One of the most important questions you can ask about anything, especially a faith claim, is whether it’s true or not. One of the purposes for Luke providing “an orderly account” is that we “may have certainty concerning the things” we “have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4).
The theme of Luke is: The joyful news that God’s anticipated Messiah-King has come to seek and save sinners, and this salvation is available to all who respond in faith, whatever their past life, social status, or ethnicity.
This sermon gives an overview of the Gospel According to Luke where he proves the expanded kingdom of the Savior King (1) is for all people, (2) has no ethnic or geographic boundaries, and (3) was the reason Jesus came to the earth.
As believers, we have a hope (confident expectation) in how things are going to end. Or even better, how the end of redemptive history is the beginning of an even better story! The Apostle John is writing to real people gathered as real churches (Rev 2-3). They are about to experience a brutal persecution under the reign of the Roman Emperor, Domitian. Revelation is intended to give Christians hope. So how does he encourage believers who are about to suffer? By providing them with a beautiful promise from God of a new heaven, earth, and city of God. A place where "death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (Rev 21:4). Everything will be new (21:5a), it is certain (21:6), we will be completely satisfied (21:6b), and we will be God’s sons (21:7).
In Romans 3:27-4:8 justification by faith is contrasted against boasting. The problem is that everyone wants to boast in themselves or to receive praise and accolades from others to have courage and confidence for the battlefield of life. This internal thirst for affirmation isn't necessarily bad. What's bad are all of the godless ways we go about trying to satisfy this internal thirst. If justification by faith excludes human boasting, then what can we boast in? The answer is Jesus. Self-centered boasting or the praise of others can't be compared to the roaring approval of God given to all who are united to God through faith in Jesus.
In Romans 3:21-26 we find several different terms that help explain the gospel.
1. Righteousness (3:21, 22, 25, 26). This term describes right conduct in relation to God and others. It means, “fulfilling our obligations.”
2. Redemption (3:24). The word redeem means “to buy out.” It can also mean deliverance or riddance. The term was used specifically in reference to the purchase of a slave’s freedom.
3. Propitiation (3:25). This term carries the idea of appeasement or satisfaction, specifically toward God. Propitiation is a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of God and the restoration of a close and safe relationship with Him.
4. Faith (3:22, 25, 26). Faith is belief, trust, and confidence.
5. Justified/Just/Justifier (3:24, 26). A legal term meaning "declared righteous."
Romans 3 makes this stunning declaration, "No one seeks God; no one does good, not even one.” How does that hit you? Our heart reaction will expose whether we live by the law (justifying ourselves) or by grace (justified by God as a gift of grace).
We’re looking at the storyline of the Bible. Rather than the Bible being a connection of disconnected stories, or a collection of moralistic lessons, it’s a single storyline that tells us (1) what’s wrong with the human race, (2) what God has done about it, and (3) how it’s all going to turn out in the end.
Listen to the following sermon about the good news of what God has done about what’s wrong with the human race.
In the first two chapters of Romans, Paul recounts the human dilemma in a profound way. While we might like to turn the chapter and focus on the good news, Paul instead reiterates the problem. Everyone sins, and all are responsible for their sin – religious (Jew), irreligious (Gentile), the churched (those with God’s Law), the unchurched (those without God’s Law). In chapter 2, Paul highlights a less obvious form of sin; hypocrisy and moral superiority that judges others while committing the same sins (Rom 2:1). Are you presuming on God’s patience and kindness, reasoning that your sin (even sin in the heart) is not a problem (Rom 2:4)? Are you relying on religious acts or religious status for righteousness before God (Rom 2:17-24)?
Jesus Christ is the only one who fulfilled the law perfectly. Every person desperately needs His righteousness to stand before God on judgment day. Christ’s righteousness (the righteousness of God) is made available, for free, through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe (Rom 3:21-22).
Something is clearly wrong with the human race. There is daily evidence provided in our world, our homes, and our churches. The Bible’s clear and single answer is sin. Sin is deadly and deceptive, but it will ultimately be defeated. Whereas Abel’s blood cried out to God from the ground condemning Cain’s murderous anger (Genesis 4:10), Jesus’ blood “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24). Jesus’ blood cries out to the Father “mercy, forgiveness, pardon, cleansing, and salvation to all who believe.”
There are three trees that explain redemptive history.
- The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: This tree presented a choice. Genesis 2:9 says that "out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."
- The Tree of Life: (Genesis 2:9; Revelation 22:2). This tree also represents a choice, because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
- The Tree of Christ: Galatians 3:13 says, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree." We need the third tree. It also represents a choice (Romans 10:8-10).
Even though we have been created in the image of God, something is wrong. Somehow the image of God in humanity has been marred, even shattered. The Muslim, Atheist, Hindu, Buddhist, irreligious, and all of humanity recognize something is wrong. Wars continue, racism is rampant, hate crimes cover the earth, and criminals run free. Even in our own hearts we find discontent, greed, jealousy, dissatisfaction, anger, slander, and a hundred other stains. What went wrong? Genesis helps answer that question. It also points us to the remedy — a good news promise (Genesis 3:15).
What does it mean to be made in God’s image, to be created in His likeness (Genesis 1:26-27)? Every person, born and unborn, gives a particular and unique likeness to God. The word for “image” (Hebrew, tselem) has the meaning of something that is carved or cut out. What are the implications of this truth? The image of God matters for identity, value, the sanctity of life, self image, gender, work, purpose in life, and the need for a re-creation of the shattered image.
The single story line of the Bible moves from creation to the fall, from the devastation caused by sin to the rescue and the redemption accomplished by Jesus, and it finishes with the complete restoration of all things at the end. This amazing story begins in Genesis 1:1 with, "In the beginning, God..." In John 1 we see hints of the creation account picked up where we learn, "In the beginning, God is love." These two truths have profound implications for understanding who we are and how we fit into the story of the world.
Like Adam and Eve, all boys and girls are created by the direct act of God and in His image (Genesis 1:26). As such, they have great value. The first Adam who failed points to the last Adam who was perfect, Jesus Christ. Genesis answers four basic questions:
- Where do I come from? (the question of origins).
- Who am I? (the question of significance).
- Why is the world in such a mess? (the question of evil).
- Is there a future? (the question of purpose and destiny).
Christ’s evaluation of the church matters most. Christ evaluates seven real churches, at real locations, made up of real people. What does Jesus value? There is a mix of affirmations and rebukes that form Jesus’ assessment of these churches. For example, neither love-deficient doctrinal purity (Ephesus) nor apathetic self-sufficiency (Laodicea) are affirmed by God. However, both a faithful witness amidst suffering (Smyrna) and faithful service (Philadelphia) do receive his affirmation.
When you evaluate a church, what do you look at? Do your values and assessments align with Christ's who is the exalted Son of God, the slain Lamb who purchased the church with his own blood, and the Head (leader) of the church? God evaluates his church through a very different lens than the one we often use.
Does your church pass the test?
First, in Matthew 16:18, Jesus said he would build his church (his community of called-out people). He is the architect and he engineers its growth. It’s an indestructible community, for he said, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Christ’s church has something to do with life and death, and the good news of rescue both locally and globally. But how does Jesus build his church?
Second, Ephesians 4:11-16 is a single sentence with a subject and a verb. Christ (the subject) gave (the verb) something to the church, and those gifts are to result in its growth. The emphasis of Jesus and Ephesians 4, and therefore the emphasis of verbally gifted leaders, is love and unity (John 13:34-35; Ephesians 4:2-3, 15-16). Doctrine certainly matters (Ephesians 4:4-6), but love-deficient doctrinal separatism was rebuked in the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7).
Church growth is not really a secret. Jesus said, “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
God gifted every believer to serve for His glory. That is what we are designed for, and one of our purposes in life. Most will not “preach the word,” but everyone should be using their gift to build up the body of Christ, the church (1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 1 Peter 4:10-11). How are you using your gift? If you’re not serving, but only attending, let us help you know the joy of serving Christ’s body that gathers as Highlands. Every member ministering nurtures a healthy gospel culture. This fall we will have a Ministry Fair to help make you aware of the variety of opportunities to serve.
There are no spectators in the church. Spectators become critics. If a spectator’s team is having a losing season they can quickly become dispirited and bitter. Let’s encourage one another with this — every member ought to be serving somehow and somewhere for God’s glory, “Then each one will receive his commendation from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5).