More than Forgiven (Romans 5:1-11)
For the next few weeks, we’re going to look a passage of Scripture that is sometimes hard to understand, but it can change your life. I’d invite you to open your Bibles to Romans 5. In a few minutes, we’re going to celebrate Communion. We’re going to remember what Jesus did for us two thousand years ago. Romans 5 helps us to understand why an event that happened thousands of years ago still matters. What happened thousands of years ago isn’t just a past event. It can change your life today.
The Truth about Us
Here’s the truth about us, according to the Bible: there is nothing we have done, or could do, to be righteous before God. It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter how religious you are. The Bible teaches that there’s nothing we can do to be righteous before God. We’re going to next week at the fact that we’re natural born sinners – that even before we committed our first sin, we were already sinners. It’s our nature. It’s how we were born. There’s nothing we can do that will allow us to stand before God and confidently say, “I’m innocent before you.”
A couple of months ago, I had a dream that I had committed murder. It was one of those dreams that was so real, when I woke up I it took a minute or two to realize that I had been dreaming. I thought I had ruined my life. I was guilty of the most horrific act. The Bible teaches that this is our condition before God. All of us stand condemned – even the best of us. That’s the message of the first part of Romans. Romans 3:10 says, “No one is good – not even one.”
We could do nothing – so Jesus did it for us. The Bible teaches that despite our guilt, we can be forgiven. Because we could do nothing, Jesus did something for us. The Bible teaches that Jesus died to take the punishment for our sins, and to satisfy God’s anger against us. Romans 3:25 says, “For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.”
The technical term for this is justification. What it means is this: because of Jesus, God declares us not guilty. Despite the fact that we were born in sin, and we’re guilty of sin, God declares us not guilty because he placed our guilt on Jesus Christ. Not only are we declared not guilty, but it means that when God looks at us, he doesn’t see all the wrong things that we’ve done. When God looks at us, he sees the righteousness of his own Son.
If you’re not a Christian, you need to understand – your relationship with God isn’t about what you could do, because you could never do enough. It’s impossible. It’s about what Jesus has already done for you. You don’t have to do anything but respond to what Jesus had already done for you, by giving his life to take away the punishment for your sin and to give you eternal life. Your response is to accept this gift, and to follow him for the rest of your life.
When we come to celebrate Communion in a few minutes, we’re celebrating what Jesus did for us. We’re celebrating the face that through his death and resurrection, we’re declared not guilty. When God looks at you, he doesn’t see all the wrong things that you’ve done. He sees the righteousness of his own Son. The truth about you is that no matter what you’ve done, you can be declared not guilty not because of what you’ve done, but because of what Jesus has already done for you.
More than Forgiven
That’s the good news. The bad news is that I don’t always feel forgiven. I know that God has forgiven me, but I sometimes feel unforgiven. I sometimes feel that I’m still going to mess things up – that my forgiveness could disappear. I’m afraid that my circumstances or choices or problems could mess everything up.
When Paul wrote this letter, the Jewish people believed that no matter how forgiven you were now, God’s verdict would only be delivered on the Day of Judgment. When Paul said, “You’re forgiven,” they would have thought, “How can I be forgiven? I haven’t appeared before God on the Day of Judgment. How can I know my verdict of ‘not guilty’ will do me any good then?” Paul’s answer: you can know now that you’re forgiven. God has already pronounced his verdict over us. It cannot be changed, no matter what. It can’t be changed. You can face life and death with the confidence that God has already decided the case on you. You’re more than forgiven.
I want to give you three reasons why you can come to Communion today knowing that you’re more than forgiven. I want to give you three reasons why you can have confidence that if you’ve trusted Jesus Christ, your eternity has already been settled, and there’s nothing that you or anybody else can do to mess it up. I want to give you three reasons why you can be sure that your position in Jesus Christ will never change.
REASON ONE: OUR NEW STATUS GIVES US HOPE (ROMANS 5:1-4)
Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.” That’s our new status. We have PEACE WITH GOD. Peace isn’t a feeling. It’s not a case of, “I’ve had a good week. I did my devotions every day this week. I didn’t yell at the kids more than three times.” Peace with God isn’t a feeling. It’s a fact. It’s a status that we have with God because of what Jesus did for us.
I imagine that most people here know what it’s like to have an estranged relationship – a friendship or marriage or some other relationship that’s broken down. A few years ago, I noticed that somebody was angry with me. I’d walk into a room, and they’d walk out. I’d walk into the other room, and they’d leave again. If you’ve been in an estranged relationship, you know how ugly things can get. Imagine being in an estranged relationship with God. That’s what we used to have. Because we were guilty, our relationship with God was broken. But not anymore. Our relationship with God is now one of peace. That’s what you enjoy with God, no matter how you feel or what you’ve done. “We have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”
Romans 5:2 says, “through whom [Jesus Christ] we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (NIV). Our status isn’t just one of peace with God. We’ve also been granted ACCESS TO GOD’S GRACE. We stand in a position of grace. It’s like we live in a constant state of God’s favor being poured out upon us. Grace has given us a foothold in the door that God will one day swing wide open to us. That’s why God’s grace is so amazing. God’s grace isn’t just a one-time thing. If you’ve become a Christian, you live in God’s grace. You live in a constant state of grace.
That’s why Paul says in verse 2, “We confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” He’s speaking of the PROMISE OF GOD’S GLORY. You and I don’t know how long we have to live. We don’t know the troubles that lie between us and death. We don’t know the mistakes that we will make. But Paul tells us that our position is secure. We don’t have to worry about it. We can confidently look forward to heaven. It’s a done deal. We can look forward to it, because nothing can take it away. In fact, Paul even mentions in verses 3 and 4 that not even problems can take our hope away. Hope is what keeps us going when we’re ready to give up on ourselves. Our new status gives us hope that we will one day receive what God has promised us.
We’re about to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in a minute. I bet that there’s not a person here who hasn’t let God down this week. There are probably a lot of people here who don’t feel forgiven. But it doesn’t matter how you feel. What matters is how God views you. You’re forgiven – completely forgiven. You have been made right with God. You’re at peace with him. God has opened up his grace to you so that every minute you’re alive, you’re covered in grace. God has promised that you’re going to share in his glory. Not even problems can change your position before God. Your new status with God will never change. That’s part of why we worship God today – because he’s elevated us to this status that will never change, and that we don’t deserve.
Another reason why you can be sure your status with God will never change:
REASON TWO: GOD’S LOVE GIVES US HOPE (ROMANS 5:5-8)
Romans 5:5 says, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Verse 5 could be better translated, “Hope will not disappoint us” (NIV). God is going to keep his promises to us. How do we know? Because God loves us. God is madly in love with you.
A few years ago, I attended a camp. Ed got into a lot of trouble because he told the campers, “God is madly in love with you.” There were some people who had arguments about whether this was an accurate statement or not. But then I read verses like Romans 5:5 – that God has poured out his love on us. God hasn’t given us little drops of his love. He’s drenched us with his love. God’s even given us his Holy Spirit to communicate that love.
The ultimate proof of God’s love is what we’re going to celebrate today. The ultimate proof of God’s love is the cross of Jesus Christ. Listen to Romans 5:6-8:
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
God loves us so much that he didn’t wait for us to love him before he made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Jesus didn’t die for righteous people. Jesus died for those of us who had messed up our lives. Before you and I had even thought of God, God had thought of us – and he decided to give up his Son for us.
You never have to worry about earning God’s love. When you were at your worst, God loved you with his best. God’s drenched you with his love. He’s given you the ultimate proof of his love. He’s given you his only Son. He’s never going to give up on you.
The final reason, in this passage, that your position with God will never change – no matter what:
REASON THREE – THE FACT THAT GOD HAS STARTED HIS WORK GIVES US HOPE (ROMANS 5:9-10)
Romans 5:9-10 says:
And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s judgment. For since we were restored to friendship with God by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be delivered from eternal punishment by his life.
Whenever you start to feel unworthy – whenever you get down on yourself because you’ve let God down – think about this. Think of what it took God to give up his Son for you when you were at your worst. And if God could take you at your worst and put you in a right relationship with him, why would God give up on you now? Why, when God looks at you and sees you completely forgiven – when he looks at you and sees the righteousness of his own Son – why would God give up on you now?
Paul concludes in verse 11, “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God-all because of what our Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in making us friends of God.”
I want you to listen to this. When I was a kid, I became a follower of Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that on that day, a whole slew of things happened to me. They all have fancy theological names, but the bottom line is this: I was forgiven. I was more than forgiven. I became a new creature that day. My position with God changed completely. I was declared not guilty. From that point on, when God looked at me, he stopped seeing all the bad things that I had done and was doing. When God looked at me he saw the righteousness of his own Son.
Since that day many years ago, I’ve been a new creature – but I haven’t always acted like one. There have been a lot of times I’ve come into church with a guilty feeling hanging over my head. Some weeks I was almost glad when the preacher yelled a little, because I thought I deserved it. It was my version of penance. I felt that God couldn’t possibly love me because I let him down. And I kept letting him down – over and over and over again.
In fact, you may be here today as a follower of Jesus Christ, but you don’t feel at all forgiven. And if that’s you, then you need to hear: it doesn’t matter how you feel. It doesn’t matter what mistakes you’ve made. It only matters what God has done for you through Jesus Christ. You messed up this week? You have peace with God. You feel like you can’t get your act together? You have access to God’s grace. You’ve got a sin problem – a tendency you can’t control? God’s promised that you’ll share in his glory. You doubt for a minute that God loves you? He gave his Son for you, when you were powerless…a sinner…ungodly. Sure, you mess up today – but why would God give up on you now? You’re more than forgiven.
When God looks at you – if you’ve trusted in Jesus Christ – he sees his Son. When Jesus was baptized, Luke 3:22 tells us that a voice from heaven spoke, saying, “You are my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with you.” When God looks at you – no matter what you’ve done – he sees his Son, and he says, “You’re my beloved son. You’re my beloved daughter. I am fully pleased with you. Not because of what you have done, but because of what my Son has done.”
Father, as we celebrate communion today, thank you for your love. Thank you that we’re forgiven, because he was forsaken. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for your grace. In Jesus’ name.