Passage: Mark 7:14–7:23
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Romans 5:1-8
Date: March 19th; Lent 3; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
In our Epistle lesson this morning we heard a word that is of utmost importance for our lives as Christians - and that word is “justified”.
In fact, this word is so important for our lives as Christians, that it was the key issue in the Reformation of the Church.
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul said, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
We have been justified by faith. What does this mean?
Well, because of the sinful nature that we are born with - we are unjust. We don’t live our lives according to God’s will.
We don’t keep God first in our lives, but replace him with ourselves and our own selfish desires.
We don't love our neighbour as ourselves, but we are turned inward and our inclination is to “look out for number one!”
Jesus gives a clear diagnosis of how truly unjust we are when he said, "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21-23).
I know this isn't much fun to talk about, but it is necessary if we are to fully understand what it means to be “justified”.
We are sinners. We are unjust.
Because of our sinful nature, and the sinful things we do, we stand guilty before God and we deserve to hear him speak to us words of condemnation and punishment.
But instead, because God is merciful and gracious, because God loves you - he says, “You’re justified.”
He declares you, “Not guilty!’’
To be justified means that you are declared innocent.
To be justified means that you are set free from your sin and the punishment it deserves.
And, as we heard in our reading from Romans, being justified not only means that you escape from God’s wrath, but it also means that your relationship with God is reconciled. It is restored.
Again, St. Paul said, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).
As God’s justified and redeemed people we not only escape the eternal punishment we deserve, but because of what Christ Jesus accomplished for us - we have peace with God. We have joy. We have certain hope.
Now, being justified certainly doesn’t mean that everything is going to be rosy in this life.
We are going to continue in our struggle with sin and we are going to fail.
We are going to continue to suffer hardships in our lives - maybe financial struggles, pain in our relationships, injuries and illnesses, the devastation of death.
But St. Paul reminds us that as God’s people, “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).
We are able to have joy, peace, and hope in the midst of our sufferings because we know that God has given us victory over them.
He has promised to see us through our sufferings. They are temporary. And it is for this reason that we are able to rejoice - even when we face difficulties.
This is the Good News of what it means to be justified!
And St. Paul also shares with us in his letter to the Romans how it is that we are justified.
We are justified - by faith.
In the letter to the Hebrews we learn that, “…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Faith is a gift from God, a gift given through the Holy Spirit, that receives all that Christ accomplished for you.
You are justified by faith.
But sometimes it doesn’t feel like or look that way in our lives, does it?
We are tempted to believe that we have to straighten things out and get our act together before we can be justified before God.
But the truth is we can’t.
We can never be good enough or do enough to justify ourselves before God.
We can’t clean ourselves up to the point where we become strong enough, or worthy enough, or godly enough to earn our justification.
In fact, St. Paul tells us that it is while we were still weak that Christ died for the ungodly.
It is while we were still weak that Christ died for you and me.
Jesus died for you and declares to you, “You are not guilty. You are innocent. You are holy and righteous. You and I are reconciled. Your relationship with me is restored.”
Faith believes and receives God’s promise. Faith trusts his Word.
Hear again some of the greatest words in the entire Bible, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
The whole point of Jesus’ coming into this world to live a perfect life, to suffer and die on the cross, to rise from his grave - was to bring us reconciliation. To bring peace between God and you. To justify you.
It’s a fact that life on this planet is not always easy for us.
We have health issues that bring us pain and worry. We worry over our loved ones. We feel stress over money and how we are going to survive. We experience fear and anxiety as we see what is going on in the world around us.
But we can deal with the stuff that life throws at us because God has given us a great hope for our future - in this life and for the life that is to come.
The hope that God has given us for what’s ahead changes our perspective as we endure sorrow, suffering, and pain in this life.
And hope here is not the same as hoping that the weather is going to warm this spring, or hoping that the Saskatchewan Roughriders are going to win the Grey Cup this year.
The hope that God has given us is a certain hope that is grounded in faith. It is the grace in which we stand.
When Paul says we have hope, it’s a sure and certain thing!
God made your justification certain when he claimed you in the waters of your Baptism.
He strengthens you in your faith and in your Christian life as he feeds you with his true body and true blood.
We are justified by faith.
I mentioned at the beginning of the sermon that the word justified was the key issue for the Reformation.
And as we celebrate this year the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, it continues to be the key issue for the Church today.
In fact, it is often said that the truth of justification by faith is the article on which the Church either stands or falls.
We stand on the truth that in Christ we are reconciled with God.
We stand on the truth that we are justified by faith.
And because we are justified by faith, we have the sure and certain hope that our sins are forgiven, that we have peace with God, and that we have the gift of eternal life. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.