Swimming the Pacific
Swimming the Pacific.
Many of you will know that the little church we attend, is in North Brighton, just by the beach. John loves the beach, he was a keen surfer, until his knee packed up; and I love the beach too. I love being in the water, but not everyone does. It is one of the sacrifices of married life; my wife and daughter are not as keen as I am to plunge into those waves [P]. Some people don’t want to get in the water at all, and some people are content just to paddle a bit. Then there are those, like me, who love to swim. But I am not that greater swimmer; a couple of hundred meters and I peter out. I don’t get very far. But some people swim a kilometre or more. Then there are those who are marathon swimmers – they swim Cook Strait or the English Channel 20-30 Km! That is a long distance! If they set off from Brighton beach they would get a lot further than I would. But do you know how far the furthest anybody has swum? 225 Km! It took Veljko Rogošić 50 hours and 10 minutes to do so. That is a massive distance! But, do you know? It is not even half way to the Chatham Islands; they are 650 Km to the east. But if you set off swimming from Brighton beach and wanted to make land fall, you would have to swim 9074 km before you got to terra firma in Chile! Let’s face it! Absolutely nobody is going to make it! It is just plain impossible! When it comes to swimming the Pacific the person who is incapable of swimming is just as successful as Veljko Rogošić! I mean that just absolutely nobody can do it; or ever will do it! Nobody can make the grade. It is just too far! Compared to the total distance, the difference between how far I get and the best swimmer gets, is insignificant. But, let me say, that the distance from Brighton to Chile is tiny in comparison to the distance to heaven! Heaven is where God is and He is absolutely righteous. Some people think that they can be good enough to get to heaven – but they never will! If I do enough good works, if I keep the law, if I am kind, if I knock on enough doors, visit enough sick people in hospital, help people, am generous, give to the poor; maybe I will be good enough! Sorry, no one makes the grade! There is a sobering verse in [Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, (and the filthy will not be admitted into the perfectly pure place where God dwells) and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.] Notice, that it didn’t say that our sins are like filthy rags; but our righteousness is like filthy rags! Compared to God’s righteousness, the Bible says that, the very best that we can do is like a menstrual cloth! Now, some people make no pretense to be good. They choose to live the way they want, to embrace sin. They are “bad people” – they are a bit like the non-swimmer. Then there are some who try super-hard, go out of their way to be as good as possible, to be law-abiding and righteous. They may be like the person who swims Cook Strait. Then there is the majority of us. We get by, doing the best we can – we do some bad, we do some good. But as far as being good enough to get to heaven – we are all exactly the same! There is absolutely no difference. So, there is no use bragging about how good you are. The one who can swim 100 meters is in exactly the same situation as the one who can swim 100 Km. [P] No one makes the grade. No one makes the distance. There is a very well-known verse that says: [Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.] Some verses before, quoting the Old Testament, make it even clearer: [Romans 3:10–12 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”] It says in: [Isaiah 53:6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way.] It is everyone! People try to keep God’s law but the standard is too high. There is no one who has kept it without fail. Well, actually there is One! And you know who that is! Jesus is the only one has kept the Law of God perfectly. He is the only One who is righteous according to God’s standard, the standard that will get you into heaven. You may remember that I talked last time about going through the curtain into God’s presence. It you are going to make it to God; you are going to need a totally different order of righteousness – you need the [P] RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD! That is the only righteousness that makes the grade. If you want to get to Chile; the bad news is that you are never going to make it by your own swimming efforts. If you want to get to heaven, to get to God; the bad news is that you are never going to make it by your own efforts. But there is GOOD NEWS! [Romans 1:17 For in the Gospel (the word “Gospel” just means Good News) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”] The Good News is that the Righteousness of God is revealed – it has been made known! There is a way! Not a righteousness of our own doing but one that is given to the one who has faith: [P] who believes in Jesus, His death, burial and resurrection; who depends upon Jesus’ righteousness and not his own. Instead of having a debt of their own sin; the righteousness of God is credited to their account. You see; there are many people trying to keep a set of rules, the law, to meet the standard required. Everyone reveres Mother Theresa; an outstanding example of doing good for the poor. But, you know? All her righteous acts in Calcutta will do nothing to get her to heaven. She may be able to swim 100 Km; but it is not good enough. If mother Theresa gets to heaven; it will only be by the righteousness of God, Jesus’ righteousness imputed to her by faith. Because righteousness doesn’t come by keeping the Law; no one can do it – no one can swim to Chile; it is just too hard; the standard is just too high. So, now the Good News is that there is righteousness available; but not by keeping the Law: [Romans 3:21–28 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (the Bible told about it) even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (there is that verse we read before that told us the bad news that no one made the grade; but it is there in the middle of a passage that tells us how we can become righteous: righteous with the perfect righteousness of God) being made righteous as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation (that means turn aside God’s anger at us because of our sin) in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, (not our righteousness but His!) because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and the one who makes righteous the one who has faith in Jesus. Where then is boasting? It is excluded. (because we didn’t do anything. If someone swims to Chile they would crow about it. But you wouldn’t boast if you drowned in the attempt or if you got there flying Air NZ – you didn’t do it!) By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. (You depend/trust/have faith in the plane to get you there) For we maintain that a man is made righteous by faith apart from works of the Law.] There is nothing to boast about because it isn’t our righteousness; it is God’s that is given to the one who believes in Jesus. Believing in Jesus is the only way to get this righteousness of God. Someone had to carry out the death penalty for our sin. Our sin still had to be judged and punished. It is just that someone else, other than us, took the wrap for us: [2 Corinthians 5:21 God made Him who knew no sin (that is Jesus) to become sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.] In Jesus we become the righteousness of God! Perfect righteousness! Hallelujah! The Jews worked really hard trying to keep God’s rules perfectly – but they couldn’t; and so they never attained the righteousness they sought: [Romans 10:3 For not knowing about God’s righteousness (the righteousness of God) and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.] But, on the other hand: [Romans 9:30 Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith;] The righteousness that the believer has is not his own – Jesus becomes his righteousness: [1 Corinthians 1:30–31 But by His doing (that is God’s doing) you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness (Jesus became our righteousness) and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”] The apostle Paul was a prime example – he was a zealous Pharisee, determinedly and meticulously trying to keep the Law; he was proud of his accomplishments – the glory went to him. But then he met the person of Jesus on the road to Damascus – we all need that personal encounter with the person of Jesus! He was never the same; and neither will you be! Everything that he was so proud of no longer meant anything to him! He had found someone far greater and was given a righteousness vastly superior to that which he had been working so hard at. He now considered all his previous accomplishments, that so impressed other people, as worthless. Not just of no value; but offensive! He literally called them “faeces”! He just wanted to be utterly rid of them. [Philippians 3:8–9 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish (the word literally is “faeces” – we would say “shit”) so that I may gain Christ, [P] and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, ] There is only one righteousness that makes the grade – the righteousness of God. Jesus is God – it is His righteousness that you need. You cannot swim to Chile and you cannot make it to heaven. Someone else has to do it for you. A plane can easily get you across the Pacific. Jesus can do it; in fact, He already has. You need the righteousness of God! And it only comes through faith in Jesus Christ – His death and resurrection. Can I plead with you to cease from trying to be good enough; but to trust in Jesus the Righteous One, and receive by faith the righteousness that He gives to the one who turns from their own way, their own efforts, and puts their trust solely in Him.