Today on Insight for Living from Chuck Swindoll. Paul's ancient letter to the Romans contains radical and revolutionary doctrines, but very few people ever claim these grace-filled treasures as their own. Today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll continues his enlightening study about biblical doctrine.
It's called Growing Deep in the Christian Life. We'll be looking at Romans chapter three, and in particular the doctrine of our salvation in Jesus Christ. The outcome of embracing this profound biblical truth is a deep and satisfying relationship with God. We'll begin by reading the passage together.
Chuck titled his message, Mr. Smith, Meet Your Substitute. God reigns in righteousness, perfection, and infinite holiness. His character and His Word are the measuring rod, what we could call the moral standard against which all of us are compared and, I might add, found lacking. The New Testament often refers to God's perfect standard as His glory. You may remember the words from Romans 3.23.
I could paraphrase them like this. For all have sinned, that's our natural condition, and fall short of the glory of God. That's His divine standard. Since God exists in the realm of absolute perfection, His nature requires the same from us. God doesn't wink at our sin, shrug and say, Oh, that's okay.
I understand. Don't worry about your sin. No, His perfection requires our perfection in order for us to have any kind of relationship.
And therein, as Shakespeare says, lies the rub. Scripture tells us clearly that we've sinned and we've fallen short of the perfection of God. Paul described this truth very clearly in Romans 3. In preparation for our message today, I want to read this passage to you from the message, thanks to Eugene Peterson's work.
Romans 3, beginning with verse 9 through the end of the chapter in the message, begins like this. So where does that put us? Do we Jews get a better break than the others?
Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it. There's nobody living right, not even one.
Nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They've all taken the wrong turn. They've all wandered down blind alleys. No one's living right.
I can't find a single one. Their throats are gaping graves. Their tongues slick as mudslides. Every word they speak is tinged with poison. They open their mouths and pollute the air. They race for the honor of sinner of the year. Litter the land with heartbreak and ruin.
Don't know the first thing about living with others. They never give God the time of day. This makes it clear, doesn't it, that whatever is written in these scriptures is not what God says about others, but to us, to whom these scriptures were addressed in the first place. And it's clear enough, isn't it, that we're sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else. Our involvement with God's revelation doesn't put us right with God.
What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else's sin. But in our time, something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God setting things right that we read about has become Jesus setting things right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him.
For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we've compiled this long and sorry record as sinners, both us and them, and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives, God wills for us. God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity, he put us in right standing with himself, a pure gift. He got us out of the mess we're in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public, to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sin he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it's now. This is current history. God sets things right.
He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness. So where does that leave our proud Jewish insider claims and counterclaims? Canceled?
Yes, canceled. What we've learned is this. God does not respond to what we do. We respond to what God does.
We finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade. And where does that leave our proud Jewish claim of having a corner on God?
Also canceled. God is the God of outsider non-Jews as well as insider Jews. How could it be otherwise, since there is only one God? God sets right all who welcome his action and enter into it, both those who follow our religious system and those who have never heard of our religion. But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don't we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded?
Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it. You're listening to Insight for Living. To study the Bible with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to insight.org slash studies.
And now the message from Chuck titled, Mr. Smith, Meet Your Substitute. When Peter Marshall preached, people listened. Even though they didn't believe what he said, even though they said they weren't interested, there was just something about his, well, winsome and contagious style that made it impossible for you not to listen. Even when he became the chaplain of the United States Senate, just his prayers became legendary.
A book was made of the prayers alone. It seemed as though everywhere Marshall preached, crowds gathered. Even if it was raining and snowing outside, the balconies would be full and aisles at times, packed with people and folks willing to stand and listen as he spoke the words of God. Now I think it had to go deeper than just his Scottish brogue.
That would work for a while. And it certainly was more than just a charismatic personality that would win you. Interestingly, the man had a way with women as well as men. He was admired by both, a man's man. And yet such a sensitive touch, at times you would swear he was more a poet than a preacher.
He wasn't extemporaneous. To the surprise of many, Marshall read his sermons. But I suppose if you could read like Peter Marshall, that was okay.
You could break that rule. Perhaps Frank Mead in an old article out of Christian Herald said it best, what Peter Marshall says you never forget. But it wasn't how he said it, so much as what he says that goes in like a knife.
He takes you out on the road to Galilee and makes you think you belong there, and then brings you back sharply to Main Street. He never preaches over your head. Now that might have been the secret of the man's life. The ability to go much deeper, but he was always cognizant of the audience. And he himself from a poverty background understood the common man and woman. And therefore he spoke in plain terms, colorful to be sure and dramatic at times, but you always connected with what Peter Marshall was saying.
Listen for example to one of those many great talks he gave. Our country is full of Joneses. And they all have problems of one kind or another, all God's chilling, God trouble these days. The church has always contended that God can solve these problems through the individual's personal fellowship with a living Lord.
Let's put the question bluntly, as bluntly as Mr. Jones would put it. Can you and I really have communion with Christ as we would with earthly friends? Can we know personally the same Jesus whose words are recorded in the New Testament, who walked the dusty trails of Galilee 2,000 years ago? I don't mean can we treasure his words or try to follow his example or imagine him. I mean is he really alive? Can we actually meet him, commune with him, ask his help for our everyday affairs? The gospel writers say yes.
A host of men and women down the ages say yes. And the church says yes. Now I purposely quoted from that great sermon in my opinion one of his 10 best because I have stolen from Peter Marshall. That's a hard thing to admit in front of this broad audience but I have to confess I've stolen. My title is not all original.
The words are but the idea isn't. The sermon I was reading comes from a sermon entitled Mr. Jones Meet the Master. So I've just borrowed from him and called this one Mr. Smith Meet Your Substitute. I figure we picked on Jones long enough.
We need to give him a break. And when I talk to Mr. Smith I'm talking to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson as well and Mr. and Mrs. Franklin and Mr. and Mrs. Jones and Mr. and Mrs. Swindoll and whatever may be your handle because I'm talking to the common man and woman today who happens to find yourself in a very precarious predicament. It's called sin. Sin.
And I want you to put this talk on as though it's your suit of clothes and I want you to wear it for a while because it fits even though you're going to struggle while I alter it to fit your frame. But before I get ahead of myself let me address the need. In your Bible you will find the book of Romans. It's over early on in the New Testament. You'll find it has a number of chapters and I want you to locate the third chapter. The third chapter of Romans. And I want to read to you your biography. I won't call your name or your place of residence but I'm going to tell you the story of your life as I read from this wonderful letter. It talks about our condition and it really isn't very attractive. Look at verse 9 of Romans chapter 3.
Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones and whatever may be your name. What then? Are we better than they?
Not at all. For we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin. As it is written, there is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands. There is none who seeks for God all. Now that means you, friend. That means you sitting there. You have turned aside. You have become useless. There is none who does good.
There is not even one. Their throat is an open grave. With their tongues they kept deceiving. The poison of asps is under their lips whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their paths and the path of peace, have they not known?
There is no fear of God before their eyes. You know what our condition is? I tell you it isn't very attractive. It is totally depraved, completely lost. If depravity were blue we'd be blue all over. Remember that? Blue all over.
Even when we try to hide it, it comes out when we least expect it. I was reading this past week, a large commercial jet was flying from Chicago to Los Angeles. The passengers on board about an hour after takeoff heard a voice over the loudspeaker.
It began, this is a recording. You have the privilege of being on the first wholly electronically controlled jet. This plane took off electronically. It is now flying at 40,000 feet electronically and it will land in Los Angeles electronically. This plane has no pilot.
It has no co-pilot and no flight engineer because they are no longer needed, but do not worry, nothing can possibly go wrong. Go wrong, go wrong, go wrong, go wrong, go wrong. Something always goes wrong, even in our enlightened age, even in our computerized society, even in all of our brilliance, it comes out again and again and again. We're wrong. We're wrong. Imperfect. Please forgive me. I didn't mean to do it. I made a mistake. I forgot. I failed.
I blew it. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Smith knows it and he does everything in his power to hide it. I picked up an old copy of Time Magazine, over 10 years old, came to an article where it was reporting on our condition as a society and I quote, in the past 14 years the rate of robberies has increased 255%, aggravated assault 153%, forcible rape 143%, and murder 105%. You can't hide that. It's just a fact. Locks have you noticed are getting more numerous and thicker and more complicated. Alarm systems more sophisticated now appearing in places like churches and business offices.
Not simply in sacred museums but the run of the mill home. Why? Because something has gone wrong, gone wrong, gone wrong. Now we don't want to accept that.
We don't want to believe that. And so we dress up the exterior, we place constant attention on how we look, how we sound, how we appear to someone we're going to be with, but we cannot hide this aching blue down inside. And it's increasingly more gray. It's becoming black in places.
Why? Because we're lost. We're depraved people.
Now let me tell you what even adds insult to injury. God is righteous, holy. A good word, perfect.
That's his standard. It is sometimes called glory in the New Testament. Look at verse 23. For all have sinned, that's our condition, and fall short of the perfection, holiness, righteousness, the glory of God. You see unlike men and women, God operates on a different standard. To fellowship with me you can just be what you are and because we're both sinners I understand. To hang around with me you don't have to be perfect. In fact, if you try to be, I'm very uncomfortable.
Just be what you are. But God's not like that. God doesn't shrug and wink and say, that's okay. You see, God's triangle is perfect. And in order for you to fellowship with him, your triangle has to be congruent. It has to be just like his triangle. It has to have equal angles with his.
It has to be equal dimensions as his. And the problem is no one qualifies as perfect. There are times that our goodness even astounds us. There are times that we make great achievements and great strides and my, we even surprise ourselves with a breakthrough of goodness and even gentleness and forgiveness.
But can anyone say I'm perfect? Well, God can. In fact, verse 21 calls this the righteousness of God which is being manifested in the law and the prophets. No one ever said it better than J.B. Phillips in his paraphrase. Indeed it is the straight edge of the law that shows us how crooked we are.
Isn't that the truth? Perfect, white. He is white all over. Not a taint of gray, not a shed, not a shred of blue.
All white. And along comes our gray triangle trying to work its way into that perfect, sparkling, holy, righteous triangle and they don't mix. Just can't get in. Here we are, sinners by birth, sinners by choice, sinners by nature, trying to reach and attain a relationship with a God who made us and we're crippled. In fact, we're dead in sin. What do we need? We're back to our need again. Our condition is depravity and God's character is holiness and righteousness and perfection and glory. We need a substitute. Now listen up, Smith.
This is where the rub comes. We need some way to shape us up so that we can relate to a God who is light. John says, God is light.
In him is no darkness at all. And then John talks about fellowshipping in the light. But my light's out.
I'm all dark and he is all light. As Wesley put it, I'm in a dungeon chained. Long my imprisoned spirit lay fast bound in sin and nature's night. I can't get out. I need someone to get me out of the hole I'm in. I need an advocate in the courtroom.
I need someone who will present my cause. So God has provided the Savior. Look at it with me. Verse 23, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That's a given.
That's a factor you can't escape. Being justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation. That word means satisfaction. Whom God displayed publicly referring to the cross as a satisfaction in his blood through faith. You're listening to Insight for Living and a message from Chuck Swindoll.
He gave it this title, Mr. Smith, Meet Your Substitute. As you can tell, he's not quite finished yet. There's much more teaching coming ahead. To learn more about this ministry, visit us online at insightworld.org. Our current series, Growing Deep in the Christian Life, truly embodies what Insight for Living is all about. We make it our mission to help advance your walk with God and to help you understand the importance of theology and biblical doctrine.
You see, when we learn to think correctly about God, it helps us live correctly with God. Along those lines, we've prepared a number of helpful Bible study tools to help you. For instance, did you know that Chuck provides a daily devotional by email? In this way, you can pause at any point in your busy day to spend time reading and reflecting on biblical truth. The daily devotional is free when you sign up online at insight.org slash devotional. Also, I want to remind you that Chuck wrote a book that parallels this current teaching series. It too is called Growing Deep in the Christian Life. This isn't a booklet.
His book is 22 chapters in length, covering some of the major theological tenets of our Christian faith. And you can purchase a copy right now by calling us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888, or you can go directly to insight.org slash store. Insight for Living is made possible through voluntary donations from grateful listeners like you. If it's been a while since you contacted us, or perhaps you've never done that, we'd love to hear from you. Your gift, large or small, will be channeled directly into providing these daily visits with Chuck. To give a gift of any amount today, give us a call.
If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. Treat yourself to a vacation you'll never forget, on the Insight for Living Ministries cruise to the great frontier with Chuck Swindoll. Honestly, I had no idea that a cruise to Alaska could be so much fun, and without a doubt the stunning views took my breath away. God's artistic genius is on full display in Alaska. In fact, I guarantee this, you'll come home refreshed and filled with awe for His majestic creation. Yeah, at one point our ship was getting chased by dolphins.
They were playing and spinning in the waves. It was amazing. You'll have plenty of time for adventures on shore, lingering conversations around mealtime, and strolling through the idyllic ports of call. You'll be a part of some of the best parts of our day, laughing, singing, and celebrating our God. Plan to come with us, won't you?
The dates are July 1st through July 8th, 2023. To learn more, call 1-888-447-0444. That's 1-888-447-0444. Or visit insight.org slash events.
The tour to Alaska is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us next time when Chuck Swindoll continues his series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life, right here on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Mr. Smith, Meet Your Substitute, was copyrighted in 1985, 1987, 1997, 2005, 2006, and 2011. And the sound recording was copyrighted in 2011 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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