The 3rd Sunday of Lent March 3, 2013
500, 342, 372, 376
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
In the name of Jesus Christ who said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you,” (John 14:27) dear fellow-redeemed:
One of the most peaceful spots I can remember from my youth was a concrete platform in the backyard of Professor James Pelzl’s house. He was a science teacher at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, WI and he used to take his astronomy students over to his place for an evening of stargazing. He had a powerful telescope that was great for looking at the moon and the constellations, but what really set it apart was the special platform he built for it. It was a solid concrete slab two feet thick, solid as a rock, so the telescope wouldn’t vibrate or move in the slightest. The platform was exactly oriented to the compass, so you always knew in which direction you were looking. On those balmy autumn nights in Wisconsin, it was the perfect platform from which to spend a peaceful hour studying the wonders of God’s universe.
Peace is something that is in notoriously short supply these days. Conflicts rage around the world. Arab countries are rising in revolt across the middle east. Our own country, already fighting two costly and extended wars, is assisting Syrian rebels. Closer to home, each of us has personal struggles to contend with—hard times, trials and tribulations that at times can make even the life of a Christian seem anything but peaceful. Have you been feeling that way lately? Are you feeling like you have no peace? Do you feel like you can’t get anything else done because your life is in a constant turmoil? Take heart! Paul has great news for you: Christ Provides A PERMANENT PLATFORM OF PEACE I. Resting on Him, you gain access to God’s grace, II. Resting on Him, you can glory even in tribulations, and III. Resting on Him, you will see your hope fulfilled.
The Book of Romans is all about righteousness. The key verse may well be Romans 1:7: “The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’”
To be justified before God and live eternally you need righteousness. The first four chapters of Romans talk about what true righteousness is—namely, the perfect righteousness of God Himself. The first four chapters also speak of how to get this righteousness—namely, through faith in Jesus Christ.
In chapter five, Paul goes on to describe what kind of life that Christian faith produces. You notice by reading the text that the picture Paul paints of the Christian life is not one of stress and sorrow, of confusion and chaos. It is just the opposite. Summing up his first four chapters, Paul says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [v.1]
Adam and Eve, because of their sin, were cast out of their beautiful, green garden. We who have inherited their sin would be eternal outcasts if God in His grace had not invited us back through His Son, Jesus Christ. As Paul says a little later in this chapter, “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).
Amid the chaos and wickedness of this world, a world that is drawing ever closer to the fearful judgment of the Last Day, we Christians live in a sort of oasis. It is a lush green garden of peace for Christ provides a permanent platform for peace. Let’s talk about why. First of all, resting on Him, you gain access to God’s grace. Our text says that through Christ we also “…have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” [v.2]
It’s great to have access, isn’t it? It’s nice to have the membership card that gets you into the big discount store, the pass that admits you to the VIP lounge, or the ticket that entitles you to sit in first class on the airplane. Well, faith is what gives you access to God’s grace. The receiving organ through which God gives you His grace is your Spirit-worked faith—not faith in yourself, not faith in some general sense, but faith in Christ. When you rest your confidence on Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation, you’re resting on the Rock! You can be as confident as the Psalmist was when he wrote, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2).
What is the greatest peace of all? William Shakespeare said “A peace above all earthly dignities, is a still and quiet conscience.” The greatest peace is the inner peace we experience when that raging voice of a guilty conscience is stilled by the gentle voice of our Savior, who says, “Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2). This is the inner peace to which we have access through faith in Christ.
You’re resting on Christ, the platform of peace. It means you have access to God’s grace, but it also means something else. It means that, resting on Him, you can glory even in tribulations. Paul says, “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations.” [vv.2b-3]
Do you glory in your tribulations? I’m just asking. When you’re confronted with things that are painful and difficult in your life, are you grateful to God for those trials? Do you thank Him for sending them into your life to strengthen you, and then cheerfully place your trust in Him to resolve them? Don’t worry, I won’t ask for a show of hands. Because if you’re like me, you have to confess that you’re not always cheerful and trusting in the face of crisis. Often we’re found whining and complaining, saying “Why me?” and even questioning the will of God. So often, I’m afraid, Jesus’ words apply to us: “O you of little faith!” (cf. Matthew 6:30 et. al.)
It doesn’t have to be that way. Remember today’s text: “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [v.1] Christ gives you a permanent platform of peace—a platform from which you can view life’s troubles in a totally different light. In fact, by faith you can see that having tribulation in your life is evidence, not of God’s hatred, but of His love for you! “For whom the LORD loves He chastens,” God says in the Bible, “and scourges every son whom He receives …Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:6,9). Afterward comes…peace!
Not only is tribulation in your life evidence of God’s love for you, you should also understand that it’s a necessary part of your spiritual growth. In other words, God intends these trials—painful as they may be—to turn out for your good, for the strengthening of your faith. Paul says, “We glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” [vv.3-4]
Needless to say, if you can glory even in your tribulations, you’re in a good place! If you get to the point in your life as a Christian where you can view even the bad things and the painful things, as gifts from God meant to strengthen your faith, then you will have come a long way toward a truly happy, and contented, and peaceful life!
But there’s a third reason, too, that Christ provides a permanent platform of peace. It is because resting on Him, you will see your hope fulfilled. Paul goes on, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” [v.5]
Hope does not disappoint. So many things disappoint us in life, isn’t it true? All our painstakingly-crafted plans that never quite seem to work out. Friends who let us down, goals you work hard to achieve, only to see them slip away unfulfilled. So many things can disappoint us, but one thing will never disappoint us—the hope we have in Jesus Christ. Here we have to remember what the Biblical word “hope” means. It means a confident expectation. Saying that our hope is in Christ does not mean, “Oh, I hope my sins are forgiven…” or, “I hope I get to Heaven one day, but I’m not too sure…” No, Christ is our permanent platform of peace. For as Paul told the Corinthians, “All the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
Many things in life disappoint, but not our hope in Christ. There are many people who hope that Hell is just a myth, that Judgment Day will never arrive, and that there is no God who will hold them accountable for their sins. But our hope—our certain confidence—is in Jesus Christ. Our hope is based on fact, not wishful thinking. The evidence, Paul says, is right here inside us: “…because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
The Holy Spirit created faith in your heart through the Word of God. Your hope of everlasting life is not a wish or a hunch or a gut feeling. It can’t be, because it rests on a platform more solid than slab of concrete—the atoning work of Christ on the cross. Or to put it in the words of the beloved hymn:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
It was a meteorology professor of mine who once pointed out that stillness is an illusion—you are always in motion, whether you realize it or not. Even sitting in your easy chair at home you’re moving—and real fast, too! If you take into account the earth’s rotation on its axis, you are going 700 miles an hour. If you consider the earth’s orbit around the sun you’re going 67,000 miles an hour, and in view of our solar system’s rotation around the center of the Milky Way, you’re actually moving at a rate of over half a million miles an hour!
Scientists say there’s nothing in the universe that isn’t moving. You and I would disagree. We’ve learned from God’s Word that, no matter how fast world events change around us, no matter what turmoil may arise to disturb and upset us in our personal lives, Christ provides a permanent platform of peace. Resting on Him, we gain access to God’s grace. Resting on Him, we can glory even in tribulations; and resting on Him, we will see all our hopes fulfilled, when He takes us to be with Himself in the eternal mansions of Heaven.
Where can peace be found?
In the Cross of Christ I glory,
towering o’er the wrecks of time.
All the light of sacred story
gathers round its head sublime.
Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure,
by the Cross are sanctified;
PEACE IS THERE that knows no measure,
Joys that through all time abide. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.