Never enough, Much more

For when we were still helplessly feeble, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His Blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.  And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received the reconciliation.        Romans 5:6-11

A man walked into a Louisiana Circle-K store, put a $20 bill on the counter, and asked for change.  When the clerk opened the cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and demanded all the cash in the register, which the clerk promptly provided. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from the drawer…$15.

We laugh at that, but sometimes it can be an embarrassed laugh.  Although most of us have never attempted armed robbery, we certainly understand his feeling once he found out what had really happened.  How often have we also tried something, committed ourselves, and yet something goes wrong.  The goal we anticipated merely snickers at us.  There always seems to be a hole, or as one farmer put it, always grain leaking out of the bag,

This same bewilderment chases one who jumps from job to job, or relationship to relationship, or experiences other disappointments, never finding success, meanwhile identical problems follow wherever one goes.  How often does a nagging suspicion accuse us that we just aren’t enough: neither strong, nor wise, nor smart, nor daring, nor even some “unknown thing” we can’t figure out – enough?

Even when there are successes, the next day brings a let-down because … now what? life merely goes on.  So what that we have had an accomplishment, because a new problem has already banged on the door.  The millionaire – or billionaire – when asked which was the most meaningful million or billion answers, “the next one.”  We can’t even publish our successes because, really, nobody notices or even cares.  The hollowness of Ecclesiastes’ pessimistic “eat, drink and appreciate what’s left of your life” is just too uncomfortably close to what happens.

How often have we spent time justifying ourselves, even when no one stands before us, no one is accusing us?  We struggle with some sort of internal standard which is very demanding, and no matter how we try to silence it, its insistent discomfort will not allow it to be ignored.  We know where we are exposed as falling short, of being inadequate, helpless, weak – heck, even feeble.  We have strong suspicions that the death we fear is not just the end of life but is also includes the opposite of life, involving the spiritual and the eternal, dealing with more than the mere few years we have on this earth; that death does not merely dig a grave but prepares a place in hell.

Our fallen nature turns from God, hating Him for highlighting that our lives are more than mere existence, they have enormous far-reaching eternal consequences.  Our consciences hold God in front of our faces, and, in even considering Him, we are painfully exposed to how inadequate and flawed and inept we are; nowhere near being the heroes, the little gods in our worlds, as we fantasize we are.  Against the accusation of our own rude consciences, we know that before God it is worse: we are hopelessly under His wrath, condemned for our rebellion against Him and ruining His beloved Creation.

Our nature abhors God; we fear Him – after all, what else does He have for us but condemnation?  We are hostile rebels, sinners, enemies of our Creator.  We refuse to listen to Him – He has nothing we want to hear.    We reject what is important to Him, we ridicule His commands, disdain His love.   Yet despite the bravado and the false front we present to the world, we are terrified to be revealed as mere nothings in the universe.

This is the  necessary background for Paul’s contrast in the text:

For when we were still impotent, feeble,… Christ died for flippant mockers – the ungodly …. God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … while we were still enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.

God has acted and the war is over.  He has already reconciled us to Himself.   Now wait a minute!  Isn’t reconciliation a two-way street, where usually the offender must come in repentance before the relationship is restored?  Yet God didn’t wait – He didn’t merely set up the tools by which reconciliation could be achieved, instead He already restored the relationship.  It was not merely an ideal to be worked toward, it was all finished on the Cross,.

This should not really surprise us.  God is the One Who must always taken the initiative and complete the whole process before we respond.  He will always be the One Who initiates – after all our defiant human natures wouldn’t be caught dead – literally dead – wanting to reconcile with the God our selfishness wants to hijack.  He knew we are utterly incapable of moving toward Him on our own, so waiting for our change of heart by ourselves would never come.  If anything is to happen, if He is to get beyond our defiant pride, He must take action.  It is always this way – it must be this way.

If His will is to be done He must begin it, and do it by Himself.  If He is to love us it will be because of Who and What He is, not based on who or what we are, you know, those supposedly “lovable” disobedient creatures who demand to take over the reigns of our lives and of the world, who remove Him from the picture and then make terrible messes.  No, it must be by His initiative alone where He makes all things, especially this expression of His love, “work together for good, to them who love God, who are called according to His purpose” – that purpose being humanity’s intended destination from the moment He breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of Life.
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God acted decisively at the Cross to bring about the reality of reconciliation, not based on whether we believe and repent; not incrementally by today’s batch of sins forgiven, then tomorrow’s, then the next day’s; no, He simply acted even in spite of us.  He did not act because He foresaw we would believe: Jesus died even for those who would never give up, who would die still fighting, still hostile – No, He acted for the entire world.  That’s the depth of Paul’s declaration, that while we were sinners, while we were helpless, while we were enemies, Christ died for us.

Now adding amazing power to this comes Paul’s “much more”’s:

Much more then, having now been justified by His Blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. … much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.

Hasn’t our Lord done far more than adequate?  With everything done and finished on the Cross, didn’t He have the right to go back to heaven and put His feet up?.  And yet Paul declares there is  “much more” He has in mind.  If one man, Adam,’s rebellion could do so much damage down through the generations, yet the penalty we pay is not for his sin but rather for our own mutiny, consider how great is the One Man, Jesus,’ power to, in one act, reverse the condemnation of millions – in fact, to touch a universe made defective by the fall of humanity!

Furthermore, those who repent and lay their lives into Jesus’ hands, they are not merely reinstated creatures, but rather have become very sons and daughters of the Creator, the same Lord Who said through His prophet Isaiah [62:5]: “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”  Imagine the ramifications of such a relationship to this kind of God!   What overwhelming unconditional love and generosity is given to us who were once utterly condemned rebels, once inept, helpless, and hopeless, who now are described as the very children of God with all the rights of the Son of God Himself placed into our laps.

Later in Romans [8:32], Paul declares, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” – how much among all which involves our eternal relationship with the Father will share with us?  Indeed, as our text today declares – “much more” – if  we are justified by His Blood “much more” are we saved from wrath;  if we are reconciled, “much more” are we saved by His Life!

This is now our blessedness: we are sons and daughters of God here at the Table of our Lord, we actually share in the life of God, not whether we feel it is so, but because of the “fiat” – the command of creation – when Jesus declares bread and wine to be His Body and Blood, declares it to be His real presence which goes with us into our world, which confirms that we are indeed forgiven and “much more” –  so much more – blessed, with all the goodness, grace, mercy, steadfast love, faithfulness and far much more which springs from the heart of this God.

The common denominator in all this is that divine solutions are bigger than humans problems: Christ’s atonement is greater than sin’s condemnation, God’s grace is greater than the effects of human rebellion, Jesus’ accomplishments are stronger than the world’s burdens, God’s glorious power in His love for us is greater than all the disastrous consequences our fallen flesh can bring.  Try as we might, curse as we might, we will never change Him from Friend to Enemy.  In fact, wherever there is hostility and estrangement, it only lies in man, not in God.

How “much more” it is when we know that this is God’s support and strength which are already present whenever we feel incompetent and the fool, whenever we are exposed as falling short, of being inadequate, helpless, weak – even feeble.  And this is only the beginning – today’s text starts off what I call the Christians’ “Charter of Freedoms,” or “Bill of Rights” – four chapters where Paul lays down gift after gift and privilege after privilege which God has all packaged into the work which Jesus accomplished once for all time on the Cross.

How “much more”! – now can we face hardships and inconveniences in life, deal with the special demands of being a Christian in this world, have the earnest desire to see our Lord at work through us, since we know a God of such depth of love is this committed to us, is present in all circumstances, is a companion in all conditions, Who is always at work, always involved in everything which touches us – indeed, as Paul says it, “we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received this reconciliation.”


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