Jeremy the Alien ~ March 03, 2019 ~ Romans 5:6-11
So, we’re in Romans 5:6:
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came
at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be
willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing
to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for
us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we
have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly
save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored
by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be
saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new
relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
This is the heart of the gospel. This is what it’s all about – that Christ died for us; not only that He died for us, but that He died for us while we were still sinners. That’s the part that blows your mind, because I’m sure everyone here has seen a movie at some point in their life where you have – one of the characters in the movie is the hero or heroine, and they lead someone through a difficult time, or a group of people through a nuclear war, or an alien invasion, or whatever it is; and they – more times than once – save the life of their crew that they’re helping. And then they finally get to the other side, they get to the goal, and out of their peripheral vision one of the people in the movie notices that someone has got a gun aimed at this hero, and at the last minute they jump in front and they take the bullet for the hero.
Now, that’s a theme that’s repeated over and over again in hundreds of films. We understand that, Paul understands that. He says, “Someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good…” That makes sense to us. But that’s not what happened in our case. God sent Jesus Christ to die for us – not because we were good enough, not because we’re a hero – just because He loves us.
This is a concept that was new to new believers in churches all over the Mediterranean. But we’re talking about Rome this morning. The Roman church was made up of Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles is just a fancy catch-all word for anybody who’s not a Jew. You could practice any sort of religion or no religion at all. You couldn’t be a Buddhist or a Muslim yet, because those religions didn’t exist; but you could have been a Hindu, or you could have worshiped the Greek gods or the Roman gods, or your family ancestral gods or whatever. You’re all Gentiles as far as the Jews were concerned. The church was made up of Jews and Gentiles, and the Jews believed in the finality of the Mosaic law as the universally binding expression for the will of God. God spoke through Moses’ law through the Old Testament, and that was it, period, end of sentence.
Now, for those Jewish Christians who now understood Jesus as the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophesies, they see Jesus…
Think of it this way. You enter school in the first grade, you only know a little; and then slowly as you go through the years, you graduate as a senior. Jews thought you begin in the first grade with Abraham, and Isaac, and Moses, and then you go all the way up to senior year and are introduced to Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, and then you become a Jewish Christian, or a Christian. They didn’t think it was fair that Gentiles could just jump in at the senior year. “I’m going to skip all twelve grades, I’m just showing up at graduation!” They didn’t think that was cool. You need to go through all the hoops. You need to check all those blocks.
Now, it makes sense, kind of. Jesus was a Jew, He was a Jewish Messiah, so you should be Jewish first, then Gentile. Jewish Christians insisted that Gentiles who wanted to become Christians had to first become circumcised and keep the laws of Moses. Because the Jewish faith is a works-based theology, meaning you had to do stuff. Guys, you had to be circumcised on your eighth day of life. You had to follow all 613 Levitical laws. You have to practice all of the feasts and the festivals. You had to bring all the offerings to the Temples. You needed to do stuff, check off blocks, as a part of earning your salvation. That’s the Jewish mindset, that’s the Jewish theology.
Jews aren’t alone in that; there are other faith traditions who practice a similar thing. I come from the Roman Catholic tradition, and in very many ways it’s similar. I have to go to confession and first communion and confirmation. I have to celebrate a certain number of high holy days, and you have to say your rosary – there’s a lot of blocks to check in the Roman Catholic tradition. It’s not bad, it’s not a criticism, I’m not saying those things that they do are wrong, or bad, or evil in any way; it’s just that they teach, as Jews do, as a part of earning your salvation, you have to do some stuff.
Paul’s main point in the letter to the Romans is a person’s salvation is exclusively resting on the mercy and grace of Christ and what He did on the cross, not on the laws of Moses. So, you’ve got a bunch of people who’ve been following the laws of Moses and teaching the laws of Moses, saying, “You have to follow this, A, B, C, D…” all of a sudden it appears you can just show up at graduation and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior. That was new to these folks. I didn’t have to check off blocks? I didn’t have to do anything to get there? It’s offered to me… for FREE? Can you understand how that would be difficult for them to grasp? The idea of salvation being free goes against human nature.
I mean, moms and dads, let me ask you this. You get home from work and your teen has washed the dishes, and your teen has taken out the trash. And, randomly, for no reason whatsoever, your teen is somehow telling you how much they love you. What’s the first question that comes into your mind? What do you want!? We’ve all got that one down pat, right? There’s only two – what do you want, and what did you do? We get that, because no one does something for nothing, right? There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
So, these folks in the church of Rome (and there are people in churches all over the world Sunday morning, right now) struggling, trying to wrap their heads around the fact that God’s will is that not one of His children would perish; not one would end up in hell, separated from Him forever. And what separates us from God? Our sin, or more specifically, the consequences of our sin.
I did a sermon not too long ago – perhaps you remember – where I made mention that a lot of people place all of their hope on the goodness of God. I’ll get there because God is good! And God is good, but God is also our final judge. When we come to that place at the end of the road, you’re going to stand before the Lord, and He is going to judge us. God is good, and He is judge, so God is a good judge; and a good judge has to punish the guilty (sinners). He has to. If He does not, then He is not a good judge. So, to be a good judge God has to punish the guilty; and yet, if He does, we will all be separated from Him forever, because we’re all guilty, we’re all sinners. Do you see the corner that He has painted Himself into? God has to punish the guilty, but He doesn’t want any of us, the guilty, to suffer the consequences of our sins, to be separated from Him forever. How does He square that circle?
God sends Jesus to take our punishment for us. That way, as a good judge, He has followed through with punishment, even while we were still sinners.
Now, let’s lighten up a little bit. I want you to think about this. Let me ask you a question: all babies are cute, right? (laughs) You’re absolutely right, that is not a true statement! I have been doing baby dedications for twenty-two years now, I can tell you that is not true! All life is precious, all babies are precious because all life is precious. And it’s funny when you think about it – no one ever has to teach us that. For some reason we just know instinctively that all life is precious. Sadly, only later do we allow the influence of our culture to convince us otherwise.
But regardless of what this fallen world says, all life is precious; however, let’s be honest. That does not mean we are all made the same. Some guys look like Renée’s true love, Shemar Moore, and some guys look like me. That’s just the reality! I deal with it. I obviously eat. But the truth is, over the past twenty-two years, I have seen my share of ugly babies! The only people who can’t see how ugly their baby is are the parents! They are blinded by their love.
Let me give you an example. I have shared before about the day that I first became a dad. I was young. I was twenty years old, and this was a day we had been anticipating for nine months. It’s an amazing journey (I know Ryan’s going through it right now), just watching that little bun in the oven grow, and see him move inside mommy’s belly. I went to all the classes, and I read all the books, and I watched all the videos on VHS. Finally, the day comes, we’re off to the hospital, and I’m standing there in the delivery room, and I’m watching what’s taking place, and the only word that comes to my mind over and over, I swear to you – miracle. This is just miraculous. You can’t put it into words. You try to explain it to other people, but you can’t. All you can say to a man is, “Until you become a dad and you see it with your own eyes, you won’t get it.” And then when they do, they understand.
So, here I am, and all of a sudden, my son is here! I’m a dad! And I look down and – have you ever seen the movie Alien? See how his head is really long? I went to all the classes, I read all the books! Nobody told me that a baby’s head is not a single piece of bone! It’s two pieces inside each other, and to get through the birth canal, sometimes they have to separate and make this hot dog shape so they can get out. So, I’m looking down at my son, Jeremy the Alien… and I loved him.
Now, right after his head went back together, Jeremy was adorable. I mean, I obviously had him dressed in the correct baseball uniform. He thinks he’s too cool for school. That’s him with his younger brother, Justin. That’s him with his two brothers, Justin and Jared. And that last one I put in there for you, Frank, just to show you I was once a dork with a minivan too. He was adorable. It’s hard to believe it’s been 35 years. I’m blessed now that I get to play in the worship team with him, and I’m pretty sure he’s not an alien, he’s never tried to eat me yet.
Usually babies are adorable. Usually – not always – but usually. Besides Jeremy, do you know who else was adorable? Frank. And Jenn. And Ryan – sharp dresser from the beginning! And Lauren. And Honey Bunches of Oats. You see, babies usually are adorable.
The point is, whether they’re cute or they’re darling (because when you finally see your friend’s baby in the stroller for the first time in the park, and they pull down the blanket and you go, AH! You’ve got to say something, right? You can’t say, “Look at the alien!” So, here’s what you can use – “He’s darling!” Or you can describe features. “Oh, what tiny hands he has!”) Whether the baby’s cute or darling, you don’t love them any less. I didn’t know whether Jeremy’s head was going to go back together, not at that moment. I just thought, man, I’m going to have to spend a lot of money on hats. But that didn’t mean I didn’t love him any less. He was my son, my child. And he was precious.
God’s love is like that. Regardless of any of the ugly things we may have done in the past, or said, or thought; in spite of any of the ugly things we may be doing or saying or thinking now (and He knows what they are, because He’s God), He loves us anyway. He loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for us while we were still ugly. God wants to see you in heaven. He does not want you separated from Him forever. God’s will is that not one of His children would perish. God loves you; but it’s not because of anything you’ve done, not because of any blocks you have checked. What we do has…
Well, Isaiah put it best. He wrote:
We are all infected and impure with sin.
That’s why our slogan is “we are an imperfect Christian community; loving, serving, and equipping an imperfect world.”
When we display our righteous deeds –
All the great things we’ve done, all the blocks we’ve checked, really –
… they are nothing but filthy rags.
So, in other words, you Jews here in Rome, if you think following the Mosaic law, checking all those blocks is the key to salvation… you Christians who think doing more good deeds in life than bad deeds is the key to salvation – you’re both wrong. What we do has little – no bearing – on the issue whatsoever. Our best deeds are like filthy rags compared to what Jesus did on the cross. Can you imagine you get up before Jesus, and you’re standing before Him all happy and proud and you say, “Jesus, did you see when I helped that little old lady cross the street?” and Jesus says, “Did you see the scourging scene in the Passion of the Christ?” “Did you see that I sponsored an African child for thirty-five years?” “Did you notice I was nailed to a cross?” I mean, what we have done – our good deeds pale in comparison to what Christ accomplished on our behalf. They’re like filthy rags.
I mean, we are all sinners. All of us.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short
of God’s glorious standard.
Does anyone here this morning disagree with that? Does anyone here think they are not a sinner?
Don’t get too depressed. You can’t help it! You were born that way. We all were. David, in his confession in Psalm 51 says to the Lord:
Against you, and you alone, I have sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner – yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
You were born that way. That’s why racism is so incalculably ignorant, it just makes one crazy. Skin color is an immutable human characteristic; it is not something one can change. We are born that way. Therefore, to like or dislike someone based upon something they have no control over (the color of their skin) is just intellectually irrational; and those who do so are either – and there’s only two choices – colossally stupid or evil. Those are the only two choices. God wanted M&Ms, not those blue things I bought at the Party City. He wanted variety. We are born that way. Similarly, we are all born sinners, and there is nothing you can do about that.
There’s nothing YOU can do about that. There’s no amount of following the rules, checking off the blocks; there’s no number of doing good deeds that will change the fact that when it comes to being children of God, we’ve all been pretty much ugly babies. But our Father is blinded by His love for us. He says in verse 8:
God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
I know what I have thought and said and done, and you know what you have done and thought and said (and so does He), and in His eyes I must be a total alien. But the amazing thing is that God loves me, nonetheless. He sent His son to die for us while we were still ugly sinners; and like David, if we can confess our sins to Him and believe in what He did for us on the cross, He will save us and we will not be separated from Him forever.
For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.
Yes, it is true, Psalm 51 tells us that we were all born sinners, from the moment of conception; but Psalm 139 tells us that God knew us even before that:
You watched me as I was being formed in
utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.
Every moment was recorded in His book – every ugly thought, every ugly word, every ugly act – He already knew, and He chose to love us anyway. This much. So, I know friends, you’re going to go through some tough times. I know there are going to be circumstances in your life where you might feel overwhelmed. But don’t, please, ever feel uncertain about God’s love. Remember, He loved you before you even turned to Him, and He tells us clearly in the gospel of John 1:12:
All who believed him and accepted him, he
gave the right to become children of God.
When we believe, God adopts us as His children, and even though He is fully aware of all of our ugliness, He still thinks you are absolutely awesome, and the most beautiful thing He has ever seen. He is blinded by His love for each one of us. That’s what this table is all about. Let’s pray.