Sunday Sermon: ‘Justice, Grace and God’s Forgiveness’

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David Jeremiah tells the story of a young woman by the name of Victoria whose life was forever changed one cold November evening back in the year 2004. She was returning from her fourteen year old niece’s vocal recital and was almost home. She doesn’t know if she even noticed the oncoming silver Nissan approaching her.

Earlier that evening, the occupants of the Nissan had broken into a car and stolen a MasterCard. The six young people then charged almost $4oo in DVD’s and video games. They were caught on tape as they used the card at a local grocery story as they used the card to buy among other things, a 20 lb. frozen turkey.

At 12:30 a.m. their path crossed with the path of Victoria in a bizarre and life-changing manner. Victoria doesn’t remember the teenage boy leaning out the back window, nor does she remember the 20 lb. turkey crashing into her windshield, bending the steering wheel inward and crushing every bone in her face. The blow knocked her unconscious and caused significant brain injury. It took an eight-hour surgery to try to reconstruct her face, including four titanium plates that were inserted and a synthetic film used to help hold her eye in place.

The six young people were caught and brought to court. All pleaded guilty except the eighteen year old named Ryan who had been the one who threw the frozen turkey. Ryan pleaded not-guilty to the charge against him, which carried a maximum sentence of twenty-five years in prison.

Nine months after the tragic accident, Ryan and Victoria met for the first time in the courtroom. Victoria was still undergoing therapy for rehabilitation, yet she walked unattended into the courtroom.

On that day, Ryan pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and received a sentence of less than six months of incarceration and five years’ probation. How could such an injustice happen? How could someone who had committed such a senseless crime get off so easy?

The plea bargain came at the request of Victoria. After Ryan pleaded guilty, he was guided by his lawyer to approach Victoria. She threw her arms around the sobbing boy, stroked his hair, and whispered in his ear that she forgave him, that she loved him, and that she wanted the best for his life.

As you might imagine, everyone in the courtroom, including the attorneys, choked up with tears at such an act of love and forgiveness. The New York Times recorded it as ‘A Moment of Grace.’ [1]

This morning I want to talk to you about ‘Justice, Grace, and God’s Forgiveness.’ The first thing I want us to consider is what we call ‘justice.’

I. Justice

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…

Notice that God is displaying His wrath, not because He is mean or vindictive, or because He is just in a bad mood. God is displaying His wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.

The word ‘wrath’ means a display of anger meant for punishment. The Bible teaches us that one day, mankind is going to stand before God and give an account for the way they have live. The Bible says that every man “will be judged according to their works.”  (Revelation 20)

A. God’s Judgment Concerning the Ungodly

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness…

The term ‘ungodliness’ refers to a lack of reverence and respect for God as our Creator. It comes from the Greek word for worship, with a negative placed in front of it. Therefore to be ungodly means to fail to worship God. God is going to judge those who willfully and defiantly refuse to acknowledge Him as their Creator. Notice what Paul says –

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

 Notice that God manifests Himself ‘in them.’ Every person who is born has an inward sense of knowing that there is a God. Paul goes on to write –

20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Not only do people see God inwardly, they see God outwardly. The wonder of creation tells us that there has to be a Creator.

21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…

We believe that the Bible teaches us that God takes care of a child who dies before what many call the ‘age of accountability.’ In other words, children are not held accountable by God for their sins, and especially their rejection of Him, until they reach a certain age. What that age is no one knows and no doubt it varies from child to child, depending upon their Christian upbringing.

There are a couple of reasons why we believe in this. The term ‘age of accountability’ is not found in the Bible. Yet the Bible tells us of a time when David lost a son at birth. David said, “he will not return to me, but I will go to him…” (2 Samuel 12:23) indicating that David expected to see his son someday in heaven.

There’s a second reason why we believe this. Paul indicates in this passage that those who will be sentenced to spend eternity in hell will do so because they have willfully rejected Him and His salvation. Paul tells us that God has:

1. Revealed Himself to Man Through Creation

Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Though creation doesn’t tell us everything we need to know about God and salvation, it reveals to us that there is an awesome Creator.

2. Revealed Himself to Man Through the Human Conscience

Romans 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

Even the person living in the deepest, darkest part of Africa has the witness of God through creation and his own conscience.

The Bible also teaches us that God will judge and punish each individual according to the amount of revelation that has been given to them. Jesus said that some will be beaten with many stripes and some will be beaten with few stripes, depending upon what God has revealed to them. (see Luke 12:47-48) Therefore the worst sin a person can commit is the willful rejection of God and His salvation. Notice again verse 18 –

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;  

 The phrase, ‘who hold the truth in unrighteousness’ means to willfully suppress the truth. It refers to those, who although they recognize that there is a God, they choose to willfully reject Him so that they might hold onto their sin.

 B. God’s Judgment of the Unrighteous

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…

In the verses that follow, Paul teaches us that there is a downward spiral many take into spiritual darkness.

1. God Gives Them Up to Their Own Lusts

24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves…   

 The term, ‘God gave them up’ means that God delivers them into the hands of another. This is not something that God is placing on them. Instead it means that He is withdrawing His influence upon their lives and letting them have their own way. God said in the book of Genesis that His Spirit would not always ‘strive’ with men. (see Genesis 6:3) The word ‘strive’ means to plead or contend. Though sometimes people wish that God would leave them alone, the worst thing that can happen to us is for God to leave us alone. If God ever stops convicting you of your sin, you’re in big trouble.

This downward spiral into spiritual darkness begins with God delivering us up to our own lusts. But it doesn’t end there.

2. God Gives Them Up to Shameful Passions

Romans 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections:  (Shameful passions) for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly…  (Shameful)

This is horrible, yet the spiral goes even deeper.

3. God Gives Them Up to Total Depravity

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, (a mind that becomes so sinful, it is completely rejected by God) to do those things which are not convenient…

We sometimes wonder why people commit some of the hideous crimes we hear and read about. No doubt much of it is because God has given these individuals over to a reprobate mind.        

29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, (inhumane) implacable, (heartless) unmerciful:

                      And now we come to the bottom –

32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.   

In other words, “I’m going to hell and I don’t care…”

These troubling verses are in the Bible to teach us that this is the fallen condition of man and therefore God is just in judging us. Justice is God dealing justly with those who have sinned against Him.

I am thankful to tell you that this is not all that’s in the Bible. Go with me to Romans chapter 3 –

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

The title of today’s message is – ‘Justice, Grace and God’s Forgiveness.’

II. Grace, and God’s Forgiveness

A. We All Are Guilty

First we see that all are guilty before God.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…

Paul tells us in verse 10 – “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one…”  The word ‘righteous’ means to be right with God. There is no one, in and of themselves, right with God. We all have in some way sinned against Him. Therefore we all deserve to be judged.

 B. Yet, God Graciously Offers Us His Forgiveness

Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace…

 1. Justified

Forgiveness in the eyes of God means more than overlooking an offense. The word forgiveness actually means to send away. The Bible says that God sends our sins as far away as the east is from the west. Someone has said that He buries our sins in the sea of forgetfulness.

What does the term ‘justification’ mean?

a. “Just As If I Had Never Sinned”

When I was a boy growing up, my pastor used to tell us that the simplest definition of the word ‘justified’ is – “JUST AS IF I HAD NEVER SINNED.” The words ‘justified’ and ‘righteous’ come from the same word. They both mean to be perfectly right and pure. When God declares someone to be justified and forgiven, He is saying that they are now as righteous as He is Himself. How can a God, who is holy and just, legally declare sinful men to be righteous?

b. Justified Freely

Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace…

The first thing Paul wants us to see is that God’s justification of sinners is not based upon anything they can do. The father of the prodigal son did not tell his son to go take a bath, put on clean clothes, and then come so that they could talk. He immediately embraced his son in his filthy state and clothed him with the best robe.

The Bible says that we are ‘justified freely.’ The opportunity to be forgiven of all our sins is a free gift that God offers to us. Yet, though the gift is free to us, God had to pay a price.

2. By His Grace

Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace…

The word ‘grace’ is probably the most misunderstood word in all the Bible. That’s true not only of those who don’t know God, but it’s also true of many who do. What does the word grace mean?

Grace means that God shows us His kind favor, even though we don’t deserve it. Some define grace as God’s unmerited favor. How has God been able to show us His unmerited favor?

Some think that grace is like a big rug or blanket that covers our sins. In other words, when God shows us His grace, He sweeps our sins under the rug.

Yet that’s not what the Bible teaches us about grace. Though grace is free to us, it has a price.

Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

3. Through the Redemption That is in Christ Jesus

God’s grace is not God winking at our sins. God’s grace is God judging His Son in our place. To put it in very simple terms, grace is God finding justice for the sins we have committed through the punishment of Jesus, rather than sentencing us to spend eternity in hell.

Paul tells us that God’s grace comes to us ‘through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.’

Forgiveness is free to us, but it cost God more than we can imagine. The price God paid for our forgiveness was the death of His own Son.

 a. Whom God Made to be a Sacrifice for Our Sins

Romans 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation…

Pastor Bruce did a wonderful job last week helping us to understand why Jesus had to die on the cross. Jesus became our propitiation. What does the term propitiation mean? To put this word in the context of today’s message, we could say that Christ became our propitiation when He gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins. When He did this, He satisfied His Father’s need for justice.

Justice is that all have sinned and therefore we all deserve to be punished. Christ became our propitiation when He died in our place. God the Father poured out upon His Son the just wrath that we deserve.

b. When We Place Our Faith in His Blood

Romans 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood

Two thousand years ago, God’s Son died as a substitute for us. John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) John the Apostle wrote, “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) The Bible says that it is God’s will that “all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4) Salvation is for ‘whosoever will.’ Whosoever will what? Salvation is for whosoever will put their faith and trust in the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

III. How Does Justice, Grace and God’s Forgiveness Come Together?

How does God’s justice, grace and forgiveness come together? They come together in the sacrificial death of His Son.

Romans 3:26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 

Only by crucifying His only begotten Son can a just God be justified to forgive sinful men.

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[1] David Jeremiah Sermon, ‘The Captivating Presence of Grace’ part 1, March 30, 2017  http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/turning-point/listen/the-captivating-presence-of-grace-part-1-583583.html

 

 

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