At Just the Right Time

Sermon preached at Our Savior Lutheran Church for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost on July 10, 2011. Sermon text: Romans 5:6-11

Christ-Died-For-Us“I want you to say sorry to your sister right now!” That’s about all it takes to get “sorry” said in my house. Saying “sorry”  — and doing something wrong that would make saying sorry a good idea — are very common occurrences in our lives. But it’s one thing when we’re talking about young kids and a parent or teacher are nearby. The parent or teacher can get the situation fixed pretty quickly. The toy is given back to its rightful owner, the tears are wiped away, and the apology is even arranged. The perfect situation has been set up, it’s now just the right time for the relationship to be healed.

I wish someone would fix all relationships like that! You know, someone could just swoop in when two people are mad at each other. This person could fix the mistakes, tell the person in the wrong to say they’re sorry, and voilà! The situation has been fixed! It’s over like that.

You probably realize, though, that things don’t always work out so nicely in our lives. Sometimes people make us angry, they hurt us, they wrong us in some way, and there’s no one around to make them apologize. In fact, they might never apologize but get mad at us instead! And now, instead of a healed relationship, there’s anger and resentment and maybe a grudge that can last for years.

It’s always sad to me when you hear stories like that where the person who had done something wrong admitted that he should have apologized, but the time was never right. Or, the person who was wronged understood what had happened and wanted to move past it, but it was just never the right time. How often that is that the right time never comes. The anger remains. The apology is never said. The relationship stays broken.

Just imagine if God treated our relationship with him in the same way.

A single sin on our part would certainly bring his anger. It should! Any sin we commit in thought, word, or deed is an act of rebellion against our God. It’s turning away from what he wants for us and going our own way. Those sins rightfully bring God’s wrath!

But what if God acted like we do in relationships! He might say, “I won’t forgive them until they say they’re sorry and stop sinning against me.” Sounds fair! We can certainly say we’re sorry to God, but the problem is we don’t stop sinning. We don’t stop, ever. As soon as we’ve said sorry, a stray sinful thought might enter our head. And then we’d have to say sorry for that thought, but at that point we might commit a few other sins. We’d be in over our heads quickly.

After all, how many of your sins are you even aware of? You might think you’re aware of it when you sin, but I’d imagine that for every sin we realize we’re committing, there’s a whole lot more of them that we don’t realize. You’ve probably done something to someone before and not realized it. Someone has been acting funny towards you and you eventually just have to say, “What’s wrong? Have I done something?” And sometimes they tell us exactly what we did and we have to say something like, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t even realize.”  Well, how many sins like that must we have with God? I’m not sure I want to know!

But if God treated relationships like we do, he couldn’t forgive us until we’d figured out all our sins, every last one of them, and said we were sorry. And of course, saying you’re sorry probably isn’t going to be good enough on its own. If someone stole your wallet and ran up huge bills on all your credit cards, you’d be angry! And rightfully so! And if all they said was, “sorry,” would you feel better? Would you say, “Aww, don’t worry about it. No problem!” No, more likely you’d say, “Sorry isn’t good enough! You need to pay this money back! You need to restore your reputation! And I still haven’t decided if I’m going to press charges with the police for this!”

So again, imagine our relationship with God if he treated us like that. For even one sin, we would not only have to say we’re sorry, we’d have to  make up for it. We’d have to right whatever wrongs we had done. Now this might almost be doable with certain parts of our sins. I mean, if we stole something we could return it. If we hurt someone, we could help them get better. But there’s a big part of our sins that could never be made up: the spiritual price.

You see, God is pretty clear in the Bible. Be perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt. 5:48) God wants us to be absolutely perfect and he reminds us that the wages of sin is death. (Rom. 6:23) So, he demands perfection from us and if we slip up, our payment is death — not just physical death but eternal death in hell. That is a steep price to pay. Too much. If God treated relationships like we do, we’d be in a world of hurt. We’d be lost and condemned, forever.

But God does not treat relationships like we do, and wow can we be glad he doesn’t! This little section from Romans that serves as our text today demonstrates that for us. It shows us that what we would find as the “right time” in our relationships, is very different from God’s view of the right time.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom. 5:6) For whom did Jesus die? Did he die for those good, Christian folk who get dressed up and have respectable jobs and are always cordial to everyone they meet? No, Jesus died for the ungodly. He died for the sinners. He died for the sin-stained, stone-hearted rebels who had turned against him. He died for you. He died for me.

You might think he should have waited. Logic tells us that Jesus should maybe have tried to see which of us might be worthy of his death, which of us would prove ourselves before he’d take the plunge and die on a cross. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. (Rom. 5:7) It’s one thing to take a fine for someone, even get put in jail for a couple of days. But when the punishment is death, you’re not going to get many people willing to trade their life. It can happen, sure, but it’s rare.

But what Jesus did went way beyond that. He didn’t die for anyone who was good! He died for nobodies! He died for the ones that didn’t deserve it! He died for you. He died for me. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8) He did this “at just the right time.” Not when we’d deserved it. Not when we had proven ourselves. Not when we had shown that we really meant it. He did it all while we were still sinners.

At just the right time, God loved us. At just the right time, he chose us to be his own. At just the right time, Jesus died for us, washed our sins away, and changed our relationship with God forever. There is still a possible difficulty that we run into, though. Have you ever been in a fight with someone, only to have that person suddenly be nice to you? It’s kind of unnerving. You think it might be some sort of trick. What’s this person trying to hide? When’s the other shoe going to drop and you finally see the brunt of their anger?

You see, we tend to go back and forth from two different opinions. Maybe you fall into one category more than the other. We might think we’re pretty good people, and that it shouldn’t be surprising that God loves us so much. In fact, we think we pretty much deserve his love. Well, our text has already ripped that argument to shreds. Jesus died for sinners, not good folk. It’s because we are saved that we want to love and serve him in our lives. Our service is not what makes him love us.

But the pendulum might swing to the other side for us. Maybe we know it’s nothing good in us that God loves. But maybe that nothing good in us has caused us to doubt whether God could ever really love us. “Sure, Jesus died for people. Sure, Jesus took sins away. But he couldn’t have died for me! He could never take my sins away. Not with who I am. Not with what I’ve done.”

The second half of our text destroys that thought. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Rom. 5:9) In other words, if God sent his one and only Son Jesus, and if Jesus shed his blood and died for our sins, then God’s not going to turn around later and say, “No, your sins were too bad. Sorry.” No way! Remember, Jesus died when we were still sinners, at just the right time! God’s not going to turn his back on us at the end.

That’s what our text says. For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Rom. 5:10) Jesus’ perfect life has been given to us by faith. His death has paid for our sins. All that means we don’t face eternal death. We have life — perfect, forever, eternal life.

And this makes us rejoice. Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Rom. 5:11) Yes, now we rejoice! After all, what can possibly truly get to us now? Anger and broken relationships? We have a healed relationship with God in Christ. A guilty conscience? Jesus’ blood covers it. Trouble, fighting, sickness, death of those we love, Christ promises us the end of  all of that. He promises us life. He gives us his live now and forever.

So remember, God doesn’t treat relationships like we do. He didn’t hold a grudge, he didn’t hold our sins against us. But at just the right time, while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us. Jesus lives for us. Let’s live his love to others. Let’s rejoice in everything we do in our life because of the life he gives us forever. Let’s give thanks that God’s love always comes at just the right time.

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