Main Idea: God reconciles His enemies to Himself, showing us grace.
I read a story about a Christian family, the Courtney family who lived in Iraq, where many people have been persecuted, jailed, or even killed simply for being Christian. But after seeing how there were very few to no qualified heart surgeons living in Iraq, and hearing about how there were thousands of Muslim children in need of heart surgeries, Jeremy Courtney started a nonprofit organization to meet that need and display Christ’s love to them.. And so, over the last decade, his family has raised money to be able to send over 1,000 Iraqi children to surgeons in other countries where they could receive the heart surgeries they needed, and then return home.
While so many Muslims consider Christians the enemy, and vice versa, Jeremy Camp sought to build a bridge between them by loving them in a very practical way.
Ironically, not all Muslims appreciated his nonprofit organization. One terrorist group issued the following statement: “We must stop these heart surgeries lest it lead our children and their parents to love their enemies!”
Of course, the Bible calls us to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us. And this isn’t just because God wants us to be nice people. God calls us to love our enemies because He invites us to follow His example in how He loves us.
Many people feel like God is their enemy. Maybe they wouldn’t use the word “enemy,” but they definitely feel like God is out to get them. Maybe you’ve pictured God like the Greek god Zeus, who’s just waiting to throw lightning bolts down from heaven at people when he’s angry at them.
Is that who God is?
Or, to a lesser degree, is God simply ambivalent about us? A lot of people think of God as just not that invested in us or our desires. Like, maybe He’s somewhere out there, but He doesn’t really care about what goes on here. So maybe when you pray, begging God to help you through a difficult time, you feel like He just doesn’t care enough to answer your prayer.
Is that who God is?
What we think about God isn’t just a theological exercise. Because if God loves us, even to the point of death, then as the people that He’s created and redeemed, we’re also called to follow His example. We’re all called to sacrifice and love.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. How much more then, since we have now been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from wrath. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. And not only that, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)
Father, thank You for seeing us in our sin, and thank You for rescuing us through Your love. Help us to live as saved persons, knowing that we’ve been reconciled to You. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
Someone once asked President Abraham Lincoln why it was that he treated his enemies with such respect and kindness rather than seeking to utterly destroy them. Lincoln responded this way:
“I destroy my enemy when I make him my friend.” – Abraham Lincoln
And so, we read in verse 8 that “God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And in verse 10, we read, “For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.”
I think many of us are familiar with verse 8 and 10 in our passage this morning because they’re often quoted as a part of the Romans Road. But backing up just a bit more, verse 6 actually describes the situation of our sinfulness in a way that should help us to see just how serious the situation was. Look at verse 6.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)
So verse 6 says that in our natural state, before we received Jesus and His Holy Spirit, not only were we sinners, and not only were we enemies of God, but we were helpless and ungodly.
Did you see yourself as helpless? Before you knew Jesus, or if you even at this point haven’t yet placed your faith in Jesus, do you see yourself as helpless? Because without Jesus, we truly are. The Bible describes us as helpless and ungodly, deserving of the wrath of God. Without Jesus, we can do absolutely nothing to earn heaven, and we can do absolutely nothing to fix the massive mess that we’ve made of things.
It’s kind of like trying to put out a grease fire with water. It’s just going to make things worse.
But the Bible says that while we were in that condition, at the right time, just when we needed Him most, Christ died for us. When we were helpless and ungodly, unable to save ourselves, Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins.
But you’ll never truly receive Jesus as your Savior until you admit that you’re helpless and ungodly without Him.
We can get so consumed with thinking about how ungodly others are that sometimes we forget the simple truth that we’re all ungodly. Or maybe you don’t think about it in terms of godly vs. ungodly. Maybe you think of it in terms of good vs. bad, moral vs. immoral, conservative vs. liberal, or some other paradigm. People who cheer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs people who don’t. Whatever the categories, we all love to classify ourselves as part of the good group, and others as part of the bad group.
But God classified all of us as part of the same group: the bad group. We are all the ungodly.
We love to blame the world’s problems on everyone else in the world, but when you’re tempted to do that, I want you to remember this very simple thing: God alone is good. So when you’re tempted to vilify your neighbor, remind yourself that you’re in the same boat as your neighbor, and that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
So how are we to treat those people that we usually want to look down on and blame? Look at how God treats us. Verse 7.
For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)
There are many people who are paid to take a bullet for the president. And there are many more people who would consider it an honor to take a bullet for the president, even if they’re not paid, and even if they’re not from the same political party. And I’m sure every parent would take a bullet for their child. And that’s all because we consider those people to be worthy of us dying for them.
But Jesus died for us, even though we weren’t worthy of it. We were helpless. We were ungodly. We were sinners. We were the enemies of God. And yet, He loves us.
In the same way, Jesus calls us to love our enemies. Pray for them. Bless and do not curse. Do not return evil for evil. Today, we’d use the phrase, “Kill them with kindness.” And when we say that, we don’t really mean that our goal is to kill them. We mean that we want to win them over with kindness. We want all that’s bad and ungodly to die in them, so that we can simply love one another.
You see, it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. Before we had done nothing to earn it or deserve it, in God’s love, Jesus died for us, so that we could be reconciled to Him.
How much more then, since we have now been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from wrath. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:9-10)
Parents often have to remind their children, “We can do this the easy way, or the hard way.” Every good parent wants to have a good relationship with their perfectly obedient children, so that their children would be happy, and we can be happy with them, right?
But sometimes, good parents need to take away their children’s immediate happiness, or at least what they would perceive as happiness, in order to help them be truly happy in the future.
God does the same for us.
Make no mistake, there is a wrath to come. It’s extremely popular for people to say that there’s no such thing as hell. And while I think that the popular conception of hell has been twisted by culture and even by the church throughout history, the Bible is clear that there’s a place of torment where all of the ungodly are condemned to go to.
God hates sin. And we’re all sinners. As such, we all rightly deserve to be shown God’s wrath. But because Jesus died for us, we’re saved from God’s wrath when we place our faith in Jesus.
I love the way Paul puts it in this passage. In verse 10, he writes that we’re saved by Jesus’s death, and we’re saved by Jesus’s life. Jesus’s death meant that even while we were completely opposed to God, casting off His authority over us, Jesus’s blood covered our sins. He reconciled us to Himself. And if God did that while we were so opposed to Him, just think about what He does for us when we’re not opposed to Him! When we humble ourselves before Him as His children, it says that we’re saved by Jesus’s life. That means that not only are we not going to hell, but we are going to heaven. Not only are we forgiven of our sin, but we’re empowered to joyfully serve, just as Jesus joyfully served during His life. In our natural state, we were ungodly. But Christ died for the ungodly. And we’re saved from wrath. We’re saved by Jesus’s death, and we’re saved by Jesus’s life. And because of that, we’re reconciled to God. Verse 11.
And not only that, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation. (Romans 5:11)
This is an amazing thing! We’re reconciled to God. That means that God is not your enemy. He’s your Father and your Friend. And this isn’t something we achieved, but something that we received. God gives it to us as a gift. So we boast not in ourselves, but in Jesus.
As I was considering several Scripture passages for Trevor to read this morning, I ran across one in Ezekiel 16, and it’s just incredibly beautiful. Ezekiel 16:4-8 says:
As for your birth, your umbilical cord wasn’t cut on the day you were born, and you weren’t washed clean with water. You were not rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one cared enough about you to do even one of these things out of compassion for you. But you were thrown out into the open field because you were despised on the day you were born. I passed by you and saw you thrashing around in your blood, and I said to you as you lay in your blood, “Live!” Yes, I said to you as you lay in your blood, “Live!” I made you thrive like plants of the field. You grew up and matured and became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, but you were stark naked. Then I passed by you and saw you, and you were indeed at the age for love. So I spread the edge of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I pledged myself to you, entered into a covenant with you—this is the declaration of the Lord God—and you became mine. (Ezekiel 16:4-8)
If you’ve ever been in the room when a baby was born, you know that newborn babies aren’t exactly clean. And yet we care for them and call them beautiful. But this passage in Ezekiel goes even further than that. Talking to His people, the Hebrews, God tells them that nobody even cared for them when they were born. They were helpless and ungodly. But God came along and gave them life. He had compassion on them, and made them beautiful.
Do you live as if you’ve been reconciled to God? Like, now that God is no longer an enemy, but a friend, do you treat Him like a friend?
Let’s say you have a family member that you’ve been estranged from for a long time. You’ve talked about them behind their back, and they’ve talked about you behind your back, and this has been going on for years. But say you reconcile. You apologize, and they apologize, and you commit to one another just to move on. But then the very next day, you’re out shopping with some friends, and you see your family member, but you avoid them. And you even tell your friends about all the horrible things your family member did that offended you so many years ago. Is that consistent with being reconciled with them?
And yet, that’s how many of us treat God every day. We know that we’ve been reconciled to God, and yet we kind of ignore Him. When we’re with our friends, we ignore our commitments to God, and we continue to live however we want.
Being a Christian means not just being forgiven of our sin, and not just coming to church when it’s convenient for us to do so, but putting Jesus first in our lives. We’re to give ourselves first to the Lord.
That means making some sacrifices. Maybe you have certain habits that have gotten in the way of your commitments to God and the church. Give yourself first to the Lord. Maybe you’ve never even gotten to the point of making certain commitments to God and the church, and you know that you need to take a step of faith to get more involved in serving. Give yourself first to the Lord.
I’m so thankful for Lisa, who started teaching the children on Wednesday nights this past week. I didn’t have to beg her. I didn’t have to ask her to pray about it, which is a pastor’s way of saying, “I’m pretty sure God wants you to do this!” No, Lisa actually approached me and asked if she could! Guys, this rarely happens in the life of the church!
What if all of us felt called to a ministry inside and outside the church, so that the pastor didn’t have to beg you, and you didn’t have to feel guilty for not doing it, or for continually putting it off. What if we all gave ourselves first the Lord? I think that’s kind of how we’re supposed to function, both as a church, and as individual believers.
We’re reconciled to God! That means God is on our side! Or perhaps, the way that we ought to think about it, is that now we’re on God’s side. We’re His army, assigned to do His will, even when it means personal sacrifice.
God cultivates that attitude in us as we have faith in Him. When we admit our helplessness and ungodliness to Him, receiving Jesus and His grace, God begins to transform us from the inside out.
Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009. He and his wife, Abby, have four children. Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)