Extreme Makeover, Life edition (June 28, 2020)
Extreme Makeover, Life edition
A common trend among aging and sometimes struggling downtown areas of cities is to renovate and revitalize old buildings. I’m sure many of you have heard of a very successful case of this with the Silos and Magnolia Market up in Waco. This renovation project really helped jump start an aging district in Waco. There have been similar plans in the works to do the same kind of revitalization here in Temple. For at least a few years now, developers have had their eyes on a few iconic buildings in Temple; namely, the Santa Fe Depot, and the Hawn Hotel. One key factor in identifying good building candidates for renovation is that they have some merit, something that draws people to it, some unseen potential. Since Temple was established as a railroad town, the Santa Fe depot is a good pick. And the long history and iconic look of the Hawn Hotel make it another good candidate.
When God looked at the earth and saw that humankind needed to be revitalized and reconciled back to him, what kind of potential do you think he saw? Did we have qualities that would draw God to us – something he just couldn’t live without? Did we have any kind of merit of our own – any potential at all? Not even a hint. In just the first three verses you get a description of what exactly God saw in us. We were powerless. We were ungodly. And we were sinners. We were powerless, meaning, even if we wanted God to come and help us – which wasn’t at all the case – we couldn’t have done anything positive to bring that about. Which is a hard pill to swallow. We like to think that we have at least some endearing qualities, some ability to draw God to us. But we don’t. In fact, we were exactly the opposite of what God wanted. We were ungodly. We were rebellious enemies of God even to the point of resisting him. And so, in God’s eyes, we were nothing but sinners. Sinners not only in the sense of the outward evils we commit, but even down to our core. Nothing good lives in us by nature. God sees us on the basis of what is in our hearts – sinners.
Despite all this, God did something amazing. “At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rm 5:6). The moment humankind fell into sin, God had a plan. You can read the first promise of his plan in Gen 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” We may think he took a long time in keeping that promise, but he did it at just the right time. In Galatians 4, we hear once again that this was all according to God’s timeline, not our own. “When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Gal 4:4).
God came down to meet us. We didn’t rise up to find him. God sent his Son, while we were still dead in our sins, to die in our place. And the apostle Paul gives us an example of what that was like from our own perspective. He says, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die” (Rm 5:7). What he is saying is that it is very unlikely and rare that a person would give up their life for another. A righteous person is referring to an upstanding citizen – someone who obeys the law and has never done anything wrong. A good person is referring to someone who is “beneficial.” Think of a person in a position of power and authority whose life can really be advantageous for the public good. Even in these cases, it is rare that someone would give up their life for them. Think about it in your own life. Would you give up your life for a family member? What about a stranger? Now what about an enemy? You were that ungodly, hostile enemy of God. Yet he died for you. This is the most vivid display of his love in action for you. Do you want to know if God really loves you? Look at what he has been willing to do for you! He died to reconcile you to him – to revitalize someone who was beyond help. All because he loves you. He didn’t demolish you like a dilapidated building and start fresh, he gave you new life, a new birth!
This proof of God’s love is also the foundation of your confidence in salvation. Paul uses an argument from the greater to the lesser. “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!” (Rm 5:9). If God did not exercise his wrath against us when we deserved it – when we were powerless, ungodly sinners, will he now reject or condemn those on whom he has lavished his grace? Yet, as people who know that we deserve God’s punishment and who live in a world full of heartaches and disappointments, it is only natural that there are those times when we wonder whether God hasn’t decided to punish us after all. Being let down by fellow, sinful human beings is just what we are used to.
But God is not sinful, deceptively promising things he does not intend to do. Nor is he powerless like we are, making promises he is unable to keep. Look at how God describes his forgiveness and complete reconciliation in the Bible. “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Ps 103:11-12). “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Heb 8:12). “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more” (Is 43:25). You can be confident that he will not discard or forget about you, because he paid such a high price for you! By God’s grace through Christ our natural status with him has now been altered. Now God regards us not just as former enemies, not just as friends, but as his own dear children through faith in Christ.
This is not just something to store away as confidence and hope for when you are facing the end of life and God’s judgment. This is something for your benefit even now! Have all your sins been atoned for? The resurrection proves it. There could not have been a resurrection if any sin still needed to be paid for. Therefore, can God now withhold any blessing from you? How can he, when his Son lives and reigns with you in heaven? So we BOAST in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, because we have now received reconciliation (Rm 5:11).
In these words there is so much concern about the real problems that Paul’s readers faced in their day-to-day lives. Especially persecution and being driven into hiding. So Paul points out that Christian hope brings reconciliation and life to the present. It’s not just for future relief and confidence, but meant to give you joy even now! Life has enough trouble even without having to struggle with guilt and worry about sinfulness. But you know that Christ has lifted a weight from your shoulders. He has done away with your sin. He has lifted the burden of guilt and made you a child not of this world, but of his heavenly kingdom. Nothing in life can change that. Nothing in life can diminish the value that God has given you.
It’s kind of like renovation projects that some buildings undergo. Where many see an old decrepit building that should be knocked down, some see potential, hidden value, and what the building could be! Once the building is renovated, it has added value and appeals to the masses. But we aren’t even like those old buildings. There wasn’t anything good in any of us. Nothing that would draw God to us. No diamond in the rough. Nevertheless, God proved the height and depth of his love when he sent his Son to die for you. This is value that no one can take away. If he values you enough to die for you, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give you all things?