Romans 3:19-24 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For "no man will be justified in his sight" by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, ... the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. ... justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.
Watching cartoons can be instructive. There are a whole series of laws that apply only to cartoons. For instance gravity has no effect, until you notice that you are standing in the air. Cannons donít kill, they just leave the victim stunned and covered with black soot. And best of all anything done, can be undone by running the film backwards, thatís how the messes get cleaned up, and the things that are broken get fixed. But life doesnít have a rewind button, we canít undo the deeds weíve done, or take back the words weíve said.
This being true, what is the point of making excuses? Quite simply, there is no point, other than to try and justify ourselves. And in our time, increasingly excuses are seen to work. What is the most popular excuse, Iím not a criminal, I a victim, and because Iím a victim Iím not responsible. It is sad that this works. It is sad that we have become a lawless society. It is sad that we are all victims of something. But none of these things will justify us in the sight of God. For the one things that the law does, is it accuses. The law shows us each and every sin, and the punishment it deserves. And perhaps most important of all, the law stops the mouth, and if your mouth is stoppered, you canít use it to reel off your excuses. And the one thing that everyone needs to know right now, is that through the Law God will hold everyone accountable.
It may be that in our world, we can do whatever we can get away with; we can do anything, so long as we donít get caught. And living this way, we might begin to believe that if no one else is holding us accountable, neither will God. But this is just another of Satanís deceptions. God knows all, and come judgment day, there will be no excuses.
So the question for us, and the one central to the Reformation so many years ago, is How can we come into the presence of God? There is only one way for sinners to come into the presence of God -- with fear and trembling, knowing what they deserve, and pleading for mercy. How do sinners come into the presence of God, who knows all -- with deep humility, knowing that they are unworthy, knowing that they are guilty, that their righteousness is a filthy rag and far from the perfection that God requires, knowing that there is no room for excuses.
And it is here, when we see that we cannot save ourselves, that we can hear of what God in Christ has done to save us. We hear how Jesus suffered and died, taking our place, suffering the punishment we had earned, so that God might give to us forgiveness of all our sins, and a new and everlasting life. This is a radical change, so radical in fact, that in Christ we are a new creation, the old is washed away, and the sin and transgression are removed, and we find ourselves in the presence of God covered in Christís righteousness. We find ourselves standing in the presence of God, for by grace though faith, in Jesus Christ, we are the children of God.
And this righteousness, in which we stand, is not a righteousness by the law, for though we be the children of God, the law still shows us our sin, still shows us the wrath of God. We cannot justify ourselves by the law, even if by grace we are the children of God, the law is of no avail, for it always accuses. This righteousness, by which we stand, is always by grace [that is, it is always the free gift of God, given for Jesus sake, for Jesus asked, on our behalf, that we might be forgiven], it is always by faith [that is, works will not count, nor can we earn forgiveness for even one sin, all there is, is to trust in the promise of God, that God will do all this and more, for us, in Christ} and finally it is always - for Jesus sake. For it is Jesus suffering and death that paid our debts, it is His blood that washed away our sins, and as the scriptures say, "by His stripes we are healed."
This is the faith we confess together, this is the God whom we have gathered to worship, and this is the good news God has given us to tell to this dying world, for Jesus sake.