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12th Sunday After Pentecost
Romans 3:22-24

Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.  In the name of Jesus, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. God speaks to us this morning in Romans chapter 3, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Imagine being caught red handed stealing millions of dollars from the U.S. government.  How would you feel standing before the judge?  Nervous, scared, upset, guilty?  Now imagine that the judge in his verdict looks at you and says, “Not guilty, you are innocent?”  Now how do you feel?  Pretty good?  Certainly.  I think so.

All of us will one day stand in another courtroom, God’s courtroom.  God, the Judge, is the One who created this universe, He is perfect and holy in every way, He is almighty, and He does whatever He wants.

And, the holy God hates sin.  God says, “The soul who sins is the one who will die.”  Here in our text God says, “For all have sinned and (literally) all keep on falling short of the glory of God.”  Yes, God says “all have sinned.”  You can deny it, you can turn your back on it, but it’s a fact: you and I are total sinners and no matter how hard we try we keep coming short of the perfection God demands.  For example, God says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves at all times.  This past week have we done that perfectly, have we always put others’ needs above our own?  God says we are to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind.  Have we perfectly held God above all else, above our money, our job, our fun?  If we are honest with ourselves we have to answer, “No, we haven’t.”

God’s justice demands that we pay for our sin with an eternity in hell.  But God has justified you, He has declared you to be innocent in his eyes.  How can he do that?  He points at Jesus and to the cross, and says, “That’s why you are forgiven.  Because of Jesus.  And I choose to give it to you.”  You are innocent by God’s grace.  You and I deserved death because of our sin, but God in His grace sent His only Son to live and to die and to rise again to give you eternal life.

And God hasn’t only declared you innocent but He has declared the world innocent because of Jesus’ sacrifice.  God says every person here is declared perfect and holy.  God has said not only every person here, but every person in Johnson City, every American, European, African, everyone in the world is innocent.  How does that affect the way you view your fellow man?  Jesus paid the price to declare your spouse innocent, your friends innocent, your coworker innocent, and your enemy innocent.  If God has forgiven them are you going to want to treat them like a jerk?  Or, are you going to want to spread God’s verdict to them so God can work faith in their hearts too?  Absolutely it’s the second!

And just think if God has declared you to be innocent, then who can hold the guilt of all of your past sins against you?  No one.  If God, the One who created the universe and is in complete control of everything, declared you innocent that says something about how very important you are.  If God is willing to send his Son to pay the price to declare you innocent, you can be sure He will be with you, He will guide your life according to His plan, and He will victoriously take you one day to heaven.  AND, God has declared you innocent!  Amen