What do escape rooms and “Let’s Make A Deal” have in common with Romans 10.5-15? In this worship celebration, which includes the Lord’s Supper, we learn about it! There is a lovely prelude that goes until 7:14. The message begins at 12:54, but is also available as a stand-alone video below the first one. Thanks for tuning in!
“Sometimes miracles are just good people with kind hearts.” So read a meme I saw on social media last week that piqued my interest – not because it is heartwarming (which it was intended to be), but because it contains so much baloney. (Sorry for using such a heavy theological term…I couldn’t help myself.)
We want to believe this is true, don’t we? And we want to believe it for a couple of reasons. First, we want to believe it because we want to believe in the inherent goodness of people; and second, we want to believe it because we would like some sort of logical explanation for the inexplicable.
In an empirical world, we want to be able to explain everything that happens. But in all humility, even the smartest physicians and scientists in the world cannot explain every little thing that occurs. While some are reluctant to use the term ‘miracle’, others will use it, whether defined as something that can’t be explained, or as a supernatural act of the sovereign God.
Without a doubt, each of us has encountered people whom we see to be good, having kind hearts. They certainly do good toward us, and we are the recipients of their kindness. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But when we begin to believe that our goodness and kindness is inherent, or that it is efficacious (that is, effective in earning our salvation), we tread on thin ice.
Let’s face it, when we don’t believe in the inherent goodness of humanity, we’re kind of seen as killjoys, aren’t we? Yet, a cursory glance at the news will tell you that if humanity is inherently good, there’s an awful lot of inhumanity out there. What’s more, the Bible is pretty clear: “No one is righteous – not even one…. No one does good, not a single one” (Romans 3.10-12, NLT). And this wasn’t an invention of the apostle Paul, who wrote Romans; he was quoting the Psalms. What’s more, the prophet Jeremiah said, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17.9, NLT).
That seems awfully bleak. The bad news is that it is awfully bleak when we live outside of God’s grace. But within God’s grace, there is good news, for in Jesus Christ he redeems our deceitful hearts, and imputes his righteousness on us by the cross, making it possible for us to do good, all for his glory. And some of that good we do will appear as a miracle to another person. Some will call it a coincidence, but we all know that under the care of a sovereign God, there’s no such thing as a coincidence!
So be encouraged: behind the baloney there is rock-solid theological truth that won’t let you down! We can’t trust in our own righteousness or rely on our own hearts. But we can trust in Jesus’ righteousness and rely on his pure heart. As we enter holy week, keep in mind what he has done for us.
Not long ago, I received word that my family physician is going to be retiring at the end of September. I’m particularly sad about this, because he’s one of those “old school” doctors who takes the Hippocratic Oath very seriously, who still makes house calls when necessary, and who almost always has enough room in his daily schedule to fit in those last-minute needed appointments. I will miss having him play a role in my life.
He has engaged a firm that will digitize his patients’ files so that all the records of my years of being seen by him will fit onto a CD that I can carry to my next doctor, whoever that may be. Everything that he has seen me for in the past eight years will be available for the new physician to review. Every. Little. Thing. Yes, the important things, like my drug allergy (yikes) and my body mass index (ouch), but also the less affirming things, like the time I had to be treated for a boil on my bottom (let’s not go there). Every. Little. Thing.
Of course, this is all for my good, right? The new doctor will need to know my background fully in order to be able to treat me properly when I come for assistance. The new doctor needs to see the big picture.
I like how God can see the big picture – the whole picture – but chooses not to. The apostle John says of the Lord, “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 John 1.9, NLT). And when does that happen? The earlier part of the verse says it happens “if we confess our sins to him”. And when God receives our confession of sin and forgives us and cleanses us, he keeps no record of our sins. They are gone like dust in the wind.
Let’s not kid ourselves: God could remember every little thing if he wanted to. But he chooses not to. As the old saying goes, he throws the sins we confess to him into the lake of forgetfulness, and posts a ‘no fishing’ sign there. While our medical records may have the good, the bad and the ugly in them, our divine records do not – when we live in relationship with God, believing that Jesus died to take away our sins and rose again to draw us to eternal life. When we are in Christ, God looks upon us as if we have the righteousness of Christ.
Our challenge is to seek to live that way. Growing in holiness, in righteousness – that’s the best response to realizing that God chooses not to remember every little thing. I’m praying that God will give you the grace and strength to grow in holiness and righteousness!