When we have the choice between salvation as a free gift of grace, requiring only gratitude and acceptance, or salvation as an earned prize, requiring obedience and constant striving, why do we always choose the later?  The Jews did it though they followed and worshiped the same God that we do.  And we still do it today.  We would rather live in a world where God is the judge handing out first, second, and third place ribbons.

But this constant striving, this earned salvation, is just the opposite of grace.  And that is Paul’s point here in Romans 3.  While the Jews lived in an earned salvation world, Jesus came bringing the truth, that salvation is a free gift for everyone, not earned through our own righteousness but received with gratitude.

So how hard did your brain just balk at that last statement?  How many “but…” statements flew through your mind?  “But you still have to follow Jesus’ rules, right?”  “But you can’t just preach a no-strings-attached salvation or people will just say they accept it and then go on sinning.”  “But… but… but…”  If this is where your brain goes, you’re not alone.  That’s why Paul had to write this book of Romans.

“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  It’s like we are all striving to have the perfect figure skating routine before God our judge, and every one of us just keeps on falling.  And falling.  And falling.   Yet as we sit waiting for scores, God gives us a perfect 10 every time. Why?  Because He’s not even watching us skate.  He’s watching a replay of Jesus’ perfect routine and scoring us based on that.  It’s called imputed grace, and it means that Jesus took our imperfections, our sins, our falling and falling and falling… and gave us His perfect 10.

What part of “salvation by grace through faith” do you not understand?

One of the biggest schisms in the church today boils down to repentance.  Determining which sins require repentance, what repentance really looks like, and whether we’ve “repented enough” or not suck up the majority of some people’s spiritual lives.  Do we have a time of repentance in worship every week?  Do we need to lead people in a prayer of sincere repentance before Communion?  How do we determine whether someone’s repentance is sincere or just lip service?  We have a deep need to control other’s repentance, don’t we?

While David writes Ps. 51 as a psalm of repentance, in it we can learn much about repentance that we may be confused about.

First, repentance is not the act of saying the right words, uttering the magic mantra, “Lord, forgive me, a sinner.”  I have been told, in a conversation about suicide, that since the person does not have time to repent of killing themselves, they are going to hell.  Inevitably, they then go on to describe a situation where they can repent – taking pills with a delayed effect, jumping off a tall enough building – and decide that this is the way to go for those who wish to do so.  It displays a deeply flawed view of repentance, one that is common but unspoken, that of the “magic mantra”.  As long as I say the right words, God forgives and I’m heaven-bound.

Second, repentance is not the act of self-hate, realizing how low and scummy and sinful we are and hating ourselves for it.  A video by an artist called SomeGreyBloke speaks to this well from an atheist’s confused perspective.  Repentance is not about how horrible, sinful, or low we are.  In fact, it isn’t about us at all.  It’s about…

Repentance is the act of proclaiming the truth that God is perfect, I am not, and I need Him to be the person He created me to be.  Repentance is not a focus on me at all; it is focused on God and His greatness.  When I take my eyes off myself and my decrepit state and instead focus them on God, I have hope that things can be better, and vision to work toward making them so through God’s will.

On Aug. 10-12, we gather together at Conference Point Center in Williams Bay, WI for a weekend of fun, worship, singing, campfires, fireworks, games, and a whole lot more.  This year our theme is “He Knows My Name”.  Please sign up here by July 8 to reserve your room.  For a full, printable brochure, click here, print a few, and use them to invite your friends and families.

What does God get mad at?  We know we serve a God of grace, love, and forgiveness, but we also know that He gets angry.  At what, or who, does God get mad?

Most of us are terrified that it is us that God is angry at.  We know the depravity of our lives and minds and wills, and we know that He knows, too.  We are usually angry at ourselves for those thoughts, so we are sure that He is, too.

In Romans 1, Paul gives us a clue about what God gets mad at.  First, we see that God gets truly angry at “the suppression of the truth”.  God is not only about truth, He IS Truth.  To deny the truth is to deny God Himself.  And our culture is all about the suppression of the truth.  From our government leaders to our everyday workers, if it leads to our betterment, improvement, wealth or power, we will gladly “suppress the truth”, meaning lie, deceive, or obfuscate.  And this makes God mad.

And when God gets mad, His common punishment is to allow us to follow the path we’ve chosen leading to our own death, physically and eternally.  “God gives us over…” is Paul’s common phrase used here.

God gives us over to the sinful desires of our hearts (v.24), to our shameful lusts (v.26), and to our depraved mind (v.28).  These things present themselves as idolatry (v. 25), homosexuality (v.26), and every kind of wickedness (v.29).

But the key to this part of Paul’s passage is that we are not acting out of ignorance, but are ignoring what they know, “suppressing the truth”, and actively turning away from it.

Our natural tendency is to figure out who “those people” are, but it is far more helpful for us to see ourselves in this description.  How are you “suppressing the truth”, ignoring what you know to be true about God and living for yourself instead?  How is your life displaying idolatry, improper sexuality, and other forms of wickedness? And most importantly, what are you going to do about it?  God grants grace, even when He’s angry.  “Repent and believe the Good News”.

As we approach the final of our LCC Cares themes, “Engagement”, we need to get final numbers for each of the four ministries that engage our community.  They are…

Thursday Aug. 2, 6-7:30pm — FMSC Packing Event
Saturday Aug. 4, 8am-12:30pm — Love INC Furniture Delivery
Sunday Aug. 5, 2:30-3:30pm — Winchester House worship service
Tuesday Aug. 7, 9am – 12pm — Food Pantry

As one of our Core Values as a church, engaging the community is part of our DNA, so our hope is that every person connected to LCC will participate in at least one of these ministries.  To sign up for any of the four, click here or on the logo.