Monday, November 15, 2004

Wrong Again?

Intro: Charles Wesley, studying Abraham’s faith as described in Romans 4:13, wrote a hymn of eleven stanzas about faith. The most popular stanza has provided a watchword for the Victorious Christian Life movement for a hundred years:

Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees, And looks to that alone; Laughs at life’s impossibilities, And cries, It shall be done!
  1. Learning about Faith is never easy.

  2. It challenges us to look at life differently, in new ways

  3. Yet, as children of God, we are called to be people of faith

  4. Today, as we finish our study of the book of Romans, we look at one of the great men of faith.

Read Romans 4:9-25


Tran. Paul is using Abraham's life to review the great truths that have been given in the first quarter of Paul's largest book.

Romans can be divided into three major sections: Romans 1-4 provide a foundation for all believers Romans 5-8 provide framework upon which the Christian life is built Romans 9-16 provide practical guidelines for living out the Christian life.

T.S. So today, as come to the end of the first part of Romans we are reminded of the great truths of Paul's introduction:

1. We can't get it right 2. God got it right

  1. We can't get it right

(Ill.) Stop for a minute – make a mental list all the requirements that you would make for getting into heaven. Now stop – for you see you don't get to make those rules. That is God's province.

      1. It is true today. It was true in Abraham's day.

      2. The Israelites had two claims that they thought would keep them safe before God.

      3. Circumcision was, to the Jew, a mark of their salvation. Except they got it wrong.

      4. Paul knows if the Jews are ever to believe in Jesus, he will need to convince them of this fact. You see, circumcision never saved Abraham – rather it served as a mark of what had already happened in Abraham's heart. It had been years before that Abraham had believed God and chose to follow Him.

(Ill.) Paul has already spoken of a circumcision of the heart. When we believe on Jesus, God changes us. That change starts inside – we begin to see the world differently, we begin to make decisions differently, we begin to live differently. There has been a change in our hearts. There has been a circumcision of the heart.

      1. But it was not only circumcision that got in the way. It was also the law. The Jews knew that if they obeyed the law, they would spend eternity in heaven.

      2. But Abraham presented a problem to their thinking. You see, the Law was given to Moses around 1400 BC – more than 600 years after the death of Abraham. Abraham never had the law; Abraham, without the law, still found favor with God.

(Ill.) There are 2,000,000 laws in the United States. If we could learn those laws at the rate of two a day, it would take almost 3000 years to become a law abiding citizen. But even then we would not be any closer to heaven. These are man made laws – not God's. And God makes it clear that only if we follow His laws will he let us into heaven. And Paul has made it very clear that we cannot fall God's laws.

      1. And that is the bottom line – we can't get it right.

  1. God got it right

    1. But God did what we cannot do.

    2. Salvation is not something we can do – it is something that God gives.

    3. Listen to Paul's description of Abraham's faith, Rom 4:18: Romans 4:18 (NIV) Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed ...

    4. Take a minute to reread Romans 4:22-25. Let me point to three key words in this brief passage.

        1. TRANSGRESSION – this is a new word for sin, that we have not discussed before. Its root meaning is make a false step, to stumble or trip, to cross the line.

(Ill.) I am reminded of the old childhood bully. He takes his foot and draws a line in the dirt and then looks you in the eye and says, “I dare you to cross the line.” Knowing full well that there will be consequences if we do, we do.

It comes back to the point that Paul made in the previous chapter - “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

        1. RIGHTEOUSNESS – In one sense, righteousness is not what we do, but what we are. As believers, God has taken our sins, laid them out and marked them “Paid in full.” Before God we stand righteous – not because we are good, but because of what Christ did on the cross. But Righteousness is also something we are becoming. Theologians call it “sanctification” - it God making us what he wants us to be. It is a process that will not be completed until we die and are finally stand before God, but it is a process that he starts the minute we come to Jesus Christ. Ten times in Romans 4, Paul speaks of God crediting us with righteousness.

        2. JUSTIFICATION – I have never had to be in court. Even better, I have never had to stand trial. But if I did, I know that the words I would most like to hear are “innocent”, I would be “acquitted.” I am no longer guilty of my sins. God has forgiven me.

(Appl.) It is where, for me I begin to understand “unconditional love.” If God can take me, one who sins, a transgressor, and call me innocent, then perhaps I can do it for those around me. God has forgiven me – I can learn to forgive those around me.

(Appl.) But there is another application here – if God has forgiven me of my sin, then I can forgive myself as well. Hey, I do fall short. Hey, I do sin. But if God has forgiven me and I can learn to forgive others, then I can learn to forgive myself.


We are going to leave Romans for a while – we will return after the start of the new year. It might be wise to remind ourselves of the two basic lessons from these first four chapters:

  1. We are all sinners and deserving of God's wrath.

  2. God has given his Son to take our punishment – so that we no longer need to fact that wrath.

Not only is that the basic message of Romans 1-4, it is also the basic message of Christianity.

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