Seward United Methodist Church
Saturday, August 24, 2019
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A Work of God

John 16:5-15 and Romans 5:1-11

 Today is Trinity Sunday.  Trinity comes from a merger of the words “tri,” meaning three, and “unity,” meaning one.  God is three in one.  God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, three persons in one God.  And so, not surprisingly, all Scripture texts today deal with the Trinity in some way.  

 Today we remember that God in three persons has saved us.  Usually, when we talk about God saving us, we emphasize Jesus, the Son, and his role in our salvation.  But we should remember that salvation is a work of God, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The Father sends the Son to us, because of his great love for us.  The Son dies on the cross to make atonement for our sins.  And after he returns to the Father, the Son sends the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit brings salvation into our lives.  It is by the Spirit that we have intimate fellowship with God.  The Spirit dwells within us.  He guides.  He leads us into the truth.  And he strengthens us in the face of trials.  

 It is not false to say that “Jesus saves us.”  It’s just incomplete.  It’s not the whole story.  Salvation is a work of God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 “Therefore since we have been made right in God’s sight,” that is we have been justified.  The penalty for our sins has been removed through what Christ did on our behalf.  “Since we have been made right in God’s sight, we have peace with God.”  

 We often think about peace in terms of an “inner tranquility.”  Again, that’s not incorrect, but it’s incomplete.  I think we are inclined to think of peace in terms of inner tranquility because we are such a highly individualistic culture.  Our most important understanding of peace is “peace inside of me.”  But in the biblical understanding, coming out of a society more focused on community, the most important meaning of peace is peace in relationships.  

 We have peace with God.  One Bible scholar I read defined that as “a relationship of concord.”  I’m not sure what that means.  Maybe it’s because we use grape juice when we have communion.  That Bible scholar must have been a good Wesleyan.  No seriously, it means that the right relationship between God and us as human beings made in the image of God has been restored.  We were made for that relationship, and we are always incomplete until it is restored.  We can’t be what humans are meant to be unless we have relationship with God.

 And now Christ has brought us into a “place of privilege, where we stand.”  We have a privileged place, not because of anything we have done, but because of what God has done.  We are children of God.  We have intimate fellowship with God.  And we have the hope and confidence of future glory.  That is a true privilege.

 But this privileged place doesn’t mean that everything is roses for us.  We still live in a world affected by sin.  We live in a state of tension between the condition of our salvation before God and the condition of the world in which we live.  

 On one hand, we are perfected in Christ.  But we are also being perfected by his Holy Spirit’s work in us.  We are children of God and have the privileges of children.  But we are also slaves of God, bound to obedience to his will.  We have been saved from sin by the work of Christ.  But we also struggle daily with the temptations of sin.  We have peace with God, but we also have trouble with the world.  We live in these tensions.  

 Then Paul says that weird thing, “We rejoice in sufferings and trials.”  That’s a stupid thing to say, Paul!  Who’s ever happy in suffering?  Well, it’s not that we pretend that sufferings and trials are easy, but rather it’s that we have joy because we know how the story ends.  We know the end of the story is and joy and glory.  These trials are opportunities for growth.  

 Trials teach us endurance.  Endurance develops our character.  Character strengthens our expectations.  And our expectations will not disappoint us because they are founded on the love of God and guaranteed with the deposit of the Holy Spirit.  By the way, this kind of “progression,” from trials to endurance to character and so on, is called a concatenation.  Just in case that question ever comes up on Final Jeopardy, you’ll be ready!  

 The love of God is the foundation of our hope, because it was the love of God that led to our salvation.  “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came and died for us sinners.”  We were utterly helpless.  There was nothing we could do to save ourselves.  We didn’t deserve a Savior.  We were sinners, not “good people” for whom someone might be willing to die.  

 But God’s great love for us is revealed in that he sent Christ to die for us when we were still sinners.  When Jesus died, he took the punishment that we truly deserved for our sins.  

 Nothing you have done is good enough to save you.  There’s nothing you can do to save yourself.  You are utterly helpless to save yourself.  

 But on the other hand, you are loved.  Nothing you have done is bad enough to make God stop loving you.  That is the good news of the gospel.  You can’t save yourself.  But on the other hand, nothing you do is bad enough to stop God from being able to save you.  No matter who you are, God can save you.  

 And having been saved, you can enter into intimate fellowship with God through the sacrificial death of Christ and through the indwelling Holy Spirit who lives in everyone who trusts in Christ for their salvation.  

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