Your story has lots of different components. If you were to write your biography, you could probably describe your experiences, personality, character, relationships, influences, passions, achievements, joys, and traumas. Your story is unique. There is no one else with your story.
There is “your story”, but there is also “our story”. There is a story that we all share; a story common to every human being who has ever existed. This is the story described in the Bible. It’s the story of being created by God, built by him to have a relationship with him. It’s the story of our unique place in God’s creation as his image bearers. It’s also a story of our brokenness and failure, of why our world is marked with suffering and evil. The Bible tells us about how God has entered our story with his grace. To properly understand ourselves and God, we have to understand our story and his grace, as the Bible describes.
This Sunday, we’re starting a new series looking at Romans 1-4. Paul’s letter to the Romans is a kind of Christian manifesto. It’s the fullest and grandest statement of the gospel in the New Testament. Martin Luther called it, “really the chief part of the New Testament, and … truly the purest gospel”. John Calvin declared that “if we have gained a true understanding of this Epistle, we have an open door to all the most profound treasures of Scripture”. If you grab hold of this letter and study it, you can more closely understand our story and God’s grace.
For many Christians, Paul’s letter to the Romans is intimidating. It seems like chapter after chapter of dense and complicated doctrines. We don’t feel like we can adequately grasp Romans, so we don’t try. So, as we begin this sermon series, let me encourage you to start by understanding just one word: righteousness.
“Righteousness” means to be in right standing in relation to someone or something else. Everyone wants to be all right. For example, we want to be right in the eyes of the law, so we obey the rules. We want to be right in the eyes of those we respect, so we dress, speak, and act in particular ways. But there is a far better righteousness that Paul speaks about. This is a “righteousness of God” that has been revealed (Romans 1:17). We need this righteousness, but we’re unable to obtain it for ourselves by ourselves. Paul says that no amount of effort or achievement can secure it.
The life-changing message of Romans is that in Jesus Christ, God makes the unrighteous righteous. “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22). This is a righteousness that makes every difference for our present and our future. It’s a righteousness that completely changes your story, by his grace.
This letter is a treasure. As we go through this sermon series, please read this letter at least a few times. It really does reward careful and persistent study. In it you’ll find truth, joy, and hope as you grow to know yourself and God better.