Faith, Works, and Keeping Score
“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” [Romans 4:8]
I. Does God keep score? [v 8]
A. Sometimes life seems more like Calvinball than chess.
1. Chess is an orderly/complex game with pieces that move the same way for everyone every time.
2. Calvinball is a chaotic game where nothing is the same more than once.
3. Clash of cultures (modernism/chess or postmodernism/Calvinball).
B. We experience life as a struggle.
1. Take Abraham as an example.
a. He was told to leave family and go to an unknown place.
(He was still going there when he died. See Hebrews 11.)
b. He was told he would have a child (promised by God).
(Sarah’s idea was to have him marry Hagar – Ishmael.)
c. He was told to take Isaac, the son God promised, and sacrifice him.
(Sometimes our dreams, even the ones’ God gives us, have to be let go/handed over.)
d. Abraham was not the only one. Take Noah for example.
2. How about us?
a. We struggle to make sense of things we cannot explain.
b. We suspect spiritual dynamics beyond our control.
c. We wonder if God is keeping score, and if He’s being fair.
II. How does God keep score?
A. There are two possible ways (according to theology).
1. The obvious one is by what we do.
a. Judgement is by works (Romans 2:6).
b. We already know that works = wrath (Romans 2:5).
c. Unfortunately we keep score this way (generally against others).
2. The unbelievable one is by a gift.
a. God makes a promise = “covenant.”
b. A contract is something that BOTH sides have to do.
c. A promise/covenant is something that only one side has to do.
B. It is frustrating if:
1. We do not understand the rules and scoring system.
a. Let’s say you saw a chess game were one player was correctly playing a sacrifice. You might think they were losing if you did not see their idea and the next move.
b. We look at life, at times it seems out of control and we don’t understand.
2. We do not improve.
a. We start our spiritual walk, we do what we are told to are the correct things to do BUT we make mistakes, nothing seems to make a difference.
b. Abraham made three distinct mistakes that looked like he did not trust God.
***** The problem is that eventually a suspicion sets in and we ask... *****
III. Is God cheating us?
A. Let’s look at this again.
1. We know that work = wages (v 4) and trust = gift (vv 4, 5)
a. The Bible says “The wages of sin is death...” (Romans 6:23) That means spiritual death – eternal hell.
b. The Bible says “...BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
2. We know that the sign/seal comes AFTER (v 11).
a. In other words, the promise comes before the down payment/fulfillment.
b. But “faith has no value and the promise is worthless” (v 14) if we try to work for it.
c. Growth, fruit, and blessing is the natural result of being in right relationship with God THROUGH the promise/faith.
B. It is encouraging when this “clicks.”
1. It means that it doesn’t matter if life seems like orderly chess or chaotic Calvinball.
a. Some things will not make sense – but they don’t have to.
b. Some things are out of our control – but they don’t have to be in our control.
(Imagine the next time you fly... deciding you should fly the plane instead of the pilot. Imagine someone else wanting to fly the plane. We want to do it personally and we do it in the church.)
2. A simple truth begins to set in: God is at work for His promise and pleasure not ours.
***** Some may then ask.... *****
IV. Is God on our side?
A. There is an answer to that question: Jesus (v 25).
1. Jesus was delivered, handed over to die...
2. BECAUSE of our sins.
a. The only one keeping score against the believer is the devil.
b. Jesus died to erase, permanently, all those marks against us.
3. Jesus was raised to life FOR our justification.
a. As the Message puts it, “conditions were equally hopeless.”
b. There is no difference/margin that the blood of Jesus does not beat.
B. So how do we know? (The same way Abraham knew.)
1. Against all hope (v 18).
a. Sometimes things look bad an hopeless.
b. It’s an opportunity for God to work. Why? So we cannot say that we did it.
2. Face the fact (v 19).
a. We, in our own strength, are seriously messed up.
b. You cannot find a flawless person. They don’t exist. What you can find is a person who is persistent in their faith.
3. Do not decide by unbelief (v 20).
a. In this world we have lots of reasons to waver.
b. However, there is one reason to not waver: nothing else will work.
4. Be fully persuaded (v 21).
a. That God has the ability to do what he’s promised.
b. That is “trust.”