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Sermon for March 12, 2023 – Third Sunday of Easter Preparation

Program Transcript

Speaking of Life 5016 | Busy Work
Greg Williams

Have you ever been assigned “busy work?” I despise doing “busy work?” It’s the type of work that doesn’t have a purpose except to keep you…well…busy. Sometimes this happens on a job where the boss feels like he needs to keep the employees working even though there is nothing left to do. I understand some busy work was necessary to keep employees employed during the pandemic, but I am easily frustrated with busy work – I want to be productive.

Suffering can sometimes seem like busy work; it can take up a lot of our time and keeps us from accomplishing the goals we have. And there is no getting around suffering; it is something we all face. And for someone like me, I get can get frustrated at the lack of productivity that suffering can induce. But perhaps during those times of suffering, there is a different way to be productive.

We know we will suffer, Jesus himself told us we would. He doesn’t bring suffering to us, but he wanted us to be aware it would come. Then he told us he came to take our suffering upon himself. And he did. He took (and continually takes) all our suffering, including our self-inflicted suffering, to the cross, and redeems it for his own good purposes toward us. The totality of our sufferings are now his which he took through death into resurrected life.

Because of this, our sufferings are now Christ’s own sufferings which we can endure with hope, knowing they will be used to contribute to the ultimate purpose he has for us. But what does this have to do with feeling like suffering is busy work – keeping us from being productive?

Paul addresses this in a rather shocking manner. He speaks of suffering as a point of rejoicing. He tells us that suffering, because of what Jesus has done, can actually produce something important:

“Not only that, but 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 (ESV)

Suffering is a part of our broken world. Paul doesn’t mean we will enjoy suffering or that we should go looking for it. But, when it comes our way, which inevitably will, we can be assured that Jesus will meet us in our afflictions. This is why we can rejoice.  Because our suffering is not lost, through Christ our suffering is redeemed. We can anticipate the good work the Lord is doing in us, through all our circumstances. It’s not a time of busy work – where we are just waiting for the suffering to end – it’s a time of God producing good fruit in us.

Just as Christ learned through his suffering, we too are formed more into the image of Christ through our suffering.

I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.

Psalm 95 • Exodus 17:1-7 • Romans 5:1-11 • John 4:5-42

This week’s theme is thirsting for love. The call to worship Psalm presents a liturgy of praise celebrating God’s provision of water in the wilderness to his people, while also using their example of complaining as an admonishment against hardened hearts. The Old Testament selection from Exodus recounts this story of Israel complaining about thirst, which is met by God’s gracious act to provide water through a rock Moses was instructed to strike. The epistolary text in Romans provides a contrast to Israel’s complaining hard hearts, using Paul’s picture of endurance that flows from God’s love poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel reading from John, we witness Jesus offering living water to a Samaritan woman.

Repentant Response of Faith, Hope, and Love

Romans 5:1-11 (ESV)

Today’s text begins with the word “therefore.” Paul often uses this word to look back on something he had just established in his writing, as the foundation for the implications he is about to present. This is a good word to begin with for the season of Lent, or as GCI calls it, “Easter Preparation.” During this season we are encouraged to take time and look back on who God has revealed himself to be in Christ Jesus, and what he has done for us. This is the ground for our repenting and turning again to the Lord. As we are reminded of God’s faithfulness and love toward us revealed in Jesus Christ, we can turn from unfitting responses born out of fear and guilt, to responses filled with faith, hope, and love in all that we do. We will see in Paul’s words following his “therefore” that all three – faith, hope, and love – will make up the fitting response of those who have come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, turning to him again in preparation of receiving his life more fully by the Holy Spirit.

Let’s pickup with Paul’s transitional word, “therefore.”

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1 ESV)

With the word “therefore,” Paul begins a new section in Romans by drawing a conclusion from his argument that he has been making through the first four chapters. He will go on to tell us of three things that “we have” on account of Jesus Christ. It is important to note that the three things are not presented as three things we must achieve or acquire on our own merit. Rather, they are three statements of reality that believers already have.

The first thing we already have is justification. As Paul says, “we have been justified by faith…” It may be hard to grasp the reality Paul states here with the words “we have been.” This means that we have already been made righteous. How can this be since we so often fall again into sin? During this Easter Preparation season we become painfully aware of our great need as sinners to be made righteous. Our experience indicates that we are not yet righteous and our justification, or being made right, still lies in the future. We are easily convinced that righteousness is a goal to pursue rather than a present reality to receive. But Paul leaves no room for a potential justification, only a justification that is already accomplished and real. Paul does add the qualifier that this justification comes to us “by faith.” That’s important in Paul’s statement.

Paul is not saying that our faith is what justifies us or saves us. Rather, faith is trusting in Jesus for our salvation. It is only in him that we have justification. The righteousness we have is the very righteousness of Christ that he gives to us through the work of the Spirit. In this way faith is a means of receiving, not a means of achieving. We don’t work up our own faith in order to accomplish something towards our own justification. Rather, in trusting Jesus, we receive what he has already accomplished on our behalf. And even this faith is a gift that comes to us as we come to know who God is in Jesus Christ. There is nothing we do that makes ourselves righteous.

So, in verse one Paul has already brought in the fitting response of faith upon knowing who God is as the one who has made provision for our justification. During this season we are reminded and encouraged to once again live in the faith of Jesus Christ who is ever faithful to us. We are reminded and encouraged to turn once again from other competing objects of our faith. We do not put our trust in any other person, thing, or ideology to justify us. It is only in Christ, who is faithful to give us his righteousness, that we can place our whole trust and allegiance.

From here Paul tells us the second thing we have as a result of this justification given to us: peace with God. Again, Paul states boldly that we already “have peace with God,” not that we must pursue or attain peace with God. That would be a pagan concept. But this God of grace revealed in Jesus Christ literally takes our sin and guilt, along with its ultimate consequence of death and alienation from God, and overcomes it in order to bring us into a right relationship with himself. This is all done “through our Lord Jesus Christ,” which indicates Jesus as our High Priest. He is the one who mediates our peace with God by cleansing us of our sins and clothing us with his righteousness. Again, this is a reality to receive by faith, not works. We do not have to work ourselves into the Father’s good favor.

How might this change how we go about our day? We are not called to cower in fear of a god who is angry at us, seeking to catch us in some sin in order to blast us on the spot. We have peace with the Father. His thoughts towards us are only for our good, not our destruction. Peace, biblically understood, is an active peace. It seeks the good of those who live in this relationship of peace. It is not merely a cease fire or cessation of conflict. It is a dynamic, intentional, and active relationship aimed at the good of the other.

This will mean that the Father will not turn a blind eye to our sins and shortcomings. On the contrary! That would not be a loving Father who has our best interest in mind. That would be a god who is disinterested in us, who doesn’t care about us at best, or who aims for our destruction at worse. No, the Father is intimately concerned with our life choices as they reflect an orientation of either trusting in him for the life he gives, or an orientation that rejects what he gives in favor of providing our own life, which he knows will never amount to a life of peace. And that is why the season of Lent, or “Easter Preparation” stands among all the other liturgical celebrations. Repenting and returning to receive from the Father is part of the life of faith into which we are called. He is calling us further into his relationship with us in Jesus by the Spirit. He is not a God of neglect.

Let’s move to verse 2 to see the third thing Paul says we “have” by faith:

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 5:2 ESV)

Paul wants us to see that not only does Jesus bring us into a life of peace with the Father, but he also brings the Father’s life of grace to us. Again, this is a life that Paul states we already have. Further, he says “we have also obtained” grace in such a fashion, that it can be said that we take our “stand” on it. Our standing with the Father is secured by his grace. Like God’s peace, his grace is also active toward our good. God’s grace is not some exception or pass, but rather a committed and determined will to bring us fully into the righteous life he has for us. That’s why Paul can go on to say, “and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” God’s glory is our destination, and we can rejoice in hope because God’s grace is determined to bring us there.

Here Paul has introduced the second fitting response to knowing who God is as revealed in Jesus Christ—hope. And this is not the type of hope we refer to as a child may “hope” to get dessert after dinner. He may or he may not, but hope has nothing to do with it. The hope we have in Christ is a sure hope, a guaranteed reality that we know is here now, and is coming more fully in the future. Living in this kind of hope grounds all our thoughts and actions on the sure foundation of who God is and what he has done to bring us into “the glory of God.” That’s where we are going, and we have absolute assurance he will get us there.

Paul has more to say about rejoicing in hope:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (Romans 5:3-4 ESV)

Paul does not divorce the glory of God from the glory revealed on the cross. Because of what Christ has done on the cross, even our sufferings now serve the good purposes of bringing us into the life of glory the Father intends for us. I think it is safe to say that virtually everyone hates to see or experience senseless suffering. For Christians, we know that all our suffering, no matter how small or large, is assumed in Christ’s sufferings. In fact, what we see on the cross is Jesus entering into our very sufferings. He has made them his own. Because of this, we are assured that our sufferings are not senseless. They now serve God’s purposes to bring us further into his glory. Our sufferings are never a waste or a senseless occurrence in our lives. God has employed them into his work of bringing us to share in his own glory.

As Paul puts it, our sufferings now “produce” something. They add up to “endurance” which comes from the nearly untranslatable Greek term hypomone. This word means a patient waiting upon the Lord in the confidence that comes by Jesus’ faithfulness to us, even though our circumstances scream otherwise. Through this dynamic, our sufferings produce character, which in turn adds up to more hope. In this way, hope becomes the disposition and orientation of the believer regardless of what they are experiencing in this life. They become more and more like Christ, entering more fully the glory God has for us in his Son.

Paul is not done talking about 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 5:5 ESV)

This hope is a resurrection hope that “does not put us to shame.” We will not be shamed or embarrassed or disappointed for putting our hope in Jesus, just as he was vindicated through his resurrection. Suffering will end in glory. And Paul gives us assurance of this by telling us another reality that has already happened. Namely, that the Holy Spirit has already come to us and poured God’s love into our hearts.

As we grow in receiving the Father’s love, we are given a sign and seal by the Holy Spirit that what he is presently giving us is what we will eternally be receiving in the future. And here we see the final fitting response to knowing who God is—love. As we come to know more and more who God is for us, we will be receiving his love more and more, enabling us to love others with the same love we receive.

During this season we can repent and turn away from all our distorted and ineffectual attempts of love that do not flow from God’s love poured out into our hearts. We do not need to manufacture or signal our own love to the world. The Father’s love is not kept at a distance for us to try and emulate. It is given to us through the Holy Spirit to participate in with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Now Paul is going to turn our attention to the cross for a fuller revelation of God’s love.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 ESV)

In these verses Paul has shown the extreme radical nature of God’s love. This is not a love that comes to the deserving or lovable. Rather it has come and continues to come to the weak and ungodly sinners. These verses confront us with two realities we must deal with during this season of repentance. First, we are not deserving of God’s love. Our pride may resist the stark reality of our sinfulness that Paul captures with the words “weak,” “ungodly,” and “sinners.” Not only are we ungodly sinners, but we are too weak to do anything about it. There is no room to justify ourselves or better our situation. To turn to the Lord, one must realize there is something to turn from. There is no life gained by holding onto our miserable state. But Paul knows that just being confronted with this dismal reality of the human condition does not move us one inch forward in repentance.

From the description given, we must conclude that even our attempts of repentance would be sinful as well. Paul mingles our sinfulness with the proclamation of God’s love demonstrated in the very thick of it. Only by seeing who Jesus is as the very coming of God’s love to us, even in our sinfulness, can we begin to turn to him. Perhaps Paul knew this best as his history of persecuting the church came to a halt once he was encountered by the resurrected Lord. Paul knows that we do not turn to the Lord until we first see that he has turned to us.

It is God’s love that comes to the unlovable that initiates the first steps toward him. Paul is trying to show how completely paradoxical God’s love toward us is. There is no human justification for his divine justification. We are given in Christ a revelation of God who is love all the way down. He loves us because that is who he is. Our unlovable and ungodly stance against him does not turn his love away. Our position simply prevents us from seeing it and receiving it. But in Jesus we are now shown the love of God.

It may be important to mention here what Paul is not saying. He is not saying God loves us as sinners. God does not love our sin. His love moves to remove our sins and not leave us in our weak, godless, and sinful state. His love aims to perfect us and bring us into his glory. The Bible is not antiquated in proclaiming God’s love when it warns against the many sins that our world pridefully celebrates and promotes. On the contrary, our loving Father knows we are not created for sin. It is not the fitting response humans were created for. We are created to respond with the same love he loves us with. And this love does not include a life orientation that worships itself over its Lord.

Paul will now return to his opening statement of being justified, but with a difference. He has “much more” to say on account of our justification.

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:9 ESV)

Paul began by saying “we have been justified by faith.” Paul now states that “we have now been justified by his blood.” He is moving from how we receive our justification, to giving us the assurance that our justification is a secured reality because of what Jesus has done for us through his death. The crucified Christ is the bedrock reality that we have justification. It is on that solid ground that we can acknowledge, receive, and participate by faith, in the justification secured for us by Christ. Paul wants to ground our justification on an objective reality. In other words, our justification is real and sure, and we do not have to live in fear or doubt about it.

Paul springs from this objective statement to give us assurance that we can be confident that God will not leave us in our sins. Paul says there is “much more” to come on the basis of the justification we now have. Namely, the complete deliverance from our sins, or as Paul states it, we will be “saved by him from the wrath of God.”

For Paul, divine wrath is understood to be the opposition God has toward sin. This wrath is manifested in God’s final judgment. So, we can rightly say that Jesus took God’s wrath against sin on the cross as he assumed all our sin. This doesn’t mean that Jesus took some arbitrary punishment from his Father that was intended for us. Rather, Jesus took on the punishment that sin delivers, the penalty of death, by dying on a cross. The Father was not going to let sin have the final word over us. He sent his own Son, the Word of God, to speak the final word, “It is finished.” Therefore, Paul can conclude that we are saved from God’s wrath on account that Jesus has already exercised God’s wrath over sin on the cross.

Paul is still not done, he still has “much more” to say:

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10 ESV)

Paul now speaks of our reconciliation as connected to our justification. And he once again grounds this in the reality of what Jesus has done for us. Clearly, we do not reconcile ourselves to the Father, as this was accomplished “while we were enemies.” God has reconciled us to himself through Jesus’ death, not on account of anything we have done. But Paul wants to move from the death of Christ to his resurrection. So, he gives us another “much more” statement.

On the present reality of our reconciliation accomplished by Jesus’ death, we are assured that we will live out this reconciliation on account of Jesus’ resurrection. In other words, when Paul says that we are “saved by his life” we are being assured that we are now participants in that life. That is what salvation amounts to. What would be the point of being reconciled to someone if you never engage in the relationship? That would be an empty reconciliation. The Father didn’t only save us from something – sin and death – but he saved us for something – righteousness and life. And that life is now available to us in the risen Lord, who ever lives to share with us his life with the Father.

Paul has one final thing to say.

More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:11 ESV)

Have you noticed that Paul keeps using the word “more.” Even with two previous “much more” statements he wants to say even “more than that.” And we will be glad that he did. Paul wants us to know that our justification and reconciliation, the righteous life of knowing the Father through the Son and by the Spirit, given to us all by grace, is a life of great joy. We are brought into the righteous life of God to rejoice. We are assured that the life we are given in Jesus is not going to be a disappointment.

As we come to know the Father as Jesus knows the Father, we will come to share in Jesus’ joy of knowing the Father. In other words, we have much more to look forward to. Even now in the present, as we come to know the Father more in Jesus, we grow in faith, hope, and love. We come to see more and more the goodness of God, and how richly blessed we are to belong to him. But, in the end, we will come to see that on this side of heaven, we have only scratched the surface of the depth of all that God has in store for us. We will not be disappointed that we have turned to him in faith, hope, and love.

Wake Up, Sleeper! w/ Marty Folsom W2

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March 12 – Third Sunday of Easter Prep
Romans 5:1-11, “Peace With God”

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Program Transcript

Wake Up, Sleeper! w/ Marty Folsom W2

Anthony: Well, let’s move on to our next passage, which is Romans 5:1-11. It is a Revised Common Lectionary passage for the third Sunday of Easter Prep (Lent) on March the 12th. Marty, please read it for us.


Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. While we were still weak, at the right moment, Christ died for ungodly people. It isn’t often that someone will die for a righteous person, though maybe someone might dare to die for a good person. But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us. So, now that we have been made righteous by his blood, we can be even more certain that we will be saved from God’s wrath through him. 10 If we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son while we were still enemies, now that we have been reconciled, how much more certain is it that we will be saved by his life? 11 And not only that: we even take pride in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, the one through whom we now have a restored relationship with God. [Common English Bible]

Anthony: Wow. That passage is eaten up with the gospel. Right? Like you said in the previous pericope, there’s not a lot there.

That’s sarcasm because there is so much there, and you’ve already alluded to this, but let’s continue to scratch that itch. Paul wrote that we have righteousness through God’s faithfulness, which was revealed in Jesus Christ. How might we get this all wrong? What do you want us to know?

Marty: Right. Well, the word faithfulness there implies faithful to something or someone. And so, the question of the covenant that lies behind all this—God has promised to create a world and to love it in very concrete ways.

And that is through a covenant relationship that says, “Hey, I’m going to love you no matter what. It is not a bilateral covenant where I’ll do my part loving, and you do your part loving. I’m just going to do all the loving here. And you’re just going to get to live within that love. That’s going to be my faithfulness expressed to you. And the degree to which you live faithful to my faithfulness, it’s going to make a difference for you, but it’ll never condition my love.”

If we can just recognize that faithfulness there is the outworking of the free, abundant, loving nature of God toward us, that acts in a way that transforms our experience of who we are, what we do, how we relate to others. All of that comes because God has created the unconditional, unstoppable context of his love, so that the nature of what flows from it is going to be true love.

And if you get it wrong, you’re going to turn that word faithfulness into something that I have to do something. Well, if God’s going to be faithful, then I must have to meet a condition (which makes it about us) in order to receive what’s going on. So many people read faith and faithfulness as, what about me? And that is grand misstep because you take your eyes off God and put it on yourself.

We can become casual where we just take for granted. Well, he’s loved me. Okay, fine. I’ll go on my way. Thank you very much, sir. And away you go. Kind of taking it for granted and saying, I wouldn’t deny it, it’s just that we don’t live as though it’s really true.

So we’re overestimating the nature of the implication of what is going on in a way that has just taken it for granted. My wife says, don’t spoil the kids. And I say, a kid’s not spoiled until they take it for granted. To give them lavish love is wonderful. The day they take it for granted, that’s the day they’re spoiled. And it’s easy to take the faithfulness of God for granted. And we become spoiled in a sense because we’re missing the dynamic and the nature of what’s there. So to live with gratitude is not to be taking it casually.

Some people might say, “This is just too crazy. I mean, you talk about a God who’s faithful, I don’t think I can ever understand that. So it just seems too crazy for me.” And crazy’s not a bad place to be. To say this love is so crazy, I can’t fathom it in my way of thinking—a God who loves me no matter what and all that. It’s the closest to being right. And yet it can also, of course, lead us to think that it’s irrational.

So if we have kind of a sense of the love of God is so crazy, I’ll never understand it, but I’ll take it anyway. That’s a pretty close kind of thing.

But the nature of turning a covenant into a contract, that is always going to be the problem. Contracts are based in fear. We think God says, if you do this, then I’ll give you that. And we say, okay, well, I’ll do this if you do that. And the fear of losing something is what undergird something as a contract. When we think of God’s faithfulness and our faithfulness in contract terms, it’s bound up with fear. It lives from fear. It sustains the fear that something’s going to go wrong, and that we need to look at the consequences of what go wrong.

So we’re always paying attention with fear to where the relationship might go wrong. And so that’s again, a huge problem with how people think about being righteous and being faithful—either on God’s part or on our part. And there is no peace in that, which is the telltale sign something is wrong here.

Anthony: Thanks be to God that he is not quid pro quo. Right? I can recall JB Torrance talking about one of the greatest travesties in the church is when we say, God has done his part; now you’ve got to go do your part. And it minimizes this big God into something very small and anemic. And that’s not who God is revealed to be in Jesus Christ.

And as I’m looking back over this passage, my eyes, Marty, are drawn to verse 5. This hope doesn’t put us to shame. It’s a hope that is bedrock. It’s not going to embarrass us, leaving us at the altar, so to speak, on our wedding day. Our bridegroom’s going to be there, and we’ll share in that feast.

Anything you want to say to that?

Marty: Well, the nature of shame, when there is shame, somebody has to be right. And I mean, the word right shows up in righteous, but I always say shame, blame, and guilt are all about somebody being right. And in the case of blame, I’m right and somebody else is wrong. In the case of shame, somebody else is right and I’m wrong.

And in case of blame—this is Adam and Eve, right? Pointing at each other and the snake. I’m making myself the judge. So, the whole nature of shame is that we’ve just taken our eyes off of the grace of God. And once you get your eyes on the love of God, which is poured in our heart, all of that blaming, of needing to be right, goes away.

And I say in counseling, who’s right here is always the wrong question. The question is always, how do we be loving here? And that really stems from my theology. How do we be loving here is always asking the question: how we live in light of the God who has loved us and ask what is best for everyone here?

Because God is always doing that. God’s righteousness is always going to work out as a love that transforms us towards himself and towards our relationships with others. No shame.

Anthony: No shame in his game. Let’s exegete versus 6-8. And I’m going to read them again. And share with us how it overflows with gospel.

While we were still weak at the right moment, Christ died for ungodly people. It isn’t often that somebody will die for a righteous person, though. Maybe somebody might dare to die for a good person. But God shows his love for us because while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

What say you?

Marty: Amen. So, I grew up in a world where people talked about sin first. You focus on the sin first. We are sinners and there’s all these kind of reflective things on what’s wrong with our thinking, our desires, our lusts, all those things. And then once you’ve got that really embedded in, then you bring in Jesus as one who saves us from ourself, in a sense.

But it’s quite clear here that the gospel begins with the God who has loved us. God shows his love because while we were still sinners. And so to really get the ordering of the logic of what Paul’s unfolding here, when we start doing science here and delve into the deep reaches of what this is pointing to—the love of God that’s poured out (regardless of where we are in our relation to God) is given in a way that that precedes anything that we might do. Meaning again, it is unconditional. So, to say, the gospel begins with the love of God. Any gospel that begins looking at the human (what’s wrong there) ultimately becomes a human-centered gospel. It’s about our problems, our inadequacies, all those things.

So to say, when you get that the gospel is about what God has done before we did anything wrong, right, or otherwise, then you’re starting to think out of the gospel, and then we see that love seeks a healing for the world. Our body, soul, and spirit, all that is poured out as the Spirit is given to us. And seeking the healing that ultimately brings the peace that was mentioned back in the first verse. Peace, shalom, a way of being with God that God creates and only God can give. The kind of peace that God gives. The peace that the world has is usually held with a Roman peace. We manage it through our powers. But to say that gospel is a peace that comes because God gives his very self to us by his Spirit. He brings us to know who we are so that we cry out Abba Father, which the other side of that is I am your child.

So, the gospel is that identification. When we cry out by the Spirit sharing in the cry of Jesus, who said Abba. In being those children, we begin to recognize a whole new identity, which the gospel is wanting to bring to us, whatever we may judge of ourself to be wrong, separated, isolated, distant, failures.

All of that was preceded by the love that came healing us with our whole being. And the Spirit is the one who was from the beginning and still is at work in bringing us into the gospel life.

Both TF Torrance and Karl Barth had versions of the question, so when were you saved? My version of that is I was saved in the heart of the Father before the foundation of the world. I was saved on the cross as Jesus took my place and my sin and said for you. And I was saved when the Holy Spirit awoke me to the heart of the Father who looked down the corridors of time and saw me. I was saved as Jesus said, Father, forgive him and embraced me into himself.

The Spirit wakes me up. And again, Wake up, oh, sleeper, to say, here you’ve got the Spirit giving us the experience of the gospel. And again, JB Torrance said, we don’t just begin with our experience (that is a kind of evangelical speaking), but to really say the depth of the evangelical experience is the heart of the Father, the life, action, and ongoing ministry of the Son who is our high priest, into which we are awakened by the Holy Spirit.

But we can’t make that the focus. It is the outcome, the story within which we’re living. And so here you’ve got all that in these passages being played out—the deep love, the act of love, the experiential love—all being brought into focus so that we become those who live within the gospel, having discovered the depth of reality, the nature of what is there that we don’t just see when we look at the world through our eyes and just think, well, I’ve got to do something today.

No, God has done something that creates the space, the presence, the very life that I’m living and to live within that is to live within the gospel.

Anthony: Hallelujah. Praise God that the biblical story starts in Genesis 1 and not Genesis 3. You know, we don’t start with the fall, but we start with our original belonging and a goodness in the way that God creates. And he loves his creation. Thanks be to God.

Marty: Yeah, the gospel is even there in [Genesis] 3. When Adam and Eve are hiding, they just have a wrong story, but God comes looking for them. That’s gospel. That’s this right here. So, it’s our bad theology of thinking we need to hide from God, but God is consistently the one who looks for and comes and cares for them even there.

So we again, we can’t miss looking through God’s eyes and collapse into just looking through Adam and Eves fearful eyes.

Anthony: Yes. So may we walk with God in the cool of the evening as we go.

Marty: Hallelujah.

Anthony: Hallelujah.

Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • Can you think of a time you were given “busy work?” How did it make you feel?
  • Have you ever thought of suffering as a form of “busy work?”
  • How might we respond during times of suffering differently when we know our sufferings are producing something immeasurable good?

From the Sermon

  • The sermon stated that the ground of repenting is seeing who God is as revealed in Christ. How does this inform what we do during the season of “Easter Preparation,” also known as Lent?
  • What difference does it make to know that believers “already have” justification? How do we account for our sins with the fact that we have “already” been made righteous?
  • What part does faith play in our justification?
  • The sermon stated that the biblical understanding of “peace” is an active peace, meaning that those who live in peace with others seek the good of the other. How does this understanding inform how we understand Paul’s words that we now “have peace with God?”
  • Paul’s “much more” statements make a distinction between what we are saved from and what we are saved for. Both are part of Jesus’ saving work. How would you answer the questions, “what are we saved from” and “what are we saved for”?
  • According to the sermon, why will “we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ”? What does this say about the life we are called into?

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