Tag: righteousness

The Greatest Chapter in the Bible

A few months ago, my family found a documentary series on the International Space Station. Since then, we’ve been pretty enamored by space. We’ve woken up early to see the space station passing by us and we’ve prepared to watch the recent Artemis mission launch, but it was rescheduled to launch later this month. Along the way, we learned more about the James Webb Space Telescope, which NASA launched in December of last year. The JWST is 100 times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope and uses infrared light to peer through dense layers of space dust. 

In July, NASA released the very first images captured by this telescope. You can look at these remarkable images here, all of them displaying God’s magnificent creation.

The enormity of the universe is virtually impossible to grasp. NASA explains that the SMACS 0723 image is “approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length.” So, find a grain of sand, hold it up to the night sky, and imagine that in it are thousands of galaxies we can see with the most powerful telescope we’ve ever constructed—and certainly countless more galaxies we cannot yet see. You can read more about it here.

I look at these pictures and I think of the enormous depths of space and think, how big is our God, the creator of it all! These pictures show us the glorious depths of God’s creation. And yet, the glorious God behind the great depths of space is not beyond them. He is near. While there are deep pockets of space we won’t see on this side of heaven, the glorious depths of God’s Gospel can be known and there are glorious depths to God’s gospel that we must search and discover for our own souls. 

But we don’t need a telescope or a microscope even; we have the book of Romans, which church history has called, “The greatest letter ever written”. Within the greatest letter ever written is what many, myself included, have called “The greatest chapter in the Bible”, Romans 8.

The Letter of Romans gives us the glorious depths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There are some of you here who are (1) questioning this gospel and maybe skeptical of it, (2) just dipping your toes into grace, or (3) ready to dive into the depths of God’s grace. No matter where you are, my prayer for you is to me amazed by the splendor of our God. It’s what Paul writes in Romans 11:33-36,

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” – Romans 11:33–36

The entire letter shares with us that God has revealed the gracious depths of His righteousness to us. 

We see from Romans 1:1-7 that the Apostle Paul is the author of this letter to the house churches in Rome. He wrote this letter in roughly AD 56 during his third missionary journey while he was in Corinth (Italy) on his way to Jerusalem. You have to look at the final chapters to see a few of the reasons why he wrote this letter. He wrote this letter to (1) unite the Jews and Gentiles and (2) raise money for his mission trip to Spain, in which he hoped to stop by to see these brothers and sisters in Rome (Romans 15:24-25). 

It’s really by reading the entirety of the letter that we see why Paul wrote this letter to these Christians: he wanted them to explore the depths of the gospel.

This letter is a gospel treatise, an overflowing fountain of grace and mercy. It is saturated with Gospel goodness. It is rich in Gospel hope. And Paul invites his readers then and his readers now to discover the depths of Christ’s Gospel. Because A heart that has explored the depths of the gospel is a heart that overflows with gospel joy.

Paul encourages to keep going deeper into the endless wells of God’s grace to scrape the barrels dry only to discover it never does run empty. The depths of this gospel of grace that never ends is the theme of the entire letter. Grace upon grace from the God who is rich in grace. Not only is the gospel the central theme of this letter, but it must be the central theme of our lives. And for the gospel to be the central theme in our lives, then we must dive deep. And when we do, we can along with Paul declare, 

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” – Romans 1:16–17

The gospel is Paul’s reason not only for writing, but for living! This gospel message is not just interesting information, but a transforming declaration! As we dive into the depths of God’s righteousness over the next several weeks, I pray the Lord will continue to stir within our hearts an overflowing joy for who He is and all that He has done for us. 

If you missed Sunday’s sermon, be sure to listen to it here.

By His Grace,

Pastor Matt

Marvelous Grace

On our way out of town for vacation, Julie and I took the kids on a slight detour past our first apartment in Knoxville, TN. It was the first time we had been there since we left in a Penske truck back in 2008. It looked just like we remember it. 

We then drove the winding road back towards the highway, a road I traveled quite a bit for classes, work, and church. We drove up the hill where I spun out the winter of my freshman year. I hadn’t learned how to drive in the snow yet. We drove past neighborhoods where our friends used to live, places we used to eat, and stores we used to shop at. Finally, we drove past the college and church I attended for close to four years.

With memories flooding back of the different places and people from those years in Tennessee, there is one word that explains how thankful I am for this short time in my life: grace.

Those four years were quite difficult to say the least. Everyday I fought the legalistic posture of my heart. I was working so hard to please God. I tried doing everything right and still didn’t feel like it was enough. I couldn’t keep the rules of the school the way they were intended to be kept. I was often scrutinized, questioned, and ridiculed. After an accidental rule breaking, I was asked a question that I didn’t have an answer to at the time: “What would Jesus think of you right now?” 

“He’d think I was a failure”, is how I wanted to answer. But I didn’t. I didn’t know at the time how much Jesus truly loved me. It was around this time I realized I was never going to be able to do enough to be good. I was never going to be good enough. I was never going to be righteous. 

Legalism is a deadly weight. It devalues the finished work of Jesus and elevates our filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). It is an unbearable task to earn any favor with God. There is nothing we can do to earn the righteousness of Jesus. No matter how often we keep the rules, no matter how “good” we are, no matter how churchy we appear, legalism is a lie from the pit of hell. Legalism continues to yell, “Do more! Do more! Do more!” while Jesus lovingly declares, “It is finished!”

It had been close to 10 years since I had placed my faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation of my sins, but in the Rocky Mountains of Tennessee, I learned and came to appreciate the grace of Jesus. While I was never going to be able to do enough to be good enough, Jesus did. While I was never going to be righteous, Jesus was and now through His grace, His righteousness covers me (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are so underserving of the grace of Jesus. His grace is truly marvelous.

The good news of Jesus reminds us that we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ. It is faith that pleases the Father (Hebrews 11:6), faith in His Son, Jesus. While our natural tendency given to us from Adam (Genesis 3) is to cover ourselves, there is freedom in knowing that we can’t. Our sin covering, our standing before God, only comes from the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Our joy comes from the victory we have through His resurrection. And none of this was deserving. When we fell short of God’s standard of righteousness, Jesus measured up (Romans 3:23). It is all because of grace. 

As the old hymn says, 

“Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt! Yonder on calvary’s mount out-poured, there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt. Grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within; grace, grace, God’s grace, grace that is greater than all our sin!”

If I were to be asked the question again, “What would Jesus think of you right now?” I’d respond with great joy, “He loves me as His own, not for what I have done, but for all that He has graciously done for me”. And it is this grace of Jesus that frees us to live in obedience to all his commands.

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