* Flight 93 flight attendant Ceecee Lyles, 33 years old, in an answering-machine message to her husband, "Please tell my children that I love them very much. I'm sorry, baby. I wish I could see your face again."
* Fire Capt. Walter Hynes on his wife’s voicemail heading toward the Towers, "Honey, it's real bad," he said. "I don't know if we'll make it out. I want to tell you that I love you and I love the kids."
* As American Airlines Flight 77 was winging toward the Pentagon political commentator Barbara Olson called her husband, US Solicitor General Ted Olson. She discretely tried to share information with him about how the situation was unfolding. "It’s going to come out OK," she said. "I love you."
* On United Flight 93, passenger Mark Bingham called his mother and got her voicemail. "I want you to know I love you very much, and I'm calling you from the plane. We've been taken over. There are three men who say they've got a bomb."
* There was Tom Burnett's famous call from United Flight 93. "We're all going to die, but three of us are going to do something," he told his wife, Deena. "I love you, honey."
One person summed up the hundreds of calls this way: "Something terrible had happened. Life was reduced to its essentials. Time was short. People said what counted, what mattered. It has been noted that there is no record of anyone calling to say, "I never liked you," or, "You hurt my feelings." No one … said, "Vote for Smith." Amazingly -- or not -- there is no record of anyone damning the terrorists or saying "I hate them." No one said anything unneeded, extraneous or small. Crisis is a great editor.” (Peggy Noonan).
In crisis, life is reduced to essentials. Even as we remember the trajedy of 9/11 and the pain of that day, we are reminded of what is most important, the gift of family, the preciousness of life, the fragility of life and the sovereignty of God.
Romans 4 emphasizes the basics. I am going through the book of Romans, one chapter at a time, inbetween other series. Today is the first of three message from Rom. 4. Rom. 4 is all about Abraham. Why Abraham? Because Abraham is the father of the Judaism, and the father of Christianity. The Lord calls Abraham and promises to create him into a huge nation that will belong to God, live for God... By going back to Abraham, Paul is demonstrating faith has deep roots -- foundational truths worth knowing, worth understanding, worth basing your life on. A moment of crisis will naturally cause you to think about what is most important, but you don’t need to wait.
What are the essentials of faith? In Rom. 4 Paul uses the word Justified. In a moment of crisis, we want everything to be right, i.e. justified. Justification is the most natural craving of all humans. To find meaning, completion. Another word we use: Salvation. In a moment of crisis, to be right with God is to be saved.
Three foundational questions answered Rom. 4:1-8…
How are we Saved? Rom. 4:1-3
What Difference Does it Make? Rom. 4:4-5
What Happens to My Sin When I Trust Christ as Savior? Rom. 4:6-8
How are we saved? Rom. 4:1-3…
Not by Works. Rom. 4:1-2. “What shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter?” the last phrase is literally “according to the flesh.” What did Abraham discover “according to the flesh?” his human resources—his standards, innate human goodness, gifts and talents—what did he discover? Could those things save him? NO. According to your flesh/human strength? Is it enough to save you? To make everything right and give you peace. I know a man that has spent his entire life with the goal of making as much money as possible. He had made a lot of money, and now that his health is starting to fall and his relationships are tense… he is stuck, no peace, no security, his flesh has failed him, the answer he thought would bring so much satisfaction, so much peace, so much joy, is hollow. Our flesh will always fail us. Many people never come to the point of total honesty.
God isn’t impressed by your outward performance; he looks on the heart. God sees why you do what you do. He sees the greed, the anger, the manipulation, the fear, the unkindness, the power plays, the shady deals. He hears the secret thoughts no one else can hear. He listens while you mumble under your breath!
Works don’t work! God judges your motives, not your actions. When your life is judged by that strict standard, you don’t look so good. We need a righteousness unrelated to our performance. Abraham discovered his flesh would never save him. How then was Abraham saved if not by his accomplishments?
But by Faith Rom. 4:3. “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’” (Quote of Gen. 15:6.) God told Abraham at the age of 85 he was about to have children. Abraham thought it a joke. God took Abraham outside and said, “Look up!” Abraham looked up and God said, “Count the stars.” As Abraham began counting, God said, “I will give you more descendants than the stars in the skies.” Sounds crazy, huh! What’s even crazier: Abraham believed God! How are you saved? Believe God, even to the point of craziness…. We find peace, not in the things we accomplish, but in believing God and accepting his love for us.
“Credited” is used. a bookkeeping term. If you bring a $1000, the teller “credits” your account with one thousand dollars. If you write a check for $250, the teller debits your account. Suppose God keeps a record for each person. On the left side of the divine ledger, he writes down the sins we commit. On the right side, he notes the good things we do. Most people hope that by the time they die, the good will outweigh the bad and you are rewarded with eternal life. Unfortunately, we always more sinful than we are good.
So how was Abraham saved? He believed God and his faith—his trust, his confidence in God’s promise—that faith was “credited” to his account in heaven. In one glorious moment, his “debt” column was wiped out and his “credit” column reached to heaven. In the blink of an eye, Abraham became a spiritual millionaire. When Abraham was old and childless, when he had no human reason to believe God, when everything argued against him, Abraham believed God! That faith was “credited” to his account. God declared him righteous wholly apart from his works.
The most meaning profound appreciation for your life comes during the moments of crisis when you realize you do not deserve the love you receive, that’s why there are so often tears of joy when you at last understand what is most important, not what you earned, but what you were given, the joy, the peace, the amazement.
How are you saved? You find most meaning not in what you have done, but in the grace of God and the undeserved love given to you. saved by faith wholly apart from works of any kind. Expressions of love are the natural outpouring of the heart in moments of crisis.
What Difference Does it Make? Rom. 4:4-5
Salvation is a gift, not an obligation. I had a job at the front desk of the Registrar’s office. There were deadlines for dropping classes, and a scale of how much money you got back according to how far you were in the quarter. Without fail, every quarter, 1-2 students would forget to drop a class, and every quarter a student would beg for mercy, beg to get 100% reimbursement; when they were told the policy they would say, “This is a Christian School, you have to give me grace!” That is turning grace into a law! If it is a law, an obligation, then it is not a gift.
To be able to accept the gift of God, apart from anything you’ve done, changes you -- heightens awareness, crisis refines you, the great editor, reducing life to what is most important -- grace, love, appreciation springing forth, joy… As humans we innately know our badness outweighs our goodness, we know the true thoughts of our heart, the failure of trying to keep up appearances. Heaven is not about how good you are, but it is about how good God is and the gift he freely gives us in Christ. The grace of God transforms a person from the inside out. Pressure of performance disappears and wholeness comes from simple belief.
What Happens to My Sin When I Trust Christ as Savior? Rom. 4:6-8. Paul quotes David in Psalm 32 -- David’s confession after his sin with Bathsheba. He writes while his hands are still red with the blood of Uriah….He tried to “cover” his own sin by pretending it didn’t happen, but that brought agony, pain and overwhelming guilt. Eventually he confessed everything to God. Roman 4:7-8 (Psalm 32:1-2): “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”
What happens to your sin when you trust Christ as Savior?
1. It is Forgiven. Rom. 4:7a “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven.” The word means to “send away.” When God forgives you, he removes your sins from you and takes them so far away that you will never be able to find them again.
2. It is Covered. Roman 4:7b “Whose sins are covered.” The picture behind the word relates to the sprinkling of the blood of a sacrifice by the high priest on the Mercy Seat on top of the Ark of the Covenant. on this side of the cross: The blood of Jesus is so power-ful it completely covers all your sins. If you have trusted Christ, your sins are covered...
3. It is Not Counted Against You. Romans 4:7c “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” Once you trust Christ, your sin will never be counted against you. God will not credit your sin to your account. Why? Because your sin is now “credited” to Christ’s account and his righteousness is now “credited” to your account. The most important word in this scripture: “Never.” Never means never, and it must be taken at full value here, even though the opposite is almost always the case in human relationships. We know the kind of forgiveness in which a person reluctantly accepts our apology and says that he will forgive us. But we know as he says this that he is not forgetting what happened, that our offense will linger in his mind and will probably be brought out against us in the future… .
God is not like that. Once he has forgiven us for our sin through Christ, he will never, never bring it up to us again. He will not bring it up in this life, never remind us of something in the past. He will always begin with us precisely where we are in the present. And he will never bring it up in the day of judgment. Why? Because it is truly forgiven. It will never be remembered anymore.
What Happens to My Sin When I Trust Christ as Savior? Totally removed, totally covered, totally forgotten.
A crisis edits your life to what is most important. Ten years ago, I sat and watched the television, the photos that will forever be etched in my mind… what an honor to hear the chatter from cell phones, phone recordings, messages expressing love and appreciation, prayers to God… May each of us learn to cling to that which is most important, the essentials of life, the love of God, not seeking peace through our works, but turning to God in faith, with the assurance that our sins are forgiven, never to be counted against us. The grace of God will transform you from the inside out, as you grasp that which is most important, the love of God and the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Amen.