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Green Pastures and Still Waters

It’s a little word, but it means something has or is about to change.  For example, “the Orc armies are crushing the kingdoms of middle earth, BUT Gandalf comes from the east with reinforcements!” Or, “the army of Israel is frozen in fear, BUT David comes to Goliath in the Name of the Lord!” Or,  “the Lions have never won a Super Bowl BUT,” never mind.  (We can always hope) You get the point.  Our text for Sunday doesn’t seem as epic as a battle scene but with a little thought, you’ll see that my previous examples pale in comparison.  The otherwise formal Englishman, Rev. Stuart Briscoe wrote, “The Divine answer to the bad news is one of the biggest buts in world literature.”  I just have to wonder if he read that statement out loud before he sent his manuscript to the printer.  As long as we are on the subject of big buts, there is a companion but to the but under consideration in Romans.  Compare Romans 3:21 with Ephesians 2:4. I think Paul enjoyed making the situation as bleak as possible before writing the big but.  And, it is BIG.  The whole world was under sin and the wrath of God was revealed against it.  There was no way out from under this penalty…BUT God!  The righteousness we lacked was given to us by Him; His righteousness was made available to us as a gift through the glorious work of Christ.  So, last week, we learned about our desperate need, this week, we’ll learn about God’s glorious provision in Christ.  Have your Communion elements ready so we can celebrate “together” around the Lord’s Table.  Our biggest problem is solved.

Every crisis polarizes people to one degree or another.   The opposing sides are passionate about their own position and ultimately character judgments are implied, even if they are not directly stated.  For example, if you are taking all the recommended precautions in our present health concern; washing your hands, staying home and wearing a mask if you have to “go out,” you might be inclined to think those who are not, are “bad people.”  On the other hand, if you are not following the recommendations, you may be inclined to think of those who are diligent about them as the “bad people.”  It’s rare for a person to say, “Well yes, I am the bad person in all this, I am living wrong and those not like me are right and therefore are good.”  Even in their self-identified badness they feel justified, and therefore “good” about their own position.  This is all very dangerous for multiple reasons.  I am concerned primarily with one of them.  This is simple.  Hanging moral superiority on lists is a tool of the enemy to distract us from our real situation.  Paul made this abundantly clear in his early arguments in Romans.  No human being can claim “moral acceptability” before the infinitely holy God.  We need more than hand sanitizer to gain access to His presence!    We could go through life always getting on the “right” side of the lists, self-justify, and end up eternally separated from God!  According to God, “There is none righteous, no not one.”  When it comes to real goodness/righteousness, we need outside help!  We need a righteousness not our own.  Thankfully, the gospel contains a revelation of the righteousness of God and how to obtain it, mask or no mask smiley.