Pentecost 7, 2014
"You're saved because God loves you."
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Not so long ago many churches sent members door to door asking the question "if you were to die today would you go to heaven?" "Why?" For many the answer was "yes," "of course I'm going to heaven." Why? Many would answer that they are good people. They never did anything all that bad. They didn't lie, cheat, or steal. They never killed anyone. They helped others...gave their time and money. Why wouldn't they go to heaven when they were just so nice?
We like to think that heaven is where good people go and hell is where bad people go. Wouldn't you agree with that? Let me just say this once: good people go to hell! There are many people that have done very nice things that are damned. Let me say this as well...there are many wicked people that have been saved. There are many people in heaven that some never thought would get there. But how does that happen. That doesn't sound fair!
Would you like it if this life was fair? Do you want God to be fair? I don't. If God was fair each and every one of us would be damned in hell for eternity. If God was fair we would be left to our own devices. If God was fair Jesus wouldn't have been born to die for you; taking the wrath you deserved.
Scripture is clear when it talks about people: "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.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:10-18, 23)
There isn't a single person that is "good" in the sight of God. Each and every one of us is a poor miserable sinners. None of us can ever do enough to earn salvation. Nobody is worthy of forgiveness. Knowing how truly sinful we are we should cry out with Paul "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24)
You know the answer. Jesus is the one and only person that has and will deliver us from sin. While our Old Testament text is speaking about the children of Israel...it speaks to us Christians chosen by Christ as His people.
"For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations." (Deuteronomy 7:6-9)
You, my brothers and sisters in Christ, are a people holy to the Lord your God. Christ Jesus chose you to be His treasured possession. He didn't choose you because you were such good and nice people. He didn't choose you because you're the most talented...or good looking...or the strongest or fastest people. No. It's for the same reason He chose the Israelites of old to be His people. Because God loves you and has promised you the kingdom in baptism.
Hear and listen again to the beautiful words so many of you know by heart: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Thank God that He isn't fair. Thank God that He loves you. We are saved, not because of what we have done, but because God loves us. Jesus loves each one of you so much that He took your sin upon Himself and endured God's wrath in your stead. He did this because He loves you.
Good people do indeed go to hell. Forgiven people who have faith in Christ go to heaven. Forgiven people. What wonderful news. God has forgiven people all their sins. Christ Jesus has died for murderers, rapists, child molesters, adulterers, liars, dictators, fornicators, and any other heinous act or sin you can think of. Jesus died for the worst of the worst. Jesus died for me. Jesus died for you. Because He loves you.
Because He loves you be assured that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus. "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)
There is no sin that can't be forgiven. There is no sinner too bad to be forgiven. Christ Jesus has died for all people and has taken all sin to the cross. That is our confidence. That is the joyful news we get to share. Salvation is ours because God loves us. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.