Online Worship for Midweek Lenten Worship, March 15, 2023
Sermon for Midweek Lenten Service – March 15, 2023
St. Peter Lutheran, Stambaugh ● Calvary Lutheran, Marquette
Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come; from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness and firstborn from the dead, to Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Romans 6:23 (NKJV)
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
The Good Shepherd,
who laid down His Life,
To save me from death,
Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Do you remember the very first job – outside the home – for which you were paid a paycheck? I’ve worked many different jobs during my lifetime, but I’m pretty sure that the first paycheck I ever earned was paid by Marquette County. For a time, I worked with the Marquette County Conservation Corps cleaning up roots on Cross Country Ski Trails and removing trees along County Road 550 (the Big Bay Road). It was fairly difficult physical work.
On my first pay-day, I can remember marveling at the amount of money that I had earned. It was so much more than the $1 allowance I had once been given by my parents. What’s more, the blisters on my hands proved that I had earned every single penny of that paycheck. It was all mine...except for the amount taken by the government for social security (that I’m still waiting to get back).
My first paycheck and every other one that I’ve ever received I have earned. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the opportunity to work. I appreciate every paycheck, but I don’t consider them gifts...they are earned. My employers owe me each paycheck as payment for my work, for my time.
It is as the Apostle Paul once wrote to the Roman Christians (Romans 4:4, EHV):
4Now to a person who works, his pay is not counted as a gift
but as something owed.
We understand what our employer owes us...but does God owe us anything? I’m sure that there are some in our country today who imagine that God owes them a great many things...perhaps another stimulus check. Does God owe us life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?
When we search the Scriptures, we find that what God owes us for our work...isn’t something that we want at all.
May God the Holy Spirit bless our study of the Word of God, so that we return to our homes assured that the Good Shepherd has saved us from death. Amen.
Businesses want to make money. They want us to buy their products...so they develop advertising slogans.
Kentucky Fried Chicken...is finger lickin’ good.
Burger King says...Have it your way.
Arby’s...has the meats.
L’Oreal produces makeup, skin and hair products... because You’re worth it.
If today’s society had its own slogan to distinguish it from every other age...it would be: “We are owed.”
Politicians have capitalized on our entitled society and chime in, “You deserve Free healthcare, Free College, Free food, Free housing...even Free money.” In some corners of our country people believe that the government owes them their heart’s desire.
Would we be surprised to find that some people believe that God owes them? After all, if the government owes me free healthcare, college, food and housing...then doesn’t God owe me heaven?
Naturally there are preachers who have also capitalized on our entitled society and say what people want to hear (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3): “God wants you to be happy.” “God loves you and accepts you whatever your sexual orientation!” “If you are a good person, God will accept you, even reward you!”
God is love and wants you to be happy...but not if it means defying His Will revealed in His Law. If living in sin makes YOU happy...be assured that it doesn’t bring a smile to His face!
God is love, but God is also just... and has declared in His Word that sexual sin will earn His Judgment...as well as lust and greed and every other sin.
God is love, but try as we might...we can’t be perfect and sinless and earn a place in heaven.
No matter what some religious people say, God’s report card is bad when it comes to humanity. Even if God were to grade on a curve, it wouldn’t help because we are all guilty.
For it is written (Romans 3:10-12, ESV):
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
What does God owe us?
So, you’ve heard His evaluation of us...do you really want to know what God owes us?
He owes us death.
God told Adam and Eve what they would earn if they disobeyed Him (Genesis 2:17, ESV):
“...in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
God told His people through the Prophet Ezekiel what sin earned for each of them individually (18:20, ESV):
“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.
So, if God were to draft a check today and issue it for what we were owed the memo line would say:
“For sins of thought, word and deed: Death.”
If we have truly earned anything in our lifetimes it is this:
For the wages of sin is death...
What’s worse is that we can’t make up for it, we can’t make things right, we can’t change it. There is no point in promising to do better or to be better people. Martin Luther tried. He beat himself in an effort to be rid of sin and couldn’t. it didn’t work. It couldn’t work. Our sin engine is still up and running.
Even if we could stop sinning, we can’t make up for what we have done. In breaking God’s Law even once (and we’ve sinned far more than once) we have sealed our fate forever.
For the wages of sin isn’t just temporal death and the grave...but eternal death, eternal separation from God and His goodness forever in Hell.
Thank God...that the Scripture doesn’t end with the first half of this verse!
What follows says nothing about us, about our earning anything or being owed or deserving it. It speaks only of the gracious intervention of our God. While we have earned death...God has freely given us what we don’t deserve.
“For the wages of sin is death,
...but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It’s Grace. We usually define it as: God’s Undeserved Love. Some turn the word Grace into an acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Whichever you prefer always remember that Grace is a quality in God. It was God’s Grace, God’s loving heart that determined to give us what we needed rather than what we deserved.
How could a just and holy God NOT give us what He owed us?
What justice demanded...God’s Grace provided. In order that God might give us the priceless gift that none could earn or buy...the Son of God entered the human race.
Perfect Obedience -- He was born of a woman and lived perfectly under God’s Law as our substitute, perfectly keeping and fulfilling God’s Law. On the Mount of Transfiguration, the Father said He was well pleased with His perfect Son and His perfect Life (Matthew 17:5, 2 Peter 1:17). Jesus earned what we needed, and then...
Perfect Sacrifice – He also offered up His Life as the perfect sacrifice for every single human sin. The Father accepted that Sacrifice and raised Christ from the dead to prove it. So, it is written that Jesus (Romans 4:25):
“...was delivered up for our trespasses
and raised for our justification.”
This was done that God could give to us the perfect gift. In this passage, God’s gift is the opposite of what we are owed, the opposite of eternal death...eternal life.
It’s a gift to us, one freely and graciously given. When we speak to others about it, maybe we should just say it that way. Instead of just talking about justification, forgiveness, eternal life we should call it:
The Free Gift...of justification by faith.
The Free Gift...of being declared ‘not guilty.’
The Free Gift...of the forgiveness of sins.
The Free Gift...of eternal life.
While free to us, the price-tag on God’s gift could only be paid by God...and it was paid in full. Which is why we dedicate this time every year to return to Calvary and watch in wonder as our sin-debt and the death we have earned is paid for with the blood of Jesus.
It is as we sang at the celebration of His Birth –
See how God, for us providing, Gave His Son and life abiding;
He our weary steps is guiding From earth’s woe to heav’nly joy.
Christ, from heaven to us descending And in love our race befriending,
In our need His help extending, Saved us from the wily Foe.
From the bondage that oppressed us,
From sin’s fetters that possessed us,
From the grief that sore distressed us,
We, the captives, now are free. (TLH 90:3-4,6)
Free, because He saved us from death.