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Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Gospel and Katrina

I was going to share this at men's prayer breakfast this Saturday. But a) they decided to go a different direction from the typical teaching that takes place usually, and b) Jason is filling in for me so our family can gain one more day of trying to adapt to Karis.

Romans 1:16 is often memorized: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

But do you know what the next part says? See if you can tell from these options...no peeking (obviously, look the passage up yourself after taking a guess, but don't cheat ahead of time)...

1. ...for in it the GRACE of God is revealed from faith to faith;
2. ...for in it the MERCY of God is revealed from faith to faith;
3. ...for in it the LOVE of God is revealed from faith to faith;

Did you figure out which it is? Maybe you're struggling to figure out the difference between these words. Take you time, review them again. Which do you think it is?

If you've memorized Romans 1 (really is a great chapter to memorize...actually, what chapter in Scripture isn't) you know the answer was not listed. Paul says he is not ashamed of the gospel, for that message reveals the power of God in the salvation of believers. How is God's power revealed? Because the gospel message reveals His righteousness.

Wow, is that ever a focus when we present the gospel? Typically, we are inclined to plead with someone to accept Christ because God loves them so much (He does) or because He has offered a great free gift (He has) or because He is so willing to forgive (through Christ, He is). How often do we explain to a person that they should turn from their sin and trust Christ because God is a righteous God? It works two ways:

Because He is a righteous God, sin can not be overlooked. He must have the punishment exacted for my sin. That punishment is death; seperation from God for eternity. But Scripture tells us that those sins were placed upon Jesus at His crucifixion. God doesn't "just" forget my sin or overlook it. He declares me innocent because the penalty has already been paid. (Collosians 2:8-15)

Second, God pours His righteousness in us. If my sin were merely paid for, I become morally neutral. My sins are paid for, but even my good works I do are selfish and vain. However, God offers the righteousness of Jesus Christ to me. At His death on the cross, He not only offers to take my sin away, His righteous life is offered to my account. Read Romans 4 slowly and let it soak in. Notice how many times Paul says "credited."

If we present a gospel that doesn't mention sin, righteousness, the payment needed for sin, the lack of benefit of my own "good works," we're ignoring the very attribute of God that the gospel is to expose. Not until I see the righteousness of God, and my offense to His righteousness, will I ever really understand His love, grace or mercy.

How does this relate to Katrina? Well, when we only want to talk about God's love with others, we struggle to explain tragedy. Some just ignore it and shrink away. Others futher diminish the glory of God by denying His sovereignty; claiming He didn't see it coming or had no control. What's the real answer?

My sin has caused tragedies like 9/11, the tsunami and Katrina. A God of righteousness must pour out His wrath for my offense of His law. Only in His mercy am I not immediately destroyed.

There are two things to understand about this, however:

By saying Katrina is caused by God in response to the sins of this world, I am not speaking on a socio-political level. Though some will decry that it's because we have abortions, same-sex marriages or have taken prayer out of school...that's not the real issue. The time I didn't speak up when I was given the wrong change at the store was just as much an offense to God's law. It's not just the "biggies."

The people in the New Orleans area are not more guilty than the rest of us. We've all sinned and stand just as guilty, and just as worthy of His wrath as anyone else (Luke 13:1-8). In fact, the purpose of that tragedy is ultimately the glory of God (John 9). The question is, will we see His wrath and repent of our own sin?

Maybe you're struggling with this. Perhaps it seems difficult and foreign to hear things talked about this way. Let me know what you think. But before you comment, make sure you read on in Romans 1.

...For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who supress the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). His wrath is revealed. Righteousness is the cause.

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