This week I read about a worship team that was meeting together, planning for upcoming services. They discussed using a certain song at the end of the service to encourage people to come forward and pray. But one woman on the team said that she didn’t want to use that song, because if she came down and prayed during it, “I wouldn’t want people to think I have a problem.”
But see, that’s a problem right there, isn’t it? If we want people to think that we are here at church because we don’t have any problems; that we are here because we are such good people, then we’ve missed the whole point of Christianity! We are not here in church because we are so good and all “those others” out there aren’t. We’ve got to realize that we are only here by the grace of God! Romans 5:20 reminds us of that:
“The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
This is such an amazing verse, which teaches us that although we are super sinners, God has a grace that is even greater. He has “Super Grace For Super Sinners.”
I. WE ARE SUPER SINNERS!
:20a “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase”
What does this mean? It means that the reason God gave us the Law was to shows us just how bad we really are.
See, sometimes when we human beings see someone with a problem or a difficulty, we want to make it easier for them, or make them feel better about it — when that is not really the best thing, because it would be better for them in the long run for us to tell them the truth.
For example, Cheryl just finished reading an autobiography of the famous mystery writer Agatha Christie — and she raved about it so much that I just had to start reading it myself. (It is SO interesting reading the little stories she includes from her life, that Cheryl & I both have started writing our OWN autobiographies — because, you know, SO many people would be interested in that, right?!) But one of the stories that Agatha Christie told was how much she loved to play the piano. And at one point, as a teenager, she had hoped to be a concert pianist; perhaps this was really going to be her “niche” in life. But really she just wasn’t quite that good; and on top of that, she had a performance anxiety that totally crippled her whenever she would try to perform before an audience. So one day she asked her piano teacher if he thought she had a real shot at becoming a concert pianist. And he told her, sadly, no, that he really didn’t think she had the temperament for it. And of course she was disappointed, but in her heart she knew he was right. She wasn’t made for “live, public” presentations. She did better alone, in the quiet, where she could think, and write. And of course, she became the “Agatha Christie” we know today, the author of the Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries. She became an amazing success; sold literally millions upon millions of books — but before she could get to that “good news,” she had to be told the truth; the bad news first. Lying to her, and telling her something that just made her “feel better,” could have sent her in a totally wrong direction for her life!
So God in the Bible here is not out to just make us “feel better.” He is telling us what we need to hear. He’s telling us the TRUTH. And the truth is that we are big-time sinners against Him. He doesn’t pull any punches. He says we are sinners. Now, we can try to make ourselves look “pretty good,” if we just compare ourselves with other people we know who are worse than we are. That’s one of our favorite tricks, isn’t it? Kids try that with their parents. They make a 76 on a test they should have made an “A” on, and so they tell their parent: “Yeah, well at least I did better than Joey; he only made a 56 on it!” But you know what the parent’s response is: “Well you’re not Joey! We’re not comparing you to Joey!” (So don’t try that this year kids, it’s not going to work!). It doesn’t work trying to compare yourself with other people: not in school, and not in your moral life either. Paul says in II Cor. 10:12 that comparing ourselves with others is not wise. That’s not how we are going to be judged. We are going to be judged according to our personal obedience to God’s word.
But the thing is, when you actually DO compare your obedience to God’s Law, the outcome for us is BLEAK! Just take the 10 Commandments. So many people, when you ask them how they think they are going to heaven, will say something like, “Well I just try to be good, and keep the 10 Commandments.” Seriously? Have you ever read the 10 Commandments? Do you know what the first one is?
It says: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” That First Commandment means that we are to put NOTHING ahead of God. Did you get up today, and seek God, before anything else, and let nothing distract you from Him? Have you put Him first in everything you did today, forgetting Him in nothing you said or did? If we’re honest, we’ll say, NO! We forget God — GOD! — all the time; we put other things ahead of Him all the time. This just shows us: you can’t keep the 10 Commandments. Don’t ever tell someone you are going to get to heaven by keeping the 10 Commandments. The truth is, you can’t even go ONE DAY without breaking the very FIRST commandment — much less any of the other 10!
No, God didn’t give us the Law so that we could be saved by keeping it; He gave it to us so that we’d see just how bad off we really are. And we see that all through the Bible:
— Genesis 6:5 says “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Take that apart and you see how bad we are: “EVERY intent, of the THOUGHTS of our heart; is ONLY EVIL, CONTINUALLY”! That doesn’t make us “feel good” about ourselves, but God is showing us the truth. We have all rebelled against Him — and our hearts and minds are even worse than our actions!
— Jeremiah 17:9 says “the heart is more deceitful than all else; and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” People like to say things like, “Well I know they’ve done some bad things, but they have a good heart.” NO THEY DON’T! They DON’T have “a good heart.” They are sinning because they have a BAD heart — we ALL do!
— Romans 3 especially points this out. The Book of Romans is THE theology textbook on salvation in the Bible. You want to better understand salvation, read Romans. And it is no accident that before it talks about salvation through faith in Jesus in chapters 4 & 5, that Romans spends the first 3 chapters showing us just how bad our sin problem IS, that causes us to need a Savior:
— Romans 1 says no one has any excuse; everyone can see from the Creation around us that there is a Creator God who should be worshiped, but we’ve all turned away from Him and worshiped other things instead.
— Romans 2 says all of you who are nodding your heads about the sins of other people in Romans 1, don’t you think YOU aren’t doing basically the same things yourself. You are sinners too!
— And then Romans 3:9 and following sums it up, with a totally condemning “portrait of us all”. It says:
“What then, are we better than they? Not at all, for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin, as it is written,
There is none righteous, not even one;
there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good, there is not even one.
Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving,
The poison of asps is under their lips, whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; Their feet are swift to shed blood,
Destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Then :19-20 says: “Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God.”
The Bible says here that the purpose of the Old Testament Law is to “close our mouths” before God. In other words, when we read the truth about us in God’s word, it shows us so clearly and so convincingly that we are all sinners before God, that we have nothing to say. Like the person who is standing trial, and the prosecution has shown crime after crime and witness after witness, and when all the overwhelming evidence is in, the judge asks the person, “What do you have to say for yourself?” — and they have nothing to say. There is nothing they CAN say! They are clearly guilty, and totally condemned, and their mouth is just closed.
And the Bible says that is exactly how we are before God. We are all such “super sinners” that all our mouths are closed before God. Now I could stand here and tell you, “Oh, you’re not that bad.” But that would be a lie; and it wouldn’t help you in the long run. And one of the biggest problems in churches in America today is that preachers are not telling their people the truth. They are trying to entertain them or make them “feel better” instead of proclaiming God’s truth which may hurt, but which can lead to their ultimate salvation. God says in Ezekiel 13:10, Woe to those false prophets who “have misled My people by saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace.” The truth is, we are NOT good people; the truth is, we are not “good at heart.” The truth is, when we stop comparing ourselves with other people and actually compare ourselves with God’s Law, we all stand, heads bowed, mouths closed, “super sinners,” with nothing to say for ourselves.
II. GOD HAS SUPER GRACE!
:20 says “The Law came in that transgression might increase (show us how bad our sin is). But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
It says, as bad as our sin is — and it’s bad — God’s grace is greater.
Now, before we expand on that thought, first we need to know, just what IS grace? Very simply, grace is God’s undeserved goodness to us. For nothing good that He saw in us, God loved us, and decided to do something for us that we didn’t deserve.
— Titus 2:11 says “For the grace of God has appeared to all men, bringing salvation.” Even though we were “super sinners,” and all of us deserved to be lost and separated from Him forever, God gave grace to us. He sent us a way of salvation.
— And that way was through Jesus Christ. I Corinthians 1:4 says the grace of God was given you in Jesus Christ.” Although we didn’t deserve it, as “super sinners” and rebels against God, Jesus came and died on the cross, and paid for our sins.
— So now, whoever trusts in Him can be saved, not because we have earned it, but because of what HE did for us. As Ephesians 2 goes on to say: “By grace you have been saved, through faith … it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Because of God’s grace — His undeserved goodness to us in Jesus Christ — all of our sins can be covered and cast away, just like Psalm 103 says:
— “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness (His grace) towards us.”
— “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
What a teaching! Through God’s grace, our sins — no matter how bad they are — can be totally removed from us — “as far as the east is from the west.” As verse 20 says here: if our sins have abounded (in other words if there are a lot of them), God’s grace abounded all the MORE! In the original Bible language, it is “super-abounded”! Are you a “super sinner”? (We all are!) Well God has a “super grace” that is greater than our sins.
The Apostle Paul, who wrote this book of Romans under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, knew this personally. Many of you know his story. He used to hunt Christians down and have them killed. But he said in I Timothy that although he was a blasphemer and a persecutor and violent aggressor, “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ was MORE than abundant”! (:14) As bad as Paul was, he said, the grace of Jesus was MORE than enough; MORE than abundant to totally forgive all his sins.
The other day I was at home, and I thought heard something in passing on the radio or tv about how they were sending a space craft to the sun … I thought, “What?” Well, I looked it up, and as some of you may know, actually last Sunday they launched what is called the Parker Solar Probe, and it is going to ORBIT the sun, closer than anything we’ve sent before, which is still 4 MILLION MILES away the sun! Because we know what would happen if it went to the sun, right? It would be totally absorbed; totally vaporized really, by the sun.
And it doesn’t matter WHAT we send up there; does it — that is what’s going to happen to it. We could send up an even BIGGER spacecraft, and it would be consumed by the sun. If somehow we had the technology to send up a battleship, or an aircraft carrier, or the Empire State Building or if we could even launch the whole earth up there — it really doesn’t matter what. Anything we send up there — no matter how big, now matter how vast, no matter how powerful, will be totally vaporized and consumed by the sun.
And that is a picture of what the grace of God does to our sins. Whatever our sin is, whatever we throw at Him; will be totally consumed by the grace of God: where our sin abounds, God’s grace MORE than abounds.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians in I Corinthians 6:9 and said, “Or do you not know, brethren, that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.” Now that’s quite a list of sins, isn’t it? Some of the worst sins you can think of, are on that list. And he says, people who practice those things are NOT going to go to heaven. They are “super sinners,” just like we’ve seen.
BUT DON’T MISS WHAT HE SAYS NEXT: “Such WERE some of you; but you were WASHED, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and in the Spirit of our God.” He’s saying, here’s all these sins — some of the worst sins you can think of — but the Corinthians had been WASHED from them; they had been CLEANSED from them; they had been FORGIVEN of them by the grace of God in Jesus Christ! And YOU CAN TOO!
The big lesson here is that God has a grace that is greater than any sin you can bring to Him. If you are a “super sinner,” don’t despair; don’t think you can’t be forgiven; God has a SUPER GRACE that will forgive any sin you can send to Him:
However deep your sin may be; His grace is deeper!
However wide your sin may be; His grace is wider!
However high your sin may be; His grace is higher!
However bad your sin may be; His grace is better!
However much your sin may be; His grace is more!
However abundant your sin may be; His grace is MORE than abundant!
However super your sin may be; His grace is MORE SUPER STILL!
There is no sin you can bring to God that His grace will not instantly VAPORIZE!!
We are “super sinners;” but praise God: He has a super grace! Just like God forgave the Corinthians of every kind of sin, He will forgive you in the same way, if you will admit it, and bring it to Him.
TWO CONCLUDING POINTS:
1) God’s Super Grace Should NEVER Be Used As An Excuse For Us To Sin
Look down just a couple of verses at Chapter 6. After showing us in 5:20 just how great the grace of God is in 5:20, Paul now warns us against just taking this grace for granted and just continuing in sin. He says in :1 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” And of course the reason he asks this, is because this is EXACTLY what so many people are tempted to do: they think, “Well, if God’s grace is so great, and can handle any sin, then I’ll just keep on sinning, and His grace will just take care of it!
But Paul says in :2, “May it never be!” This is NOT the Christian attitude. He says “How shall we who DIED to sin still live in it?” He is saying, listen: when you get baptized (like Mark did just a few minutes ago) the picture of baptism — going down into the water and coming up again — is a picture of DYING to your old way of life, and rising again to live a new life. That’s what happens when you become a Christian. You’re saying, I am finished going the wrong way, living my own life, living for sin. Now, just like Jesus died and rose again, so I am dying to my old life, and rising to live a brand new life of following Him.
A real follower of Christ will never be content to just stay in your old sins. That doesn’t mean you are never going to mess up — and thank God, His “Super Grace” is always there when we DO mess up! — but for a real follower of Jesus, God’s grace is never an excuse to sin. In fact, for a real believer, God’s grace is our best reason NOT to sin! The same grace of God that is so effective in FORGIVING you, is the same grace which will be so effective in CHANGING you! We’ll never be perfect as long as we live here on this earth. But if His grace is working in our lives, we will be changed. No real Christian will use the grace of God as an excuse to sin. If someone tries to use God’s grace as an excuse to sin, it casts a lot of doubt on whether that person is really a Christian at all.
2) God’s Super Grace Must Be Personally Received
Don’t miss what :21 says, that all this forgiveness and grace comes “Through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This “super grace” isn’t just given to everybody automatically. You have to admit you are a sinner, and personally claim His grace in Christ for YOUR life.
It’s just like the new tax cuts that were passed for this year. I know a lot of people are excited about those tax cuts — and supposedly, pretty much everybody is going to get one. And that’s great! BUT, the thing is, you can’t just sit there and do nothing, and wait for your big check to come to you. You have to file for it, don’t you? You have to fill out that form, and say “Here’s my name and information, and I am personally filing, and claiming the refund that comes to me.” You have to file for it, in order to get it.
And it’s something like that with God’s grace too. Now, thankfully, applying for God’s grace is a lot less complicated than filing with the IRS, amen?!
There’s no complicated forms to fill out; or loopholes you might miss out on. If you will just be willing to say, “God, I am a super-sinner; I need Your help; save me; change me in Jesus’ name” — that’s all you have to do — and God will give you His “super grace”! He has “Super Grace For Super Sinners.” But you’ve got to apply for that grace personally, in order to receive it. So if you haven’t, you should do that right now!