New Hope Fellowship of Southwest Michigan is a non-denominational, evangelical church committed to loving Jesus Christ and taking his commands seriously. This podcast contains our sermons from our Lead Pastor Tim Gunderson, Associate Pastor Kyle Douglass, and other speakers who teach God's word on Sunday mornings. If you'd like more information about NHF, visit our website at www.newhope-fellowship.org.
Imagine you are standing before a local judge pleading your case as a result of a parking ticket and the judge finds you “not guilty”. Imagine your relief and what you might tell yourself as you walk to your car. “Yes! I’m so glad that judge was reasonable in my case, after all I’m one of the decent folks around here, one of the good people. I deserved a pardon.” But if instead we are standing before God on the day of judgement we had better realize that our self-defense is useless and if we are given what we ourselves deserve we will be in for a long and certain punishment. The world is a mess and God is not happy about it. Evil will be put to an end on His judgement day and the godlessness and unrighteousness of this world will be washed away.
‘The law’ will not save us; knowledge of the truth, following the rules and outward conformance is not sufficient to satisfy His wrath. Measured by God’s standard our own ‘goodness’ is woefully insufficient. God requires a changed heart, humility before His throne, and confession and honesty about our disobedience. The good news is that our ‘ticket has been paid’ and Jesus sacrifice has satisfied God’s wrath. This salvation is not bought cheaply or through deceit but is available to all who will believe, truly repent and then follow Christ.
At whatever point we as sinful humans pass judgement on others we condemn ourselves. We may think of ourselves as “good people” but we are also guilty. We have no excuse; even if we don’t break the law we are guilty in our hearts (Matthew 5:21-22), we have lust in our hearts (Matthew 5:27-28), and we have no right to judge (Matthew 7:1-5).
We must be good stewards of our lives by avoiding hypocrisy and by being grateful for God’s undeserved kindness towards us. Then in light of God’s kindness we must repent. As we are washed and transformed over time we will be made useful for God’s purposes (2 Timothy 2:20-21).
In these verses there is an exchange, a response from God, and a consequence. The exchange is that of the truth of God for a lie, for an idol, and God let’s us walk away. God has allowed our freewill and the fruit of our disobedience to occur. In our disobedience we start to crave things we shouldn’t and our passions become perverted. Apart from God we are totally corrupt, we want the wrong things, and we go about our goals in the wrong ways. This is the way that satan works, he creates confusion, he mars the truth of God through his lies if he can convince humanity of them. The consequence of our sin, the just result of our acceptance of the lies of satan is death. Our lives are not worth more than God’s holiness and glory. He is the eternal God and we are His creation and we need to realize what that means.
Grace is there and payment has been made but God’s free gift is contingent on being willing to give up our sin, to leave it behind and follow. We cannot hold onto the world’s definition of “good” and expect God to accommodate. God is truth and He has set the standard of right and wrong.
Our need is great and we are deserving of eternal punishment for our sins. God has provided a way out but in the mystery of sin we continue on our broken path. But sin carries with it it’s own penalty, in the end it brings pain and corruption to our hearts. The pursuit of pleasure doesn’t bring true fulfillment or joy with it and when we are honest with ourselves we will realize that what we are looking for is beyond ourselves, our idols and our petty plans.
As we realize the depth of our sins and God’s grace for us we must not be like the pharisees, instead our response must also be grace for others. God is able to bring real joy and peace to our hearts, as Augustine stated “You have made us for Yourself oh Lord and our hearts are restless until they find rest in You.” God wants us to truly live. Christ bore our sin on the cross and we have been forgiven and set free. God loved us enough that He sacrificed His own son and His grace is big enough that it covers all of our sin and restores us to Him (Romans 8:31-32).
Since the creation of the world God’s qualities, his divine nature and eternal power, can be clearly seen based on what He has created so that we are without excuse (Romans 1:20). Our human nature and darkened hearts however often lead us away from acknowledging, giving thanks or glorifying God. We must recognize that there is nothing that we have that is not a gift from God (James 1:17).
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (4). “And this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (8-9) (Ephesians 2:4-10).
Like being lost in the woods as it is beginning to grow dark and seeing a light in the distance, so should be our relief and joy as we begin to understand the good news of the gospel! Our need for redemption is so great, our tendency to rationalize and justify is ingrained, and we suppress the truth in our sinfulness. But we are being called to account for our dishonesty, “for since the beginning of the world, God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that man is without excuse” (Romans 1:20). The heavens themselves declare the nature of God.
Our first step towards redemption is admission of our guilt and sin. Secondly we must recognize the glory of the cross and the sacrifice that was necessary on the cross. Our own sin was truly deserving of death and eternal punishment apart from God’s grace. However if we accept our redemption as sons and daughters and are justified through faith we gain peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). The good news is ours if we will only take hold of it!
God has revealed His love for us by His actions. He gave us righteousness through faith, not through our own actions or our own worthiness. We look at the world around us and we often want to be seen in a certain way by them, affirmed and liked. We know that to many in the world the gospel is a radical idea, it is implausible to them that this amazing story could be true. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to those who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:17-19).
If we have chosen faith in God’s promise and we have chosen to be bold how should we then work this out in our lives? We must know the word of God intimately. We mush be prepared each day to “give an answer to anyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have” and we must do so “with gentleness and respect”(1 Peter 3:15).
Paul’s entire life after his conversion was about showing God’s love through his actions. It came from his heart, he loved people because he loved God.
Paul constantly mentioned the Roman’s in his prayers. He was aware of other people’s thoughts and needs and he lifted them up all the time. Who are you praying for? Is this an area you need to work on?
Paul showed God’s love for the Romans through his presence. He saw God’s will in scheduling and appointing his meetings and travels. He knew God had a plan for his life. He was sensitive to the Holy Spirit in directing his path. Don’t let technology and the busyness of life keep you from meeting with others and being present in this way. Being present with your attention and love, not just physically.
Paul preached for all because he desired to see not only the Romans but all the peoples of the world reconciled to God. God sent His son to die for us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8) because he loves us dearly. He loves us for who we are right now. He desires our redemption, transformation and growth in holiness over time. People need to hear about God’s love and his desire to save them! Will you take this message to a hurting world? Will you share God’s love?
When Paul was called he was interrupted and reassigned as a messenger of the Gospel. He was given a job, a job he didn’t apply for or interview for. He was selected and chosen in the mysterious providence of God’s will and ultimate plan.
God’s word is relevant and meaningful first because it is true. Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophets. He was born in the line of David. Though He was God’s own son He was sacrificed for our sin and ultimately was raised from the dead.
Jesus gave us gospel work to do: to proclaim and explain Jesus. If we obey the call, if we believe and confess our sins and surrender, we too will have the opportunity to be a slave of Christ. You are loved and called by God but how will you respond? What is your job? What is your assignment? Where do you fit in? How has God gifted you for his work?
Reading the book of Romans touched the heart of St. Augustine and he wrote his “Confessions” to encourage others to follow Christ. Martin Luther had obsessed on earning God’s favor and satisfying His holiness through continual repentance but in reading the book of Romans he realized that he wasn’t justified by his works and he found peace and solace at last. John Wesley in reading Luther’s writing and in understanding justification by faith was led to change his life for Christ as well.
We are all servants of God, we are nothing on our own, but God has a purpose and a calling for each of us. Each of us have value and unique meaning found in God’s will for us. We were placed on this earth for a reason and we must not ignore or underestimate what God can do through us.