Welcome. We wrapped up last year with our series on the Ten Commandments and last week we talked about God pursuing us and covenanting with us, his treasured possession. And this is awesome because it’s not based upon our goodness but it’s really a reflection of his goodness. It’s God’s Work, that he loves you, pursues you, and forgives you; sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to take away your sin, to make you a new person, and give you a covenant relationship with God and his covenant people.
Today we are going to pick up there and talk about God’s work in us, in that covenant relationship, as we gear up for a two-part series we’re going to start next week entitled “In His House.” In this series we are going to discover that when we find God’s purpose and God’s place for us, it will open up a myriad of opportunities. We’ll learn to embrace God’s purpose and God’s place for us; and even though it may lead us to some difficult and unexpected places, we can know we're there for a reason.
So 12 weeks ago we began looking at the Ten Commandments and last week and this week we’re looking at how to move forward from Mt Sinai. To realize the fulfillment of the Law in Christ in key areas of our lives. And this is important, because it's easy when you look at the Law, to get bogged down. To feel like you’re stuck in neutral, or just spinning your wheels, to the point that you feel like you're going nowhere. You know, where you're not making any progress at all and I know how that is. I know how it feels to look back and groan inwardly realizing that I'm in the same place I was ten years ago. But I also know how it feels to look back over a year or a few months, and recognize all the changes that have taken place in my life. You know just to be able to praise God for all that he has done. To see the great chasm between me and the person I used to be or between me and the situation I used to be stuck in.
So this morning, I want us to keep the momentum going, and we’re going to talk about God’s Work… for us, in us, and thru us. If you can find a Bible let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 5:21 and we’ll look at an important biblical principle to see what it means for us, how it applies to us, and how to begin each day in gear, revved up and ready to go.
You see, here’s the problem. God made us in his image and likeness, but we by nature and choice are sinners. And so, if we’re honest, we’ll recognize that we’ve sinned, rebelled against God, and we’re separated from God. Yet in the last day, there is coming a day, when we’ll stand before our Creator, our Holy and just God, and he’ll judge us. And so the big question is, “How can God declare us good and allow us into heaven?
Jesus was straight up with us, he laid out the rules, and he said, “Be perfect… as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). And that’s easy for him to say, but what about those of us who are in the imperfect category. What about me? What about you and I?
God himself is holy, good, and just; and yet you and I know that we’re guilty. We know the standard is perfection… the rule is perfect obedience to the Law. And a good judge won’t let you off the hook right? A good judge won’t give you a “Get out of jail free” card. A good judge has to declare you guilty, because only that would be justice.
So, what are you going to do when you stand before God? Are you going to tell him all the good things you’ve done… hoping he’s grading on a curve? Are you going to tell him how moral and spiritual you are because you know you’re better than that other guy? You know you’re looking pretty good following that guy.
Well here is the deal. You know what? You don’t have to say anything before God other than “I’m here with Jesus”. You see its God’s work for us. That’s what I want to show you in 2 Corinthians. Did you find your place?
Our right standing before God is not through anything that we do, not through the life we live, but through the death Jesus died. It’s God’s Work. It’s a gift that we receive when we trust in Jesus death, burial, and resurrection. And the Apostle Paul tells us about this amazing gift in 2 Corinthians. Here’s what he said in 2 Corinthians 5:21,
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Here’s what the Bible teaches and what we believe. Our right standing before God is by grace alone. It’s a gift that he’s given. It’s received by faith alone, trusting in Christ alone, as our great God and Savior. So our righteousness is not based upon anything that we do, but is totally dependent upon Jesus Christ and what he did through his death, burial, and resurrection.
So all of my sins and all of your sins (past, present, and future) went to Jesus. He bore my sin, he suffers, dies in my place, and pays the penalty for my sins. And as a result, he gives me his righteousness as a gift. So that in him we might become… that I might become… “The righteousness of God.” That’s the message of the Gospel… this is what we believe… it’s not my doing. Jesus died for my sins. Jesus lived the perfect life. And he’s given me his righteousness. That’s the only righteousness I have. It’s God’s Work.
You see, none of us are deserving of heaven. None of us are perfect. None of us earned it. None of us can stand before God and say, “I was baptized as a baby. I went to church my whole life. I gave, tried to do good deeds, helped the poor, even looked after widows and orphans.” All of that is wonderful, but it’s not enough to pay or to cover your debt of sin to God.
Romans 3:20-26 tells us, “No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known…This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and (therefore all) are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this… to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
It’s all God’s work for us and Paul writes that “through the Law we become conscious of sin.” And what that means is that when you read the first five books of the Bible, you’ll uncover more than 600 laws, and as you continue to read, the longer the list will get. You know it’s all these things you are supposed to do or not do. So at some point, as you read the Bible, you going to realize, “I’ve got a problem. I’m a rebellious sinner, separated from God, and his wrath, his just judgment hangs over all of us.”
So what Paul describes in Romans 3:26, is God’s work for us. He is “just and the one who justifies…” And so Jesus comes as God, lives a perfect life, goes to the cross, dies in my place for my sins, endures the wrath of God, and punishment that I deserve. And so as I hear, I believe and trust in Jesus, I receive grace from him, forgiveness, the fullness of life, and the righteousness of God. That is God’s work for us, now let’s look at God’s work in us.
God works out our salvation for us, but he also does something amazing in us. You see, we were made in the image and likeness of God; to love, to serve, and to live the life that God the Father intends for us. But by nature and choice, from Adam and Eve on, we’re all sinners going after our own agendas, choosing to go our own ways, following after all kinds of sinful schemes. So the question is, how will God get us back on the path?
I’ll give you two references in the Old Testament that describe God’s work in us. First is Jeremiah 24:7, he says this, “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.”
So, Jesus comes and takes away our sin and give us a new heart. He changes our attitudes, our desires, and our lives so that we want him, return to him, and know him. Our hearts are changed because it is a new heart that really loves him and wants a relationship with him.
Ezekiel 36:26-27, says it this way, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
God’s work is in our heart, but it’s not just the physical organ, it’s the center and the essence of who you are; and therefore its the root cause of every other issue in your life. And because we’re sinners, as God says through Ezekiel, we have a heart of stone; one that’s rebellious, obstinate, foolish, and disobedient. So God takes out the heart of stone and puts in a heart of flesh. Not a perfect heart, but a new heart, a heart that wants to learn, to change, and to obey. It’s a heart that wants to be with Jesus, be like Jesus, and be for Jesus. So God changes us from the inside out and once the heart changes the life changes.
Now in the New Testament, Jesus describes it as being born again, or experiencing a second birth. In John 3, there’s a Bible teacher named Nicodemus who comes to Jesus. And he asked Jesus, “What is it that I need to know?” Jesus tells him, “You must be born again” (John 3:7; NLT).
Now Nicodemus doesn’t get it so he asks, “How can an old man go back into his mother's womb and be born again?" You know, how could I do that?”
But Jesus says, “No, you were born physically, but now you need to be born again spiritually. You’re first birth was from your mom and your second birth needs to be from God the Holy Spirit” (John 3:6-7).
He tells Nicodemus, you’re physically alive, but spiritually dead (Colossians 2:13). You need to be born again, because you need a spiritual birth, and it’s that new birth that causes the new heart and a totally new life.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says, “Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (NLT).
The Bible says, “Some of you were once like that.” That’s how you used to be. But Jesus cleaned you up, he is changing you on the inside, and he made you right with God the Father. That’s God’s work in us. It’s a brand new life, with a brand new heart, so that the same Spirit who empowered Jesus can empower you to live a godly life.
And that leads us to God’s work through us. He does something for us, in us, and through us. And this is where as followers of Christ, the faith and the transformation, becomes obvious and evident by what we do.
James talks about this and says, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don't show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?” (James 2:14; NLT).
Now this is Jesus’ brother, James, and what he’s saying is, “If you’ve really met my brother, then you’d really be different. In other words he would’ve changed your heart like he changed mine. Then you’d be doing the things that he wants you to do, you’d be changed on the inside. Your heart, your mind, your desires… it all changes. You live differently… you have a different outlook… and you have a new purpose.
Paul addresses this in Ephesians 2:10 where he says, “He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (NLT).
We are God’s workmanship. He’s working through us… He re-created us in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us. We’re not saved by good works but for good works. We’re saved by Jesus to do good things, we’re saved for a purpose, that God would work through us.
In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus gives an illustration of a tree and he says, that there’s really just two kinds of people. Just two. There is the non-Christian and the Christian. And he says, “If you’re really a Christian, you’ll bear fruit.” You know like doing good things. You’re going to read your Bible and pray. You’re going to hate sin. You’re going to want to worship God, to be connected with other Christians, to help the poor, and care for those in need. And so what Jesus says is, “A good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17). And so the problem that James was writing about (James 2:14) was that there were a lot of people saying, “We’re a third kind of tree. We’re the Christian tree with no fruit.” And so he quotes the Lord Jesus and says, “There is no Christian tree without fruit. It doesn’t exist. If you’re connected to Jesus you’re going to bear all kinds of fruit.”
So, what James is saying is don’t be certain that you’re a Christian just because you were baptized as a baby, came forward at an altar call at youth camp, or because you prayed the sinner’s prayer at some point in the past, don’t assume you’re a Christian unless you’re bearing fruit. James says, “Let’s look at your life.” If by faith you’re really connected to Jesus by his work for you, his work in you, and his work through you; you’ll be a good tree that bears good fruit. Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit...” (John 15:5).
This morning, I want us to get serious and look at our lives. Do you love Jesus? Do you hate the sin he died for? Do you want to read your Bible and know him better? Do you want to pray? Do you want to be more like Jesus? Spend more time with other people who are into Jesus? Has he changed your heart, your mind, and your desires?
What’s the fruit in your life? If Jesus has done something for you; if Jesus has done something in you; then Jesus will do great things through you.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
January 11, 2015