All Roads Lead to Jesus - Romans

Romans – Jesus is Our Justification, Our Sanctification, Our Glorification
Reading: Romans 8

Have you ever heard a quote that goes something like this, “Life is a journey, not a destination”? The intent being the quote is to “enjoy the ride” and don’t only concern yourself with the ends you are trying to attain. The sentiment is that the means by which we arrive at our goals is just as or more important than the goal itself. We say things like this to ourselves that we might spur ourselves on when things get tough. When things don’t go our way, we desire a meaningful explanation for the hardship. For the follower of Jesus, life is indeed a journey. But the journey is all about the prize. Our sustenance during the ups and downs of the journey comes from our hearts being fixed on the prize and the prize is Christ.

2020 has been some show. It has been like an unending tragic middle act of a three-part epic. I have wondered when will the Empire stop striking back? How long is Gandalf going to stay dead? When will Romeo and Juliet run off into the sunset? Will this laborious tragedy end with the arrival of a hero? And yet, no hero has come.

The Christians in the Roman church were living through their own version of 2020. The rulers of Rome persecuted the church for political gain. They lived through their own pandemics and the spread of disease. There was a threat of violence every day for keeping their faith in Christ.  What does one write to a group of people that are in a battle for their lives? Life is a journey? Don’t worry about the destination? That sounds cruel. Paul wrote to the Romans with the destination and the journey in mind as he laid out God’s perfect plan of salvation. In Paul’s explanation of the Gospel, he assured the Roman Christians that God’s plan has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Jesus is the story, and he is the prize of the story.

Romans begins by laying out the reason for all of our problems in this world. The short of it is that we are the problem. We have a propensity to sin because we have all been born into sin. If we want someone to blame for the world’s problems, we need not look any further than ourselves. Every single human being apart from Jesus Christ has sinned and fallen short of God’s will and desire for their life. The result of that sin is death and all of the misery that comes with death. We are all contributors to the problems we face and that our children will face.

Our contribution to the problems of this world deserves the righteous wrath of God. Paul says that God’s wrath has been revealed against all unrighteousness. No sin will go unpunished. Otherwise, God would not be just. But He is just, and we have reason to find comfort in His justice. The problem is that without the grace of God, every one of us is deserving of God’s wrath. There is nothing we can do to fix this problem on our own.  As highly as we might think of ourselves, we would never try to fix this problem on our own. Instead of trying to please God, when left to our own devices we rebel. We find new ways to rebel. Eventually, our sin leads us to label righteousness as evil and evil as righteousness. We are a backward creation.

But God did not leave this backward and broken creation to fend for itself in the consequences of sin and despair. Paul says that just as God’s wrath has been revealed, so too has His righteousness. This righteousness has been revealed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This Gospel is nothing to be ashamed of for it is the power of God to save all who would put their faith in Jesus from their sins and ultimately from the wrath of God. But how? How does God make unrighteous people righteous? He can’t just overlook our sins. Otherwise, He would not be just.

The answer is found in Jesus. Throughout Romans, we find out that Jesus is our justification. When Paul talks about justification, he is explaining that we who are sinners are somehow found righteous in the sight of God. How is this possible when we who are sinners are, well, sinners? The answer is found in Jesus’ life, his death, and his resurrection. Let me explain.

Jesus satisfied God’s requirement of the Law by obeying God’s law perfectly in word, thought, and deed. This is something we are incapable of doing. But Jesus, being fully God and fully man, did live in perfect obedience. Every human being is born under the Law of God whether they like it or not, or believe it or not. No human being has been able to keep the Law except for Jesus Christ. In this way, Jesus is our justification in that he satisfied God’s demand for perfect obedience.

Jesus also died our death on the cross in place of those of us, which is all of us, who deserved to be there.  In other letters to the churches, Paul would say that Jesus became our sin when he was nailed to the cross. What he means by this is that Jesus bore the punishment that was due to us for our sin. The reason for Jesus taking on our sin and taking all of our sins to the cross was so that we could become the righteousness of God. Jesus satisfied the wrath of God by becoming a perfect sacrifice on behalf of all of God’s people. In his death, Jesus paid the wage of sin that was due to us for our sin.

God accepted this sacrifice of Jesus which is proven in the fact that Jesus did not stay dead. Paul says in Romans 4 that Jesus was raised to life for our justification. What he means is that our justification was signed, sealed, and delivered, when Jesus walked out of the tomb that was meant to keep him dead.

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection makes our justification possible. But how? How do the perfect life, the sacrificial death, and the resurrection of Jesus have anything to do with us? How does Jesus become our justification? Paul says in Romans 5 that our justification is made possible through faith in Christ alone by grace alone. When we come to faith in Jesus we are united to Jesus and his accomplishments are credited to our account. Just as our sin was credited to Jesus on the cross, so now, through faith, Jesus' accomplishments in his life, death, and resurrection are now credited to us. In this way, and only in this way, we have been made righteous before God.

Jesus is our justification. He is the start of our journey to be the people of God and to live with God in His Kingdom for eternity. Jesus is the reason we have peace with God and can stand before God. Justification is the start of the journey to our destination. Jesus is also our sanctification. Jesus is the journey and with us on the journey.

Our justification by faith in Jesus alone is reason enough to live a life of gratitude. In Romans 6 and 7, Paul opens up about his own journey toward the prize of Christ. In short, it is a battle. The war is not over when we put our faith in Jesus. The war has just begun. Before Jesus, we enjoyed living a life in ignorance and self-gratification. We didn’t mind our own rebellion. But when the Spirit of Christ is dwelling in us, we see just how deep our depravity goes. We find out quickly that our old way of doing things doesn’t have much in common with God’s way of doing things. So, Paul says that we battle. Our old sinful nature has been dealt a mortal wound, but we have been raised with Christ and are alive in Christ. This means we have the power to overcome sinful patterns and sinful desires in this life. This is all part of the journey toward the destination. We call this sanctification. What we mean is that the Holy Spirit is at work in us and transforming us to grow in grace. As we grow in grace we grow in patience, love, faith, self-control, and many other areas as we become more like Jesus. Jesus is our sanctification because Jesus is our journey.

Jesus is also our destination because Jesus is our glorification. Romans 8 is one of my favorite chapters in all of the Bible. At this point in Romans, Paul has finished laying out our problem of sin and God’s remedy for our problem of sin. So in Romans 8, we find out the goal of the Gospel. The goal is life in Christ and with Christ for eternity. Jesus is not just making us a new creation. Jesus is renewing and recreating all of creation. The goal of the Christian is to be like Christ and with Christ in the New Heaven and Earth that God has promised. Paul says in Romans 8 that because of God’s gracious work in the Gospel through Christ, and because of our union with Christ through faith, that we will be joint-heirs with Jesus in the New Heaven and Earth. We are no longer cut out of the will or cast out of the Garden! We are no longer slaves to our sin or under the wrath of God. Instead, we are the children of God. We have been adopted into the family of God and our inheritance is secure. Jesus is our inheritance because Jesus is our glorification.

Jesus is our justification, our sanctification, and our glorification. In this way, Jesus is the start of our journey, the journey itself, and the journey’s destination. So, yes. Life is a journey, but it is also a destination.

We might feel like we are caught in the tragic middle act with no hero in sight. But the hero has come, and the hero is coming. The hero has already won the war though there may be mop-up battles to be fought, victory is secure. Don’t lose sight of the destination when the journey is wrecking you. How? See Jesus in the journey. When you face the fiery trial, remember that you are walking in the same footsteps of Jesus and hold fast to the fact that Jesus has overcome those same trials. If you are in Christ, you too will overcome those trials. When all you see is the journey and it is hard to keep your head above water, fix your eyes on the destination. Fix our eyes on Jesus. He is the prize that is worth the wait, worth the fight, and worth the living.

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