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Justification by Faith

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Salvation by any other name

Romans 4:2–5 ESV
2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
Salvation, being saved, having Jesus in your heart, being born again, these are all ways of expressing what United Methodist Doctrine says is Justification by Faith. When we are working out our salvation we believe it is a process, a journey, or as John Wesley says, “ The way of salvation”. As United Methodist we like to talk about grace, its kind of our thing. So what we sometimes call salvation is God’s justifying grace at work.
Now I say all that to ask a question that I will bet many of us have asked ourselves, am I good enough? am I in? am I saved? These are questions we ask 1) because we are humans and we are bent toward sin 2) because we can’t understand how God would love us so much to forgive and forget all that is in our past, and 3) because we just can’t understand how we could ever get something for nothing.
As we look at our text today we look at a common battle in our Christian minds and culture, faith versus works. We are called back to Abraham in our scripture, the beginning of God’s chosen people. Paul says of Abraham almost asking a question to his audience,
Romans 4:2 ESV
2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
Was Abraham counted righteous by God because of his works because of the great things he did? Was he able to say, “look! here is what I’ve done pick me.” Paul answers no he was not justified in God by his works. He could not boast before God of the great things he had done. Up until this point Abraham had followed God but had been scared not trusting God all the way. He had lied about Sarah his wife multiple times saying she was his sister. Scared that the people he encountered because of where God was leading him would hurt him to take her. Abraham was listening to God but not fully trusting him.
Paul continues in vrs 3
Romans 4:3 ESV
3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
Paul quotes here. When God told Abraham that he would bless him with children and make him the father of many nations he believed. He took God at his word, this trust in God, this faith in God, is what produced Abraham’s righteousness. It was not Abraham himself that was righteous as we see from his previous lack of trust. This was the turning point. He trusted God fully to do what he said, even if just for this one moment Abraham fully trusted God.
Romans 4:4 ESV
4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
Now Paul leaves Abraham to get at the task at hand. Paul’s audience like us today was really struggling with God’s grace and the battle between faith and works. He had used Abraham because his audience, the Jewish Christians in Rome, would all know Abraham and his full story. He now turns to his main point.
When we work for someone we are not receiving a gift when they pay us. A teacher doesn’t get a present from the school she get’s a paycheck. If we are to say that God owes us something for being good people and doing good things that isn’t grace and we don’t need Jesus. If we could earn our salvation then Jesus died for no reason. His audience like us was used to this work and pay system. That was how their religious system was even set up. The sacrifices were their works to find favor with God and to be made right with God. Jesus has now erased all that and it is hard to understand, even for us.
Let me ask it this way, if we were to put all of the things we have ever done good and bad on a board would any of us be good enough? I don’t care who you are the answer is no. Luckily, we don’t serve a God that keeps score. We serve a God that loves us enough to share that love with us in the form of grace, unmerited favor, getting something that we in no way deserve.
Our doctrine as United Methodist speaks at length about this grace and I’m glad it does because I need to hear it. I need to be reminded that its not up to me who deserves to be justified. Its not up to me to decide on peoples worth and value to God. On the flip side of that I don’t have to buy what other people are selling about me either, because I know that I have a God that loves me unconditionally. A Heavenly Father, that sent his Son to die for me. For a sinner like me. God the Father sent Jesus to earth to live, suffer, and die so that I could know what love truly is.
I have wondered myself many times, am I good enough? Have I done enough? No, I will never be good enough and I will never do enough good to earn God’s favor but luckily we don’t have to.
In that moment when we pray a prayer acknowledging that God is God and I am not. When we acknowledge that Jesus Christ died to restore us to God. When we acknowledge and confess that we are sinners but we ask for forgiveness and genuinely seek to live in right relationship with God the way we were created to be. We then in an instant are Justified, made right, and made whole through our faith in Jesus Christ.
It is in this moment I am grateful for vrs 5.
Romans 4:5 ESV
5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
I don’t have to have works but true belief and true faith. That’s enough. That get’s you the freedom from sin, the freedom from doubt. You are good enough. God loves you. The past is the past and it is gone in God’s sight. When we are justified through Christ and have genuinely repented of our sin we are now the only one that remembers them. God doesn’t know your sin anymore. God just knows you. Stop beating yourself up church for your past and start looking towards the future. With this justification comes new birth and new life, that is only found in Christ.
Does this mean we are done in this moment of justification and we will never sin again? No, this doesn’t make us perfect it just makes us forgiven and family. I don’t know about you but in my family at my house we do things that break relationships. We hit. We call names. We don’t love each other like we should. These actions don’t put us out of the family but it can strain the relationship, especially when we don’t ask for forgiveness.
If we are communicating with God. If we are repenting of our sin and seeking to be in relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is nothing to fear, because you are family and family is always there even in the rough spots.
Today church I ask you to take a breath, realize that the grace you have been given has covered over your multitude of sin. Maybe today you are sitting there and can’t remember committing to God in this way. You have been wearing yourself out trying to be the best person you can be but you have no peace because you have no relationship. Talk to God today. Put your faith in Jesus and not your own strength. Stop trying to earn it and just enjoy it. I know we all don’t have the greatest relationships with our earthly parents or bosses, and it can be hard to think you don’t have to earn this relationship, but God loves you. God loves you right where you are today and all that’s required of you is that you love God back.
We are sinful and can’t earn God’s love or grace.
We are born into sin not by biological means but by our existence in this world.
Abraham was not righteous on his own. It was God that made the offer to Abraham.(vrs2-3)
God’s love isn’t for sale or trade. (vrs 4)
When we buy something generally speaking it costs us our time and our time is how we measure our life.
If my job pays me $20/per hour then it takes me 2 hours to fill up my car.
We don’t have enough life to buy God’s love. We aren’t worth enough on our own.
Jesus is the only way to God’s love and grace, and it takes faith in him to get there. (vrs 5)
Jesus is the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father accept through him.
Jesus is the justifying agent between us and God. We can’t go the the Father alone.
Faith in Jesus should bring comfort and not anxiety.
When we have faith in Jesus we no longer have works we have fruit.
the good things we do aren’t to earn favor or keep favor they are because of favor.
gardens don’t work hard the gardeners do.
If we are grinding and trying to make it happen we are probably doing it out of self and not savior.
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