Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Easter 3

"Righteous? Righteous!"

1 John 3:1-7

April 19, 2015

Who are you? We all wonder that at times. It's part of life to ask, "Just who am I?" You're not alone. It seems that the world is going through a collective identity crisis. There are some college students who are uncomfortable with the traditional pronouns as he and she. Since they don't identify as exclusively male or female, they want the pronouns to reflect neutrality like xi or xir. OK. That's more not less confusing. This brings us back to the question, "who am I?"

Obviously, there's a lot of confusion and angst out in the world. That's only going to get crazier before things settle down once again. In the meantime, as Christians, we don't need to go through this identity crisis. John writes a short letter of encouragement to us.

1 John 3:1-7 [Children of God Love One Another]

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous;

Who are we? Now, if you're a child, you belong to a family. Among other things because we are Christians, we are children of God. You belong to a family. How would you describe your family? There are all kinds of family descriptors. John tells us that as children of God, we are righteous. Now, what does that mean?

Some think that to be righteous is to be right. We all like to be right. Even when we know deep down inside that we are doing something wrong, we still want to be right. That's why we can call wrong things right and right things wrong. Our crazy society allows us to call evil good and good evil. Although we know what we're doing isn't right, we make up excuses for our actions. We justify our actions in order to make them right while condemning those around us who do the same things. After all we are good and noble while they are just sinners.

So, what's the deal with righteousness? Being righteous isn't just a matter of being right. Being righteous is not an opinion. You can have all kinds of opinions. You may hold to them very strongly but that doesn't mean you're right. Righteousness is a state of being. It's how we live as Christians in the world.

Here's the problem. Because we are so tempted to think of righteousness as an opinion, we can ignore our sin. This is how we become pious hypocrites. The same sin we try to justify in our lives, we condemn in others. Like the Pharisees of old, we claim to try to follow rules and laws in order to be righteous but we come up short. Rather than making us truly righteous we become self-righteous.

It is the way of the world to be self-righteous. In our own eyes, we see ourselves as right and others as wrong. Unfortunately for us, God doesn't see this in the same way. In God's eyes sin is sin. God established His law. He sated what is right and what is wrong. He calls evil things evil and good things good. God alone is holy, righteous, and good. He does not accept our excuses for our wrong actions. In God's sight, we are unable to justify ourselves.

Only God can make you righteous. The cross of Christ justified (made right) the ungodly when Jesus died for our sins. Because of Jesus' sacrifice for us, God declares the righteousness of Christ to be our righteousness. Rather than just ignore our sin, God removes it. Because of Jesus, God does not count our sin against us. God proclaims that because of Jesus, we are right with Him. To those who believe this promise, God reckons them to be righteous."And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness." (Romans 4:5, ESV)

All of this may seem like a lot of religious mumbo jumbo. So, what does this mean? It brings us back to the question: "who am I?" How do you identify yourself? Yes, you know your name, your family connections and what you do. But, how do you identify yourself as a Christian?

Who are you? In your baptism you were made a child of God. You are beloved of God. Even as a beloved child, you have your moments. You can be obstinate and dis-obedient.You are willful and reject admonition or correction. There are times you deliberately choose to ignore God. Nevertheless, with the Lord there is forgiveness and reconciliation.

As a child of God, the love of God is evident in and through you. Each of us is less than perfect but the love of God shines through us. Through the cross of Christ, you have been made with God. You have been forgiven and restored.

Who are you? As the beloved child of God, you are righteous in His sight. You are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Yesterday at the LWML zone rally, the ladies read their pledge. Here they were reminded that they are Christ's workers serving Him with their hands, feet, lips and voices. They serve Him with their time, talents, and treasures. They are not alone. All Christians serve the Lord as they serve others in His name and in His place.

Who are you? Because you share in Christ's righteousness it shows itself in your life of faith. You have become the arms and hands of Christ reaching out to the world. You are the face of Christ's mercy to the world. Through you Christ works His comfort and healing. Thanks be to God for making you His child for that is who you are. Amen.


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