Psalm 130, Galatians 6:11-17, Matthew 6:24-34
Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity
September 8, 2013
The heart of today’s message is found in Galatians 6:14; “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Why only glory in Christ? First let’s talk about what it means to glory. It is-to boast in or count on something to give you standing and respect among others. It is to consider something as earning your place in a community or organisation, as making you worthy of acceptance, honour, or elevated status and privilege.
Paul is specifically talking about something that earns a place for us in Heaven, a place for us in that great Mansion of Mansions and at the great marriage feast of the Lamb. He is talking about something we can glory in because it makes us worthy of the honours of Heaven.
Then why not glory in our good works? Why not trust them to earn our place with God? Let me give two good reasons. First good works cannot cancel our sins. Yes, you are a sinner. We read the Ten Commandments at the very beginning of the service this morning. They are God’s standards for your life. They are what God requires of you. They are God’s will for your life. Every time you break one you commit a crime against the Great King and Ruler of all things. And, as we saw in our evening readings in the Gospel of Matthew last week, it is not enough to keep the letter of the law. God requires that we keep the spirit of the law also, and that we keep it perfectly. Who among us will claim to have done that? Are we not all rather able to say with the Apostle Paul, “all have sinned,” and with the publican, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner?” In a short while, just moments before we come to the Communion Rail, we will pray in unison a prayer called the “General Confession.” We will pray it aloud, in an audible voice, for all to hear. If you are physically able, kneel before God and pray it on your knees, and say with the rest of us sinners; “Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty.” Confess to God, and all humanity that you have sinned against God. But first, confess it to yourself. You have sinned, and do not deserve the good things God has blessed you with. You have sinned, and have not earned Haven by your good deeds, but Hell by your sins. Glory not in your works, no matter how good they may seem to you and other people, to Christ they are filthy rags. Glory not in them. Glory in Christ who bore your sins and died for them on the cross.
Second, glory not in your own works because even your best works are tarnished and tainted by sin. What is the very best, most honorable thing you have ever done? Think of it for a moment. Now compare it to the absolute, perfect goodness of Christ. Does not His perfection reveal the flaws and cracks even in your very best deed? It is hard to imagine, but the sun in our solar system has dark spots on it. Its light is uneven. Think of light as a symbol for moral perfection, and listen to these words. From 1 John 1:5. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” Now listen to the words of James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Both of these verses are saying God is absolute perfect light, meaning moral and personal perfection. He has every attribute of goodness. He is wisdom, justice, truth, love, knowledge, mercy, and He is all of these things in perfection. There is no variation in his perfection; there is no shadow or turning in Him, forever. So even what we consider to be our very best and most righteous deeds and attributes are really just filthy rags compared to the absolute perfect goodness of God. None of our works measure up to the standard of His perfection, and what ever does not measure up cannot earn us a place in Heaven. In fact, it disqualifies us. We may think water that is guaranteed 99.99%pure is good enough for us, but God only accepts people who are 100% pure
Why not trust religion? Why not trust going to church and doing all the religious things? That’s what Paul’s detractors trusted, and they claimed that was all anyone needed to please God. “Become a Jew and keep all the ceremonies and sacrifices, they claimed,” and you will be right with God. To them, circumcision symbolized all the rituals and ceremonies.
But time after time God makes the point that the ceremonies without the heart are anathema to Him. He said to Israel, “this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me” (Is. 29:13). “I delight not in the blood of bullocks and goats.” “Bring me no more vain oblations… the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies… it is iniquity.” Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them” (cf. Is. 1:10). Anyone can sacrifice a lamb. Anyone can say a prayer. Anyone can eat the Passover meal. And you can do these things with no real love or concern for God. But God hates it if your heart is not in it.
To put this in modern terms we might say anyone can come to church. Anyone can get a little water on them. Anyone can receive a little bread and wine. But going to church is not necessarily the same as worshiping God. Getting wet is not necessarily the same as being baptized. Eating a communion wafer and taking a sip of wine is not necessarily the same as receiving Holy Communion. Performing the outer actions without meaning them in your heart does not please God. They insult Him. They express the idea that God is so stupid He can be appeased by a few insincere words and rituals. They express the idea that God is not important enough to care about Him or mean what you say to Him. And God is rightly .insulted by such arrogance. Hear what He says about those who receive communion without really seeking God in Biblical faith; “he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.” Strong words; words that make us want to examine our selves before we come to the Lord’s Table.
Therefore, our glory is in Christ alone. It is not in what we have done, but in what He has done. He came to earth and lived as a man, without special treatment. He suffered all the sorrows and temptations of life, but sinned not. And finally, He went to the cross bearing our sins in Himself and paying the price of our forgiveness. This is what the Lord’s Supper is all about. As we gather here today we gather in memory of Him, and that great sacrifice that made us right with God. He alone could do it. My own actions have caused only wrath and condemnation. His have caused peace and restoration. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.