March 12, 2023 “We Dare Not Forget”  Romans 5:1-8

The message today is not about the “how you can earn your way into heaven”. You cannot. But it is about how you can have peace with God.

At Gettysburg, President Lincoln said: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here…. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us… that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”  His words are one of the most profound declarations to which the English language has been applied. Lincoln said to his fellow countryman: “Remember don’t’ forget.”

In Romans 5 the Apostle Paul is telling us “Remember, Don’t forget.” “Remember, Don’t forget” what the savior has done for us. You can look far and wide and you won’t find many examples of someone who is ready to offer his life up for someone else. Yes, there are a few “medal of honor” recipients, most of whom were awarded the Medal of Honor after their death on the battlefield.

There have been many great battles. The greatest battlefield took place in the Garden of Eden.

The battlefield victory was won on a wooden cross, on a lonely hill outside the walls of Jerusalem. Jesus, who Himself created the Universe, came to dwell on the planet He created. ( Col. 1:15)

Jesus voluntarily embraced the demise which should have been ours. He embraced death on the cross. While we were yet sinners Jesus died for us. He died. If you ever have a chance to watch the “Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson you cannot miss the reaction of Satan the moment Jesus died. He laughed. He thought he had won. He thought He had defeated God’s Son in this ongoing battle since the creation of the world….because Satan was able to murder God’s holy son, Jesus. So he laughed.  Satan is not omniscient. He had no way of knowing that the death of Jesus was the perfect sacrifice God required.

In that moment when Jesus died on the cross God the Father transferred to Jesus all the sins of the world. (Col. 2:14) Jesus received the full wrath of God. And that is why he cried out… “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”

Then three days after His lifeless body had been put into a borrowed tomb, Jesus rose from death.

It was God’s plan to then transfer all of the holiness of His Son, Jesus to every believer who put their faith in Jesus. ( II Cor. 5:21) Human beings can not merit nor earn God’s love by keeping the laws of God. The laws of God always accuse and terrify consciences.

Martin Luther was terrified by the wrath of God against his behavior.  Martin Luther called justification “the cornerstone of Christianity.” I sincerely pray that you know that justification by faith was the hallmark, the touchstone, of the Protestant Reformation and is just as important today. 

Luther felt God was angry with him and far away.  The turning point of his life came when he made that journey to Rome. As he was crawling up the stairs of the church in Rome, with tears running down his face, saying the “Our Father” and praying to God for Him to make himself real to him, praying on each stair. While he was climbing to the top of those stairs, suddenly a text of scripture burst into his mind— “the just shall live by faith.”  In that great and glorious moment Martin Luther understood that it is not by crawling up steps to please an angry God.   From that great realization came the spark that ignited the flame that became the Protestant Reformation. What Martin Luther read in Romans, he believed. This is exactly what we believe today, that mankind is justified through faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot merit God’s love by doing the works of the law. 

God allowed the religious rulers and political power of Rome to arrest Jesus.

God allowed Jesus to be put on trial, condemned and send to His death.

God allowed it because it was His plan to complete the promise He made in the Garden to Adam and Eve after the first battle victory went to Satan.

This was God’s plan. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Christians in Rome: “Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins, (our broken commandments) and was raised to life for our justification.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through faith.  When our thoughts, words, actions showed our disregard, disrespect, and disobedience to the Creator, Jesus came into this world and loved us.

When Paul writes: “We have been justified by faith.” What does he mean? Justification Is A Legal Declaration By God. Webster’s Dictionary defines justification as being pronounced free from blame or guilt. It is a legal term, a forensic term, a term from the courtroom.

In Greek the word “justify” means to declare them not guilty and innocent and righteous in the eyes of the law. It does not mean to make righteous, it means to declare righteous. It means to look at someone who is guilty and declare that they are now not guilty; they are innocent, righteous, free to go. The record has been wiped away. If you want a technical definition, I would give you Billy Graham’s definition of justification. “Just as if I’d never sinned.” Yes because of God’s love for you. Do you deserve it? NO Do I deserve it? NO!  The heart of evangelical Christianity is that God justifies the wicked.

I think the thing that keeps so many people away from Jesus, is they feel they aren’t good enough. They feel they are too lost in sin. Lost in addiction to alcohol and drugs. Lost to anger, resentment and bitterness. Lost, but searching for peace.

There are people who say, “you don’t know how I have been living.” No, I don’t, but let me tell you this: Our God is not in the business of justifying the good. He is in the business of justifying the bad. He is in the business of forgiveness.

He doesn’t justify the righteous, because no one is!!! He justifies people who have broken His commandments. He justifies while we are still sinners. The point: God never said to anybody, “Clean up your act and then I’ll save you. Get yourself together, then I’ll forgive your sins. No, No. No!

Pontius Pilate knew Jesus was innocent ….yet still found it politically expedient to let Him die on the cross. Jesus died for Pilate. Jesus died for the man who whipped Him. Jesus died for the man who spit in His face. Jesus died for the man who slapped a crown of thorns on His head. Jesus died for the man who pounded the nails into His hands and feet.

Jesus died for the ones who laughed at Him. Jesus died for those who carried his bruised and dead body to a borrowed grave. Jesus died for Adam and Eve. Noah. Abraham and all his descendants. David. You and me. Jesus loved them. He loves you and me. God knew that there would only be two options when our heart stops beating and our brain waves have ceased. Heaven or Hell.

God knew there would be a final battle. He knew the outcome. Satan did not! God allowed Satan to slip into his very own trap. Satan had the Pharisees wrapped up in their pride, and self righteousness. Satan had the government of Rome wrapped up and ready to pronounce the judgment of death. He really thought he would defeat God by causing the death of Jesus.

I think Mel Gibson’s vision of Satan laughing when Jesus died was correct.

Jesus did not stay dead… He could not. For he was God in flesh. Jesus rose from the grave and took away the sting of death.   You may break down and run yourself into a ditch, but God Almighty looks down at you and says: There is no record of that my child has ever broken down at all. That’s what justification is. It is just as if you had never sinned at all. The record is wiped away and you are credited with the perfect, eternally secure righteousness of Jesus Christ.

No wonder this is the central doctrine of the Christian faith. No wonder Martin Luther said this is the cornerstone of Christianity.