This past Wednesday (8/14/2019), CPC in The Hill had the privilege of bringing its 7th 2019 Summer Park BBQ to the Trowbridge Square Park here in the Hill. I do a little park preaching before we eat. And, the people in the park come and listen: parents, adults, children, and even teenagers. They hear a gospel message that is relevant to who they are as residents of the Hill: Adults just hanging, dads making good by spending some time with their kids, moms trying to let their kids run off some energy, gang members, some homeless, addicts (maybe some selling, too), and too many unparented (wandering) teenagers. They all come and listen.
This, in part, was my park sermon thas evening:
This is not a verse of condemnation. Although many, of course, read or take it this way. The verse is the way home. Yet, we can’t get there by ourselves. God is the one who gets us home. This is why the Apostle Paul continues in verses 24-25:
First, we hear in Romans 3:23 that “all” have sinned. This is good news (well, sort of). Really, though, isn’t it good to know that we all, every single individual—rich or poor, suburban or urban, suburban or . . . Hill [they laugh], politician or CEO or regular people like us—each carry the label “sinner.” And, as such, each have fallen short of God’s glory. No special people. All have sinned. All fall short of God’s glory. All–everyone needs a way home. And, so, again, this verse is our way home.
How many here have had the thought that I’m not all I was created to be? [Hand up all over.] Anyone here messed up so much you believe there is no way out? It’s ruined; life is ruined; seems like there is no exit. No hope. [Hands up.] Who here has tried to fix their life and you know it’s impossible? [Many admitted to this. Hands.] Any here actually fix it? [No hands.] Well, again, this is why this seemingly rather condemning verse is good news. We know what we have fallen short of. This tells us what needs to be fixed. What needs to be restored.
We are unable to fix this (as some of you have already admitted). We are incapable of restoring ourselves. So, God must do it. God has provided a substitute for us. Jesus is God’s propitiation (yes, that’s a big word, put simply, it means Jesus is) our substitute. He took our place and paid in full our sinful debt to God. And, God wants to restore us to His glory, that is, the image he originally created us for. He has provided a way home, back to that glory.
Back to what we were created for.
It is important to know what we will be restored to. We can’t just be restored to a better version of ourselves. Heavens, no! Because, everything about us is tainted by our sinful nature–not just the mistakes we make, but the actual, very core of our being is corrupted. A better version of ourselves isn’t what we want (really, it isn’t). This isn’t what God had in mind.
Our sinful nature. This is why we fall short, for all–I say it again, for all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. This is good news to us. None of us needs to question who we are: we are all sinners. None of us need question what it is we have fallen short of: all fall short of God's glory.
This is our way home.
So, knowing what we are restored to is very important. We are to be restored to the glory that is found in Jesus Christ. He has restored what Adam broke. What our forefathers and parents keep breaking. What we keep breaking. We need Him, first, as our substitute and, then, we begin to be conformed (restored) to the image of Christ. That is what it means to be transformed from glory to glory.
But, you see, here’s our problem: Everything else about our world (all around us—the people, the systems, the government, business, advertising, the news, everything) pushes us to be conformed to this world (conformed the way they want us to be, the way it makes it all work for them, the way that keeps us all unequal) or to simply just be a better version of ourselves (that is, that version of course, that the world thinks is best) or, more likely, a better version of somebody else’s idea of glory. That is why Jesus is not only our substitute, paying for our sin, but also who we are to be like (that’s the glory we want, the glory we need restored). We are now to be conformed to the image of Jesus.
This verse is good news.
This verse is our way home.
Wasted Blogger, Chip M. Anderson
I am the pastor and church planter for Christ Presbyterian Church in The Hill; a flawed practitioner of Wasted Evangelism. I am learning about Wasted Evangelism through my experience in The Hill and through the good people of CPC in The Hill.