HOW TO GET RIGHT WITH GOD
ROMANS 3:9-10, 20, 21-26
It is life’s most important issue. It’s an issue that you have to get right. There is no margin for error. Getting close does not count. The issue I am referring to getting right with God.
I took the phrase “make peace with God” and did an internet search. It produced 447 million hits. This is an important issue. A lot of people want to understand how to go about this. Many people decide that they need to make things right with God right before they die. Others are given the opportunity to do so.
The issue of getting right with God is one that you have to get right. It will determine where a person will spend eternity. This will be what we talk about in today’s message.
Our Bible reading this week has taken us into the first 3 chapters of the Book of Romans. Romans has been dubbed, The Gospel According to Paul. The theme of the book is righteousness.
Now the righteousness that Paul deals with in the Book of Romans isn’t talking about our behavior. It’s not referring to our actions.
The righteousness that Paul wrote about here in Romans is about being brought into a right relationship with God. It’s having a right standing before God.
Now, before we can get things right with God, we have to understand what went wrong. Sin is what went wrong in our relationship with God.
After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, they realized that they were naked and they felt shame. So they attempted to hide from God.
That’s what sin does to our relationship with God. It alienates us from God. It creates a separation from God.
So, how does our relationship with God get restored? How can we get right with God, receive salvation, so that we can have the assurance that we’re going to heaven?
A lot of people start here. They think that they have to be good enough to get into heaven. The late boxing great, Muhammad Ali thought that. He said that on Judgment Day, God is going to look at what you did in your life. If you have more good deeds than bad deeds, you’ll get into heaven. But if your bad deeds outnumber your good deeds, you won’t make it into heaven.
That certainly is the mindset of a lot of non-Christians. But there are many Christians who think the same thing. And that’s why they aren’t sure of their salvation. So let’s begin there and look at…..
Now before we address the problem about goodness, let’s ask this question. Why do so many people think that they have to be good enough to get into heaven?
I can think of 3 reasons. One is that it feeds our ego. It’s a pride think. Relying upon one’s goodness says look at me, look at how good I am and look at all the good things I do.
A second reason is our culture. We’ve been conditioned to think that there is no free lunch, that you earn everything you get. In our society, achievement is rewarded. And so we have transferred our culture onto our Christianity.
How many former Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls, Brownies, Girl Scouts do we have here? When we were in those groups, we had certain things we had to do as a part of being a Scout. And with every achievement we received a badge that we could put on our uniform.
People think that every time they do something good, they get a religious badge. Keep each of the 10 Commandments you get a badge. Come to church, that’s another badge. Pray….badge. Read your Bible…badge. Give some money…badge. Volunteer in the community….badge. Serve in the church…badge. And if we accumulate enough badges, if we amassed enough goodness, God has to let us into heaven.
A third reason why we might think we have to be good enough to get into heaven is legalistic teaching. Perhaps, somewhere along the way, you were subjected to teaching that tied your salvation to your goodness and your good works. And it was so engrained into your thinking, that is hard to break free of it.
But here is the problem with goodness as far as salvation goes. Being good enough isn’t good enough. You’ll never be able to earn your salvation.
Read Romans 3:9-10
Paul said that no one is righteous enough or good enough for heaven. When Paul says that there is no one who is righteous, he is saying that we are, by nature, sinners.
Stop and think about it for a moment. No one had to teach you how to sin. No one taught you to tell your first lie….to take something that didn’t belong to you….to be mean and selfish. You came up with those things all on your own. That’s because, by our very nature, we are sinners. That’s what David was saying about himself when he wrote:
“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”-Psalm 51:5
Now David wasn’t saying that he was born with the stain of sin already on his soul. He was just admitting that he had a sinful nature. The same is true with us. Our human nature is a sinful one. We are prone to sin. Our sinful nature is second-nature. We do it all too easily. And it kicks in at an early age.
I was an obnoxious little boy. That’s hard for you to believe, I know. You probably think I was this cute, adorable little guy. And maybe I was until my little brother came along 2 years later. I was jealous of Bill. He took some of my Mom and Dad’s attention away from me. So I was mean to him.
I vividly remember one afternoon. Mom was in the kitchen. Bill was in his crib. I decided to be mischievous. I took hold of the slats on his crib and shook his crib as hard as I could. Bill started to cry. Mission accomplished! Mom came in and wanted to know, “why is your brother crying?” My response-“I don’t know.”
Our sinful nature kicks in at an early age. Look at verse 23. Because of our sin, we fall short of God’s glorious standard, the standard that has to be met for heaven. What is that standard? Revelation 21:7 tells us what it is. In speaking about heaven, John wrote:
“Nothing impure will ever enter it.” –Revelation 21:7
The standard for heaven is perfection. And all it takes is one sin to disqualify us. Galatians 3:10 tell us that:
“For all who rely upon the law are under a curse, as it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”-Galatians 3:10
It doesn’t matter how good we are, or how good we think we are, all it takes to be disqualified from heaven on the basis of moral goodness is just one sin. And it doesn’t matter which sin it is. One little white lie disqualifies us…..one word of gossip will keep us out….one act of self-centeredness means we are not good enough for heaven.
How are you doing? Measuring up? Me neither.
I heard the story about a man who had a dream. He was standing in line on Judgment Day. He was standing behind Mother Teresa. He was going to be judged right after her. And he heard God tell Mother Teresa, “I’m sorry, you didn’t do enough.” The guy figured he had no chance. So he just turned around and walked away.
That dream is everyone’s nightmare. But the reality is that none of us have done enough. Nor can we. Being good enough isn’t good enough for heaven. We all come up short…Mother Teresa & the guy standing behind her… Billy Graham, you and me. Being good & doing good is never a pathway to heaven.
But some believe that it is. They base their goodness on keeping God’s law, specifically the Ten Commandments. That’s what the Rich Young Ruler thought. He came to Jesus wanting to know how he could inherit eternal life. And he thought he was pretty good because he had kept the 10 Commandments, or so he said.
But, Paul, in our next verse tells us…..
And the purpose of the law and obedience to it is not a means of earning salvation. Read the first part of verse 20
You and I cannot get right with God by keeping the 10 commandments as best as we can. We need to believe what Paul wrote here. He was an expert on the matter.
Paul was a Jew’s Jew. Paul had climbed the ecclesiastical ladder as high as one could go. He had quite the religious resume. Look at his testimony….
“as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” –Philippians 3:6
No one could fault Paul for his Judaism. He kept the OT Law as well as anyone could. If anyone could have qualified for heaven on the basis of his goodness, it would have been Paul.
But what was Paul’s conclusion after keeping the law? That being good enough was a dead-end street when it came to working his way into heaven. In Gal. 3:11 Paul stated that clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God.
Jesus told the story of 2 men who went to the temple to pray. One was a religious leader who bragged about how good he was in his prayer. The other was a tax-collector who simply prayed, “God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
Jesus said that it was the tax-collector, not the religious leader, who was justified before God.
You can be as religious as you possibly can be. You can be as good as you possibly can be. You can do all the right things. And all of that combined still doesn’t make you right with God. Isaiah 64:6 declares….
“all our righteous acts are like filthy rags”- Isaiah 64:6
Our righteousness is an unacceptable means of salvation. Jesus said that unless our righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees & Sadducees we would never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Now those guys did a lot of religious things. They tithed. They prayed. They did a lot of righteous things. But their righteousness was self-righteousness. They were trusting in their own goodness to save them.
And that is why Jesus said that our righteous had to surpass theirs. Jesus wasn’t saying that we have to do more than they were doing. He wasn’t saying that we have to be better than they were. He was saying we have to have the right kind of righteousness, which we will look at next.
But, before we do, let’s get back to the purpose of the law. If adherence to God’s law was never intended to be a moral path to heaven, then what is the purpose of the law?
Read second part of Romans 3:20
The purpose of the law was never meant to save us from our sins. Just the opposite. God gave the law to point out our sins to us.
A mirror is very unforgiving. A mirror shows us as we really are. I mean, in my wildest imagination, I might dream that I am back in the days when I had a full head of wavy hair. Seriously, I use to have hair! I have the pictures to prove it. But, when I look in the mirror, it’s a reality check. The mirror reminds me that I am as bald as a cue ball. Whereas I used to use Head & Shoulders shampoo, now I can use Mop & Glow!
Yes, the mirror is very unforgiving. It points out all of our flaws. It shows us that we are getting older….it shows us if we are overweight…..if our clothes and our skin is wrinkled…..if we have bed head & if our outfit doesn’t match.
God’s Law is a mirror for our souls. It points out all our moral flaws, our sins. God’s Word doesn’t pat us on the back for our goodness. God’s law shows us just how sinful we really are.
So, by now, you might be feeling kinda hopeless. If I can’t be good enough, what hope is there for me?
You might feel like the guy who died and got to the gates of heaven and found out from Peter that it takes 100 points to get into heaven. Peter asks him what have you done?
The path to heaven begins when we accept the fact that we don’t qualify. It’s getting to the point that Jesus taught about when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit….”
Max Lucado wrote about this- “The jewel of joy is given to the improverished spirits, not the affluent. God’s delight is received upon surrender, not awarded upon conquest. The first step to joy is a plea for help, an acknowledgment of moral destitution, an admission of inward paucity. Those who taste God’s presence have declared spiritual bankruptcy and are aware of their spiritual crisis. Their cupboards are bare. Their pockets are empty. Their options are gone. They have long since stopped demanding justice; they are pleading for mercy.
“They don’t brag; they beg. They ask God to do for them what they can’t do without him. They have seen how holy God is and how sinful they are….”
When we get to the point where we know we can’t be good enough, that we can’t saved ourselves, then we will turn to the only option there is....
The pathway to heaven is defined for us in Romans 3:21-26. Now, there are a few Bible terms in those verses that would be good for us to understand before we read this passage:
Justified- a legal term. It is the act of acquitting us of our guilt and pronouncing us righteous
Redemption- to buy…to purchase…to pay the ransom for us because we have been held captive by Satan in our sin…to redeem is to deliver us and set us free
Atonement- this speaks to how God shows mercy to us through the death of Christ. It speaks to how our guilt is removed and our sins are forgiven.
Read Romans 3:21-26
Paul tells us that salvation is on the basis of God’s grace. The old standard definition of grace is God’s unmerited favor.
Grace is God loving us in spite of ourselves. Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve. Romans 6:23 tells us what we deserve because of our sin:
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 6:23
What you and I deserve is hell. What grace gives us is heaven. Grace is God doing for us what we can’t do for ourselves, saving us. He saves us through the death of Christ. Grace is Jesus getting what he did not deserve, death; so we could get what we do not deserve; heaven. That’s what Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 5:21:
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21
Because of our sin, God had a divine dilemma. The dilemma involved the tension that existed in God’s divine nature.
On the one hand, God is holy and righteous. God’s justice demands that our sin had to be punished. And yet, on the other hand, God is love and God’s love demanded a way for us to be forgiven.
The divine solution was found in the death of Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, the righteous demands of God’s law were met. Sin was punished. The penalty was paid. God’s justice was satisfied.
By allowing Jesus to die in our place, the cross fully expressed the love of God’s heart. He could forgive us instead of punishing us for our sins. That’s the meaning of verse 26 where it says that God was both just and the one who justifies.
So, since being good enough isn’t good enough, how can we receive salvation by grace? Paul tells us how. FATIH. Righteousness is attained through faith in Christ.
When the Philippian Jailer asked Paul and Silas what he had to do to be saved, they told him to “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”
Salvation is received through our belief. It is not earned by our behavior. There are numerous places in the Bible where it says that righteousness comes through faith. The Bible says that the righteous shall live by faith. Romans 5:1 declares:
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:1
How do we get right with God? Through faith in Jesus. It’s that simple.
Perhaps it’s time for you, as a Christian, to repent of your self-righteousness. To quit striving to be good enough for heaven. You need to trust 100% in Jesus to save you.
If you are one who has not as of yet decided to follow Jesus, the path of salvation is clear. You need to follow Jesus. You need to place your faith in him. Once you believe, you repent of your sins, you confess your faith and you are to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.