Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Midweek Grace - Romans 3:21-26
The fall t.v. season is upon us. The networks (I don’t know how many there are now) will treat us to a slew of new, retried and warmed-over drivel that’s supposed to entertain us. Although I’m not sure of what’s on tap for the season you can be sure that the reality (actually contrived for how ‘real’ can one be when one knows a camera is pointed at them) shows will make up a healthy portion of the lineup.
With that in mind I want to suggest my own concept for a reality show. Now hear me out before you dismiss the idea out of hand. The concept is pure genius because the prize is something most people need, but few attain. To put it simple the winner of the contest would have all of their present debts canceled and forgiven. Can’t you just imagine it? Bill, a computer operator from Wisconsin comes on the show and shares how he got into so much debt. With his mortgage, car payments, cable, vacations and of course numerous credit cards he’s in deep deep debt. His children are looking to go to college within the next year or two, he like to move into another home soon, and that brand new suv his friend bought is calling his name. Problem is, Bill is maxed out, his job was just outsourced overseas and bankruptcy is his next stop unless he gets some help now! ’Debtors Dare’ (okay corny name) is his last hope.
DD offers ordinary people a chance for a brand new start. At the beginning of the show each contestant is shown his or her credit report. For dramatic effect the report is also shown to the viewing audience. (minus ss# and other info for security purposes) The show ends as two families show up to see which will be selected to have a new life. Both know the stakes involved. One family will walk away with their debts cancelled, their finances intact and the opportunity for an entirely new life. The other will have no choice but to proceed to bankruptcy court, their finances and life in ruin.
Because the show’s theme strikes a chord with the vast majority of us it turns out to be hugely popular. On the final night an estimated 75 million people tune in to see if Bill the computer operator from Wisconsin or Cathy the real estate broker from Arizona will have his or her debts retired. In dramatic fashion the show’s host (some British cat) recounts how Bill and Cathy reached the point of having so much debt. Once more they show the live audience and viewing public the list of massive debt that Bill and Cathy have accrued. In a contrived dramatic twist the announcer guy displays a college acceptance letter that one of Bill’s children just received from the school of her choice. He asks her if she’d like to attend this school and she replies that it’s been her dream since middle school. He then asks her if she’s replied to the acceptance letter. The crowd chokes back its own tears when she says that at this point she hasn’t replied because her family just doesn’t have the money. If they lose Debtor’s Dare she’ll spend her first fall semester at the local community college. At this the camera focuses on Bill who looks humiliated and ashamed as he tries to comfort his daughter.
After a commercial break the dramatic moment finally arrives. With both contestants and their families standing eagerly to hear the final outcome of their quest the announcer declares ‘Bill Smith your debts have been cancelled, your credit report is clean and let me be the first to welcome you to a brand new life. Bill breaks down immediately and has to be held by his wife and children. As mandated by the show the couple hold up their new perfect credit report. Their extended family and friends join them on the stage as the studio audience cheers wildly.
But just then the announcer guy turns to Bill and says something else has come up. While it’s true that Bill’s debts have been paid and cancelled he still has to live and thus might accrue new debt. He wants to know how Bill is going to avoid this position again. Bill fumbles with some kind of answer as to how he’ll do better when the announcer guy stops him in mid-sentence. While looking into the camera he states that DD’s purpose is to erase all debt whether past, present or future. The producers know that people like Bill while well intentioned can’t control their spending and apart from some extraordinary help may end up right back where they started. He then turns back to Bill and says ‘Bill, what if I told you that we’ve not only erased your current debt but we’ve arranged for any and all future debt that you will accrue to been taken care of also. In other words Bill from this point forward you will never, ever have to worry about any debt ever again. It’s been paid fully and completely.' You might imagine that at this juncture Bill is speechless. The show ends with a shot of Bill whose face has a fixed look of confused joy mumbling over and over ‘I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it.
The Scriptures teach that Jesus Christ canceled our debt of sin before the living God. But to make this even more clear Jesus canceled all of our debt not just the sin we’re aware of now or the sin we committed in what we know is our past. Romans 3 declares that we’ve been justified by the redemption we have in Jesus Christ. It further states that God the Father put Him forward as the full and final satisfaction for His anger against our sin. Sin must be punished and Jesus Christ has taken that punishment for us. And He took all that punishment not just some or most of it. He has fully, finally and completely accomplished our redemption by paying for our sins on the cross. His sacrifice didn’t just provide a potential redemption but an effective and actual one for all of God’s people. Those who are in Christ have had their sins dealt with once and for all.
But there’s more. Not only did Jesus die to remove our sins, He lived a perfect life according to God’s law and thus earned a place of honor at the Father’s side. As a real man who faced real temptation Jesus actually achieved a perfect, permanent right standing before the Father. And it is that right standing that’s given as a gift to all those who trust in the perfect person and work of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:21-24 reads ‘But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
To be justified freely is to have the perfect, permanent right standing that Christ earned credited to our moral account. That means that we never have to worry about how or where we stand before God because once we stand in Christ we’re totally and absolutely holy, blameless and without any guilt.
The beautiful mystery and glory of our salvation is that not only has our sin debt been canceled forever but we’ve also been given the only righteousness we’ll ever need to remain permanently in God’s family. We can only stand in worship with perhaps a confused yet joyful look on our faces and praise God that He is the ultimate author of Debtors Dare.
Related Sermon - Righteousness By Faith.
To Him Who Loves Us...