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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Andy Stanley » Andy Stanley - Of First Importance

Andy Stanley - Of First Importance

Andy Stanley - Of First Importance
TOPICS: The Fundamental List, Redemption, Reconciliation

So today I would like to begin with a question that if you are a Christian, you may have been afraid to ask, 'cause it's like I don't, can we ask questions like that? So I'm just gonna say maybe what you were thinking, but it's also a question that you may have asked in the past and it's why you're not a Christian anymore or it's why you lost faith, right? It's a question you had the courage to ask. And in asking the question, it became an off-ramp to faith or maybe undermined your faith. And so, here's the question, why can't the Christian God just forgive and forget? I mean, can we ask that, right? It's like, why did somebody have to die for somebody else's sins? Is it okay to ask that? I mean it's God. God could just like do whatever God wants to do, right?

So what what's with all the dying? You know, I mean, you forgive people all the time without dying for them. In fact, you forgive people all the time without requiring someone to die. So if we could for just a minute, those of us who are Christians, and if you're not a Christian, you're like, "Yes, exactly. This is why I'm not a Christian. It's about time one of you ask this obvious question". If we could just for a moment, and I'm with you, step outside our faith system for a minute and just kinda look at it. Doesn't the whole idea of somebody has to die for somebody else, especially a God person, isn't that a bit barbaric? Does it seem a little bit unnecessary?

And you have to ask the question because this is at the core of Christianity. I mean, this is an essential, this is fundamental. This was there from the very beginning. In fact, there's a first century creed. This is kind of interesting to geeks like me. It's a creed. It's older than any of the gospels, Matthew, Martin, Luther, John. It's older than any of the Apostle Paul's letters. It was created maybe in the first weeks of Christianity or certainly the first months of Christianity. And here's the creed. This is the English version of a Greek creed. And in Greek, there's a little bit of a rhythm to it because they wrote creeds in such a way that people could memorize them easily.

So here's my version of this creed. Here's how it would sound in English. Christ died for our sins and was buried. He was raised from the dead. He was raised on the third day and was seen. Christ died for our sins and was buried. He was raised on the third day and was seen. There's kind of a rhythm to it. And in Greek it has the same kind of rhythm because this is how they learn theology. They created these creeds. And from the very beginning, this is what Christians believe, that Christ died for our sins and was buried. He was raised on the third day and he was seen. Now this doesn't answer the question. This just makes the point that this is fundamental. This is like core to Christianity and they believe this early. But why did he die? Why doesn't God just forgive everybody? Why did he, as some Christians think, why did God have to kill his own son? Or why did God have to allow his son to be killed?

There's Christians with all kinds of views on what, how all that works, right? And just to kind of poke the bear a little bit more, what kind of religion would incorporate something like this into it, right? What kind of religion would make something as crazy as this a core tenant? Now, if you raised in and around church, you know the Sunday school answer, and I don't mean to discount the answer, it's just that we were all taught an answer to this early on because you know, this is an important thing, right? And the answer is of course, that our sin earned us punishment and Jesus took our punishment for us. That's the standard, you know, textbook answer that our sin earned us punishment.

Jesus took the punishment for it. But again, we're talking about God, can't God do whatever God wants to do? I mean, think of it this way. Why would God create a standard so high that none of us can attain to it and then hold us accountable to it? And then kill his son in order to somehow make us right with him. It's as if his hands were tied. It's as if he had no other choice. It makes the whole system kind of makes God look a little bit powerless. Maybe a victim of his own arbitrary rules. Some of you're thinking, "Andy, I think you're about to talk me out of Christianity. What are we doing here? I thought you're supposed to encourage me and move us forward", but I mean this is the question that begs to be asked. I mean like, you know, Sandra, my wife, she doesn't make me pay for my errors. What kind of relationship would that be?

Some of you're thinking, I know a marriage relationship. That's what kind of relationship that would be, right? We have to pay for your errors when you do something wrong. Maybe so, but not a good relationship. So the point is, this whole idea of Jesus dying for our sin is fundamental, it's essential. It has been there from the very, very, very beginning. But not only is it fundamental and essential, it's also an obstacle. And maybe it was an obstacle for you because it has been an obstacle, as we're gonna see, from the beginning as well. Today we are continuing our series, The Fundamental List, recovering the essentials of our faith. And the question we're asking in this entire series is, what does a person have to believe in order to be a follower of Jesus? Not what not what must a person do to follow Jesus?

We talk about that all the time. We're stepping back from that and asking the question, okay, what are the essentials? What's the irreducible minimum of things you have to believe? I mean, all kinds of churches believe all kinds of things. But what is core? What's essential? What's fundamental? And the reason it's such an important question, as we've said every week, is that there are so many versions of Christianity and each version of Christianity, each denomination or each expression of Christianity has its own terms and conditions, right? Has its own traditions, has its own expectations, has it its own way of doing things. Some of them have different use, different Bibles, different types of Bibles.

Now they have Bibles that some Christian expressions have Bibles with books in it that we don't even use or recognize. They baptize different, we do communion different. They pray different, they worship different. There are so many expressions. So it's hard to sort it all out and figure out, okay, that's fine, I'm not being critical, but take me to the bottom line. What must I believe in order to be a faithful follower of Jesus? And as we've said every week, and I'm kind of digging at all of us when I say this, the only thing, all these different expressions of Christianity, all these denominations, all these churches have the only thing we have in common because we're one of them, we're part of the problem. The only thing we have in common is we think we're right and we think the other people aren't right or less right, or they're too right or they think they're too right or they're too righteous or they don't read the text the way we do. They don't understand it. They don't prioritize. So every group, every church thinks we've kind of got the corner on the market.

So that makes it confusing. And the other reason this is important is because, as we've said every week, from the very beginning and every generation, but from the very beginning, from the second century on, and every generation new and novel ideas get woven into different streams of Christianity. They're new things, they're novel things. They're not Jesus things. They're cultural things, they're traditional things, they're comfortable things. And sometimes they're not just new and novel. Sometimes they're toxic and sometimes they're destructive and sometimes they're demeaning to groups of people. And when these new and novel and toxic ideas get woven into streams of Christianity, oftentimes they're elevated to doctrine and theology. And you have to do it. And you have to do it this way. They become fundamentals.

And if you reject some of these new and novel ideas, even the toxic ones, well you're out. You're not a real Christian, you're not a true Christian. And when that happens, and maybe this is your story, when that happens, thoughtful and mature people and you are both thoughtful and mature, I just know it, right? Thoughtful and mature Christians, you know what we feel like we have to do sometimes? We feel like we just have to step back. It's like we just gotta step back from our church, step back from our denomination, step back from that group, that Bible study. We just have to step back and maybe begin to deconstruct. And by deconstruct this simply means I gotta step out of organized religion for just a minute and I gotta sort this out in my own head. I gotta sort this out for myself. I've gotta rediscover what's essential, what's core. What's the irreducible minimum.

Minimum, because I feel like my church or my denomination or my group has added so many things to it and I just gotta step back. Again, maybe that's your story, maybe the tone or the posture or the approach to faith just made you uncomfortable with your church or your group of churches. It didn't seem to you and you weren't trying to be too judgmental 'cause you don't like judgmental people. That's one of the reasons you stepped back. But it just seemed to you that the tone and posture and approach of your church, it wasn't very Jesus-like. It wasn't very Christ-like. The people in your denomination or your church or whoever it was, they knew the Bible. They talked about the Bible all the time. You began to wonder if they knew Jesus. So this is so important. It's important for all of us. It's important for all of us all the time.

So what is fundamental? What is essential? What's the can't do without specifically in terms of what we believe? What's essential and what's merely cultural? What's familiar, familial, comfortable? You know, what's versus what's peripheral? Because then we're gonna move on. When cultural and peripheral become essential, whenever something that's merely cultural but not essential or peripheral, that's not essential. When it becomes an essential, when it becomes a fundamental, when it's light, when it's raised to the top shelf, the good news is no longer good news for somebody. And this is why some of you struggle with Christianity because there's no room for your son. There's no room for your daughter, there's no room for your husband. You fit fine because you were raised in it. But there just doesn't seem to be room. And suddenly what was supposed to be good news of great joy for all people, it's not good news for someone you love. Non-essentials eventually always become obstacles to someone's faith.

Now so far we have discovered several essentials. I'm gonna run through 'em real quick as we build on this list. Number one, we discovered Jesus that in order to be a faithful follower of Jesus, you have to believe that Jesus is God's Son and our King because He said that about Himself. Number two, Jesus came to illustrate and demonstrate what God is like. This is what Jesus said he came to do. He said, "If you've seen me, you've seen the Father". And maybe you were here in that second week when I asked this uncomfortable question, there was almost a gasp in the room. I asked the question, when you hear God and you hear Jesus, do they elicit two different responses in your heart? Do they elicit two different emotions? I said, do you like one better than the other? Is there tension between God and Jesus? If so, you have some work to do because Jesus came and said, "The only way you're gonna know what God is like is to watch".

I mean number three, if you're gonna be a faithful follower of Jesus, you gotta accept or believe Jesus' definition of sin. And Jesus defines sin as anything that harms you or another person. Anything that harms you or others, whether it's on a sin list or not. And then last time we said, if you're gonna be a faithful follower of Jesus, the other thing you have to believe is that Jesus promised justice in the end that He's gonna return as a judge of mankind. We're gonna talk a little bit about that in a minute. He promised justice in the end and invites us to trust him in the meantime. And then today is the least surprising. And I think in fact, I know for a fact that many of you thought in terms of a fundamental list, we would begin with this one. This is the least surprising, but perhaps the most perplexing.

So we're gonna add to our list what we were all those of us raised in church, raised to believe that Jesus died for your sin to reconcile you to God. And the people who were closest to the action, Jesus, first century followers, they assure us this is fundamental, it's core. The person that made it the clearest and talked about it the most was Saul of Tarsus, who was a Pharisee, who became a Jesus follower. And this is important, the chronology, of this is important, Saul of Tarsus are the Apostle Paul as he's known in the New Testament. Paul became a Jesus follower four to five years after the resurrection, not 45 years or 50 years, four to five years after the resurrection of Jesus, Saul of Tarsus becomes a follower of Jesus. And in his writing and in his teaching, he highlights the importance of this core doctrine and teases it out for us.

Here's how he states it. And then we're gonna get back to the question of isn't this kind of ridiculous to believe in the first place? Here's what he says. He says, "Now brothers and sisters". And real quick, this is a letter to Christians living in first century Corinth. And he had already been there several years before. So now he's writing them this letter to remind them of what he had told them several years before. And again, the chronology of all this is so important. Here's what he said, "Now, brothers and sisters, I wanna remind you because this is what I told you when I was with you before, I wanna remind you of the yeon galeon". Little Greek there that, "If I preach to you". And the reason I put the Greek term here is "not to show off". You can Google this, okay? You don't have to be that smart. This is why it's important.

Yeon galeon, this Greek word was originally translated in old English as God's spell. Remember God's spell? Which means good news and it's where we got the word gospel. But actually we shouldn't even have the English term gospel in our New Testament text. It should just say good news because that's what this word means. "Now, brothers and sisters, I wanna remind you of the gospel, the good news, that I preach to you. And by this gospel, by this good news, you're saved. Saved from your sin, you're reconciled to God". Which is fundamental. It's important. Well, but how important He says, "I'm gonna tell you for what I first received, I passed onto you as of first importance". In other words, of all the essentials, of all the fundamentals, to believe this is perhaps the most important one in terms of the practicality and the implications for each of us personally in the little then the Greek text.

This means it's first and foremost. It's not just important, it's more important than all the other important things. And then he quotes this creed that I told you about up top in the message he quotes this creed created by the early church and that he had taught to believers when he was with them years earlier, visiting Corinth. Now real quick, the reason they created this creeds is because there was nothing to read. They created creeds because there was nothing to read. There was no Christian literature. The gospels hadn't been written, Paul hadn't written in any of his letters. And most people couldn't read anyway. Only about 15% of people who lived in large cities could read. And as you've moved outside a large city in ancient times, people didn't have anything to read. There was no point in reading.

So they couldn't read. So they created theology around these creeds. And so the Apostle Paul reaches back and takes this creed and he includes it in this letter to the Christians living in ancient Corinth. And the interesting thing too, this is kind of for geeks like me, this is one of the reasons that we believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead because this creed was so early. In fact, the fact that this creed already existed and it was circulating, it was evidence of the fact that the early Christians believed and the idea of Jesus' substitutionary death on the cross and his resurrection. This happened immediately. This was accepted immediately, not eventually, as skeptics often argue. So Paul, tell us what's so important? What is of first importance? What's so essential? What's fundamental? Here's what he says. "From what I received, I passed on to you of first importance". Here it is. "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that he was buried".

Now, you're gonna wanna write this down 'cause I think this is probably my greatest insight for the day. Do you know why they included and was buried? Because that's how you know someone's dead. I see anybody write that down? Yeah. Yeah, that's how you know someone's dead. They're buried. And their point is, when Jesus died, he didn't swoon. He didn't resurrect, because he had just passed out and he is like, no part of the gospel is he died for our sin and they buried him. He wasn't dead, he was just dead. He was dead, dead, right? Then he goes on and he says this, "That he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he appeared". Do you know why they included in this creed that he appeared? That's how you know he actually rose from the dead. They didn't dream this. But listen to this detail.

Now remember, the Apostle Paul has been in and out of Jerusalem several times. He knows Peter, he knows John, he knows James, the brother of Jesus. They've had conversations. These conversations are recorded in the New Testament. Listen to what the Apostle Paul writes to these Christians in Corinth, "That he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. And that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve". And look at this. "And after that he appeared to more than 500 brothers and sisters at the same time". This is what he was told by the men and women who were there. "Most of whom are still living". And this is, you know, the subtext of this is, hey Paul is saying, "If you don't believe me, just get on a ship and go to Judea and make your way to Jerusalem. There are hundreds of men and women in Jerusalem right now who saw the resurrected rabbi from Nazareth, I'm not making this up. There's not two or three of us that thought we saw him. Over 500 people saw him at the same time".

Again, he's not writing years and years after the event. He's writing just a few years after the event. "Most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep". And then here's my favorite one, "Then he appeared to James, his brother". I know I say this all the time. See James doesn't follow Jesus in Matthew, Martin, Luke and John. James thought his brother was crazy. It's his brother. What would your brother have to do to convince you he's the Son of God? Hey, he couldn't convince you he's the Son of God and James is a normal guy. He's like, "Okay, he was really good. He was mom and dad's favorite. He got all, you know, okay. And he would make straight A's, okay, but he is not the son of God, okay, gimme a break". And then James, the brother of Jesus, sees his resurrected brother and he calls his brother his Lord, love that. "He appeared to James and then to all the apostles".

So the point is, this is essential. This is fundamental back to the way that we say it. "Christ died. Christ died for our sins. Christ died for our sins. He was buried, he was raised on the third day and it was seen". Or to make it a bit more personal for somebody here today, Christ died for your sins. He was buried. "He was raised on the third day and he was seen". Now my hunch is most of you believe that. In fact you believed it before you got here. Most people watch and believe that. But some of you are skeptical and that's understandable. Again, let's go back to the question. Okay, so that's what the first century church taught. They taught it immediately, not eventually, but why did he have to die? Why couldn't Jesus just get up and announce forgiveness to everyone, pardon for everyone, forgiveness for everyone, amnesty for everybody? He had the authority to do that.

In fact, we talked about this a few months ago. Jesus used that authority on several occasions. One of the most famous stories in the New Testament. He's teaching in a house and they hear all this commotion on the roof. They drop a paralytic down on a mat to be healed. Remember this? And when the settles down there in front of Jesus, Jesus looks at him and he says, "Son, your sins are forgiven". To which I think the guys thought, that's not really what I'm here for. But I guess that's a bonus. Thank I'm here to be healed. But Jesus just announces the kid doesn't even ask for forgiveness or confess any sins. Jesus says, boom, you're forgiven. Then there's that little get together during lunch and Jesus with some Pharisee and his friends and a woman slips in and she's got a bad reputation. And Jesus just interrupts and points to her and says, "Woman, your sins are forgiven". She didn't even ask. She didn't confess. She doesn't even say she knows who he is. Your sins are forgiven.

Then the one that's just mind boggling hanging from the cross, he praised this prayer. We've all heard Father forgive them like them being the people who arrested me and got me here. Them being the people who nailed me here, them being the soldiers who were, you know, negotiating for my valuables and my robe. "Father, forgive them". So Jesus had the power to just announce people's forgiveness. He did it at least three times in the gospels, which means he probably did it 300 times during his earthly ministry. So why did he have to die for sin? A couple things before I give you the real reason. And this first one, if you're skeptical or not, Christian, I get it. You're gonna think this is a dodge. It's not a dodge. I just need to make sure you know there is in a very important category. Okay? And here's the category. Something can be true whether we fully understand it or not. You just gotta remember that. Every single day you leverage this. This explains your technology. You have no idea how it works, right? And when it doesn't work, what do you do?

Well, everybody knows you unplug it. Wait a few seconds and plug it back in and it just magically comes back on. You don't even understand that part, right? I don't either. Okay? So there you just need to remember there is a category that says something can be true or real, whether we understand it or not. And the substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus may go into that bucket for you and that's okay. There are a lot of very practical things in that bucket. I am talking with a wire over my ear and a three inch by three inch little metal packet with a battery on my belt. And if you're on the internet, you can be on the internet anywhere in the world and hear me talk.

Now, if I had to wait until I understood that to apply it and implement it, it would never be implemented. But by faith, I put this thing on every single week and it works. And I don't know how it works, but it absolutely works. So I just want you to know, and this is gonna create an honor ramp for somebody. It is okay to believe something is true without fully understanding it or apply something you don't fully understand. You do it all the time. This is why I say, and again, this isn't a dodge, this is connected to really the foundation of my personal faith. This is why I say all the time, if someone predicts their own death and resurrection and pulls it off, I go with whatever that person says. Whether I fully understand it or not. Right? And this isn't a life line. This really is my, the bottom line. This is my apologetic for my faith.

See, it's not blind faith. When you watch someone crucified and die and then you have breakfast with them on the beach a few days later, that's not blind faith. That's, oh my goodness, God has done something. This is who he is. Jesus is who he claimed to be. And you just tell me what to do. I'm gonna do it. I don't have to understand it. I don't have to like it. You rose from the dead. I'm in, I believe. So following Jesus isn't blind faith, following Jesus is a step in the direction of an informed faith because of the resurrection. Which means from time to time he's gonna say things or do things or ask us to do things that don't make perfect sense to us. That's okay.

Now the second thing to keep in mind is this. And this goes back to part two of our series. If Jesus came to explain what God is like, and if God says that my sin separates me from him, then I can accept that as true. If Jesus came to explain what God is like, and according to Jesus in the first century teachers of the gospel, that my sin separates me from God, then because Jesus said it, I can accept it as true, and I can accept the penalty attached to my sin. I may not like it, I may not consider it fair. But so what? Because on the flip side, as we're gonna see in a minute, Jesus has offered me forgiveness. And if he says it required his death to pay for my sin, I don't understand, who am I to argue with that? He's offered me forgiveness. I'll take it whether I understand it or not. But those are kind of the sidebar things. Here's the real thing.

I think here's the more fundamental, intellectually honest explanation for why Jesus had to die for our sins. In other words, there's the sense in which this kind of cosmic equation, you know, this cosmic confusion, it's not quite as confusing as it appears. Here's why I say that. Like you, God values justice and like God, you value justice. In fact, the reason you value justice, the reason we even have a concept of justice is because we are made in the image of God. But here's the bad news, your sense of justice, my sense of justice is flawed, it's damaged, it's self-centered. We say we want justice for all. Only Superman wanted justice for all.

We don't really want justice for all. We want spray can aerosol justice. I want justice on you. I just wanna spit a little justice on you, but I don't wanna get any on me, right? In other words, I don't wanna be held accountable to all the bad things I've done. I just wanna make sure you're held accountable and that you come to justice and that you get what you deserve. But I don't want to get any on me. This is evidence of our flawed, damaged, self-centered sense of justice. Let me make it more personal, I don't know you, but let me just tell you about you. You get far more wound up about other people's sin than your own. You yelling at the TV Democrats and the corrupt Republicans. Oh, you know, I mean, you can get so wound up about other people's sin. You can't even remember a time in your life you were that wound up about your own sin. You know, why? Don't wanna get any on me. Don't you spray toward me. I'll spray toward you. Because our whole understanding of justice is flawed.

We have a sense, there's a shadow. We have, we know there's a concept, it's something to work toward, but it's broken. Let say it this way, our inability to grasp God's righteousness causes us to overestimate our own righteousness. I mean, let's say it this way. Don't raise your hand and definitely don't cut your eyes at anybody. Have you ever met a self-righteous person? I don't know who they are, but lemme tell you about them. They have no clue that they're self-righteous. They just think they're right all the time. 100% of the time, they're right. And they're so uncomfortable to be around and you walk away and you're like, shee. And he, it's like they're so self-righteous and they don't know their self-righteous and they don't know how flawed their self-righteousness is.

You know why? Well, because they've overestimated their ability to know what's right and wrong. They've overestimated their own rightness and their self-righteousness is so prideful and so gross. You just don't even want to be around them. It's almost impossible to have a relationship with them. You are not aware of your own self-righteousness either. Neither am I 'cause it's flawed, it's broken. We know there's justice and we know that justice should be done. But I compare justice and I compare rightness to the people around me who has ever stood in the presence of God to compare their rightness and their sense of justice and that context? Nobody. So, we have an inability to grasp God's righteousness and it causes us to overestimate our own righteousness. And consequently we underestimate the severity of our sin and we underestimate the weight of our offense.

So on one hand, the whole thing seems to be a huge overreaction. God has to allow his son to die for our sin. What's the big deal? But it's because of our perspective. It's because of how we compare righteousness and self-righteousness to each other. The problem is the world is a very dark place and our eyes have adjusted to the darkness. We imagine a better world. But even what we imagine falls short. Years ago, and I've told you this story actually years ago, some of you may have heard it before, but so when my kids were, we have three children, and then when they were six, five, and three, our daughter's youngest. I had just purchased a previously owned car. It was super dark green. I just love this car. It's the nicest car I'd ever had. It was previously owned.

And I walk out in the garage and I look, and there are scratch marks about six or eight scratch marks about this far across the hood, right at the hood of the car in this dark green paint. And it was not an emotionally neutral moment for me. Let me just put it that way. Okay? It's like, ah, and I knew this wasn't like somebody in a parking lot did this. This was one of my children. So I march all three of my children out there, right? And my daughter, my three year old, she was about three. She looks at the scratches and she says, "Daddy, daddy, I practice my letters". With a walk. And I look closely and sure enough, it was a bunch of little capital A's, A, A, A, A and she's scratched right through the paint with a rock.

So, how does an adult communicate to a three year old, the significance, the expense, the inconvenience of what she's done? How does an adult explain to a three? I mean, she knew she had done something wrong just to look in my eyes, right? She knew this was not a... I wasn't gonna reward her. Hey kids, let's all go get... How does an adult explain that in a way that what is $800? It cost me $800 to get the whole hood repainted. This is just years and years ago. What does $800 mean to a three year old? What am I supposed supposed to ask her to pay for it? So, you know what I did? You said what any good parent does. Now, please don't miss this. I accommodated to her capacity. Lemme tell you one of the great things about the Christian God throughout the Bible, Genesis all the way through. Your heavenly Father accommodates to your capacity because he's a good father.

So I got down on my knees and I looked Allie in the eyes and I said, "Please don't practice your letters with a walk on daddy's car anymore". And she said, "Yes sir, daddy". Walked off. No wonder we want. No wonder we think we're so much better. Have we ever stood in the presence of righteous God and been looked at our righteousness? No. So with all that in mind, I wanna read you something, we're gonna wrap up, okay? This is so important. So the Apostle Paul writes this theological tone. It's not really a letter, it's kind of a letter to Christians living in Rome. He's never been to Rome and the church in Rome is very Jewish, whereas he's been talking to Gentiles. So he writes a letter to the Christians in Rome to explain to them what he's been saying to the Gentiles because they're explaining it a little bit differently.

And there was tension between these two versions of Christianity. Acts 15 is where it all kind of came to a head and they decided, "Hey, if we're gonna have Gentiles and Jews together, we gotta make some concessions". So the Apostle Paul writes this letter and he explains why God had to invite his son to die for your sin. Here's how he explains, it's a little bit theological, but it's so powerful. Here's what he writes. I love this. "Therefore, no one will be declared right before God or righteous in God's sight by doing good things, rather through the law, through the law that we people tell us is the law in terms of how you obey God or just your internal conscience". We all have a conscience. We know right from wrong, right? And he talks about that in Romans. He said, "No one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law, rather through the law we become conscious of our sin".

You are conscious of your sin. You have mistreated other people and you've mistreated yourself. You are conscious of your sin. And being conscious of your sin is because you know the rules externally or internally. But knowing the rules and even keeping the rules doesn't make you right with God. It just reminds you that you're a rule breaker. You're hopeless, you're doomed. You can't work your way into a good relationship with God. Then he says, "There is no difference". Because he's writing to an expression of Christianity that's more Jewish than Gentile. He says, "But come on, before you get all high and mighty, all you Jewish folks, there's no difference between Jew and Gentile". Famous verse alert, "For all have sinned and fall short of the goodness, the glory, the majesty of God". I'm better than you and I'm not as good as him. And then God shows up and levels the play and field.

Jew, Gentile, good people, not so good people. There's no difference. All of sin and fall short of the glory of God. And that's the bad news. Here's the good news, he says, "And just as all fall short, because all of sin, all are justified". That is made righteous, put back on a level playing field relationally with God freely by his grace, not through doing good things or even being true to your own conscience. "Through the redemption". The buy back program. God's gonna buy back the sinners. God's gonna redeem the sinners. God's gonna pay whatever he has to pay to get the sinners out of the hole and get the sinners back into a relationship with him. "Through the redemption that came by King Jesus".

So wait, wait, wait. This can't be wait. You're telling me God sacrificed the final King. That God sacrificed his King, that the King willingly sacrificed himself so that I could be made right with God. This is why it's called good news and God, it gets better. "And God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of his blood to be received by faith". See, the question isn't, can we explain it well? The question isn't, do we understand it all? The question is, are we gonna use the microphone? Are you gonna use your computer? Are you gonna push that button that cranks up your car? Are you gonna, you know, put in a code that opens the safe? Are you gonna use the technology? Are you gonna sit around and wait till you understand it? He says that we receive by faith. The question is, have you done this? Have you done this?

And then he keeps going, he says, and not only that, God put on a show. I mean, he put on a spectacle, he put on a show. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness. Because in his patience, his forbearance, he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished. Here's what this means. The human race did not get what it deserved, when it deserved it. That before Christ came into the world, God overlooked and was patient with the sin of every human being who had ever been born and who had ever died until he could get to the moment that he sent his son to pay for their sin in the past, our sin and the future. This next part, it's amazing.

Look, listen, listen to this. "He did this, he did this, he did this to put on another show. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness". This next part we read right by this is epic. "He did this, he did this to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time". Pause. What Paul is saying here is this, my generation talking about his generation, he's like, can you believe it? Are you kidding me? We are the generation, me and Peter and John and Mary and all the other Marys and Martha and all the, we are the generation. We are the generation that God chose to show up to redeem the world. He did it in our lifetime. You Corinthians, come with me to Jerusalem. I'll introduce you to the people who are part of this story from beginning to end. He did it at this present time so as to be just because he's just, he calls us to account, Hey, you're a sinner. You're sinner, you're sinner. You fall short, you fall short, you fall way more short than him, but you both just fall short, everybody fall.

So, he has to point out injustice. He has to point out injustice in us. He's both the justice's beautiful language as, "So as to be just, and the one who justifies. Those who have faith in Christ". Is so beautiful. He says, "I'm gonna call you out because you're a sinner and then I'm gonna deal with it myself. I'm gonna call you out because you have fallen short. We're not gonna dodge that. We're not playing games. You fall short and there's a penalty to be paid. I'm gonna pay the penalty". I'm gonna be just, and the justifier, "Allie, don't scratch dad's car up anymore. I love you. I'll pay for it. Go see your mama". The just and the justifier.

So why did God require Jesus to die for your sin? Because of His justice, He demands payment. Because of His mercy, He delayed payment. Because of his Grace, He made the payment Himself. One more time, because of His justice, He demands payment. He's just, you understand justice because of His mercy. He didn't require people to pay immediately. Like he didn't require you to pay immediately. And because of his Grace, made the payment Himself.

There's an epic conversation between J. R. R. Tolkien, "Lord of the Rings," J. R. R. Tolkien and CS Lewis. And before CS Lewis was a Christian J. R. R. Tolkien would take him on these walks. In fact, you can go see where they used to walk together. And he'd had these conversations with CS Lewis where he was trying to convince him of the veracity and the truthfulness and the epic nature and the reliability of Christianity. And at one point in a conversation, according to CS Lewis J. R. R. Tolkien turns to him and says, "Don't you see? It's the true myth". Not mythology. It's the true myth. A myth is a story that incorporates and explains how the world works. He's going and says, Hey, we both write fiction. We both write these narratives. We both created these alternative worlds.

But my friend, the story of Christianity, it's the true myth that explains everything. It's the perfect story. It's history, it's his story. It's your story. It's why it's good news of great joy for all people. And anything that dumbs that down and anything that dilutes that in, anything that creates unnecessary separation or unnecessary steps needs to be eradicated because it's good news of great joy for all people. Your heavenly Father accommodated to your capacity. He is just, and he's the justifier. It's perfect. And you've been invited. Jesus died for your sin to fix you and God to reconcile you to God. And the question is not, do you completely understand it or can you explain it? The question is, have you received it? Accepted it? Submitted to it? Surrender to it?

And if not, there's no better time than the present because this is essential. It's fundamental, it is first and foremost. So if you've never done that, or maybe you did it as a child, you're not sure it took, you're not sure you understood. I'm gonna invite you to pray a prayer with me. I just made up this prayer. I'm gonna read it to you real quick. Here's what the prayer, the prayer is just a way of saying to God, I wanna do this. I wanna do this transaction. You're just in. I am definitely a sinner. You're the justifier. I can't do it myself.

"Heavenly Father, I've sinned. I've fallen the short of your standard of right living. My sin created a debt I cannot pay. I believe Jesus's death paid my sin debt. I'm placing my trust in Him, as Savior, Forgiver, Lord. Amen".

So here's what I'd like for us to do. If you're a Christian, I'm gonna ask you to pray this prayer out loud with me because if today's your day, it's like I get it. I mean I've heard these things before. But I've never understood it like this. If this is your day, it's not because of good preaching. It's because that's just the thing the Holy Spirit does every once in a while where it's suddenly there's an I got it moment. And if this is your day, I want you to hear yourself pray this prayer out loud. But I don't want you to be embarrassed. So I'm gonna invite all of us to pray to out loud. Now, if you're saying Andy, good try didn't get me. I get that you have questions I'm sure I could never answer. So I don't want to embarrass you. You don't have to pray this out loud, obviously. But I would love for those of us who are Christians to do that. And if this is your day, then this is your prayer. So let's just pray this out loud together. Ready?

Heavenly Father, I have sinned. I've fallen short of your standard of right living. My sin created a debt I cannot repay. I believe Jesus's debt paid my sin debt. I'm placing my trust in Him as Savior, Forgiver, Lord.

Heavenly Father, it's too good to be true. And yet there's so much evidence that it's true. So wherever this lands with us, would you give us the courage to fully embrace it? And Father, if this is a reminder for some Christians, it's been a long time and they've been away and they're back and it's, oh yeah. I just, I pray they would just embrace this moment to say, I'm gonna follow. For the man or woman or the student, it's the first time they understood it. Give them the courage to hang on with both hands and say, yes, I'm in. But whoever this lands with us, give us the wisdom to know what to do, the courage to do it. And Heavenly Father, on behalf of all of us, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for not sending an 11th commandment to keep, not a list to keep. We fall short every single day. We needed a Savior, not a do-over. Thank you for sending Jesus as our Savior. Thank you for demonstrating your power by raising Him from the dead. Eliminating any question we might have regarding His authority to make such a bold promise. And we pray all of that in Jesus' name. Amen.

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