Let Your Heart Be Troubled: Making Much Of God’s Kindness – Sermon on Romans 2:1-6

I thought I’d share the audio from the sermon I preached on Sunday. All of the text below are the notes that I was (loosely) working from.


Romans 2:1-6

1 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to each person according to his deeds….

ROMANS 2:1-6 – Making Much of God’s Kindness

THESIS:

God is amazing because He is not indifferent but passionate; B) we must wake up from any apathy toward God. C) Enter into and don’t pull back from life to the full.
This passage is a call to enter into fullness of life through the only means available to us: repentance.
It is a call to discipleship. To apprenticeship with Jesus.
PURSUE DISCIPLESHIP THIS SUMMER. Don’t let the season lull you into a spiritual nap. Let your heart be awakened to God afresh.

Background of this passage:

Paul’s goal in the first 3 chapters of Romans is to make clear that all people – understood to be made up of 2 types of people, Jews (God’s special, chosen, covenant people) and Gentiles (those who are not of God’s special people) – are in need of a way to be clear of God’s judgment. None will be vindicated and declared righteous who are outside of Christ.
“… condemning the sins of others is no replacement for doing right oneself” (Westerholm. 387).
[If you are going to fault a Gentile for not being circumcised in the flesh, you had better fault yourself for not always doing the law.]

Paul is arguing “for God’s ethnic impartiality. Contrary to Jewish expectations, God will judge both Jew and Gentile (2:9-10). … the surprise is that, instead of God’s own people being favored, they are judged more strictly because they have a fuller knowledge of right and wrong (2:12-15; 3:20; 7:7-11; cf. Amos 3:2)” (Keener, 1402). “… in principle it is the righteous who will be saved, and in practice it is those who are in Christ who can live righteously (8:2-4). Yet Paul’s focus at this point is not on Christians, but on the principle of God’s ethnic impartiality (also the point of all humanity being under sin in 3:9). Paul is digressing on the point precisely to explain how those who fancied themselves morally superior were treasuring up wrath for themselves (2:6). It served Paul’s point to note that Gentiles would at least sometimes do morally right actions, whereas Jews would sometimes not do them. Nevertheless, apart from Christ, the natural law of conscience innate in human beings functions like the external law of Moses, identifying sin but not transforming people to be righteous (2:14-15)” (Keener, 1402-1411).

1. First, Thank God that He Judges and condemns unrighteousness:

It is not a myth. God is the judge of all the world. And there is a final judgment. This is not a doctrine taught by angry people who want to get rid of all those who are not like them. It is not a myth to scare people into being good.
God’s judgment is tied to the hope of eternal life in perfect peace and joy, worship and purity. It is the completion of who we are made to be – and possibly more! If we have no such hope, and if there is no such eternal life, then we ought to do what we can to enjoy this life only; but there is such great hope and reality that Jesus longs to bring us to.
God’s judgment is not capricious; it is based on deeds, on the heart, and on purity. He does not make things up, but sees the very nature of a person very deeply.
One may see the history of the world as the judgment of the world, that is, that “the events that occur within history are in effect a judgment upon the world” (Erickson, 1102). That is, that there is an obvious cause-and-effect that works itself out within history. But “The final judgment is not intended to ascertain our spiritual condition or status, for that is already known to God. Rather, it will manifest or make our status public [and permanent]” (Erickson, 1101). In other words, it is the definitive unveiling of who we are and who we will be for all of eternity. The history of the world is unclear and hidden. But with the judgment, an end will be put to all deception and unclearness – who we are will be shouted publicly from the rooftops (Luke 12:3). 1 Corinthians 4:5
Of course, there is judgment now, as well. But it is not permanent.
God’s judgment is necessary. Or, rather, it is necessary that righteousness alone triumphs and reigns in our righteous God’s creation.
God’s judgment is necessary for the happiness of humans and all creation. This age is always a mix. There is no perfect person or government. When we know that God will judge the heavens and the earth and thus rid His creation of evil and unrighteousness, we are free from two terrible options: 1) Settling for the malaise of the world; that is, we are free from saying anything goes because there is no perfect standard that we can ever get close to. Here we must ask the question: What if imperfection were to go on forever? Would you even care? Are you willing to tolerate evil forever? But you have reason to hope for much better! There is a better alternative to hopelessness. 2) Striving for utopia on earth through government and self will; this only leads to oppression and greater wickedness, for none is perfect. There is a better alternative than this pride that leads to great injustice.
To say with Polkinghorne that we have come to realize that the doctrine of eternal punishment is “ [incompatible] with the mercy of a loving God, who cannot be conceived to exact infinite punishment for finite wrong” (172), is to agree with two false premises. First, what we do in this life matters and has a direct effect on the life after. As Erickson says, “Humans were designed to live eternally with God; if they pervert this their destiny, they will experience eternally the consequences of that act” (Erickson, 1138). To not treat a person’s choice seriously is to bypass them. The punishing is thus, in this sense, an honouring of the wrongdoer. Second, Polkinghorne wrongly considers sin against God to be a finite wrong, for he fails to see God’s holiness and otherness. Again, with Erickson, we can say that “… one cannot consider sin to be merely a finite act deserving finite punishment,” for it is an act against the infinite God” (Erickson, 1137).
“Socrates says it clearly; for one who does not desire the good, immortality is a terrible danger – because ‘those who are thought to be incurable because of the greatness of their crimes’ are hurled into Tartarus ‘whence they never come out’” (In Plato’s Phaedo; as quoted in Pieper, Death and Immortality, 103).
“As C.S. Lewis has put it, ‘the doors of hell are locked on the inside.’ Sin, then, is the human being in effect saying to God throughout life, ‘Go away and leave me alone.’ Hell is God’s finally replying, ‘You may have your wish.’ It is God’s leaving the person to himself or herself, as that individual has chosen” (Erickson, 1138). In other words, God will give us over to our own will – “thy will be done, permanently” It is a final “giving them over to depravity.”
From Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart: “We should be very sure that the ruined soul is not one who has missed a few more or less important theological points and will flunk a theological examination at the end of life. Hell is not an “oops!” or a slip. One does not miss heaven by a hair, but by constant effort to avoid and escape God. “Outer darkness” is for one who, everything said, wants it, whose entire orientation has slowly and firmly set itself against God and therefore against how the universe actually is.” …. “Thus no one chooses in the abstract to go to hell or even to be the kind of person who belongs there. But their orientation toward self leads them to become the kind of person for whom away-from-God is the only place for which they are suited. It is a place they would, in the end, choose for themselves, rather than come to humble themselves before God and accept who he is. Whether or not God’s will is infinitely flexible, the human will is not. There are limits beyond which it cannot bend back, cannot turn or repent. One should seriously inquire if to live in a world permeated with God and the knowledge of God is something they themselves truly desire.”

1.a. God has wrath and that is a good thing:

God’s wrath is His justified response of overcoming evil.
God’s wrath is purging and therefore it springs from out of His love. He is not indifferent, which would be the opposite of love.
God wants us to be free from His wrath – that we need not be overcome or punished because we are evil.

2. Second, God mercifully withholds judgment:

God is a) good, kind, generous; He has b) forbearance, clemency, tolerance; and also, c) patience, long-suffering, and endurance.
Here, Paul is talking particularly about God’s withholding of a punishment which is certainly deserved and called for. God holds back the flood waters.
God’s forbearance is not giving a pass to sin. It is opening the way to righteousness, through repentance. It is a hiatus, or delay; not a forgetting.

“God’s mercy brings about righteousness, rather than simply blessing sinners in their sin (2:4)” (Keener, 1382). God’s mercy is not simply an overlooking of wrong as if he will leave it be. This principle is also found in Wisdom, 11:23; 12:10.
God is not lacking in generous patience; He is rich with it.
God is reluctant to judge and condemn (see John 3:16-17).

3. Third, there are those who are not personally worried about the coming judgment and so “despise” God’s kindness:

There are those who “despise,” “think lightly of,” or “show contempt for” God’s generous, patient holding off on judgment because they feel no need for it. They are not worried about the judgment, it seems. They presume that they are in the clear because they are part of God’s favoured people.
This person, who knows the standard, and is even able to teach it [makes me think of Nicodemus or other Pharisees], but their knowledge is disconnected from their practice.
Why is there this disconnect? Paul is arguing “for God’s ethnic impartiality. Contrary to Jewish expectations, God will judge both Jew and Gentile (2:9-10). … the surprise is that, instead of God’s own people being favored, they are judged more strictly because they have a fuller knowledge of right and wrong (2:12-15; 3:20; 7:7-11; cf. Amos 3:2)” (Keener, 1402).

3.a. Those who so despise God’s kindness in this way do not see (or do not want to see) the incredible danger they are in:

despising God’s goodness means that one does not actually understand the nature of the judgment.
So, Paul argues that a) God is the just and impartial judge of all; b) God judges a person based on their deeds in light of their knowledge of God (all have some knowledge, and so none has any excuse); c) all commit deeds against the law and have hearts against the law; d) therefore, all will be condemned – even those in the covenant people of God.
They cannot be justified in the judgment and will thus be condemned to eternal death.

3.b. These people do not see how deeply unrighteous they are [and the great dishonour and harm they are causing]:

  1. a) presumption of not needing God’s mercy regarding repentance and b) misunderstanding of what judgment is based on means that, c) the person is not in close relationship with God, doesn’t know what righteousness is, and doesn’t understand the covenant. Perhaps this points to the fact that the problem is much deeper than their mere deeds and goes to the heart.

3.c. These people are continually making matters worse for themselves:

There is a storing up of wrath (in contrast to a storing up of treasure in heaven). Their stance of continuing rejection of God’s mercy and their own repentance is described as hardness of heart and stubbornness. It is as if the pressure in a treatment plant is building and building and the alarm is going off more and more, and yet the person has put their earphones in or is sleeping, or is choosing to ignore it. The rejection of mercy is the building up of wrath.
It is like paying your own trip to eternal death. The wages of sin is death.
If sin and unrighteousness in the heart and in deeds goes un-checked, then the reality is that matters will likely get worse. Sin aims at the uttermost! It is the tiger you get comfortable with, that you raise, and one day attacks and kills you because it is not a pet, but a predator!

4. Fourth, revelation is needed for eyes that have stopped seeing clearly:

We become more and more blind as we delve into what is not good. We become “tolerant” of the drug and need more. We are lobsters boiling gradually without realizing it.
This is why Paul is writing this passage. This is why David needed the prophet Nathan to make his sin clear.
Need a spiritual awakening. Need a “coming to one’s senses” as with the prodigal son.
There is little sense of “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5, KJV). Yet, without this realization of our utter ruin and without the genuine revisioning and redirecting of our lives, which that bitter realization naturally gives rise to, no clear path to inner transformation can be found. It is psychologically and spiritually impossible. We will steadfastly remain on the throne of our universe, so far as we are concerned, perhaps trying to “use a little God” here and there.”” (Willard)
Perhaps, in this age, this revelation is more like “hearing” than like “seeing.”

PRACTICAL QUESTION:

How are we to become sensitized to hardness of heart?
Need to be exposed to the truth of God’s calling to holy relationship with Him. Though, this is not enough.
When we know what is true and we see we are not doing it, but we don’t care.
When we are apathetic about sin or the Christian life.
Accountability to others who will be honest with us.
Ask yourself if you continue to enjoy sins; this means that you delight in it and not in God.
Ask yourself if you actively pursue God because you love Him and know He is the most worthy to be praised.

5. Fifth, God makes the way to freedom: Grasp onto God’s mercy and REPENT!:

Repent! This is the moment. Don’t delay. The consequences are too big! There are no weightier matters. Apathy must be gone! You are faced with imminent crisis – apathy will kill you.
Repentance is the only way out of condemnation and eternal death. It is not what you know that will give you eternal life. It is not what you do that will save you – for all fall short (i.e., there will always be this gap between what we know we should do and what we actually do). The only way is through grasping onto God’s mercy and kindness and repenting. The only way is through faith in Christ who has become the sacrifice who covers over our sins and gives us a new heart by the Spirit.
For us this is through Christ. Not through “making up” for our wrongs. And not through any sacrifices. Romans 5:9: “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
What happens when we are unified with Christ is that God makes US CAPABLE OF THAT FULL LIFE WE ONLY HOPE FOR and IMAGINE. Only he makes us fit for eternal life.

5.a. The Nature of Repentance:

Repentance comes from being clearly confronted by our own unholiness and at the same time seeing that God is utterly holy. Repentance is a sorrow over how we have dishonoured God and not loved our neighbour as we ought to. It is sorrow or shame about who we are or have become.
Repentance is our response to this sorrow. It is a change of outward actions, but much more is it a change of the whole being, starting with the heart – the core of a person. It is at least a call and cry for utter change.
Repentance involves confessing sin, and calling upon God for mercy and change.
Repentance is not about wallowing in our wounds or making excuses from our past sufferings: “It is common today to hear Christians talk of their “brokenness.” But when you listen closely, you may discover that they are talking about their wounds, the things they have suffered, not about the evil that is in them.” (Willard).
Repentance is the turning of our whole self away from what is not God and the turning of our whole self to His holy self. It involves desires as well as commitment.
“Repentance is godly sorrow for one’s sin together with a resolution to turn from it. There are other forms of regret over one’s wrongdoing that are based on different motivations. If we have sinned and the consequences are unpleasant, we may well regret what we have done. But that is not true repentance. That is mere penitence. Real repentance is sorrow for one’s sin because of the wrong done to God and the hurt inflicted upon him. This sorrow is accompanied by a genuine desire to abandon that sin. There is regret over the sin irrespective of sin’s personal consequences” (Erickson, 868).
“genuine remorse tells us something very deep about the individual. The person who can harm others and feel no remorse is, indeed, a different kind of person from the one who is sorry. There is little hope for genuine change in one who is without remorse, without the anguish of regret.”” (Willard)
Enter into repentance joyfully, since you know the goodness of God. It is the doorway to freedom!! It will bring great joy. No longer slaves!!
The result is Eternal Life: See 2 Corinthians 7:10 and following. Repentance with faith in Christ leads to eternal life, by gift and not by deed. “If in [Romans] 5:19 sinners are ‘made dikaios,’ the adjective can no longer mean (what it ordinarily means) ‘right acting,’ ‘upright’; it must mean ‘freed from any charge of wrongdoing’ – in some extraordinary way that depends neither on the recognition nor even on the pretense that one’s own deeds have been dikaios” (Westerholm, 276).
Repentance and faith in Christ are so worth it! “The impression gained by most who hear about “counting the cost” of following Jesus is one of how terrible and painful that cost is. But to count the cost is to take into consideration both the losses and the gains of all possible courses of action, to see which is most beneficial. This done, Jesus knew, the trials of apprenticeship (discipleship) would appear to be the only reasonable path. As has been said, “He is not a fool who gives up what he cannot keep for the sake of what he can never lose.” The cost of non-discipleship would then be seen for what it is—unbearable. That is why one would become able to sustain cheerfully the much smaller “cost of discipleship” to him.” (Willard).

6. Sixth, God leads the way into even greater freedom: continue to enjoy even more of God’s kindness after repentance:

Not repenting not only means that you are paying your own ticket into eternal death; it also means that you are losing the magnificent and free life-to-the-full that God has on offer for you.
That is,delaying judgement is just the beginning of God’s kindness. His generosity does not stop there. So pursue what is next.
There is here a call to enjoy God, to press into Him. To present ourselves to Him as living sacrifices.
[But, how does one with a divided self do that? This is where a) death to sin and death and b) new life in Christ come in; for in Christ, we no longer even desire to do what is wrong.]
Proverbs 28:13-14.
Jonathan Edwards: “Persons need not and ought not to set any bounds to their spiritual and gracious appetites. [They should endeavor] by all possible ways to inflame their desires and to obtain more spiritual pleasures …. Our hungerings and thirstings after God and Jesus Christ and after holiness can’t be too great for the value of these things, for they are things of infinite value…” (in Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 17).
C. S. Lewis on moving beyond mere duty: “A perfect man would never act form sense of duty; he’d always want the right thing more than the wrong one. Duty is only a substitute for love (of God and of other people), like a crutch , which is a substitute for a leg. Most of us need the crutch at times; but of course it’s idiotic to use the crutch when our own legs (our own loves, tastes, habits, etc.) can do the journey on their own! (In one his letters to a child; as cited in Piper, When I Don’t Desire God, 18).

PRACTICAL QUESTION:

How are we to pursue God’s kindness? How are we to present ourselves as living sacrifices? How are we to present our members to Him, for righteousness, leading to sanctification and eternal life?
You don’t do it alone.
You ask.
Prayer.
The Word.
The World.
PURSUE DISCIPLESHIP this Summer. Don’t let the season lull you into a spiritual nap. Let your heart be awakened to God afresh.
Get a discipleship book.
Gather together with other Christians and have real conversations about real matters and dig into prayer and research about them.
Berkhof: “Scripture leads us to believe that [the sins of believers] will be [revealed at the final judgement], though they will, of course, be revealed as pardoned sins” (in Erickson, 1103).

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