Sermon 10.30.2016 Reformation

Reformation Sunday – October 30, 1016

Pastor Don Ninmer - Romans 3:19-28

(20)-“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin...(22-24) - 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...(27-28) - Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. (Romans 3:20, 22-24,27-28)

Dear Children of God: All of you men have heard about the “honey do” list. Right? I am currently about 12 years behind on our list. Many times in our lives we use lists. We look at a list of the remaining football games. Only we don’t call it a list, we call it a schedule. The teacher might give to the students a list of things and projects that they need to accomplish in the semester.

When I went to work at a restaurant (I was a short order cook) there was always a list from Lamar my boss. When things were slow at the restaurant, we always had a list of things to do. Often on top of the list was: Clean the bathrooms. A church or school often has a wish list. People make shopping lists. And so we could go on and on. We often live our lives according to lists. As we get older, these lists become more important. Today they are often kept on the computer. Do you have a list of things that you want to do?

Let us suppose that when you came into church today the ushers would have handed you a list. It would not be a list that deals with your daily schedule. It would not be a list of the games of the Badgers that are televised. The top of the list would say: Things that YOU need to do to get to heaven. What do you think would be on that list?

Well I would guess that the list would include things like this: You must do so many good works. You must repeat so many prayers. You must make a pilgrimage to a certain part of the world to earn God’s favor. You must give a certain amount of money to receive forgiveness for a certain amount of sins.

Or imagine this: You are attending the funeral of a loved one who believed in Jesus. At the funeral the pastor said: Your loved one may have believed in Jesus, but that is not enough. He still has to suffer in fire to receive the full forgiveness of sins. You have to do certain things to help get him out of that fire. Even though he confessed Jesus with his last breath, we don’t know if he is in heaven or hell, or somewhere in between for thousands of years.

What if I told you that Jesus died for all of our sins, but you can never be sure of complete forgiveness? You still have to work to earn the grace of God. That is the situation that Martin Luther faced in the world and in the church at the time of the Reformation. People were never sure that their sins were forgiven and that they were going to heaven.

Praise God that we know the truth. Thank God that he used people like Martin Luther and the other reformers to restore the truth of the Gospel to the world. Today we remember again that if there is one single book of the Bible that we could point to which was responsible for getting Luther to see the truth of God’s Word, it is St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

Paul there shows the purpose of God’s Law: Therefore no one will be declared righteousness in God’s sight by the works of the law. That is clear, is it not? You cannot earn your salvation. You cannot be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law. Well, what good is the law then? Paul says: rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. When we look at God’s Law, when we see what God demands of us, we realize that we have broken all of the Commandments. We know that we could never begin to pay for even a small part of our redemption and we could certainly not pay for all of our sins.

Just in case we missed the point, he says in verse 22 & 23: There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. How many people have sinned? – ALL! It makes no difference who you are or what you are, all are people who have sinned. Thus they fall short of the glory of God who demands perfection.

So it is that Paul asks the question: Where, then is boasting? He answers his own question: It is excluded. We cannot stand before God and tell Him how great we are. We cannot tell Him why He has to let us into heaven. Boasting about our works is excluded. Just in case we missed the point he says: For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. Do you see that? A person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

Paul also says: This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ...all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that comes by Christ Jesus. There is only one person who could earn our salvation. We are not that person. Paul says: God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of His blood.

So it is that we humbly confess that it is the blood of Jesus which paid for our sins. It is His sacrifice on the cross that washed our sins away. Jesus alone is our only hope of salvation. That is why Paul would say: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Galatians 6:14) and: For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

Praise God that we today know what it took Martin Luther so long to understand. Praise God that the Holy Spirit worked in him to see the light. The light is nothing more than this: Jesus died for our sins. He paid for every one of them on the cross. We do good things out of love for Jesus, but we can never earn our salvation by our own works. As an added bonus, the Holy Spirit has given us faith in Jesus.

So what would you say if the ushers handed you a list of things to do to earn salvation. You would hand it back to them and tell them: Jesus already paid for my sins. Now I do good things to show how much I love Him. Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.