Are you trying hard to follow all the rules, hoping that somehow God will save you because of your effort?
Or do you believe that your salvation is based on who you are? Your heritage, your religion, your skin color, or your political persuasion?
Maybe you believe that you are excluded from God's salvation, either by what you have done, or by who you are.
Last week, Reverend Singleton began a series of sermons based on the book of Romans called "God's Plan of Salvation." Last week's sermon, "Necessity for Universal Salvation," alerted us to the fact that we live in a lawless world. This week, she went on to tell us how a lawless world can be saved!
The scripture for this week was Romans 3:21-31. This scripture asserts that there is one God, of both the Jews and the gentiles. The word "gentiles" is sometimes translated "heathens". It basically means everybody who is not Jewish. So in essence, there is one God over everyone. And because of this, everyone can be saved!
Reverend Singleton talked about two important "church words:" justification, and sanctification. The first one, justification, means being declared righteous by God. Righteous, in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is defined as "free from guilt or sin." So, being justified means being declared guiltless or sinless by God. When this is done, it is done, and it doesn't depend on our actions, but on God's grace in forgiving us. The second word, sanctification, means being set aside for God. This is a continuous process, through which we live according to God's will.
Another word she talked about was sin. We tend to think of sin as things we do wrong, but it is really a breach of relationship with God. And, as with any relationship, it is up to the parties involved to mend the breach. In this case, God has already restored the relationship. There is not really anything we can do to make it up to him. The Law of Moses had a whole lot of rules and regulations, and punishments if you broke them. If you want to see what I mean, check out the book of Leviticus. This is a list of rules that the Jewish priests were in charge of enforcing for the people, and they were very specific and very difficult. Breaking many of them could only be made up for by bringing animals to the priests to sacrifice, or from the death of the person who committed the offense!
The problem was that these sacrifices didn't "stick." They had to be made over and over again, every time a sin was committed. So, the law could not save anyone. The good news is that instead of a law that cannot save, God supplied a Savior who could. "This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith" (Romans 3:22-25a). 1 John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
Do you see? It is nothing we do. It is only through faith. Merriam-Webster has a lot of definitions for faith, but the one I like is "complete trust." In return, God is completely faithful to us. He will work in us, and through us, if we will only let go of our own past, and accept that God has justified us, and will continue to sanctify us.
Please enjoy one of my favorite songs from Casting Crowns: East to West. It is based on Psalm 103:12 - as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Through Jesus Christ, you have been justified, if only you will believe it. And through Jesus Christ, you can live a sanctified life, and be all that God created you to be. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us at the Second Baptist Church of Dover. We would love to help you become free in Jesus Christ!