Years ago, our church had fallen to hard times. We had to start over from scratch so to speak. We asked God to guide us to what He wanted. There was a program of calling people to ask if they attended and would they consider coming. This was the start to declaring our testimony as a church of believers in Jesus. The questions were brief and very simple that required only a quick response. In six weeks, we met nightly and called over 20,000 people in the neighborhoods surrounding the driving distance to the church. This quick survey was successful in reaching those who had never thought about coming to church previously.
Some of the responses made us laugh. Some made us sad. Others we prayed with because they were lonely and waiting for someone to call them it seemed. We had some friendly words as well as hateful words. I remember one call I had that spoke volumes about this person’s belief. When asked, are you a Christian, who knows and follows Jesus, this person responded vehemently, “No, I’m a Baptist! My grandaddy was a Baptist, my daddy, and now I am a Baptist.” Taken aback with how he responded along with what he said, I asked, So, you attend a Baptist church? His response? Every Christmas and Easter—religiously.
So…I understand what Paul is trying to say to the Jews. Your religion isn’t going to save you, my friends! Even if your grandaddy and daddy were Jews and now you are a Jew by hereditary birth, you are in the same boat with the rest of the sinners.
ROMANS—OUR CARE AND CALLING
Romans 3:1-20, The Message
1-2 So what difference does it make who’s a Jew and who isn’t, who has been trained in God’s ways and who hasn’t? As it turns out, it makes a lot of difference—but not the difference so many have assumed.
2-6 First, there’s the matter of being put in charge of writing down and caring for God’s revelation, these Holy Scriptures. So, what if, in the course of doing that, some of those Jews abandoned their post? God didn’t abandon them. Do you think their faithlessness cancels out his faithfulness? Not on your life! Depend on it: God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth. Scripture says the same:
Your words stand fast and true;
Rejection doesn’t faze you.
But if our wrongdoing only underlines and confirms God’s rightdoing, shouldn’t we be commended for helping out? Since our lies don’t even make a dent in his truth, isn’t it wrong of God to back us to the wall and hold us to our word? These questions come up. The answer to such questions is no, a most emphatic No! How else would things ever get straightened out if God didn’t do the straightening?
7-8 It’s simply perverse to say, “If my lies serve to show off God’s truth all the more gloriously, why blame me? I’m doing God a favor.” Some people are actually trying to put such words in our mouths, claiming that we go around saying, “The more evil we do, the more good God does, so let’s just do it!” That’s pure slander, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
We’re All in the Same Sinking Boat
9-20 So where does that put us? Do we Jews get a better break than the others? Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it:
There’s nobody living right, not even one,
nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.
They’ve all taken the wrong turn;
they’ve all wandered down blind alleys.
No one’s living right;
I can’t find a single one.
Their throats are gaping graves,
their tongues slick as mudslides.
Every word they speak is tinged with poison.
They open their mouths and pollute the air.
They race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year,
litter the land with heartbreak and ruin,
Don’t know the first thing about living with others.
They never give God the time of day.
This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.
WHAT DO WE LEARN?
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (v 23) We are all in the same “sinking boat” of sin. We must all repent of our sins to Jesus who wipes clean the slate of our hearts, minds and souls of all our sin. God’s Plan for our salvation for eternal life.
It is not about us but about what God as done for and in us. It is not about how many church services we attend, how much we give to the poor, or even how good and friendly we are to each other. Without God, there is no real love guiding us. (See 1 John 4). Without sins forgiven, our lives are sinking.
Only God Has Set Things Right
(Romans 3:21-31, The Message)
21-24 But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.
25-26 God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.
27-28 So where does that leave our proud Jewish insider claims and counterclaims? Canceled? Yes, canceled. What we’ve learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We’ve finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.
29-30 And where does that leave our proud Jewish claim of having a corner on God? Also canceled. God is the God of outsider non-Jews as well as insider Jews. How could it be otherwise since there is only one God? God sets right all who welcome his action and enter into it, both those who follow our religious system and those who have never heard of our religion.
31 But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.
I shift my focus completely to you once again. I seek all you are and all you want for my best. I love you with all that is in me. Cleanse me. Renew your Spirit in me. Restore the joy of your salvation in me and through me. Take away all that is offensive to you. Help me to then love others like you love me—without conditions. My life is yours.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen