The ceiling fans were flapping vigorously on this warm, muggy morning here at New Life, offering a nice circulation of air to help keep us attentive in case the pastor rambles and we succumb to heat stroke. Despite the heavy air Pastor Brad, with unflappable enthusiasm, grabbed our attention with his usual panache and set our thoughts in the right direction with a brief summation of the Sunday school discussion which preceded. He asked us to consider what the common denominator of dynamic churches was. He answer, the common quality in dynamic churches is their focus. Dynamic communities of believers are focused outward, not inward.
Two announcements. (1) There will be a council meeting Tuesday evening. (2) The women's group will meet Tuesday at Carol Sertich's at 10:00 a.m.
The quartet was at the top of their game today as they led us into worship with a pair of songs that moved us, including The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power by Andrea Crouch. After the reading of Scripture and a time of prayer, Pastor Brad introduced his message, based on Romans 5:12-21.
The Narrow Gate
Brad began with a sweeping summary of the first several chapters of the book of Romans, highlighting key passages. Paul makes several important points along the way, most significantly in Romans 3:10 the fact that we are all fallen, have all come short of the high standard of holiness. All have sinned. "There is none righteous, no, not one."
After establishing the futility of trying to reach heaven by being "good enough", Brad led us to the gospel's hope, verses 21 & 22. "But now a righteousness, apart from law, has been made known.... this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."
Paul seems to underscore in these passages that there are essentially two camps, the lost and the redeemed. And in chapter 5 he further develops the nature of these two groups, or camps as pastor Brad refers to them. First, there is Adam's camp. And then there is the camp of the justified, which consists of all who have owned up to their sinfulness.
As he did last week, Brad stated that many of us would be more comfortable with a three camp theology. The first camp would be composed of truly bad people and Pagan Christ-rejecters. The second camp would consist of the company of the committed. But many of us would also like a third camp for those nice people who seem to have good hearts.
But true Christianity is not built on a three camp theology. Paul, in Romans 5, asserts that there are but two camps: Adam's camp and Christ's camp.
There are key contrasts between the two camps, but it all boils down to choices. Adam and Jesus each made a decision, a choice with consequences. Adam chose disobedience. Jesus chose obedience unto death.
Romans 5:17 details the implications of these choices. Adam's choice resulted in the reign of death. In Jesus we see the victorious reign of life.
Adam's sin made many become sinners. Evil entered the world. Adam's descendants inherited a bent toward sin, called by theologians a sin nature. As a result, all are condemned and the stain of death corrupts all, causing immeasurable suffering and brokenness, undercutting our dreams, our relationships and our confidence.
Worst of all is the prospect of a hell where our ultimate prayer for cessation of consciousness remains unanswered.
In contrast, verses 18 and 19 proclaim the consequences of Christ's obedience.
"...so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people... so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." Life reigns. Life and vitality. Service, giving, the use of one's talents, and heaven's doors opened. And, Brad noted again, our suffering in this life is but for a season.
Another difference between the two camps is their entrance requirements. To become a part of Adam's camp, we only need be born. To become a part of Christ's camp, we must be born again.
Brad summed up his message by reminding us that if we love Christ, we love what Christ loves. This is a closing thought worth pondering more deeply.