Recently, I had to take a trip to the ER.
That morning I had a procedure to remove a piece of my scalp due to a runaway mole. The dermatologist said it was caused by sun damage from when I was a kid. (Thanks for the sunscreen, mom. But it was the 1970’s, I guess I should be thankful I wasn’t lathered in canola oil for a “healthy” tan).
Anyway, that evening as I lay down to go to sleep, I started bleeding profusely from the wound. So, I applied pressure and had my wife drive me to the ER, to make sure no stitches popped out. Upon arrival, the receptionist asked, “How are you doing?”
Choking back a sarcastic response, I said, “I’m fine, just bleeding from the head.”
[No laughter or sign of amusement]
“Would you like some gauze?” she asked.
“Ummm… yes,” I replied. She handed me a handful of folded gauze and asked me to have a seat.
It reminded me of the waiting room scene in Beetlejuice. You know, where the snorkeler has a shark still attached to his leg, and is just handed a number like he’s at the deli counter? That’s how I felt. Bleeding from the head – no problem.
An hour later a doctor finally saw me. The wound had stopped bleeding and created a scab. After examining it, he said, “It looks like everything’s fine, but leave that scab so the wound can heal underneath.” After my initial frustration that he couldn’t determine the cause of bleeding (it must have been some kind of dark magic I suppose), a thought occurred to me… Jesus (yes, really).
The blood that heals the wound. This is what Jesus did on the cross. His blood covers over our wounds of sin and heals them. Did you know that the word atonement means to cover over? And because of that we are justified (made right with God).
Romans 5:1: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
But what Jesus did on the cross may not even be the most shocking part. It may be this…
According to Jewish thought in the time of Paul, there were 3 categories of people:
#1 The Righteous
These people follow the obligation of the Law. This would be the Pharisee category.
#2 The Good
These would be righteous people who also were generous to the poor. For example, they might pay the temple tax on their behalf.
#3 The Ungodly
All non-Jewish people. It was believed that because they did not follow the Law, they were never made clean or forgiven through sacrifice. They are the condemned… the criminals in God’s eyes.
Now the crazy part…
Romans 5:6-8: You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The good news of the gospel is that salvation is not dependent upon our ability to be faithful, Law-abiding, good, or righteous. It’s not dependent on our attendance pattern at church, our giving, or our knowledge of the Bible. It’s not even about our works of faith. It’s about what God has done before we ever knew we needed it.
A very popular megachurch pastor tweeted recently: “If you want to change your heart, you must first change your habits.”
With all due respect… that’s not the gospel. Our hearts are not changed by what we do, but by what God does.
A better tweet would be:
Jesus doesn’t just hand us some gauze and say, “Stop the bleeding.” He bleeds for us, so we don’t have to. His blood covers over our wounds and heals us.
Marker #3: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Marker #2: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Marker #1 on the Roman Road: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
What does this mean for your relationship with God this week?
Pray to God about your relationship. Are you living in the freedom of grace? What would your life look like if you believed, heart and soul, that Jesus loves you, has forgiven you, and wants you to truly live?
If you want to hear more on this, you can listen to Part 3 of the sermon series.