In his morning greeting Brad told about a recent incident involving Dale who was on his way to Canada for a fishing trip when just this side of the border he became aware that he'd forgotten his passport. He must have said to his fishing buddies, "Well, I only forgot one thing" but in this case it was the one thing that matters if planning to leave the country and come back again. In the same way today's sermon deals with one thing of vital importance, the atoning work of Christ Jesus.
After a beautiful introit by Darlene we stood for a moment of silence to acknowledging the passing of Gordy Garrett from the Isle of Mann, who passed this week.
Announcements included two by Cheryl Borndal.
1) We're looking for helpers who can participate in the worship in various ways from special music and Scripture reading to drama and greeters. Cheryl then put her "camp hat" on and made a second announcement.
2) We have 26 kids going to camp this summer from our congregation. Cheryl reminded us to pray for these youth as many will have life changing experiences there. An offering was taken after the service to help defray expenses for these young ones.
The Scripture reading was from Romans 6:12-23, which was followed by a time of prayer.
Pastor Brad, a baseball fan, created an imaginary baseball league for us as an illustration to make a few points about today's theme. He called this leabe the All Universe Baseball Association. He said there were special requirements to be in this league. First, you had to have five years experience. Second, no errors for an entire career. And finally, you had to have a perfect batting average of 1,000.
In real life, of course, these kinds of numbers would be impossible to achieve. Even the best batters of all time get a hit only one in three times. And an errorless career has never been experienced by even one ballplayer. The qualifications for the All Universe Baseball Association are but an impossible dream, and any player who seriously sought to qualify for this imaginary league was likely himself living in a fantasy world. No matter how good you are going forward, the errors of the past will not permit you to achieve a perfect, errorless career.
So it is that the illustration sets up Brad's message, based on passages from Romans 3, Paul's letter to the church at Rome.
Brad said that according to Scripture there are two ways to get to heaven. The first is based on performance. That performance is a lifetime of sinless perfection. Not only no errors, though, but also every hit is a home run, a blend of perfect altruism and perfect rightousness in thought, word and deed.
This standard is so high that any realistic attempt to achieve it will end in futility. No one has done this, and no one will. Hence in Romans 3:10-12 Paul quotes the Old Testament passage affirming as such:
10 “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
It is not possible to work one's way to heaven. BUT.... there is another way. And with regard to this other way, all sinners are eligible. This "other way" is to take the righteousness manifest in Jesus and appropriate it to ourselves. This is the meaning of the atonement. All are justified by faith in Jesus' atoning work.
We become eligible to this gift by acknowledging that we are sinners. In verses 21 and 27 Paul notes that this salvation is obtained apart from the law. And again, in Roman's 4:5 Paul re-affirms the same. Salvation is ours apart from the law, irrespective of works.
Brad said he sees three kinds of people in the world today. Group one believes they will get to heaven by doing the best they can, and taking their chances with God. This group of non-Christians justifies themselves by saying, "At least I'm not an axe-murderer." The second group are Christians who believe that by praying, by having a right relationship with God and doing good and hoping for the best that they will get to heaven based on doing the right things.
The third group are those who understand the narrow way, that it is a narrow door... a priceless treasure. And is ours apart from works. Jesus said, "I am the way. I am the door."
The day will come when we stand before God, and some people will have their life record in hand believing it's pretty good, and they God's light will show how their very own records condemn them. Salvation is a gift, a free gift apart from works.
"For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." (vs 3:28)
When it comes to atonement, it's like Dales forgotten passport. It's the one thing that matters. We need to appropriate that grace into our lives.
The service closed with the classic affirmation hymn, "My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less."