May 30, 2014.
Tonight I gave the sermon at church here in Nicaragua about the attitude we should have as Christians towards both those inside the church and those outside. The main point of the lesson was the sin of partiality and how it can creep up on even the “best” of Christians. I think it is something that we can do without even realizing we are doing it. Listen to what James has to say about this particular sin:
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
(James 2:1-4, 8-9)
The way James describes the sin of partiality it would seem like it would be obvious. You see it when someone in expensive clothing comes into the assembly and people basically gravel at their feet. But it is not always that evident. Sometimes it can be seen in the levels of popularity of certain members of the church. Or even sometimes it can be seen by watching church members looking down on anyone who comes into the assembly who looks like a “sinner.” O how soon we forget who we are.
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”
We are all sinners. We all come from a place where we once stood condemned. Even if we grew up in the church, this does not make us saints who were never deserving of hell. This is a hard message to preach because no one likes to think of themselves as bad, especially in America. We’re better than the next guy. Or we are simply pretty good, and no benevolent God would condemn us for the little wrong things that we do. After all, everyone does a little wrong, right? But the truth is we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
But there is good news. Our Messiah, Christ Jesus our Lord, came to stand in our place. Where we once stood condemned, he has stepped in to take on the burden of our sin, to give himself, the perfect Lamb, as a sacrifice for our sins. And this is the message we preach. Not just for those with money, or those who have been blessed with a good home, or those who speak English. Christ died for everyone, all around the world. And he has charged us with the call to spread the good news.
“Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
Christ offered himself up once for all men everywhere. All who have believed and obey have been sanctified through his blood, made one in him. His grace makes us all one. Glory be to God in the highest.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
His grace reached even me.
Suggested Daily Reading: Ephesians 2, Colossians 2-3, James 2.
The Lord grant you wisdom.