Main Idea: We always assume we’ve done enough good, but the Bible is clear that none are righteous.
I watched a movie with my family this past week that I highly recommend, called Church People.
[Picture of Church People]
The movie is all about how ridiculous churches can be when it comes to trying to be hip and relevant, when the most important thing is simply to get the gospel right, because the gospel is the good news of great joy that shall be for all people, and it’s the gospel itself that’s the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.
I want to show one scene from this movie because it highlights how silly we can be when it comes to thinking about how God treats us.
[Clip from Church People]
Do you know any parents like that? I mean, that’s an extreme example, but I think we would all recognize that permissive parenting when taken to an extreme isn’t actually loving. The loving thing would be to raise your voice to your kid and say, “Don’t do that! You’re going to hurt yourself!” And while that might come across at first as wrath, I hope that you see that it’s actually love.
Now, of course, that can be taken too far. We can’t justify letting our anger loose in those situations and call that love. It would be completely inappropriate to yell at your child and belittle them every time they make the smallest mistake.
Kind of like how Matilda was treated in the movie Matilda.
[Clip from Matilda]
Now, I’m sure we all know how the reality of the situation can often be much more harsh than that, but I simply wanted to show two unhealthy extremes in parenting, and how there’s actually a balance in parenting of what we call love and what we call wrath, and we all tend to err on one side or the other.
I say all that to say this. Many Christians say that God is love, and that therefore it’s impossible for God to show wrath because they say that wrath is the opposite of love. Those Christians often interpret certain verses in the Bible about God’s love very liberally, while just kind of ignoring verses about God’s wrath.
Many other Christians think that God is extremely harsh and dogmatic about rules. These Christians often interpret certain verses about God’s punishment very literally, very conservatively, while not taking other verses about God’s love and grace at face value.
Now, I’m absolutely being overly simplistic about these two classifications of Christians, liberal versus conservative, and of course there’s a ton of overlap and nuance that I’m skipping, but I just want to point out that both sides get a lot right, and both sides get a lot wrong about God.
Instead, I’ve come to believe that wrath is not the opposite of love. I think the opposite of love is something like apathy. I think the Bible teaches that wrath, on the other hand, is an extension of God’s love, because God intensely hates all the things that get in the way of us experiencing His love. Sin gets in the way of our relationship with God, so therefore God hates sin and even the sinner, even while God loves the sinner.
Well, today’s sermon really flows straight out of last week’s sermon, so I encourage you to go and listen to it if you missed it. Basically, we saw last week that God condemns sin, and that God rightly shows His wrath to all, because all have sinned.
Some Christians seem to delight in the idea that some people will burn in hell forever. But Ezekiel 33:11 says that God doesn’t delight in the death of the wicked, so I wonder why any of us would.
But the fact remains that God does indeed show wrath toward sin, and the fact remains that we’re all sinners.
So then we come to our passage this morning. Romans 2, starting in verse 1.
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:1-5)
Father, You alone are good, and You’ve been so good to us. So help us not to boast in our goodness, because we’ve proven than we’ve fallen short of Your glory, and help us to rest instead in Your goodness and grace. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
I read an article this week of the craziest excuses students had to get out of assignments.
[Picture of Article]
Now, keep in mind that these are real excuses that students gave their teachers. Check out number 1.
1. “My brother’s friend, who came to our house yesterday, said he could eat paper, and I didn’t believe him. So he decided to show how much paper he could eat and grabbed my homework right out of my desk. I didn’t see that it was my homework and realized that it was too late.”
By the way, those of you who are students, I don’t recommend trying any of these. But I also liked number 11.
11. “After completing my essay yesterday, I looked at my assignment once again and realized that it was so good that it could make other students in the class feel bad about theirs. I decided not to hurt their feelings and left it at home. What can I say, I’m a great essay writer.”
That one really sounds like something I would have said when I was in high school. I’m sure we’ve all heard of the stereotypical “my dog ate my homework” excuse. Have any of you ever used that one? Shame on you. Unless your dog really did eat your homework, in that case, that’s hilarious.
It’s funny how we all seem to think we’re the exception to the rule. Even though most teachers make it clear that homework that isn’t turned in on time is late, no matter what the excuse is, we like to think that we’re the one with the valid excuse. That the rules don’t apply to us.
So from the very start, I want to point out that our passage in Romans is written to all of us. Paul writes, “You have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges” In this context, the word “man” is actually a gender neutral term, referring to each and every member of mankind. It’s not just talking to Christians, or Jews, or even the Romans, who Paul was directly writing to in this letter. Paul was simply telling every man, woman, boy, and girl, all people of all nations, that this passage applies to you.
So let’s see what he says to all of us.
You have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. (Romans 2:1)
I preached about judging from James chapter 4 not too long ago, so I’m not going to rehash that right now. In short, the Bible’s command regarding judging others isn’t merely to not judge, but to judge with right judgment. That means refraining from judging on matters of opinion, and being sure to remove the log from your own eye so that you can see clearly to remove the speck from your neighbor’s eye. And, probably most importantly, it means judging with humility and love, knowing that we all fall drastically short of obeying God fully. In other words, we’re to judge without being judgmental.
The problem, of course, is that we usually don’t judge with right judgment. Most often, we are judgmental. I think these last two years have proven that about just about all of us. We pick and choose the facts that agree most with what we believe, and we judge others for not seeing things our way. As the church, we need to do better than that.
I love this acronym about speaking, and I think it applies to judging also.
It says, “before you speak,” and I would add, “before you judge,” you need to think: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it inspiring? Is it necessary? And, is it kind? We often excuse what we say because we’re convinced that what we say is true, but we also need to think about saying things that are necessary, helpful, and kind.
Because even when we judge on the right issues, we often do so for the wrong reasons. We judge in order to make ourselves feel better, or we judge out of insecurity, or even out of outright meanness. It’s crazy how we think it’s okay to judge others for their sins, while thinking we get a free pass for our own sins.
But here’s what Paul says about that. Verse 2.
We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? (Romans 2:2-3)
So, once again, we often think we’re good, and everyone else is bad. We know that God rightly shows wrath toward sin, but we don’t stop to consider that that means we’re all in big, big trouble.
Now, at this point, you might respond, “Yeah, but I’ve trusted in God’s grace. I’ve trusted in Jesus to forgive me of my sins.” And that’s awesome! That’s exactly what God wants us to do. But if you’re trusting in God’s grace to forgive you of your sins while you continue to sin however you please, that’s a problem. Verse 4.
Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. (Romans 2:4-5)
In other words, it’s true that God is kind and forgiving, but the point of God’s kindness and forgiveness isn’t just that we would go to heaven some day in the future, but that we would turn away from our sin today. And if we don’t turn away from our sin, and our lives don’t change because of God’s kindness and forgiveness, then we’ve shown that we haven’t truly appreciated God’s kindness and forgiveness, and we might actually be more in danger of experiencing God’s wrath and judgment.
A few years ago, I was on a mission trip in Joy, Illinois, going door to door sharing Jesus with every home in the small town. I remember one woman that I talked with confessed to be a Christian. She knew the gospel. She could articulate what the Bible says about sin, and Jesus’s death, and forgiveness. But in the course of the conversation, she talked about how there were certain people in her life that she could never ever forgive for what they had done to her and her family. And I immediately thought about what Jesus said in Matthew 6.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)
Now, forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you automatically become best friends with them, and it doesn’t mean that there aren’t serious ongoing consequences for their actions, but forgiveness does mean that you realize that if God loves you and shows you grace even though you’ve sinned against Him, you ought to also love and show grace to those who sin against you.
That’s hard. That’s really, really hard. And I’m not saying we’ll ever get that perfect. In fact I think it’s pretty much impossible to get it perfect, especially because we tend to misunderstand what love and wrath really are.
It’s all too common for people to believe that God is love, and fail to see that God also shows wrath even at the same time. And the bad news is that we’re not naturally objects of His grace, but objects of His wrath.
God shows no partiality, so we are all equally condemned for doing evil. We always seem to assume that we’ve done enough good. Man, those other people, they’re in danger of God’s wrath, but we think we’re doing just fine. But the Bible is clear that none are righteous. And because none are righteous, God’s wrath is rightly shown to all. Verse 6.
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:6-11)
So which group are you in? Are you in the group of people who does good, or are you in the group of people who does evil? It’s crazy how often I’ve read everything that leads up to this passage, everything that proves that I’m a sinner deserving of God’s wrath, and then get to verse 6 and still think that I’m one of the people who deserve eternal life.
The Bible is absolutely clear on this point. God will render to each one according to his works, and all of us have fallen short.
So why does the Bible even mention that God would give eternal life to those who do good, if none of us can do enough good? I think it’s because our inability to excel under this system doesn’t nullify the system. It just proves that we need grace. And besides, there is one Person who did do good. There’s one Person who obeyed God in everything. Jesus lived the perfect life that we failed to live. Therefore, He alone earned eternal life for Himself. And then He died on a cross, paying the price for our sins, so that His righteous life covers our sins and we receive eternal life with Him.
And a heart that receives Jesus as Savior is a heart that also follows Jesus as Lord. You’ll be transformed so that you begin to obey God from the heart.
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)