The older I get the less I like mirrors. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™m aging, but the mirror says otherwise. And mirrors donâ€™t lie. Mirrors show you what YOU REALLY LOOK LIKE, not what YOU THINK YOU LOOK LIKE. Mirrors show me things about me that Iâ€™d rather not see â€“ wrinkles, age spots, a bald head. The older I get the less I like mirrors.
The law of God is like a mirror. When we look into the law of God, we see ourselves for what we really are BEFORE GOD. And we never look as good as we think we do. One look into the mirror of Godâ€™s Law and we shriek, â€œWoe is me! I am undone.â€
â€œYou shall have no other gods besides me,â€ says the Law of God. But weâ€™ve got a legion of other gods besides the one, true God â€“ especially money. But thereâ€™s also my career and my hobbies and my friends. And the truth is, when push comes to shove, I willingly put them all before God because at heart, I trust that these things can save me more than I trust God. THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD.
â€œYou shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vainâ€ says the Law of God. I thought looked okay because Iâ€™m not one of those people who use foul language and I donâ€™t like it when I hear others use that GD talk. But neither do I use Godâ€™s name the way I should, â€œto call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks,â€ to witness to my neighbor who doesnâ€™t know Christ. THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD.
â€œYou shall remember the Sabbath day and keep it holyâ€ says the Law of God. â€œWe should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.â€ â€œWell Iâ€™m here arenâ€™t I?â€ That should make me look good before God. But I can hardly hear His Word for all of the other thoughts running through my head. And as for holding His Word sacred, the truth is, I hold a lot of OTHER WORDS more sacred that Godâ€™s Word. THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD.
â€œYou shall honor your father and motherâ€ says the Law of God. â€œYou shall not murder.â€ â€œYou shall not commit adultery.â€ â€œYou shall not steal, or bear false testimony against your neighbor, or covet what belongs to your neighbor,â€ says the Law of God. And before you can count to 10, Iâ€™m a bloody mess because I live as if it were â€œevery man for himself.â€ THE LAW MAKES ME LOOK BAD.
On the outside we may think we look pretty good before God. But thatâ€™s the trouble, itâ€™s just the â€˜outsideâ€™ of us and God sees the â€˜insideâ€™ of us. And He gave us His Law so that we might see the â€˜insideâ€™ of us too. And when we see the â€˜insideâ€™ of us the way God sees the â€˜insideâ€™ of us, itâ€™s not a pretty sight. And â€œwretched man that I amâ€ is all we can say.
And now weâ€™re ready to hear our Epistle reading for today, from Romans, the 3rd chapter.
â€œNow we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.â€
The Law of God is like a mirror so â€œthat every mouth may be stopped.â€ Which is a polite way of saying, â€œshut up!â€ Because the more you try to defend yourself the deeper you dig the hole. â€œMy circumstances, my environment, my parents, the governmentâ€¦ â€ Nothing works. There are no excuses.
Itâ€™s not helpful to compare yourself to others. â€œHave you seen what is going on OUT THERE LORD?â€ â€œI could be a lot worse.â€ â€œGod, I thank you that I am not like other men â€“ robbers, evildoers, adulterers â€“ or even like these DRUG DEALERS, CHILD MOLESTERS AND MASS MURDERERS.â€ â€œI say my prayers and go to church and give my money. I even brought a nice Jello-mold in the shape of Lutherâ€™s seal for the pot-luck supper today.â€
â€œAnd the tax collector stood at a distance and would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, â€˜God, have mercy on me, a sinner.â€™ (Luke 18:11-13). One look into the mirror and the only thing there is to say is, â€œKyrie, Eleison.â€ The whole world is accountable to God.
â€œFor by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.â€
Which doesnâ€™t mean that we should stop looking into the mirror. It doesnâ€™t mean, â€˜if it makes you feel bad you shouldnâ€™t do it.â€™ Which seems to be the prevailing attitude towards Godâ€™s Law. Godâ€™s Law makes us LOOK BAD and FEEL BAD about ourselves, so weâ€™ll ignore it and write new laws that make our sinful, decrepit lives look good – at least TO US.
No, keep looking into the mirror. The first of Lutherâ€™s 95 Thesis said, â€œWhen our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, â€˜do penance,â€™ He willed that the WHOLE life of the believer would be one of repentance.â€
You never stop looking into the mirror of Godâ€™s Law. Because as soon as you do you forget what you really look like and you get up off your knees and start boasting to God about how good you look.
â€œSo, then what becomes of our boasting? Itâ€™s excluded.â€ â€œFor by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sightâ€¦â€ â€œFor ALL HAVE SINNED and fallen short of the glory of Godâ€¦â€ NO EXCEPTIONS. NO EXEMPTIONS. And NO BUTS ABOUT IT. Except for this one.
â€œBUT NOW, the righteousness of God has been made manifested APART FROM THE LAWâ€¦.â€
The best news you will ever hear is summed up in those two words. â€œBUT NOW.â€ The entire Gospel of Jesus Christ, His incarnation, His passion and death on the cross, His resurrection on the 3rd day, His ascension into heaven, His coming again on the Last Day, is all compressed into those two words – â€œBUT NOWâ€¦â€
â€œBUT NOWâ€ stands in direct opposition to â€œALL HAVE SINNED AND FALLEN SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GODâ€¦â€
â€œBut nowâ€ means that God is doing a NEW THING, an unheard of thing, an utterly surprising thing. He has established a â€œNEW COVENANT.â€ â€œFor I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.â€ (Jer.31:34).
Here we are, trying so hard to look good before God according to the Law â€“ â€œlook at what Iâ€™ve done, look at what I didnâ€™t do.â€ But as it turns out, God doesnâ€™t judge us by the law. He judges us â€œAPART FROM THE LAW.â€
â€¢ No longer is it a matter of â€œthou shall and thou shall not.â€ â€œBut now,â€ itâ€™s â€œLOOK WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR YOU WHILE YOU WERE DEAD IN YOUR SINS.
â€¢ No longer is it a matter of â€œthis you must do to free yourself from your past and your future. â€œBut now,â€ itâ€™s â€œif the Son sets you free you will be free indeed.â€
â€¢ No longer is it a matter of, â€œthis you must do if you want to be saved.â€ â€œBut now,â€ itâ€™s â€œThis believe – you have been saved.â€
â€œThis righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.â€
The great but nowâ€ that echoes throughout all creation for all who have ears to hear, is that God put forward His Son Jesus Christ to stand in front of the mirror. â€œGod put Him forward as a propitiation by His bloodâ€¦â€
He is the perfectly obedient One â€“ who has kept the law perfectly. Not only outwardly according to the letter, but inwardly with a true heart. And God has â€œput Him forwardâ€ â€“ to stand in front of you â€“ to block you from His sight so that all He can see is Jesus.
â€œBut nowâ€ â€œGod put Him forwardâ€ to bear our fallen and broken nature. You want to know what we look like before God according to His Law? Just look at Christ cursed and crucified with YOUR SIN. Look at Jesus hanging from the cross, rejected by God and forsaken with YOUR GUILT. â€œGod put Him forwardâ€ to stand in front of that mirror that accuses us â€“ that He might be accused IN OUR PLACE.
Itâ€™s not by your keeping the Law that God is pleased with you, but by Christâ€™s keeping the Law ON YOUR BEHALF.
â€¢ Itâ€™s His works not yours that God is pleased with.
â€¢ Itâ€™s His wounds, not yours that heal you.
â€¢ Itâ€™s His cross, not yours that bears your awful load.
â€¢ Itâ€™s His death, not yours that has paid the ransom due.
â€¢ Itâ€™s His righteousness not yours that makes you righteous and holy before God.
â€œBut now,â€ when you look into the mirror of Godâ€™s Law, you see with those eyes that have been transformed by the Holy Spirit that â€˜seeâ€™ what they â€˜hear.â€™ You see what God sees â€“ not you, but His beloved Son, with whom He is â€˜well pleased.â€™ And you gasp with repentant joy. For you are â€œradiant, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish…â€ (Eph.5:27).
So it turns out there is a distinction after all. All have not sinned. There is One who has not. â€œThere is only one who is good.â€ And itâ€™s not you. Itâ€™s Jesus Christ. Itâ€™s not about what you must do or have done. Itâ€™s ALL about what He came to do and has done FOR YOU.
Actually, this is just what the LAW AND THE PROPHETS BORE WITNESS TO all along, if only we had listened more and not been so preoccupied with boasting about ourselves.
â€¢ When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, God sacrificed innocent animals and covered their shame and guilt with those skins. That was Christâ€™s skin that covered Adam and Eve and that now covers YOU.
â€¢ When Abraham took his son Isaac to the mountain to sacrifice him â€“ God provided a ram to be sacrificed in Isaacâ€™s place. And Abraham sacrificed the ram instead of his son, that ram was Christ who was sacrificed instead of YOU.
â€¢ When Israel was in Egypt, death passed over every house marked with the blood of a lamb â€“ and that lamb was Christ, whose blood now marks YOU.
So, â€œThen what becomes of our boasting?â€ Do we boast to God about ourselves, and what good people we are or how well we keep His Law? Are you crazy?
If you want to boast, boast about this to the Devil. â€œI am a baptized child of God. I am baptized into the death of Christ Jesus, my Lord and I have already died to sin, and furthermore, I have already been raised from the dead into His new creation. And â€œnothing can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, my Lord.â€
Vs. 24, 28
â€œFor are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesusâ€¦â€ â€œFor we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.â€