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James Merritt - Best Deal

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    James Merritt - Best Deal

We're going to look at a passage of scripture today that many Bible scholars call the five most important verses in the Bible, and for what it's worth, I don't know that I would disagree with that. I really believe they may very well be the five most important verses in the Bible. Another Biblical scholar said this is the most single important paragraph, not just in the Bible. He said this is the most important paragraph ever written in the history of the world. Someone else said that this passage is not only the heart of Romans, it is the heart of the New Testament and it is the heart of the Bible. Somebody else said these verses are the ground zero of our spiritual universe. No less than a luminary as Martin Luther said, "These verses are the chief point of the whole Bible".

Now, frankly, that ought to get your attention. You ought to at least want to know what these verses are whether you read the Bible or not, know much about the Bible or not, or believe the Bible or not. And I'll tell you why I think everything they just said and I just read is true. Because I believe what we're going to find today in this passage, quite simply, is so compelling and so vital and so important because it describes the best deal that's ever been offered in the history of this planet, and this deal is offered to anybody at any time at any place. And we're going to see today why every race needs amazing grace. Doesn't matter what race you come from, doesn't matter what tribe you come from, doesn't matter what your DNA may be, every race needs amazing grace.

And so here's what we're going to do to kind of keep this interesting, because let me just kind of warn you of something: We're going to get deep today. This is not "Jesus wept," all right? This is not John 3:16. We're going to really get on our big-boy pants and we're going to really get in some very deep water. So to kind of keep your attention and keep you focused, we're going to take a field trip. Now, you remember taking field trips when you were in school. Well, we're going to take a field trip, and in your mind, we're going to leave this building in a moment, we're going to go to three places. We're going to go to a courtroom, then we're going to go to a marketplace, and then we're going to go to a religious altar, and we're going to find out just why the best deal for anyone, anytime, at any place is found in the passage we're going to read. We're in Romans 3.

Now, there are three things I'm going to say to you today to kind of get this in perspective. They're all little two-word phrases that are very easy to remember, okay? So number one, sin identifies. This is why this is the best deal we're all going to get. Sin identifies. Now, we're going to, we just left the building, okay? We're now in this courtroom. Now, some of you may be saying, "Wait a minute, I was here last week. We were in chapter 1, and I believe you skipped over chapter 2 because we're now in chapter 3".

Well, it's not that chapter 2 is not important, but actually, here's what happens. What Paul is doing, as we get to this part in chapter 3, he's actually been, for two and a half chapters, building his case against the human race, and what he's trying to prove is real simple. He's trying to say to everybody who has ever lived and ever will live, doesn't matter where you come from, doesn't matter who your parents were, doesn't matter what color your skin is, doesn't matter what your philosophical world view may be, he's been trying to prove for two and a half chapters: We all are in need of God's grace. Because when it comes to trying to be right with God on our own, when it comes to trying to earn God's pleasure, when it comes to trying to be righteous before God, we all have hit a wall.

So he tells us what our problem is beginning in verse 21. He says, "But now apart from the law," and the law are God's commandments, he says, "Apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been made known". In other words, Paul says there's a righteousness that God expects and God demands that has nothing to do with obeying the law or being religious or going to church or doing this or doing that. It's all apart from the law to which the law and the prophets testify. This righteousness is given, not earned, can't buy it, can't pay for it, this righteousness is given through faith, that's how you get it, in Jesus Christ to all who believe. Now, our starting point is the righteousness of God. If you want to be right with God, you've got to have the righteousness of God, and what that phrase simply means, it simply means to be in right standing with God. It simply means to be right with God. The righteousness of God is that when God looks at you and God looks at me, He sees us as righteousness.

Well, that raises a problem, because first of all, he says this righteousness has nothing to do with the law. It has nothing to do with trying to keep any commands whatsoever. So the whole point he's making, which, by the way, every Jew that heard this almost has a heart attack, because what he's saying to all these religious Jews that are listening to him are, you know, you're never going to be right with God by being religious, you're never going to be right with God by trying to keep commandments, you're not ever going to be right with God by trying to keep the law. Why? Because we've all broken the law. We've all broken the commandments. So he puts this way, he says in verse 22, "There's no difference between Jew and Gentile".

Now, the reason why it says "Jew and Gentile" is when we look at people we kind of divide it up into all kind of categories, right? You know, black, white, rich, poor, liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, you know, Florida gator, and saved people, right? So we kind of divide people up like that, at least I do. God doesn't do that. Racially, when God looks at people, He says there's only two classes of people. You're either a Jew or a Gentile. Unless there may be some Jews here today. I'm not asking you to be, you know, point you out, but I would dare say 99% of us are Gentiles, right? So there's either Jew or Gentile. He said, okay, there's no difference between the Jew and the Gentile. Why? Because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Now, let me tell you what Paul's done. Remember, we're in the courtroom. And so for two and a half chapters, Paul's been building his case against the human race. Now he's just unsealed the indictment against all of us. He says, okay, you have a right to know what you've been charged with. Here is the charge God is bringing against us. You are a sinner and you fall short of God's grace. That's the charge. That's the indictment that's been brought against all of us. By the way, the verb there for "fall short" in the Greek language is in the present tense which means it happens all the time. So what he says is we've all done things wrong in the past, but the problem's worse. We still do things wrong in the present. So what he's saying is we're all sinners, we've all blown it in the past, and we're still blowing it in the present. So in other words, Paul says, all human beings of every race and rank, every color and creed, Jews and Gentiles, religious and irreligious, without exception, we're all sinful, we're all guilty, we all have no excuse before God.

Now, here's the good news about that bad news. The good news is we're all in the same boat. We've all done the wrong things. We've all got the same problem, we've all made the same mess, we're all sinners and we all sin, and we continuously fall short of the goodness and the greatness and the glory of God. So now Paul is doing all of this to get us to this big question. So this big question is, okay, how can sinful me be right with a sinless God? Now, in essence, that's what most every religion in the world is trying to answer. How can sinful me be right with a sinless God? Because we've all hit the wall. How do we break through?

Now, let me just stop before I go on to my next point. I realize I live in the 21st century and I realize we live in a post-modern society and I realize there are a lot of people that are saying today, "I cannot believe, dude, you're talking about sin. I mean, that's why we call you these backwoods fundamentalists, because you're still up there talking about sin. Nobody talks about sin anymore. We don't sin. We make mistakes, we make errors in judgment, we miscalculate, but we don't sin". Let me just kind of say this and then we'll move on. If you don't understand sin, if you don't understand what sin is and if you don't understand that we are all sinners and we all sin, now, let me just kind of help you on one thing, if you don't believe that, you'll never understand the Bible, you'll never understand the gospel, you'll never understand why God sent Jesus, you'll never understand yourself, you'll never understand others around you, you'll never understand your need for God, you'll never understand how you can be right with God.

So Paul starts off by saying, look, if you really want to get this thing right with God, you've got to understand sin identifies every single one of us. We all sin because we're all sinners and we all constantly are falling short for the glory of God. Now, up until this point, there's one thing that nobody would deny to Paul, Jew or Gentile, and that is the evidence is overwhelming. The verdict is clear. We're guilty. The proof is incontrovertible. God's got the pictures. God's got the fingerprints. God's got the DNA. God's got all of our failures, all of our thoughts, and all of our flaws, He's got them all written down. The biggest witness against us is us. We are guilty. Sin identifies us. Sin is what we do and sinners are who we are.

So we're in this courtroom and we're guilty. So now we just have to wait on the verdict. So we're sitting in the chair, judge comes back into the courtroom, he's examined the evidence, he's heard the witnesses. "All rise," we all rise. We're all seated. The judge of the universe asks all of us to stand to receive the verdict. We close our eyes, we grit our teeth, we clasp our hands because we're expecting the worst, and then this happens. Sin identifies, but God justifies. Excuse me? Yeah. Sin identifies, but God justifies. Now, take a deep breath because we're about to plunge in some of the deepest waters of Biblical truth we will ever swim in, in this church, okay?

Here's where we are. We've been indicted, we've been convicted, we await the sentence, the judge's gavel comes down, and we expect to hear one word, but instead we read this, "And all are justified freely by His grace". Justified? You talking to me? Justified? How does that happen? Why does that happen? And what does it mean? That word "justification" is one of the longest words in the New Testament and one of the greatest and most important words for the Christian faith, because let's go back, let's establish. Remember, now, we're in the courtroom right now. For all of time, as far as we know, a courtroom has always been for two purposes, right? A courtroom is either to acquit the innocent or to condemn the guilty.

So here's the way it works. If after hearing all the evidence a judge decides that a person's not guilty of the offense alleged against him, then he renders a not guilty verdict. Now, there's one thing we know about a judge, right? We've got judges in our church. We know that a judge should never do two things. A judge should never declare a man innocent if he knows that person is guilty, and a judge should never declare a person innocent, or guilty if he knows that they are innocent. You don't like that, I don't like that, well, guess what, God doesn't like that. Here's what God says about it. Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent, the Lord detests them both.

You say, yeah, He doesn't like it either. We say here's the problem. Let's go back. We've already seen we're all guilty. We've already seen that we all deserve to be condemned. We all know we're not innocent. The evidence is indisputable. And yet Paul says, here's the news, you are justified freely by His grace. You say, "What"? That's right. The gavel comes down, the judge looks us in the eye, we're waiting for the worst, and we hear these words, "Not guilty". God looks at us and He says, "You're not only not guilty, I'm not only declaring you innocent, but all this evidence that was presented against you and all these things you've ever done wrong, the slate is clean". So He looks at all of my unrighteousness and declares me righteous.

Now, how does He do that? Well, He does that freely. No big attorney fees, no bribing the judge. We're justified freely by His, and here's this word again, grace. By grace. We keep coming into that word. Now, remember what grace is. If you don't remember it or never heard it or don't know the term, remember, here's what it is. Grace is getting what you don't deserve. But, again, we still have a problem. But we deserve justice. You're right. We're guilty. You're right. The evidence is clear. You're right. And because we deserve justice, justice demands condemnation because we're guilty, and God is a just judge, right? Yes, God is a just judge. So I just still don't get it. How do we who deserve condemnation receive justification? How does that work? Well, in order to understand how that works, you got to leave the courtroom.

So now we're going to take another field trip. We're going to leave the courtroom and now we're going to go to two other places. We're going to go to a marketplace and we're going to go to a religious altar, because these are the places where we find this, and this is the last thing we're going to talk about. Ready? All right, what does sin do? Somebody tell me real quick. Sin what? Sin identifies. God what? God justifies. How does that work? How do we pull that off? How does God do that and still be the God that we know that He is, is because Jesus satisfies. That's the key. Jesus satisfies. Now, let me give you an illustration. We're justified freely, but wait a minute. Just because something is free doesn't mean it doesn't cost something. So even though it may be free to somebody, it's not free to everybody. And the reason why our justification is free and costs us nothing is because it cost Jesus everything. So we're going to leave the courtroom.

Now we're going to go to the marketplace. So how does God do this? How does God bring that gavel down even though we're guilty, He knows we're guilty, I know I'm guilty, we all know we're guilty, the evidence is clear. How does God bring that gavel down and go, "Uh, not guilty". How does that happen? What grounds does He do that on? How does He pull that off? Keep reading. And all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Now, remember, why are we even in the courtroom to begin with? You say, "Well, because we are sinners". Well, it's worse than that. Well, we weren't in the courtroom just because we're sinners. We're in the courtroom because we are slaves to sin. Jesus said in John 8:34, "He who commits sin is a slave to sin".

If a judge is going to try a case, pretend that judge realizes that he has a close personal relationship or maybe a vested interest in that case or in that person or in one of the parties, what does a judge have to do? He has to rescue himself or herself, right? He really should not try that case. Now, and especially if the judge is also the offended party, he cannot try his own case because it just would not be right. Let me tell you how this works. In the case with us, God is not only the judge, God is also the plaintiff. You say, "Well, why"? Because sin is always first against God, always. If you cheat on your income taxes, the first person, the first party that's offended is not the government. The first party that's offended is God because you stole something. If you're unfaithful to your spouse, the first offended party is not your spouse. The first offended party is God because you broke the law that says, "You shall not commit adultery".

If you are guilty, if you have a racist attitude toward other people, the first offended party is not the race. The first offended party is God because you show a respecter of persons and God doesn't even do that. So all sin ultimately is first always against God. So here's our dilemma. God wants to justify us even though we are guilty, but as the judge, He's got to see that justice is done, but as the plaintiff, He also has the right to satisfaction. Now, you talk about a problem, here's the judge, He wants to justify us, right? But the evidence is clear we're guilty. He's the plaintiff; He has the right to satisfaction. How is He going to pull that off? Jesus steps in as the propitiation for our sin. He satisfies God's wrath, He sees to it that God's justice is carried out, He accepts the penalty for our sin, and because of Jesus, there is total satisfaction.

So listen, this is so great. I'm telling you, I got saved three times preparing this message. At the cross, Jesus did it all. He goes to the courtroom and He accepted the punishment of our sin. He goes to the marketplace and He pays the price for our freedom. He goes to the religious altar and He takes the pain of God's wrath. See, that's why when you look at the cross, you get everything. When you see the cross, let me tell you what you're looking at, you're seeing the love of God, you're seeing the wrath of God, you're seeing the holiness of God, you're seeing the justice of God, you're seeing the mercy of God, you're seeing the grace of God. You see it all. That's why we named this church Cross Pointe, because we want to always point people to the cross. The point of the Christian life is the cross of Jesus Christ, and to put it simply, it was the love of God that satisfied the wrath of God through the son of God. See, people get it all backwards. You say, "Did you know God loves you"? And people say, "Yeah, I know that. I know why God loves me". Why does God love you? "Well, God loves me because Jesus died for me".

That's wrong. God does not love us because Jesus died for us. Jesus died for us because God loves us. You see it all at the cross. But, see, that still begs the question: Why did God have to do it that way? Why was the cross necessary? Why did Jesus have to come and why did Jesus have to die? Keep reading, verse 26. He did it to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time so as to be just, which a judge is supposed to do, and the one who justifies, which is what the judge wants to do, those who have faith in Jesus. Now, here's the big question: How can God justify us sinners freely by His grace and on what ground does He do it? Or let me ask it in a deeper way. I'm going to say this real slowly. How is it possible for a righteous God to declare the unrighteous to be righteous without compromising His righteousness or condoning our unrighteousness? Let me say that again. How is it possible for a righteous God to declare the unrighteous righteous without compromising His righteousness or condoning our unrighteousness? I propose to you today that is the question and Jesus is the answer. That's why at the cross you see everything.

Let me put it to you another way. God can be just in His righteousness and justify the unrighteous at the same time because at the cross justice was done. So all we've got to do now, we accept the verdict, we enter into our freedom, we live in this perfectly peaceful relationship with God, and how do we do that? Well, three times in this paragraph we're told in one word what we need to do to take this deal. I've read it to you. You just haven't probably noticed it. And the one thing we've got to do to take the deal, we've got to have faith. Faith, that's what you've got to do. You've got to believe. You've got to put your faith in Jesus Christ. Justification is by grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone. Now, let me just stop right here. I know we've been deep. We've come back up now, okay, everybody get a breath of air. You know, thank God that's over. But here's what I want you to hear.

Listen. What I just told you in the last 30 minutes is what makes Christianity unique from every other religion in the world. What I just told you in the last 30 minutes is why Christianity is not even a religion. What I just told you is something no other religion in the world tells you. There is no other religion in the world, not Islam, not Buddhism, not Judaism, not Hinduism, not Confucianism, there is no other religion in the world that says this: You could have free forgiveness, you could have eternal life even though you don't deserve it, even though you've done nothing to deserve it, even though you've done everything not to deserve it, it's all yours if you just put your faith in Jesus. Can you just give the Lord a hand for that?

Every other religion in the world says, "Do this, don't do that, keep that rule, don't break that rule, go here, don't go there, eat that, don't eat that, drink that, don't drink that," and Christianity comes along and says it has nothing to do with that. You can't buy what God has already bought and paid for. You can't. It's not even for sale. So here's the good news. If what I've just told you is true, that means there's nobody so good they don't need to take this deal, and it means there's nobody so bad they don't get to take this deal. This deal called grace is on the table for everybody, but it's both exclusive and inclusive. Only those who believe receive it. When I was nine years old, I realized the best deal I was ever going to get in my life was what I got in Jesus who took my pain and paid my price and accepted my punishment. When I realized that's the best deal I was ever going to get, you know what I said to Jesus? I'm going with you. I'm going with you. And my prayer in this message is this: I hope you will, too.
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