to be wrong. What a frightful place to be! What if God starts punishing them for their sinful attitudes? So, have you ever been down that road? Do you know anyone who has? Just as a naughty child is reconciled to his parents when he feels their love and acceptance again, that’s what everyone needs from God. This morning we’re continuing our sermon series, Our Christian Faith One Word at a Time. Today’s word is reconciled. When we know we are reconciled to God: 1. We boast in what He has done. 2. We rejoice in what He will do.Our text reads: 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. (Romans 5:1-2a) It takes two to tangle. It also takes two to have a relationship. Last week the court acquitted Casey Anthony. That doesn’t mean she didn’t do the crime. It means the court isn’t going to punish her. In the same way God has acquitted us of all our sins, because He punished Jesus in our place. And now by believing God is at peace with us, we are at peace with Him. And so, if we imagine looking at the face of Jesus, we won’t see any anger or disappointment in us. We will see only love and acceptance. Furthermore, every day our sins and failures would start our guilt up all over again, because through faith in God’s acquittal, we continue to stand in His presence just as much at peace with ourselves, as a bride is being with her new husband. We read on in our text: And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2b) The word boast here means joyfully telling others exciting news. Our good news is all the hope we have because of our acquittal. One hope is that in this life God IS answering our prayers. Another hope is that in the life to come, God will raise up our bodies with no weaknesses or imperfections, and we will live in our beautiful heavenly home, where there are no bankruptcy courts, or hospitals or cemeteries, because we’ll never need any of those things. But there’s even more to joyfully tell about. We read: Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, 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. (Romans 5:3-5) Doesn’t that seem odd? Just as we glory in our hope, we glory in our suffering? Yet this makes sense when we believe we are acquitted by God, because we know we’re not being punished when something bad happens. On the contrary, God’s using it to work perseverance in us, which is the ability to hang in there. And the reason we can hang in there is we KNOW God is bringing about other blessings too, not the least of which is He’s building up our character. Character is person’s traits so whenever this thing happens, he always does that. Our character, which God wants for us, is that we are so certain we’re pleasing to God, that when everything is going wrong, we continually pray for guidance, for strength, for contentment and that His will be done. And then when God finally answers our prayers in the right way and at the right time, we become even more certain of our ultimate hope. Another thing that makes us more certain is the Holy Spirit. This happens when things get so rough that we realize only the Holy Spirit could get us through this, but He does. And so, experiencing the Spirit’s help reassures us all the more that we are reconciled to God through Christ, and that He will never forsake us, no matter how much we might feel we deserve that. But what if we haven’t been experiencing God’s answers lately, or what if we’re not feeling the Spirit’s power? In our text Paul explains how we can still be sure we are reconciled to God, even when we’re sinking. We read: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8) When things are going badly and not getting any better, we can easily fall back into feeling like that child who’s been naughty and his parents are angry, and that somehow if we can be super good, God will stop being angry with us and fix everything for us. Here’s the thing! God loved us before we were brought to faith. In fact God loved us when we were still in the unbelief that we’re okay and He isn’t. Yet God freely gave up His Son for us, and His Son willingly gave up His life for us. In our text Paul tells us what this means for us: Since we have now been justified 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, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:9-10) Since God acquitted us at such a great price to Himself, even when we were unlovable enemies, how much more can we count of His love now that He has made us His dear children. Furthermore, having gone this far for us, we can count on it each new day that He will forgives us, He will accept us at His throne of grace, He will continual to work patient endurance and Christian character in us, so that even when we don’t have any hope with our earthly eyes, we’ll be filled with hope through the eyes of faith. We read on: Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:11) The ultimate proof we are reconciled to God is NOT improvements in our lifestyle or even in how we’re living. The ultimate proof we are reconciled to God is Christ. He is our righteousness. He is the sacrifice that paid for our sins. He is our High Priest who’s praying for us at the right hand of the Father. He is our Good Shepherd who’s leading us through His Word to our heavenly hope. However, if our relationship with God is based solely on Christ, why keep trying to have integrity? Why not go out sinning like there’s no tomorrow? Because that’s not what our relationship with God is about! Rather our life now is all about showing others with our worship and with all that we are and have what HE has done for us, and what He has done for them also. But what if some won’t listen? Or, what if it seems like they never will? Well, when has God given up on us? He hasn’t! And so, if we believe we are reconciled to God, let’s be bold in saying what needs to be said to those who question God, or are angry at Him, or got their hands caught in the cookie jar and are full of guilt. Let’s keep telling them how they too are reconciled to God through Christ, and let’s do this with the same carefree joy a young couple tells everyone they’re getting married, or a young family tells that they’re having a baby. And finally once more, our reason for doing this is not to score points with God. Our reason is His love for us, and now our love for Him, and that’s reconciliation. Amen.

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