This is always a stressful Sunday to preach.
Every four years America is blessed to be able to vote.
Every four years America is blessed to be able to elect a president.
And every four years, there is a Sunday service a few days beforehand.
And this year…
Unless Facebook is deceiving me…
It appears that people are expecting me to preach one of two sermon themes today:
If you don’t vote for Trump, you don’t stand with God.
If you don’t vote for Biden, you don’t stand with God.
Try as I might…
I couldn’t find a Biblical text to support either one of those sermon themes…
Rather than tell you how to vote to stand with God.
Scripture asks a much more pertinent question.
How do you know God stands with YOU?
Friends, this is the sermon you need to hear today. Before we, a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth. Your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; and open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Standing Before God
The Scripture that describes how to stand with God on your side comes from Romans 5:1
“Having been justified…we have peace with God.”
The word used for “peace” here is the word commonly used to describe peace between warring nations. In this event, the leadership gets together and signs a treaty that says:
We are no longer fighting.
I will no longer try to stab you with my sword.
I will no longer try to shoot you with my musket.
I will no longer stand against you.
Because I will now stand with you.
Now I am on your side.
Is there anything better than the peace-filled pledge of the Creator?
The One who controls volcanos? On our side.
The One who controls 55mph winds? On our side.
The One who knows the cure for COVID? On our side.
So how do we get this peace accord?
According to this text, if you’d like peace with God you only need to do one thing, that is, to simply be “justified.”
Have you seen this word before?
This is a courtroom term. It’s a word used by judges to announce the verdict of a case.
If the person is guilty, the judge slams his gavel and declares that person “guilty” or “condemned.”
If the defendant is not guilty, the judge slams his gavel and declares that person “not guilty” or “justified.”
In this scenario, God is the judge.
If you can prove your innocence to him, he will join your side.
Do you have enough emails documenting your kindness to coworkers?
Or a couple you might need to delete?
Do you have enough photos on Instagram properly documenting how great of a mother you are?
Or do you think you’ll have to doctor up the fake smiles just a bit more?
Do you know enough people who can support your claim that you are “innocent?”
Or are you gonna need to offer a few bribes? Maybe even to your wife?
One of the challenges with my newfound fatherhood is trying to get my daughter to take her medicine. In the first days of having her with us, she refused to take it.
I haven’t tasted it. But based on the smell (a mixture of dirt and banana peel), I can understand why.
So, we hide it.
We put it in applesauce.
We put it in yogurt.
We put it in her favorite morning drink, hot chocolate.
We’d take a spoonful of delicious Colombian hot chocolate.
Move the spoon under the table.
Carefully sneak in one drop of medicine,
Bring the spoon above the table confidently
Put it into her mouth and…
She’d spit it out.
This is a microcosm of how people approach God.
You want an innocent lifestyle God?
Just a second.
I’ve been greedy lately. But if I mix in some money to charity, maybe God won’t notice.
I lost it on my kids. But if I take them to enough extracurriculars, I’m sure that it’ll be a wash.
I spent all night watching porn. But if I do the dishes, wash the car, and bring my wife some flowers, my life will still taste good.
Here you go?
God can taste the deception.
An ounce of sin…
…is that repulsive to him.
He will see all your sin.
If you stand in YOUR WORKS before God, you stand in GUILT.
Because you’ll have to stand in all your works.
The good and the bad.
The time you listened to your parents and did your homework and the time you didn’t listen and texting with your friends about what losers your parents are.
The time you thanked your coworker for her work and the time you told everyone that her work was your work.
The time you treated your husband to a steak dinner and the time you ignored his call ‘cause you were flirting with the trainer.
The time you called your wife “beautiful” and the time you called her a few other unrepeatable names.
The time you worshiped three times on a weekend and the time you got sick cause of overdrinking three times in a weekend.
And by the way…
Those good things?
Isaiah 64:6 says this, “All your righteous acts are as filthy rags.”
That’s a nice way to put it.
The reality is that Hebrew phrase refers to those filthy rags as “rags filled with bodily fluids.”
Gross, dirty, stinky, “Mom, can you get this one?” disgusting diapers.
That’s how God views the “good” things you do.
Because even the best human “good” things are tainted with human selfishness.
Think about it.
If you try to make up for your sins, by doing things in order to save your skin...
Making that work selfish.
Another dirty diaper for you to stand in.
Stop standing in your works.
Because if you do, you stand in GUILT.
And if you stand in GUILT…
…you don’t STAND.
Have you ever tried to push over a tree?
I mean a mature tree. Not a freshly planted one.
A tree with a solid trunk.
A tree with roots that move deeply into the ground.
A tree that’s been standing for 150 plus years.
Push as you might.
With your hands.
With your arm.
With your back.
With a running start.
You can’t get a tree like that to budge.
A few days ago Hurricane Zeta ran through Montgomery, Alabama.
The 50-plus mph winds toppled mature oak trees throughout the city.
Honestly, I don’t think God broke a sweat.
Look at the damage.
If God does that to an inanimate, amoral object?
What do you think he’ll do to animate, moral beings like you?
Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
If you try to stand in your works…
You will fall.
Out of favor with God.
Out of eternity with God.
II. Standing by Grace
If we can’t stand on works.
Is it even possible to stand?
I bet that’s what the guy from Matthew 9 thought.
He had been paralyzed his entire life.
There wasn’t any kind of work he could do to fix that.
No amount of physical therapy.
No amount of organic drug taking.
No amount of a positive outlook…
Could fix the broken nerve endings in his lower back.
He couldn’t do anything to stand.
His friends picked him up.
They brought him to a crowded house.
They scaled a wall.
They passed his cot up the wall.
They cut a hole in the roof.
They attached ropes to his cot.
They lowered him down.
To the feet of Jesus.
And there he lay.
Surrounded by judgy religious people
Looking up at the perfect Son of God.
He might have thought:
“Hi Jesus. Hear me out. Here are some reasons you should help me.”
But he didn’t get any of those out.
Jesus simply said, ““Get up. Take your stretcher. Go home.” (Matthew 9:6)
The man didn’t have to list his credentials.
He didn’t have to promise allegiance to Jesus.
He didn’t have to fork over the couple of dollars he had begged for earlier that day.
He simply stood.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (v.1)
Because here’s what Jesus did for you….
He stood in the eternal halls of heaven.
He stood and saw your lack of innocence.
He saw that you couldn’t stand and decided to do something about it.
He was born and needed to learn how to stand.
He stood in the temple proclaiming that people needed saving.
He stood in the streets proclaiming that he was that Savior.
He stood in a garden, surrounded by angry, blood-thirsty men.
He stood on trial surrounded by angrier, blood-thirstier men.
He stood and was condemned to die on a cross.
He stood on a little tiny wooden wedged that both of his feet had been positioned upon while a nail was driven through them both.
He stood on a hill of death as the Father gave him his verdict: GUILTY.
Until he couldn’t.
They took his dead body and laid it in the grave, never to stand again.
Three days later, Jesus stood on his two feet again.
Three days later, Jesus stood alive.
Three days later, Jesus stood victorious
TRUTH: Because of JESUS, you will STAND before God as INNOCENT.
Listen to that good news again.
Because of Jesus, you stand not guilty.
Because of Jesus, you stand at peace.
Because of Jesus, you stand forgiven.
But it’s more than that…
Through Jesus we also have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand. (v.2)
In the back of church, there is a keypad. It is left over from the days of having Precious Lambs in this building. It’s still useful today though. If someone needs to get into church and I am not at church to let them in, I can simply text them a code. They enter the code and get in.
Sometimes we view grace like a keycode.
“God graciously gave us this keycode.”
Now all we have to do is enter the right combination of good deeds and good works and we will obtain access into God’s kingdom.
Should we start at 11111?
But the reality is that grace isn’t a keycode of which you have to discover the combination.
Grace means the door is unlocked.
God entered the code.
He grabs us by the hand.
He brings us in.
It’s all about God.
Because of Jesus, we NOW stand in GRACE.
You don’t need to fret.
You don’t need to worry.
You don’t need to develop ways to get on God’s good side.
You stand in grace.
And grace is all about God.
And God is all you need.
People usually understand grace as like a seesaw:
On the one side, is God’s work:
It’s represented by a rhinoceros, wearing a backpack full of bowling balls and playing a piano.
On the other side of the seesaw is our work:
We need to do.
Actually, that’s inaccurate.
We need to remove the flea.
On our side, is nothing. Absolutely nothing.
On God’s side, is a rhinoceros, wearing a backpack full of bowling balls while playing the piano…and a flea, because we removed the flea from our side.
Grace is all about God.
Therefore, God’s grace is all you need.
III. What Now?
(1) Stay Standing in Grace
It’s like a game of Sumo wrestling. Do you know the rules?
1. Wear a big diaper.
2. Don’t get pushed out of the circle.
The devil would love nothing more than to push you out of grace.
The devil pushes you to sin.
With social media.
With your emotions.
Till you break.
But he hasn’t pushed you out of grace yet.
The real trick comes next. He says, “Jesus died for you and you responded by listening to me? That was awful. Stupid. And..honestly, it doesn’t seem like grace would be enough anymore. You’ll probably have to do something to get back into God’s grace.”
By trying to something to get back into God’s grace.
We step out of God’s grace.
Don’t let him trick you.
You don’t need to DO something to earn God’s grace.
Not even if you’ve previously done wrong.
God’s grace is enough.
(2) Show Grace
Back to the story of the paralyzed man.
Before Jesus healed him, he said to the man, “Your sins are forgiven.”
This upset the religious leaders who were there.
How could you claim to do that?
This guy is probably a miserable sinner.
He doesn’t do religious stuff like us.
How dare you make such an assertion.
Who do you think you are?
Jesus healed the man of paralysis.
Something only God can do.
Jesus is God and in him we have grace.
Jesus is God and in others have grace.
To question grace is to question Jesus’ power!
Pastor, God forgives. But not those kind of people.
It’s ok to be gracious, but you gotta be firm too.
Is that person really the kind of person God wants in our church?
Because if it wasn’t.
He wouldn’t want YOU either.
God has given us grace.
Give grace to others.
Forgive that grudge.
Be kind with your spouse even when they aren’t kind to you.
Be gentle with your kids even during the 18th time you’ve reminded them to turn off the iPad.
Because you stand in grace.
And they stay in grace too.
One more verse tied to this thought.
We rejoice confidently based on our hope for the glory of God. (Romans 5:2b)
This is important.
Because you might be a bit on edge.
You might be wondering what will happen with all the elections.
You might be nervous about what the next years will bring.
You might be frightened about when COVID might end.
I can’t tell you with any kind of certainty what will happen on Tuesday.
But I can tell you with 100% certainty what will happen in eternity.
You and I will be in heaven with Jesus.
Standing in grace.
Standing with Jesus.