The Second Sunday in Lent

February 28, 2021

Romans 5:1-11

Lent Gives Us Reasons to Boast!

 

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.  (NIV1984)

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

What words or what phrases come to mind when you think of Christmas?  We might automatically think of “joy” as in “Joy to the world the Lord has come!”  We might automatically think of the word “still” as we silently sing “O Little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.”  We might automatically think of the words “glory” and “peace” as we recall the Christmas angels praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

 

What words or phrases come to mind when you think of Easter?  We might automatically think of the word “Alleluia” as we silently sing, “Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!”  We might automatically recall the risen Christ saying to the women, “Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 27:10).  We might automatically think of the risen Christ saying to His fear-filled disciples, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19)

 

What word or phrases come to mind when you think of the season of Lent?  Here we might think of the word “repent” as when John the Baptist proclaimed to the people, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2).  We might automatically associate the Season of Lent with the word “solemn.”  I often use the phrase, “The solemn season of Lent.”  And when we think about the Season of Lent, we might automatically think of the word, “boast.”  “Boast?”  Yes, “boast”!  That’s the word that caught my attention as I was translating our sermon text for today.  For that reason, let’s see how the apostle Paul proclaims to us:  Lent Gives Us Reasons to Boast!  There are two things I want us to focus on this morning.  First, let’s focus on the basis for this boasting.  Then let’s focus on the reasons we can boast.

 

In the very opening verses of our text Paul sets before us the objective unchangeable basis for our Lenten boasting.  Look at what he says to you and to me, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”

 

Did you notice the verb forms that God the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to use here?  “We have been justified“We have been ‘Declared:  Not Guilty!’”  This is not something we did.  This is not something we contributed to!  This is something that God has done for us!  And as we noted last Sunday, this is something that God has done for us right there— on the cross of Calvary’s hill!  (Pointing to the cross)

 

Since our “justification” was accomplished for us by God’s Son, how does this become our own personal possession?  Again, God the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to answer that very important question in a very simple way, “We have been justified through faith.  Through the gift of saving faith which God the Holy Spirit has created in our hearts the “justification” that Jesus secured for us on the cross is given to us completely free of charge!  Paul then builds on that truth to assure us that, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”

 

Take a moment to let that glorious truth sink in, my friends!  Through faith in Jesus and what He has done for us (Pointing to the cross) we are “at peace” with the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth.  Since we are “at peace” with God we do not need to fear His judgment.  Jesus endured God’s judgment for us!  Since we are “at peace” with God we never need to fear that we will hear God say to us, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41).  Through faith in what Jesus has done for us we now have direct and permanent “access” to God.  Through faith in what Jesus has done for us we are now “standing in the sphere of” or we might say, “surrounded by” the amazing grace of our God!

 

Very simply put, the basis for our Lenten boasting, my friends, is due to what God has done for us.  It is on that basis that Paul then goes on to give us three reasons to boast!  The first reason to boast is found in Paul’s words, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.”  There are two words here that we need to dig into a little deeper.  The first word is the word that is translated as “rejoice.”  Very literally this word means, “to boast.”  (Hence our sermon theme for today!)  Since the season of Lent focuses our attention on the cross, it is very easy for us to see how the cross gives us a reason to “boast”!  As we stand in the shadow of the cross, we confess that on our own we have nothing to boast about— especially before God.  At the same time, however, as we stand in the shadow of the cross, we have every reason to “boast” about what our God has done for us.  To be more specific, Paul encourages us to “boast in the hope of the glory of God.”

 

This brings us to the second word which has a much deeper meaning than what we see at first glance.  It is the word that is translated as “hope.”  In English the word “hope” easily includes uncertainty.  We might say, “I hope we get more rain,” or, “I hope this pandemic is over soon.”  The Greek word which is translated as “hope” very literally means, “expectation.”  On the basis of what Jesus has done for us (Pointing to the cross) we “boast in the expectation of the glory of God”!  As people who have been “Declared:  Not Guilty!” by God Himself we can “expect” to hear Jesus say to us, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).   As people who are “at peace” with the Almighty, we can “expect” that like Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, when our life here on this earth comes to an end, we will enjoy living in the glorious presence of God Himself.   As people who are standing in the sphere of God’s amazing grace we can “expect” to experience what Paul proclaims to us in Philippians 3:20, 21, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”

 

The second reason that Paul gives to “boast” is found in verses three to five.  Paul writes, “Not only so, but we also rejoice/boast in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope/expectation.  And hope/expectation does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

 

Every time God allows a “suffering” to come into our lives Satan grabs ahold of it and says, “See!  See!  I told you that God does not love you!  This proves that God is angry with you!”  To which we reply, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23).  In His love for us God uses the “sufferings” that He allows to come into our life to strengthen us and to train us and to build us up.  All of these “sufferings” lead us to the foot of the cross which guarantees to us how much God loves us, which guarantees to us that our God always has a glorious goal for us!

 

What is God’s goal for us?  Paul reveals God’s goal for us by allowing us to see that our “suffering” produces “perseverance,” the ability to cope and endure no matter how difficult the situation might be.  God’s goal for us is that as we learn to persevere, as our faith passes test after test of troubles, that perseverance produces and refines our true Christian character.  We become more and more like Christ in our thoughts, words, and actions.  God’s goal for us is that this suffering and perseverance and character building will come full circle and produce even greater “hope,” even stronger “expectation” of receiving and enjoying the “glory of God.”

 

To help keep Satan from distracting us from God’s goal for us, Paul goes on to say, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 

Satan is always trying to get us to doubt our salvation.  One of the ways he does this is by reminding us over and over again that we are “powerless,” we are “ungodly,” we are “sinners.”  And he is right!  We are all of that and more!  In fact, Paul will remind us in just a moment, that by nature we were “enemies” of the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth!  If left on our own, if our salvation were dependent on us— we would most certainly be lost, lost for all of eternity.  How do we overcome Satan’s attempts to sow seeds of doubt in our hearts?  We say focused on the cross and remember what Scripture proclaims:  “God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  This could be translated as, “Christ died instead of us,” or, “Christ died in place of us.”  The Son of God came into this world to serve as our perfect Substitute!  He took our place and suffered the punishment that we deserved.  The fact that “Christ died for us” (Pointing to the cross) is the fullest, the deepest and the most beautiful demonstration of God’s love for us that we could ever possibly have!

 

That truth, that glorious reality, leads Paul to give us one more reason to “boast.”  Look at the closing portion of our text.  Paul writes, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also rejoice/boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

 

Notice once again the verb forms, my friends.  We have been justified by his blood.”  We shall be saved from God’s wrath through him.”  Wewere reconciled to him though the death of his Son.”  Having been reconciled,  (we) shall be saved through his life.”  Everything that God has done for us and for our salvation, everything that God has freely given to us— justification, salvation, reconciliation— all of this gives us reason to “rejoice,” reason to “boast” about the awesome, gracious, loving God who has adopted us to be His own dearly beloved child and an heir of His heavenly Kingdom!

 

The words that we easily associate with Christmas do indeed include words such as “joy” and “stillness,”  “glory” and “peace.”  The phrases that we easily associate with Easter do indeed include, “He is risen!” and “Do not be afraid,” and “Peace be with you!”  My prayer this morning is that as we continue our journey through the Season of Lent, you will always remember how this solemn season gives you wonderful, amazing, glorious reasons to “boast”!

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen