The Guilty Made Just

Lead pastor, Keith Welton, continues our sermon series through the book of Romans. We are all guilty before God, but he offered Jesus to be the sacrifice that justifies us and makes us right with him.

Any Avengers fans out there?

We recently watched End Game. Now, to be fair, to understand End Game you have to watch about 20 hrs of other movies, but that is for another day. The key thing to understand about the final movie is that what sets the stage for this finale is that in Infinity Wars the evil villain Thanos gained possession of the all-infinity stones, and with power from those stones is able to snap his finger and destroy half the population of the world. Half the population is totally gone, and then he just teleports away. Half of all life across the universe disintegrates.

End Game picks up where things left off. It’s five years later and the avengers are still lamenting their loss. Some are looking for another shot at Thanos, working to make things right. Interestingly another, Thor, has completely abdicated. Thor, the god of thunder, goes to Norway and falls off the grid. He is playing video games, overindulging in beer,  and avoiding any mention of their last defeat. He is out of shape, overweight, and in denial. Not much of a god. It’s a funny part of the movie. That’s how humans deal with failure, but gods aren’t supposed to do that. It brings up a sobering point. 

How do you deal with guilt and failure? It is a basic human need. The thing that makes the scene so funny is that Thor is a god and not supposed to deal with things as humans, but this humor partly acknowledges this is how humans deal with guilt. He has no hope for change, no hope for something better. The best he can do is numb the inevitable pain.

Guilt is pain. Pain from mistakes and shortcomings. If you are in pain, you seek to numb the pain, control the pain, distract yourself from the pain. Depressed because of your inability. Anxiety because you’re worried you are making the wrong decision again. OCD as you obsessing over problems and seeking to make them right. Try to numb the pain, you are low and make poor decisions, so then you feel worse than before. Guilt makes you feel bad. Bad for what you did. Can even make you feel bad when you are happy; I should deserve to be happy because of what I have done. 

Guilt is a major problem with people. You are told not to tell anyone what you did. You hear, “Don’t go to church because they just make you feel guilty.” What is interesting to me is how far short secular solutions to guilt fall. Amazing that a society so advanced as ours would be systematically mentally ill, partly because there are no good solutions for spiritual problems like guilt. Guilt is a basic human feeling, and presents a need people have of removing their guilt. 

We are in an incredibly rich passage of Scripture that shows God’s solution to one of the most basic of human needs–guilt. This passage is also one of the greatest summaries in all of Scripture of what Jesus accomplished on the cross for us. 

**IF you have not memorized this passage then memorize it.** 

The gospel brings hope that all who fall short can be redeemed through the blood of Christ. 

Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world, so that guilty sinners can be made right with God. We can come out of depression, numbness, avoidance, and self justification, and find confidence in God. 

Fallen Short of Glory

To be guilty means there is a standard you have not lived up to. Now in a day where no one wants to admit there is a standard or that there is a law of God, it’s ironic so many people feel guilty. Increase in alcohol and drug abuse, something is going on under that. Many feel depressed and don’t connect it to guilt. 

Guilt is:

-the fact of having committed a breach of conduct, especially violating law and involving a penalty

-a feeling of deserving blame for offenses

Oftentimes the feeling is based on what they know, or think, they should have done. Thor thought he should have defeated Thanos. He failed. Our ultimate standard is God’s standard. What does he think? 

Romans 3 points out the ways people fall short

For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

That is a categorical summary of all of humanity. There is no difference. Rich people and poor people. Educated and uneducated. Religious and non-religious. Young and old. Royalty and peasants. All have sinned. All fall short. Good looking and not so good looking. 

People fall short–to be left behind in the race and so fail to reach the goal, to fall short of the end; fail to become a partaker. 

“Genuine fellowship is grounded upon a negative: it is grounded upon what people lack,” Barth in Edwards Romans.

The problem is not that we need more education. Need more money. Need more stuff to hide who you really are. Need to deal with our failures and shortcomings. How can we be made right? Has our failings ruined our life completely?

Human levels. To fall short is to be human. You are not God. Do your kids know you to be human? Do you acknowledge your humanity, your falling short to others? It requires vulnerability. If you don’t know this, you don’t have anything to give to your kids about it. Many don’t share it, because they don’t have hope for it. 

Do you feel guilty? Has your marriage fallen short of the glory of God? Has your parenting? Have you fallen short in your friendship? How about 5th grade? Have you done things you should not have done? How have you handled guilt? Ever medicate it with alcohol, drugs? Denial and rage against others? Depression and sitting isolated in your room? Want nothing to do with anyone? We fall short in how we fall short.  

Fall short of God’s standard. That's the problem. LIke a race where you fall behind and don’t make it. 

Find out the who of your guilt. Whose standard have you missed? Your standard, your boss’s standard, neighbors’ standard, kids’ standard? Whose standard is most important to you? If you have missed God’s standard then that is our greatest problem. 

Double meaning here. We fall short of his glorious standard. We fall short of his glorious inheritance. 

Unrighteousness, wicked, evil. Deserve judgment. That is the first two chapters of Romans. The wrath of God is revealed on all unrighteousness. Now we see we have all fallen short of his standard. 

To fall short means that you need help. Humanity needs help. Pride resists this. Pushes others aside. Even God. But this is to deny the help of God. 

So what is our hope? Everyone is guilty. We go to Norway and drown our sorrows in beer. Give up and play video games all day? LIve in darkness, gloom, sadness, isolation. 

Justified by his Grace

It is a surprising statement. You have had two chapters of Paul spelling out in detail how all people, Gentiles, and even Israel and the people of God, have no excuse. It is all summed up perfectly with “all have sinned and fallen short.” 

That is what makes the next words so amazing. We have fallen short. What do you expect to come next? We are obliterated to non-existence, banished to the darkest corners of the universe, just like Thanos did to the universe? We have something different. We have grace.

That is called grace. God gives them a gift that they do not deserve. He justifies them through the redemption in Jesus Christ. 

Justified. Guilt brings condemnation. A law has been broken and a penalty must be paid. Sin deserves death. Guilt can be so mysterious because people try to throw off all moral obligation. You can do that, but you still feel the weight of your wrongs. Ill: If you speed you deserve a ticket. 

Sin leads to separation from the giver of life. Your sin deserves death. But God does something amazing. People were the ones under God’s commands, so they were the ones with the problem of sin. God sends his Son into the world as a human to die for them. Jesus is the perfect Son of God who never sinned. He comes and takes our place. 

Justified means to make right. Righteous. How can we be made right if we have done wrong? Hopeless conundrum.

Condemn is to sentence to a punishment. Guilty!

Justify is to show one as right. Innocent!

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement. Frequently people who have done something wrong will bring a sacrifice to the one they offended. Husbands bring their wives flowers. In the Old Testament God provided grain and animal sacrifices as a way to atone for sin. The animals were sacrificed on the altar and their blood poured out. It was a way for people to understand the severity of God’s holiness, and therefore the severity of their sin. It was a way for those who were guilty to be set free. 

Here we see Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for sins. He took your place. 

Propitiation. Atoning Sacrifice. Hilasteron is the word used here, and it describes the lid of the ark. The place sacrifice was made. The access to the presence of God. Jesus is called that. He is the atoning sacrifice. He is the one who restores relationship to God. 

Justify: Just as if I had not sinned.

Atonement: At one. 

God’s just wrath is taken away. He does not overlook our sin. Judgment is rendered in that it is given out. But it is taken by Jesus. God remains just. We are set free. 

The punishment you deserve for your mistakes is taken away. There is no more guilt because there is no more accusation. You don’t keep beating yourself up. Don’t keep punishing yourself for your mistakes, for being human. Don’t keep minimizing your sin and blaming others. Own it. Turn to God. 

Our sins are reckoned, credited to Jesus. His righteousness is credited to us. 

Expiation: the removal of sin and guilt. 

Propitiation has to do with wrath and anger. God was justly angry at us because of our sin. But where Jesus takes away sin and guilt, he removes the wrath of God. God is no longer angry at us. 

This is the difference between paying a debt and becoming friends with a person. A banker looks indifferently to a person who had paid their debt in full. God does not look at us merely indifferently, but he looks at us as a father looks on his son. With love. Not because the son is perfect, but because the son is his, and they are reconciled. 

God presented him. This is a historic event. If you want to know why we are a free and independent country, separate from England, it is because the Revolutionary War was fought and won and independence was granted. In the same way our forgiveness with God is through Jesus’ blood shed on the cross. He took what we deserved that we might receive what he deserved. It is an event that continues to have an impact on us today. 

Could not be attained by the law. You will never work your way into a right relationship with God. You will always fall short of his standard. Incapable of doing good and working off all your problems. Doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for doing good, it just means we can’t work off the debt we have. 

Sublimation of guilt: let's do a lot of good deeds. It's not just alcoholics and addicts that struggle with guilt. 

End Game is a confusing movie. The avengers feverishly plot a new way to make up for their mistake. Makes a great movie. It's a terrible religion and terrible way to heal guilt and depression. They end up entering the quantum world to time travel and get one more shot at Thanos. If only we could travel back in time to undo our mistakes. Can't do that. What’s done is done. We cannot fix them. Even if you could go back in time you would mess up something else. 

*It is our nature to sin. But it’s God’s nature to redeem. 

He makes us righteous as a gift. We cannot earn it. 

Declared righteous. Imputed. It is not that we are actually righteous. It is not that righteousness is infused to us as though we actually possess it. Pizza crust infused with cheese. The cheese is inserted into the crust. The crust is actually cheese. Declared righteous. He committed the crime, but he is now pardoned, because another paid his debt. 

A desperate picture of humanity is painted in the first few chapters of Romans. Any description of the human race must account for all the wrong and evil that is done in the world. It is inevitably bleak. But these verses show the greatness of what Jesus has accomplished. This is what you need to look at when you feel the weight of your sin, when you feel the weight of what others have done to you. You can be set free. Though you have fallen short, you can be brought into the glory of God. Though you feel tarnished, broken and neglected, God’s grace can restore and fix. 

Your mistakes and shortcomings don’t define your future; grace does. 

In Avengers. Thor meets with his mother. She looks at him and says, “You are not the Thor I know.” He then admits he was too late; he failed. “Was too late. An idiot with an ax.” Failure absolutely. Like everyone else. Everyone fails. “Go and be the man you were meant to be.” Calls his ax. “I’m still worthy.” It’s comforting for someone to know all your faults and still love you. This is what God offers to us. 

A relationship that is greater than law. Love that is greater than guilt. 

Something we all long for. But we long to hear it from the one who is in charge of all things. If he sets us free, what or who can hold us guilty?

Faith in Christ

The requirement is faith. It is trust in what God has done. That we believe and put all our life on it. Just as I lean on this chair, so now you lean on Christ. 

There is a condition for our acceptance. It is that we trust in him. It is not that we get everything together. It’s not that we fix ourselves and then come to him. It’s that we come. Broken and guilty. We come. Humbly and desperately. We acknowledge our faults, and our need for him.

Let me say something else. Guilt is good. Guilt brings freedom. 

Guilt is good. Guilt brings freedom. It is the emotional and spiritual gift that allows us to feel and accept that we have done something wrong. It sparks the wish and vulnerability for change. It prompts us to seek forgiveness. And forgiveness sets us free. Guilt is all about forgiveness if we want freedom. Chip Dodd

Reject pride and the need to justify yourself. (I did everything right, I’ll work it off and make it right, I’m not that bad, everyone else is the problem). Toxic guilt blames others. “Blame becomes a wall between our hearts and our actions as a way to evade our humanity.” 

Pride says I don’t need it, and it pushes others away. When you refuse to come to Christ. When you refuse to acknowledge him and your need for him. You are refusing his gift. You are saying I don’t want you. This is what so many people choose to do. They carry their guilt themselves. 

Are you willing to feel guilt? Feel it. Recognize it. Admit it. 

It is with those you have harmed, sought forgiveness from, and received forgiveness from, that you are able to have the most fulfilling relationships. It is by truthfully revealing your heart to others and God that you find full life and healing from the pain of old wounds that are infected with unresolved guilt. 

Discussion Questions

  1. How do you see guilt at work in your life or in the lives of others? 
  2. What does it mean to have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God?
  3. How does Jesus remove guilt and make one right with God?
  4. Does your guilt lead you to receive God’s forgiveness or do you pridefully push away from him and others?