We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.
Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. – Romans 3
I read a treatise recently, written by a current well known evangelist from Europe, on what the Gospel really is in their view. While lots of Biblical text was used, I couldn’t help notice that there wasn’t a single use of the word ‘Grace’. Yet for Paul, God’s grace first, and our faith second is the entirety of the Gospel. No other religion contains the word Grace. Could it be simpler?
Last Sunday we spent a glorious few hours in ‘church’, which was actually a smoke-filled apartment with a bunch of ragamuffins, us included. The overwhelming discussion in the room was whether those gathered were ‘good enough’ and each in turn clung onto God by their fingertips. Are you like that today? Sin was confessed as a result, addictions were laid bare and as we listened I was prompted to read this passage in Romans. There is no greater passage to provide assurance that we are saved, not because of anything we do, but because of everything Jesus has done. Reading this, watching those in the room, you get the impression God bypasses the proud in the world, and goes looking for ragamuffins, those who struggle to know whether they are good enough in his sight.
Is it enough though? What about doing something with the faith you have, being obedient to Christ along with all the other things that make up the Gospel?
Well, I don’t believe any of us are that good at loving God in spite of our efforts and what we think. Deep down, we struggle to give him the priority he deserves, and all of us sin to some degree or other. Even Paul wrestled with this, and God reminded him, as he reminds us, that his grace is sufficient.
There is also maturity in the faith that we must consider; some of us have been around the block a few times with God, and in so doing we have a clearer understanding of his expectation of us. We must be careful, especially with ragamuffins that we allow God to be the gardener with his tender green shoots. I have seen and heard far too much recently, of our inclination to put unrealistic demands on others if they aren’t correctly ‘rinsed’ through some process, which is eagerly pointed to in Scripture as being essential for true belief. In so doing, we can crush the spirit of those who are simply unable to comprehend, for whom life started well behind the starting line of most, or for whom life has been derailed because of sin along the way. I’ve never yet met another sinner who isn’t more aware of their shortcomings than they are. Are we to remind them?
I question sometimes whether we think that God does want to save some people, that he will take them as he finds them and love them anyway; we often seem more willing to judge than God, when our expectations are not met. A chapter earlier in Romans, God reminds us that when we believe, his Spirit begins the process of changing our hearts. God does so much of the work in our lives, he alone can change us. Do we get in his way?
Many will attest to the end result of God disciplining us through the years, as he makes us more into the likeness of his Son. It is almost inevitably painful, but as we look back we see how he has drawn us more closely to him, and in course, we have been changed. His, and our expectation of a certain standard changes. Still though, there is grace.
On the streets, in the workplace, wherever you bring Jesus, you will meet people who are at the end. Life is one of an endless cycle which is not easily broken, whatever the cycle is – violence, addiction, depression, mental illness, wrong relationships there are many. God in the person of Jesus treated such people with great care, preferring to minister to them first with his grace. For many, simply understanding and being able to believe that there is somebody in this world who loves them that much is enough to start the change.
When we next come across a ragamuffin in need of some grace, perhaps we can start with what God has done for us through his Son, and how simple faith in that can begin to change our world.
Less of us, more of Him. Amen to that.