The Christian Faith, One Word at a Time: Reversal
5th Sunday after Pentecost
July 9, 2017
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
The Christian Faith, One Word at a Time: Reversal
Dear friends in Christ,
The game of UNO is a simple card game. Simply match the color or the number of the card just played by the person to your left. Be sure to say UNO when you have only one card left. The player who plays all their cards wins. If UNO only had colored number cards, it would be a fun game for only a short time. What makes it really fun are the special cards. You can make the next player draw two cards. You can skip the next player. You can even make the next player draw four cards. My grandfather loved playing that card on us. Soon, I would have so many cards, that I could barely hold them in two hands. How would I ever get rid of all those cards? And more importantly, how would I get revenge (in a fun, game sort of way) on my grandfather for playing all those bad cards on me? Reverse card to the rescue! Once a reverse card was played, the direction of the game changed and I could play all those fun cards on the person who played them on me. That reverse card literally changed the direction of the game and could change the outcome from a loss to a win.
As we look at another portion of Paul's letter to the Romans today, we look at the concept of reversal. Jesus has completely changed the direction of our life, from eternal death to eternal life. Listen again to God's Word through Paul in:
Romans 5:12–15 (NIV84)
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. 15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
I don't watch daytime television except when I am sitting in a waiting room somewhere. Maybe it is at a hospital, nursing home or car mechanic. Lately, I've been seeing a crazy game show, “Let's Make a Deal.” I guess it is a remake of the original show that started in the 1960's. Contestants get to make a deal with the host. He offers them money and they can take the money or take a chance on a game. Maybe it is the classic choosing one of three doors. There may be a car behind door number 2 and a pizza coupon behind door number 1. Do you choose the sure thing in the cash or take a chance at winning the car?
The Lord God gave Adam more than cash in the beginning. Our gracious Lord gave Adam a beautiful home in Eden. He provided all the food Adam could ever need. He kept him safe and healthy. The Lord gave Adam happiness and joy and kept sorrow and tears away. Adam was given a wife to share this perfect existence with. They were given a perfect life that was never to end. So, Adam, do you want to keep what God has certainly given you already or trade it all in for a chance at what is behind door number 1? Adam did not have three doors to chose from, only one. That door was marked by God with the word DEATH on it. Adam chose death.
Why?! Because he believed the lies Satan told to Eve. Adam did not believe the Lord who said, “When you eat of it you will surely die.” Instead he believed the serpent who said, “you will not surely die.” He believed the serpent who told him of the good that would come from rebelling against the Lord. “You will be like God.” He believed that death would not come to him, but instead there was something better than what God had already given him in the perfect Garden of Eden.
So sin entered the world through Adam and brought sin and death to all people. The history of our world is now a history of sin and death. Every culture, every nation, every tribe and every family has a history that is filled with sin and death. If you are really interested in family history and genealogy, you don't go and talk to your great, great, great grandmother. Instead, you go to the cemetery and find her grave stone. Adam brought this curse into the world. He set his offspring on a path of sin and death, a terrible legacy to leave.
Before we blame Adam too much, we have to ask ourselves why we make similar choices in our lives. When our friends are doing, watching or talking about obviously sinful things, why have we chosen to just go along with them? Do we love being part of a human group more than we love the Lord and his commands? Why would we choose to tell lies about ourselves that make us look better than we are? Do we like the praise of men more than the Lord? Why do we make choices day after day to sin against our Lord?
Death came to all men through the sin inherited from Adam. It is hard to describe what original sin has done to each of us. The early Lutherans said it this way in the Formula of Concord: “This damage is so unspeakable that it may not be recognized by a rational process, but only from God’s Word” (Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article I. Tappert, p. 467).
The unspeakable damage done to us by original sin has us on a path leading to eternal death in hell. We needed a reverse card but we don't have any. The reversal of our destiny comes only through a gift of God.
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
We were being swept along towards hell by the sin of Adam and our own sin as well. But the gift of God is better and stronger than the trespass of Adam. Jesus is stronger than your sin. He was born without sin and he overcame every temptation. The perfect Son of God came to reverse our course in life. Christ was the only option. The innocent Son of God was the only one whose sacrifice would be enough to pay for all sin. Every trespass from Adam to the end of the world was paid in the blood of Christ. His gift of himself is greater than our sin. Instead of eternal hell as our destination, Christ turned us around so that eternal life is our destination. This is a wonderful reversal.
In other Christian groups (not WELS), I've heard people give their testimonies about how God changed their life. These are meant to inspire other people to follow the Lord too. An alcoholic loses their job and their family. They get arrested for drunk driving. They lose their car and license. They hit rock bottom and call on God for help. God took away their desire for alcohol and they are a success with their family and in the job once again, even more than before. This is how many of these testimonials go. God helps a terrible sinner straighten out his life and stop sinning.
Just so you don't misunderstand. It is good when someone who is trapped in a sin that is ruining their life repents and with the help of Jesus fights against that sin. However, sometimes these kinds of testimonials focus too much on the reversal that can happen in earthly life instead of the much bigger reversal that happens through Christ for eternal life. This is the truly amazing reversal that has happened – from eternal death to eternal life. For Christ did not come so that all who believe in him would stop sinning now. He came so that all who believe in him will not perish but will have eternal life.
This spring, WELS Kingdom Workers sent a group of South Sudanese WELS members to Gambella, Ethiopia. They were able to teach many people how to keep and use sanitary water. A well was drilled to provide clean water. Many people will be spared from disease and death because of this humanitarian effort. We pray that the course of earthly life has been changed for the better for many in this refugee camp. But more important than clean water for health and life is the teaching of the gospel to those in the camp. Hundreds of sheets were taken over by the volunteers to teach the people what Jesus has done for them. Pastor Bur taught many local pastors and spiritual leaders so they can better teach their people so more and more trust that Christ has reversed their course in life, that through faith in Jesus eternal life is our certain destination. Clean water changes lives. Jesus changes eternal lives.
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