A Gift from Someone Who Knows You Well

December 08, 2021
Advent Gospel.jpg

God’s Gift Is Justification for Sinners

 

Rev. Kurt Lantz Midweek Advent 2 Christian Questions 3-5

December 08, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON

 

 

Last week we noted that the gift that God gives is a very much needed gift. It may not be one that we would pick out for ourselves, but it is the one that we need. That gift is the justification of the sinner and it is a gift that says something about you. It is only from people who know us well that we receive gifts that say something about us on a personal level. Sometimes we may open a gift and it becomes obvious that the person who gave it doesn’t really know us well at all. Other times we are amazed that they know us so well.

 

Last week we noted that God’s holy Law, as summarized in the Ten Commandments, holds the whole world accountable to Him and that means that it also holds us personally accountable to Him. He knows us and He knows us well. His Law determines what is right and what is wrong. If a person has done all that is right and nothing that is wrong, he is right with God. He is righteous. He has a righteousness based on God’s holy Law.

 

On the basis of His holy Law God knows you personally. God knows us well enough to see that we are not righteous based on His holy Law. Don’t think that it is unfair of Him. That is how we evaluate ourselves and the people around us, except we don’t always use God’s holy Law. We use a law of our own. We decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong and we might even change it from day to day depending on how we feel about things. That is called autonomy, and our current culture kind of demands that things ought to work that way.

 

When you have autonomy, you decide what is right and what is wrong for yourself. So you decide what kind of sexual lifestyle is right for you. You decide whether suicide is right for you. The only law of an autonomous culture is that you have to let everyone else make up their own laws too. Our culture hails this as a great enlightening of human consciousness, but they don’t realize that this enlightening has us stumbling around in the dark.

 

It is obvious that autonomy doesn’t work out too well when we are dealing with driving a car on the roads. You cannot let everyone make up their own laws. There has to be someone who makes the laws that everyone has to obey. Otherwise the roads will not be safe for anyone. You cannot decide for yourself that copying the answers of someone else on a test paper is okay. Someone has to tell you that is wrong and enforce a penalty if you break that law. Otherwise it is not fair for everyone.

 

In the same way, deciding what is right or wrong for yourself sexually or in regard to whether you should go on living, creates chaos in our community, and that puts everyone at risk. Autonomy does not work because we live in community and before God. What you decide for yourself does not affect only you. Someone has to decide what is right and wrong for everyone. And that is the God who created everyone.

 

He decides what is right and what is wrong, and He has revealed that to us in His holy Law. And that Law shows what He knows about us, that we have failed to do all that is right and that we have done many things that are wrong. We are not righteous. We have no righteousness from His holy Law. As St. Paul points out by quoting Psalm 14, which we sang last week, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:1-3). Not even you.

 

Under God’s Law all the world is held accountable to Him and from the works of the Law no flesh will be justified before Him. No one is righteous according to God’s holy Law. His Law shows you what you should do and have not done. It shows you what you shouldn’t do and have done. There is no righteousness in you from the Law of God. He knows that about you, so the gift He chose to give you, is to make you right with Him, to justify calling you righteous even though you have broken His holy Law. How does that work?

 

There is a way to be right with God apart from His holy Law. You would be right with Him if you had kept His Law perfectly. You wouldn’t need to be justified, if you hadn’t done anything wrong and had done everything right. But since that is not the case for us, we cannot be righteous by His Law. We need another way to be righteous, and that is His gift to you because He knows you well enough to know that you need it.

 

In addition to revealing God’s holy Law and showing that we are accountable for breaking it, God’s Word, even in the Law and Prophets of the Old Testament, reveals that He has given another way to be righteous before Him. It is something different than the righteousness of God revealed in the Law. It is a righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, and it is for all who believe.

 

That is good news for us, and that is why we call it the Gospel. We can be righteous before God even though we have broken His holy Law, because He has given us another way. We can see it in the lives of God’s people recorded in the Bible. We would say that Abraham was a good man. He did a lot of good stuff throughout his life, but he wasn’t perfect. If we went through the chapters of Genesis that tell us about him, we would see that there are some things that don’t align with God’s holy Law. According to the Law Abraham was not always right. He was not righteous based on that.

 

Yet God declared Abraham righteous. How could He do that? Because there is a righteousness apart from the Law, the one that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Already before Abraham, God had promised that a Saviour would come. He made that promise also to Abraham and Abraham believed it. And because Abraham believed the promise, God declared him to be righteous as a gift, even though He knew Abraham hadn’t done everything right according to the Law.

 

Now that is good news for us too, isn’t it. We know all too well that we haven’t done everything right. God knows it too. We know that even those things that our culture says everyone can decide for themselves, are not right according to God’s holy Law. We cannot be declared righteous by the works of the Law. But God has given us a Saviour in His Son, Jesus Christ. He came and lived perfectly according to God’s holy Law. He was perfectly righteous according to that divine Law. And yet, He this Jesus took our sins upon Himself to pay the full penalty for them through His suffering and death.

 

Jesus is the Saviour promised to Abraham, in whom Abraham believed and so was declared righteous. This same Jesus is the One whom God sent to save you from your sins, and so by believing He is your Saviour from sin, you become righteous before God. You are righteous the same way that Abraham is righteous. You have the righteousness that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, for all who believe.

 

This is God’s gift to you, given because He knows you so well. You might that because God knows you so well He would not have any gift for you at all. But it is precisely because He knows you so well that He has the perfect gift for you. It is not necessarily something you would choose for yourself, but it is something you need. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God having been justified as a gift by His grace” (Romans 3:23). All are made righteous through faith in Jesus Christ, believing that He is the One God has given to save you from the penalty of your sins.

 

So the gift is not just Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. The gift is also God declaring you to be righteous even though He knows you have broken His holy Law. That is what we all justification. You don’t deserve that in any way, but He gives it to you by His grace. It is His gracious love to make the declaration that you are righteous. The righteousness of Jesus, who hasn’t done anything wrong, is declared to be yours. It is given to you freely. It is yours simply by believing it.

 

The gift you need has been given. Your justification is that even though God knows you have broken His holy Law, He declares you righteous through faith in His loving gift of Jesus. In Him you have redemption. His blood shed upon the cross was given in payment for your sins. It is because God knows you so well that He declares you righteous through faith in Jesus. He gives you the gift of justification.