Our Status with God = Reconciled!

The dictionary defines “reconciled” as restored friendship. But if you really want to know what “reconciled” means then discover what the apostle Paul’s wrote in Romans 5:6-11: “Our Status with God = Reconciled!” November 3, 2019.

Every decade trends change and so do status symbols. But our status, our standing in relation to other people, and the status symbols we latch onto depend on the eye of the beholder. A guy was down on his luck and needed money. He knocked on the door of a house, “Excuse me, ma’am! Do you have any work for me so I can earn some cash?” She said, “Here’s a can of yellow paint. You can paint the porch around back.” He came back a couple hours later. “You’re done already?” “Yup! But I have to tell you. That’s not a Porsche. It’s a Ferrari.” For her, a house and nice car indicated her status. For him, not so much. The last time I checked I believe we are all still human beings. So, we tend to look at our status and our status symbols with our human eyes and perceive them with our human brain. But the Son of God put that all into perspective when he said, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mark 8:36-37), and “Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).

When all is said and done, it’s our status with God, our standing with him, that counts more than anything else, and the only way we can get certainty about our status with God is to root around in the Holy Scriptures, and see what God himself says about it, like opening a treasure chest and digging around to find a bazillion dollar diamond. After the dust settles, the whole deal can be summed up in one word, “reconciled,” which is a term that may be as clear as mud, leaving even veteran Christians at sea. To say that our status with God is summed up with the word “reconciled” might be as confusing as if I said, “The incarnate Second Person of the Trinity satisfied God’s justice by his active and passive obedience, culminating in the vicarious atonement. His examination and subsequent exaltation by the resurrection underscore the certainty of universal and objective justification which not only is the basis for subjective justification but also the continuing motivation for our sanctification.” All of what I just said is true but not helpful unless you understand what those words mean.

The same is true for summing up our status with God with the word “reconciled.” It’s not helpful unless you understand what it means.The dictionary defines “reconciled” as restored friendship. That helps a little. But if you really want to know what “reconciled” means then watch the rosebud labeled “reconciled” bloom in this magnificent paragraph, today’s second reading from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans in chapter five:

“Our Status with God = Reconciled!”

We are Redeemed by the loving Lord

Let’s say you are working in an office setting. You get to know all the folks in the office fairly well. You get along with just about everybody. But down the hall is one guy you can hardly stand. He’s the kind of guy who thinks his jokes are funny, but no one ever laughs so he tells them twice and explains the punch line because he thinks no one gets it. He’s the kind of guy who stands by the coffee machine and insists he’s right when you disagree on how to spell or pronounce a word. He’s the kind of guy who sits in meetings and gives the distinct impression, “It’s my way or the highway!” Around the corner in the other direction is another colleague who works in accounting. She has never gotten on anyone’s nerves. She has gained respect from others by her consistent kindness, quiet persistence in getting the job done, and her willingness to help others. She’s always on time, and on her way to the coffee machine it’s not unusual for her to ask if she can get you a cup.

One day after work you’re heading home, and to your horror you witness a bad car accident just a couple cars in front of you. You were able to swerve out of the way and pull off to the side of the road. You’re the first on the scene and rush to see if anyone’s hurt. You can’t believe it! It’s those two people from the office! Then you realize that the car is about to burst into flames, they are trapped inside, and you only have to time pull one of the two to safety. Whom will you rescue? Paul wrote, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.” The person I described first may come across as wanting to be dead right, but he may end up dead. Why would anyone want to risk life and limb for someone like that? The other person may be more likeable, but even at that, there likely are people who could tell a story about a neighbor who was willing to run into a burning building to save a friend, but stories like that are rare.

Where do I stand with God? What’s my status? Here’s a shocker! My status and yours, left on our own, is worse than zero. I’m not only powerless to improve my status with God. I’m the irritating one. I’m the one who has too often spit in God’s eye instead of bowing before him in awe. I’m the one he ought to sweep aside with back of his hand and kick into an eternal sink hole.

That’s what makes Jesus’ death so radical. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly but God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  In verse ten Paul repeats this truth one more time, “While we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son.” In the language of the New Testament there are two different words for “enemy.” One word indicates a public enemy, an enemy of the state, like a soldier in an opposing army. That enemy is impersonal. You don’t know his name. The other word refers to a personal enemy, one who has wronged you, who has stolen your credit card, who has punched you in the nose, who has slandered your good name, and won’t do anything about it. That’s what we were in God’s eyes, personal enemies who punched him in the nose with every sin. But Jesus paid the price to make up for all that. He redeemed us by his blood. He did it, Paul says, for us, in our place. Those spikes were meant for our wrists. The ton of guilt he carried was meant for our shoulders. The emptiness he experienced on the cross was meant for our hearts. Friendship with God has been restored by the death of his Son. Our status with God = reconciled!  We are redeemed by the loving Lord.

We are Resurrected by the living Lord

Here’s a story many of you know. A wayward and ungrateful son grabbed his inheritance early, ran off, squandered it on a foolish and sinful lifestyle, and ended up on skid row.  Pigs fared better than he. Totally penniless and guilty, he returned home. His status with his father was zero. The father completely forgave him, accepted him, threw a party for him. Note the status change!

Some of you know there was another brother in the story, the older brother who had stayed at home. Instead of rejoicing when his younger brother came back, he got jealous. Now let’s add a little to the story. Let’s say that the father died. At the funeral the older brother started shooting his mouth off. He said to his younger brother, “Dad wasn’t himself at the end. He was getting senile. He may have welcomed you home, but you can’t stay, and you surely can’t have another part of the estate.” But what if miraculously that old dad in the coffin came to life, sat up, and said, “I heard that! I’m back, and I am going to make sure that my younger son gets what I gave him!” Totally impossible you say?

Nothing is impossible with God. You see, if Jesus stayed dead, we would have some questions, “OK!  He paid the price to redeem us. But will it last? If Jesus is still dead, is he still paying the price? Will our status will revert back to being God’s personal enemies?”

Praise God that we will never have to ask those questions because Jesus didn’t stay dead. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while 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!  Because Jesus lives, we can really live. Has anyone ever said to you, “Get a life!”  Here’s a good response, “I’ve got one thanks to my living Lord Jesus, and you can have one, too.” You see, we not only have our slate of sin wiped clean by his death. We also have a life through his life.  Right now, in this life, Jesus gives us the power to overcome temptation. We don’t have to sin. Right now, in this life, Jesus gives us a role to play in this world, a purpose for our life, as we honor him and let others know how great it is to be friends with God. Right now, in this life, Jesus gives us the resources of talents, spiritual abilities, and income to serve him and others. And right now, in this life, Jesus gives us the guarantee of life forever. Our status with God = reconciled. We are resurrected spiritually and eternally by the living Lord.

We are Rejoicing in the only Lord

A pilot was shot down in battle over a Pacific Island. He bailed out and landed in tall jungle grass. Knowing the enemy might spot him, he waited till night time, stayed low, and used his pocket knife to cut blade after blade of grass, hoping to crawl out of that field to safety. During the day he stayed motionless face down, afraid to look up because he heard machinery and noise. But all he had to do was stand up, open his eyes, and see that he was in a field of grass on a U.S. army base. He had been safe all along!

Have you been down that path, thinking that all the good things we get from God are off in the distant future? You felt bound up, seeing only everyday problems, crawling along through tall grass of the sleepless nights, keeping your face down each day, hoping to make it to the next, barely surviving the rat race and the pressure.  What’s missing is the big picture. Paul wrote, “Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”  “Boast”? Really? Listen to the Bible writer earlier in this letter: “Where, then, is boasting?  It is completely eliminated.  By what principle – of works? No, but by the principle of faith.  Yes, we conclude that a person is acquitted by faith completely apart from doing what the law requires [D.Kuske translation] (Romans 3:27-28).  In another letter he picked up the same line of thought, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).  We don’t boast in ourselves, in our own ability to get status with God, but we can boast – in him! Go ahead and lift your head out of the grass and see the big picture. He is not some generic, unfeeling, unspeaking, distant God, but the only God there is, the Savior God, who has placed us into the safe environment of his army base, surrounded by his presence, his power, and his army of angels. Our status with God = reconciled, rejoicing in the only Lord.

A Lamborghini, a home with six bedrooms and four and a half baths, a vacation home up north, a condo in Florida, the latest smart phone in the pocket, a Rolex on the wrist. There’s nothing wrong with having things, but status symbols may change. Our status with God never will. We are reconciled to God! Amen.

Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI on November 3, 2019