Sermon Finished

Well, I've finished it. Some rearranging, but essentially the same thing. I found a great closing illustration of what Paul is talking about in Romans 1:17 in John Piper's book Counted Righteous in Christ that I have to share with you all. I hope it encourages and strengthens your love for Christ and what he has done for you!

My daughter, Talitha, is six years old. Recently she and my wife and I were reading through Romans together. This was her choice after we finished Acts. She is just learning to read, and I was putting my finger on each word. She stopped me in mid-sentence at the beginning of chapter 5 and asked, “What does ‘justified’ mean?”

What do you say to a six-year-old? Do you say, “There are more important things to think about, so just trust Jesus and be a good girl”? Or do you say that it is very complex and even adults are not able to understand it fully, so you can wait and deal with it when you are older? Or do we say that it simply means that Jesus died in our place so that all our sins might be forgiven?

Or do we tell a story (which is what I did), made up on the spot, about two accused criminals, one guilty and one not guilty (one did the bad thing, and one did not do it)? The one who did not do the bad thing is shown, by all those who saw the crime, to be innocent. So the judge “justifies” him; that is, he tells him he is a law-abiding person and did not do the crime and can go free. But the other accused criminal, who really did the bad thing, is shown to be guilty, because all the people who saw the crime saw him do it. But then, guess what! The judge “justifies” him too and says, “I regard you as a law-abiding citizen with full rights in our country” (not just a forgiven criminal who may not be trusted or fully free in the country). At this point Talitha looks at me puzzled.

She does not know how to put her finger on the problem but senses that something is wrong here. So I say, “That’s a problem, isn’t it? How can a person who really did break the law and did the bad thing be told by the judge that he is a law-keeper, a righteous person, with full rights to the freedoms of the country, and doesn’t have to go to jail or be punished?” She shakes her head. Then I go back to Romans 4:5 and show her that God “justifies the ungodly.” Her brow is furrowed. I show her that she has sinned and I have sinned and we are all like this second criminal. And when God “justifies” us he knows we are sinners and “ungodly” and “lawbreakers.” And I ask her, “What did God do so that it’s right for him say to us sinners: you are not guilty, you are law-keepers in my eyes, you are righteous, and you are free to enjoy all that this country has to offer?”

She knows it has something to do with Jesus and his coming and dying in our place. That much she has learned. But what more do I tell her now? The answer to this question will depend on whether Mom and Dad have been faithfully taught about the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Will they tell her that Jesus was the perfect law-keeper and never sinned, but did everything the judge and his country expected of him? And will they tell her that when he lived and died, he not only took her place as a punishment-bearer but also stood in her place as a law-keeper? Will they say that he was punished for her and he obeyed the law for her? And if she will trust Jesus, God the Judge will let Jesus’ punishment and Jesus’ righteousness count for hers (italics mine).

Thanks for praying, Milton (and any others who prayed for me)! Can I take you folks to lunch after church tomorrow? (sly grin)

5 comments:

Diane said...

I am of course majorly curious as to what kind of church you pastor. I would guess PCA?
Or something kind of reformed?

Peter Bogert said...

I am actually the pastor of a non-denominational Bible-teaching church. I've tried to identify us as being closet Baptists, in that we are somewhat similar. However, I am personally reformed in soteriology and moderately dispensational in eschatology.

Our web page is www.faithcom.org.

Kristen said...

When you're feeling up to it, I'd be interested in hearing about the eschatology part (or just point me to a post you've written, if you've covered that already).

Don't worry, I won't pelt you with well-read copies of Left Behind (which I don't like anyway--I'm not pre-trib).

Milton Stanley said...

How many calories in a virtual meal?

Peter Bogert said...

I was gonna take you to a great Buffet, Milton. Sorry you missed it!