The Third Sermon in a Series called Romans: The Gospel According to Paul Based on Romans 5:1-11

Romans 5:1-11 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. 6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 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! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Paul wrote, “We have peace.” (v. 1) That’s what he wrote. We have peace. He didn’t write, “I have peace.” Or, “I’d like you to have peace.” He wrote, “We have peace.” And that’s something. That’s really something. Because I’m fine with somebody coming up to me and letting me know, “I have peace.” I might even get excited by that and think, “How wonderful! Serenity really is possible. He’s got it. Maybe I can have it someday soon too.” And I’m also fine with someone coming up to me and telling me, “I’d like you to have peace.” I’d probably even think in that moment, “Wow! I don’t think anybody has ever wished peace for me before. That’s about the most thoughtful or nice thing anybody has ever said to me!” But Paul said neither one of those things. He said, “We have peace.” And that’s something. That’s really something. Because if someone came up to me and told me that – and make no mistake – that’s what Paul is doing here, I’m not sure we’d have a completely positive reaction to that. Because sometimes your job is on the line. Or you’re lonely on a Friday night. Or you just had a fight with someone you care about. Or you’re emotionally exhausted with no break to life in sight. Or you’ve been working so hard to get ahead on your bills and your bank account seems to have holes in it. So if someone comes up to you and says, “We have peace.” We might not have the most positive of reactions. We might even think, “We have peace? Not so sure about that one. You want to know what I have? Anxiety.”

Anxiety. Now that’s something we have. We have that in spades. Experts say we actually have an epidemic of it. You know how far that kind of talk has gone? You know what people are saying? That we’re no longer the Prozac nation. That we’re now the Xanax nation. That we’re no longer a people threatened most by depression. We are the people who have anxiety. We have kids so hyped up and stressed out and full of nervous energy that we’re sending fidget spinners flying off the store shelves. We have girls between the ages of thirteen and seventeen of whom a nearly astronomical 40% have an anxiety disorder of some type. We have college kids and young adults who are seeing therapists and receiving meds at unprecedented rates. And that’s not me criticizing that. I’m just trying to state the facts. And there are plenty more. We have a culture where we are giving the Tony for Best Musical to Dear Evan Hansen, a show with a huge anxiety theme, and where we are binge listening to podcasts with names like Generation Anxiety. We have so much anxiety these days that we’re searching on Google the term twice as much as we did just five years ago. We have so much anxiety that some experts are even now saying that we are living in the age of anxiety. That we can make a legitimate case for being one of the most anxious generations in the history of the planet.

So, yeah, we have anxiety. We have the ying to peace’s yang. We have the push to peace’s pull. We have peace’s perfect polar opposite: anxiety. And, yes, that’s exactly what it is. Anxiety is peace’s perfect opposite. Because do you know what peace is? It’s the sense that everything will be ok. It’s the sense that nothing is out of control and everything will finally be good – that you and others and your world and God is just plain good. It’s the state of being where there is total wellness and wholeness in your life – where you realize that everything will hold together just the way it should in your life. It’s not the state of being where your life and future feels uncertain. It’s not the sense that your life may just fall apart. It’s not what we call anxiety.

Anxiety’s such a scourge. And everybody agrees on that. Everybody. That’s why we so often treat it. Nobody’s ok with it. Who wants to stay up nights with visions about what could go wrong? Who wants to sit on pins and needles waiting for a test result or text to come back? Who wants to experience a sense of foreboding that things in their life aren’t going to turn out ok? Nobody. Nobody wants that. Nobody’s ok with anxiety. Least of all God. He tells us – no commands us! – in the Scriptures not to be anxious about anything. He even goes so far as to give us very deliberate and purposeful strategies to rid ourselves of it like casting it away to God through prayer. God’s on the warpath against anxiety. His greatest weapon? To conquer your heart with peace. Just think of how often he speaks it into your heart. Just think. What did the angels sing when Christ was born? Yeah. Peace on earth. And what did Christ himself say when he showed up to us after his resurrection? My point exactly. Jesus made personal. He said, “Peace be with you.” And now here we are in what many consider the most important book of the Bible in one of its greatest transitions. We’re transitioning in Romans from what Christ accomplished to what it results in. And what is the result? Yeah. Peace. God is even more opposed to anxiety than even we are.

Why do you think that is? Why is he so against it? Is it simply because he wants us more emotionally comfortable in life? Should we picture him as a divine anesthetist always trying to dial up the serenity? Do you think that’s it? Because it’s not. You know why God thinks it’s so destructive in your life that he forbids it? Not just because it makes you feel uncomfortable. Not just because it is so destructive psychologically and physically, but because of what it does to you spiritually. You have to know something about anxiety. It’s a preacher. It’s different than sadness. It’s not just you emotionally reacting to a difficulty in your life. Anxiety is a preacher that is always pushing a version of faith in you. And when he gets pulpit let me tell you he preaches a powerful sermon about your future. He climbs up into his evil little pulpit and says, “You and your life aren’t going to turn out well.” Then he winds up with true preaching fervor and with a powerful logic saying, “You’re getting what you deserve. Just look at your trouble and suffering right now.” And then he brings it home with statements like, “God doesn’t care. You don’t matter. You won’t finally end up respected or loved or blessed or ok.” And you know what’s saddest of all? And you know what shows how much sin has infected our hearts? We let him preach. Sometimes so much so that we let him put us under his spell in such a powerful way that our best days become moments when we want to crawl under our bed or never get out in the first place and our worst days feel like we’re getting a small taste of hell and we can barely function.

And God cannot have you there. Not so close to hell. He has to have you in heaven. Has to. He loves you so much! So you know what he does? He breaks the spell. And you know how he does it? He sends preachers of his own. Angels at his birth. Christ at his resurrection. Me today. He sends preachers. He sends them to preach. They preach louder and long and more often so that they begin to drown out that other awful preacher in your heart. You know what they preach? They preach a sermon so relentlessly logical and powerful that it puts you under the spell of peace. And it goes a little bit like this: God is so good that he had his Son die for sinners so sinful they allow evil preachers into their hearts. And that’s fact. A crazy gospel fact. How crazy is it? “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.” (v. 7) Very rarely will someone save a good person in a war. That’s why there are awards like a purple heart. Very rarely will people run into building burning for a righteous person. That’s why that sort of stuff always makes the news, but God? God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (v. 7-8) That’s what makes God’s love so different. He sends his Christ for the ungodly and his enemies and those powerless to help themselves from evil preachers. God’s Christ dies for the bad. That’s what he did for you while you were a sinner.

Were a sinner. Were. You aren’t anymore. I hope you get that by now in this sermon series. That Christ has covered you with his righteousness and that by faith to God you aren’t sinner anymore. It’s only your past. Not your present. It’s your were. Not your are. And this is where you have to get logical with me. Relentlessly, powerfully logical. If God gave Christ to die for you while you were still a sinner. If God had Christ make the ultimate sacrifice for you then. If God had him lay down something that precious and that important. If God did that for you when he really shouldn’t have. If God did that for you when you didn’t trust him or love him. If God did that while you were still in every single one of your sins. If God did that for you in the past, what do you think it means for your present condition? What do you think it means for you in your present sinless state? What do you think it means for you now that because of Christ you look deserving and good and worthwhile to God? What do you think it honestly means about your future? If God had Christ die for you when you should’ve meant less than nothing to him, what does it mean for you now that you mean everything to him?  

That is the new relentlessly powerful logic of the gospel. “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!” (v.10) We shall be saved. All the way saved into a perfect place of peace. That is our confidence. And why? Because we’ve been reconciled. That’s such a key term here. For chapters and chapters and chapters now Paul has used only cold, legal, courtroom, judicial terminology to talk about what Christ has achieved for us, right? He’s forgiven you your sin. He’s granted you a verdict of not guilty that comes to you through faith. You know that kind of talk. Cold, legal, judicial, courtroom, lawyerly, technical talk, but now here suddenly for the first time in the book of Romans Paul changes the idea to a warm, relational term. We were reconciled. So warm. So relational. So personal. You have a God who is so much more than just ok with you now. You have God who is so much more than not mad at you now or not wrathful toward you now. You have so much more than a God who has just sort of agreed he’s not at war with you anymore. What Christ accomplished was not just the removal of judgment from you or the removal of a negative relationship with God. What Christ won for you through his death is a positive, personal, warm relationship with God. One where God cares and wars and wins for you. One where God is so enthralled and so attentive and so concerned for you that he has got save you eternally from everything that is wrong or busted or falling apart in your life. One where your God is so committed to you that he absolutely must give you peace.

And that really is a different kind of preaching for your life. And it’s time to let it amp up. It’s time to hear that voice right there in the pulpit of your heart. Because that is the sermon you were always meant to hear. The sermon that Christ died so that I could preach to you right here and now. So here I go, “You and your life are going to turn out well. Christ promises.” And then you’ve got to let me up pound the pulpit a bit and raise the preaching fervor and give you the powerful, relentless, irrefutable gospel logic that, “You can’t possibly get what you deserve because Christ already did. God cares for you so much now that while you were still a sinner Christ died for you. Imagine what he’ll do for you now that you’re not.” And I think you should – imagine I mean. Really imagine. I think you should imagine the glory of God that will be yours on your worst days so you never emotionally bottom out. And I think you should imagine it still on your best days so they become even more heavenly. For your peace.

I’m guessing you noticed that we talk about that just teensy-weensy little bit around this place. That that’s kind of a big deal to us. You know how big a deal it is to us? It wasn’t all that long ago when we had to decide what to call ourselves – what captured the point of Jesus in a way that people of today could grasp? We came up with a few ideas that we tossed around. And you see where we landed. We landed on peace. And we did because of Romans 5:1. We did because the primary result of Christ’s work is a tiny, five letter word. It’s peace in bad times. And peace in good times. It’s the ultimate, unending, unbreakable sense that everything will finally be way more than ok. That for us nothing will finally fall apart. We exist to preach that right down into your soul so long and so clearly and so often that we drown out that other evil preacher you’ve got in your life. Even when you’re lonely on a Friday night. Even when you’ve had a fight with someone you care about. Even when you’re emotionally exhausted with no break in sight or you’ve been working so hard, but your bank accounts seems to have holes in it.

Perhaps even especially then. So that even there and then when I come up to you and say, “We have peace.” You get that. You really get that. You get that I just couldn’t say, “I have peace.” Or simply offer up a wish saying, “I’d really like for you to have peace.” But that I just had to come up to you today in this sermon just as Paul did so many years ago and say, “We have peace.” Because we do. Everything is more ok that we can possibly imagine. Because we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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