Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for revealing Yourself to us. Thank You for coming to us in love and forgiveness instead of in anger and retribution. Thank You for saving our souls, not by means of our puny efforts, but by means of Your glorious work made ours through faith. May we never seek to subtract from Your glory. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR ONLY SAVIOR!
TEXT: Romans 4: 1-5, 13-17
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Earlier this week I received my copy of: “Christian News.” In it was an article outlining a recent worship service sponsored by Episcopalians and Hindus. It was a celebration of their cultures and their different understandings of “god.” And in that service both Christian ministers and Hindu clerics worshipped “god” together. O, I need to tell you that the Episcopalians also apologized to the Hindus for their misguided attempts in the past to do mission work among them. After all, with diversity as the watchword, all roads to lead to “god” in their modern thinking.
I did a little research on Wikipedia in preparation for this sermon, and I discovered that the Hindus have well over 50 gods. How does that square with the Christian Trinity of One God in Three Persons? It doesn’t. Also, they basically believe that you get in touch with the “divine” by trying to lead a good life and being kind to animals, creation, and sometimes even other people! So, you save yourself. This is rot. It is paganism. And because of modern diversity, Christians are buying into it to prove their self-worth.
Christianity is unique. It alone, among world religions teaches that there is One God, one corner on the truth market, and only one way of salvation–which comes to us as a gift born of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. It alone teaches that God does it all because imperfect man cannot save himself or get in tune with the Divine on his own. Since our lesson today teaches the exact same thing, in view of these kind of muddle-headed attempts to blend Christianity with paganism, let’s ponder this point:
DON’T STEAL FROM GOD!
St. Paul also lived in a polytheistic culture of multiple gods and multiple religions. In that age the ancient Jewish faith stood out because it was monotheistic. It honored God Almighty, alone. Abraham was considered the father of that faith. Although, we could well consider Adam the father of that faith, couldn’t we? For just like Abraham, Adam also believed in the promises of the One True God. The issue Paul faced in his day was that many Jews believed salvation rested in their human achievements and human ancestry to Abraham instead of in the same faith that he possessed. So, like their pagan neighbors, they really believed in salvation by works, or well-intentioned human deeds. Such views really stole from God! They stole His glory in sending His Son to suffer and die for us. They provided people with a reason to boast about their achievements instead of honoring God for His achievements born of His grace. Now, Paul seeks to set the record straight.
“What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified (declared right with God) by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts in God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
The truth of those words is what makes Christianity unique, different, and special among all world religions. All other world religions teach that human beings must labor, work, and toil toward holiness on their own. They must honor rats and let their kids go hungry (Hinduism) or pray 4 times daily to Mecca (Islam) or just try to be a “good person” modern American liberalism. In doing so, all those religions teach that human beings possess something in them which “god” needs and which can make them right with the divine. And so, humans can take credit for their own salvation. They can pat themselves on the back for their attempts at holiness. They worked and now they receive their wages! Ah, but all such religions steal from God because they steal His glory. And, don’t forget the bible says of such people: “The wages of sin is death.”
Such false religious views all teach, in the end, the perfectibility of man. But, is any human being perfect? If not, how can any of our attempts at attaining the divine be perfect? And so, God, Who by definition, is perfect, cannot be known, cannot be brought down to our level through our efforts, and cannot be too happy with us from trying to steal what belongs to Him, alone!
“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” What did Abraham believe? He believed God’s promises to him, specifically the promise of the Messiah. He believed God when God said that through Abraham’s blood-offspring eventually God would send His Son to win perfectibility for him. Christ would do that by dying for all human beings and rising to life. God would appease His own anger over human sin in the Person of His Son. And then God would work faith in various human hearts so that such faith in Christ would become their possession and save them. Everything here is a free gift from God. God does all the giving, we do all the receiving. God did what we could not because He still loves hopeless sinners, us. This teaching, this truth, gives all glory to God and doesn’t attempt to steal His glory from Him.
Many mainline Christian churches have unfortunately sacrificed God’s glory on the altar of modern liberal diversity. The Episcopalians I mentioned are just one such example. And because of that those churches are dying. They don’t do mission work. In fact, they abhor it! The reason being: all roads lead to “god” so why bother?
By God’s grace we’re different and we’re proud of that fact! As Paul says elsewhere: “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and Gentiles, but to those who believe the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
My friends, don’t be seduced into Stealing from God! Continue to give Him what He deserves, total glory and honor for saving you! Continue to thank Him for making you special, for saving your soul in Christ and linking you to Him through faith. And then get busy speaking His truth in love. For it is only His truths that will ever set anyone free! Amen