Romans 5: Gifts From God

2018 Messages

What if God wanted to give you a gift? A gift that is available to anyone who is willing to receive it, is not deserved, and cannot be earned or bought. Some people will gladly receive it and others will reject it. Teaching from Romans 5:1-11, Blake Holmes tells us about such a gift, as well as six blessings that come when you receive the gift.

Blake HolmesMay 6, 2018Romans 5:1-11; Romans 5:2; Romans 5:1; Romans 5:2b-5a; Romans 5:5b-8; Romans 5:9-10; Romans 5:11

In This Series (27)
The Power of Story
Nathan WagnonDec 30, 2018
How to Die
Derek MathewsDec 30, 2018Plano
Engaging With the Bible
Tyler BriggsDec 30, 2018Fort Worth
Christmas Eve 2018
Todd WagnerDec 24, 2018
Special Christmas Message from Todd
Todd WagnerDec 23, 2018
9 Things I Learned at "Seminary"
Jonathan PokludaDec 16, 2018
Making Room, Making Disciples...
Kyle KaiglerOct 21, 2018Plano
Commitment Is the Key to Change
Tyler BriggsOct 8, 2018
Enjoying The Benefits Of Your Faith
Jonathan PokludaSep 30, 2018
The Mode of Our Helping Matters
Tyler BriggsJul 29, 2018
Engage Missionally
Jon IngerbritsonJul 29, 2018Plano
Counsel Biblically and Admonish Faithfully
David DzinaJul 22, 2018Plano
Devote Daily and Pursue Relationally
Connor BaxterJul 8, 2018Plano
Beau Fournet, Kyle ThompsonJul 1, 2018Plano
Fort Worth Evening With The Elders
Todd Wagner, Beau Fournet, Dean Macfarlan, David Leventhal, Brian Buchek, Tyler BriggsJun 24, 2018Fort Worth
Evaluating Your Relationship With God
Jermaine HarrisonMay 27, 2018
Baptism Sunday
Todd WagnerMay 20, 2018
An Ounce of Mother Is Worth a Ton of Priest
David Penuel, Todd WagnerMay 13, 2018
Romans 5: Gifts From God
Blake HolmesMay 6, 2018
Dignity of Responsibility
Gary Haugen, Todd WagnerApr 29, 2018
Are You a Fool for Believing in God?
Todd WagnerApr 1, 2018
Good Friday
John ElmoreMar 30, 2018
The Cost of the Cross
Drew ZeilerMar 25, 2018Fort Worth
A Prophetic Word for the Mission
Todd WagnerMar 25, 2018
What God Has Done and What We Must Keep Doing
Tyler BriggsMar 18, 2018
Life’s Slot Machine
Adam TarnowMar 18, 2018
Put on Humility
Jonathan PokludaMar 11, 2018

In This Series (29)

Good morning. Recently, a good friend of mine came into my office. Quite candidly, it had been a stressful day, a long day, kind of a frustrating day. I just remember sitting there returning emails and trying to catch up, a lot going on in my mind. Somebody comes and knocks on the door. My buddy walks in, and when he walks in he's carrying this big gift with him. I'm kind of thinking, "Who's that for?" He goes, "Hey, Holmes, I got you something!"

I look at my buddy and go, "Uh, if I'm not mistaken, I think it's your birthday next week, and mine's a long way off. What do you mean you got something for me?" He goes, "Hey, I just saw this, and I thought of you, and I just thought you have to have this." I'm thinking, "That's incredibly thoughtful." Here I am on a random afternoon, and a friend walks in and brings me a gift, and he goes, "I want you to open it."

So I turn and open this gift. What my friend knew is that my favorite book outside of the Bible is a book called The Pilgrim's Progress. I open this up, and it is a framed map of Christian's journey to the Celestial City. If you're familiar with The Pilgrim's Progress, you know it's a story about a man who trusts Christ. It's our journey. It's a spiritual journey, and it tells the story of the Bible and how we walk with Christ.

He found this map, and he goes, "Man, I thought of you, and I just thought you had to have that." I was really touched that a guy would take the time, see something, and go, "This has Blake Holmes' name written all over it. You've got to have it." I certainly didn't deserve it. I didn't pay anything for it. I didn't earn it. It cost me nothing. I know it cost him a lot, and it wasn't a special occasion. He just gave it to me out of the kindness of his heart and his generosity.

What if I told you God wanted to give you a gift just like that? What if I told you God in heaven has a gift in mind specifically for you? I'm not talking about the person sitting beside you. I'm talking about no, really, the God in heaven wants to give you, specifically, a gift, but here's the deal: You can't earn it. You can't buy it. You can't find it in a store. You don't deserve it, and it cost him everything. He wants to give it to you, and all you have to do is receive it.

Could you imagine if my buddy walks into my office and goes, "Holmes, I thought of you, and I wanted to give this to you," and I go, "Hey, thanks. Nah. I really don't want that. I don't even want to open it." I think he would be like, "Whoa!" Right? Here is the truth, gang. God wants to give a gift to you. Really simply, there are two types of people in this world: those who understand and have received the gift God intends to give us and those who have said, "Eh, not interested."

What is that gift? What is the gift God wants to give you? Well, the Scripture is really clear. Even if you're not familiar with the Bible, it's the verse maybe you have heard before. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, whoever trusts in him, will have the gift of eternal life."

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. It's not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not as a result of works…" In other words, you can't earn it. "…so that no one can boast." God wants to give every one of us a gift. I love gifts. Don't you love gifts? And I love gifts that keep on giving. Don't you? Those are even better gifts. What I want to do today is unpack the gift of God so you can understand what it is he has given to us.

We're going to look at Romans, chapter 5, verses 1-11. I'm going to walk you through Romans 5:1-11, and we are going to unpack the gift of salvation. The gift he wants to give every one of us is a relationship with him through Jesus Christ. That's the gift. God wants you to have life, eternal life, a relationship with him, but you can't earn it. You can't buy it. You don't deserve it. I want you to understand the blessings that come when you receive this gift. I want you to understand the nature of our salvation and the implications of it.

Hopefully you've been reading along on the Journey with us this year. The Journey, if you're not familiar, is a means by which we, as a body, a family of believers, a family of faith, can journey through Scripture together. If you remember, we started the year… I got up here and said, "Hey, if there's one book I could have on a deserted island, one book I would encourage you to read of all of the books…" No, it wouldn't just be the Bible, but if you could pick one book out of all of Scripture, what would it be? It would be the book of Romans.

If you've been journeying with us, I hope you didn't miss Romans 5:1-11. Paul is going to explain to us this gift, and he's going to unpack six blessings specifically. What's the first blessing we have? We take this gift of salvation… I want you to imagine this with me. You're going to open this up, and we're going to open up gift after gift after gift. I've already peeked. I've studied this week. I know what the text says.

Look at verse 1 and tell me what you see. See it? It's the gift of peace. What does that mean? It's peace with God. It says, "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace…" There it is. Circle that word. Underline that word. Notice what it says. "…we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." He says, "Therefore…" In other words, in light of everything we've read in Romans 1-4.

"Therefore [in light of everything I've just shared] ,since we have been justified [declared righteous]…"Justification is a legal term. We've been declared righteous. For every one of us who has received this gift, God has declared us righteous. He has said, "You are forgiven. You are pardoned. You don't have to pay that penalty of your sin and your rebellion." He says since we have been justified by faith…

Again, by faith. Not because it's something we've earned, not because of effort, not because of hard work, not because of how much money we've given or how many community service hours we've had, but since we've been justified by faith, we have peace with God. Notice that. It doesn't say peace of God. I'm not referring to we have peace of God, like we have a kind feeling in our hearts, in our minds, a tranquility. There are other passages that speak of peace of God. This says we have peace with God.

You have to understand why that matters. You have to understand the distinction. In order to understand and appreciate the gift, you have to understand why we need peace with God. Paul tells us that in Romans 1-3. The reason we need peace with God is all of us have sinned against him. All of us are deserving of judgment, and because of our sin we've been separated from God and we now experience death. Not just physical death but a spiritual death.

We've been separated from the God who created us to have a relationship with him. We've rebelled against him, and now we're experiencing the consequences of that. Paul, in Romans 1-3 says, "Hey, look. Pagan Gentile, you are without excuse. You have all of creation that declares the glory of God, and yet you still reject me." Then he looks at the moral man, the guy who thinks, "You know what? I'm good enough," and he goes, "Hey, moral man, you also are guilty. You are an enemy of God. You have sinned against him. There is a breach in the relationship."

Then he looks at the privileged Jews and goes, "Hey, even you, the Jewish people who have all of the covenants and the promises…you are guilty." Then in Romans 3 he says, "All of us are guilty." He defines the problem so we can understand the gift. Even in this passage, just look down. We're going to look at this in a little bit, but look at verse 6. Just put a little check mark over each of these words.

He describes us as being weak. In other words, we can't bring anything to earn God's favor. He describes us in that verse as well as being ungodly. In verse 8 he tells us we were sinners. In verse 10 he describes us as enemies. No one likes hearing this. I'll tell you why. The cross is offensive to us, because we have too low a view of God and too high a view of ourselves. That's just the truth. We judge ourselves on this sliding scale. We look at this guy over here and go, "I'm not as bad as that guy. I'm pretty good."

God is saying, "Hey, in order to be rightly related to me, the standard, the bar is perfection, and you fall far short in it. I still love you, and I want you to receive this gift. You could be made right with me, and you can have peace with me." How? By receiving the gift. He says right here we have been justified by faith. Because of that, we now have peace with God. This is language of reconciliation. We've been reconciled. We were once enemies, and now we've been reconciled.

In 2016, it was 75 years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which happened on December 7, 1941. I don't know if you all saw this or not, but I was moved and still remember the pictures. They were taken in 2016, which was 75 years later, of US sailors gathering with Japanese fighter pilots, sitting at tables with one another, sharing a meal with one another, looking at pictures of each other's families, crying with one another, talking about what they had experienced, what they had lived through.

I'm sitting there thinking to myself, "How surreal." Had I gone on December 7, 1941, to those US sailors and said to them, "Hey, guess what. I know you're not going to believe this, but 75 years from now you're actually going to sit down, break bread, share a meal, and embrace the people who are dropping bombs on you right now," they would have said, "There is not a chance I will ever do that." But there they were, 75 years later, making amends, reconciled to one another.

Gang, what God offers us is this gift of a relationship with him through Christ so that we're no longer enemies separated from God but are reconciled with him and have peace with God. If you want to understand the blessing of salvation and what it is Christ has done for us, you first have to recognize and see the gift and what it means that we have peace with him. But not only do we have peace. Look at verse 2.

"Through him [Jesus Christ] we have also obtained…" What is in that gift? What's that second thing? It's access. Look at what it says. "…we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand…" This is an amazing implication. We've obtained access into the throne room of God. We who were once separated from him now can boldly walk into the throne room of grace. We don't need a priest. We don't need an intermediary.

We don't need to clean up our lives. We don't need to make a sacrifice. One has been made for you, and now you can enter into the presence of a holy, righteous God. That's amazing. It's amazing that you right now can simply say a prayer and God will receive your prayers. He will hear you. The Creator of the universe will listen to you. He cares about your worries and your concerns. He understands your anxiety, your sorrow, and he welcomes you, like a father wants to hear from his child. That's crazy, but that's the love of God.

We have this access. How does it come? There are those two words again: by faith. Don't miss that. Look at what it says. We have this access, and we don't just sheepishly walk in like this. No, no, no. It says, "…into this grace in which we stand…" Chest up. No shame. We stand. In Hebrews 4:16, the writer says, "Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." That's amazing.

What you have to understand, though, is this doesn't just include our entry into a relationship with God. This includes that every day we can enjoy that kind of relationship. Every day, even on our worst days, even on our days where we have just blown it, God goes, "Hey, come on in. You're always welcome in my house. Just come, pray." If you consider for a moment how the Israelites lived, this is really crazy.

During the time of the Old Testament there was a place in the world called the temple, and in the Holy of Holies, that is where God dwelt specifically, specially. No one just walked into the Holy of Holies, except one time a year the high priest could after he had made sacrifice. If you just walked in there, you would die, because man can't just walk into the presence of a holy and righteous God. But you can. Why? Because of the gift of salvation and what was accomplished for you at Calvary through the cross.

Some of you are familiar with my son's story. My son was diagnosed with cancer when he was 4 years old. He's doing great now. He's a cancer survivor. There's an organization called Make-A-Wish. Some of you are familiar with this. It was unbelievable. These people we don't even know, these complete strangers, come and knock on our door and say, "Hey, listen, Gage. We're with Make-A-Wish, and we want to grant you a wish. What do you want? You can think of crazy things. Think beyond 'I want a trampoline in the backyard.' You could go big. What do you want to do?"

My son goes, "How about Disney World for a week?" They're like, "Done! You're going to Disney World." Let me tell you something. There's going to Disney World as parents, and then there's going to Disney World with Make-A-Wish. Those are two different things. Going to Disney World as just regular common Joe… Those are long lines. I love Disney World, but they're long lines, a lot of money. Make reservations and plan your week out a year in advance, and maybe you'll get in.

Going to Disney World with Make-A-Wish, you wear a badge. You walk in that park when you want before it opens. You go up to the ride. You don't wait in a line. The lines don't exist. FastPass? No, no, no. There's no such thing as FastPass. You go past the FastPass people. Then they see that little badge, and they put you on that ride. "What cart do you want to ride in?" "The first one." "Great." Boom! You're on the first one.

Then when you finish the ride, if you want to go again you just go… Bring it! You just keep going, like Buzz Lightyear, 50 times I think. I lost count. "Hey, Dad, let's do it again." The guy would just laugh. Just keep going. We walk up to the princess castle or whatever that thing is. I have no idea that you have to get reservations nine months in advance. We're hungry, and I see this line. Apparently it's a good place to eat.

I walk up to the hostess. "How long is the wait?" "Uh, nine months." I go, "Oh man. Oh, okay. I just thought maybe we could get something to eat." Because, you know, you want to go to the top of this castle, that iconic castle. Well, my son walks up with my wife right after I had asked that, and this hostess looks at me and goes, "Oh, are you with him?" I go, "Yeah." She goes, "Oh, you can come in right now. We've got room." Then we're up in the castle. People waited nine months.

No kidding. We're sitting there at the 3:00 parade. That thing is coming down the main street. There's my son, his Make-A-Wish badge on. That float stops. The whole parade stops. Those characters come down from the float and get pictures with us, give him a high five. It brings tears to my eyes. We had an all-access pass to Disney World. Let me tell you something. That pales in comparison to the access you have to a much greater kingdom of a true and living righteous God, a holy King. That's what you have, not just for a week but for eternity.

Look at what the next gift is. It just gets better. Can you see what it is? There it is. Hope. Do you think this world needs hope, gang? Let me tell you something. This world needs hope. Look at what it says in the latter part of verse 2. "…and we rejoice in hope…" You have to circle, highlight, or star that word. We don't only have peace or access; we have hope. What does that mean? We have hope of the glory of God.

Now, let's just be honest. Sometimes we hear terms like that, and we're like, "Okay, what does that really mean?" Let me tell you what it means. Let me try to define this for you. First John 3:2 says, "Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." That's crazy.

Colossians 3:4: "When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." What this verse is saying is for those of us who have received the gift of salvation there will be a future hope, a hope where we will not only see the glory of God but share in the glory of God through Jesus Christ. Sin will no longer taste good. You will no longer be impacted by others' sin or your own. You will share in the glory of God and be made like him. Mind blown.

We have a hope. Now when you hear hope, if you're anything like me… I hear hope and kind of think wishful thinking. Like, "I wish the Rangers would win the World Series." Not going to happen. You can wish all day long. The Rangers are not going to win the World Series. It's kind of like, "I wish." That's wishful thinking. That's not biblical hope. Biblical hope is a confident expectation. Biblical hope is certainty of an outcome not yet realized.

C.S. Lewis said, "Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. […] Aim at heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in': aim at earth and you will get neither."

Do you see what he's saying there? As a believer, you have hope, and if you have hope, a future hope, it impacts the present. If you live with that certainty, if you understand the implication of salvation and the blessing that comes, you have hope. Not only a future hope; you have a present hope. Look at what it says. Verse 3: "Not only that [the hope of the glory of God we rejoice in] , but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…"

That's quite odd, isn't it? We don't just rejoice in a future hope, but we rejoice in the present hope despite our sufferings. Gang, as Christians, we have to have a biblical, theological understanding of suffering. Let me be clear. Despite what you may hear or read somewhere else, you are not promised that when you trust in Jesus Christ the wind will always be at your back. You are not promised it's always going to be downhill in wealth and happiness and health. That is not true.

Jesus says in Luke 9:23, "Hey, you're going to follow him? Guess what you're going to do. You're going to pick up your cross. You're going to deny yourself." When we follow Christ, Paul says we share in his sufferings as the body of Christ. We're not home yet. Now there will be a day, there will be a future hope, there will be a future glory, but right here we live in a broken world, and Christ is at work in us.

But here's the comfort. The comfort is that there is a divine permission and rationale behind our suffering, and he can redeem our suffering. How? "…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…" There will be a day when we stand before him and we will not be ashamed. We will have passed the test.

In the book I referred to earlier, The Pilgrim's Progress, my favorite scene is when Christian finds himself entrapped, imprisoned at a castle called the Castle of Doubt. Has anybody ever been there before? Have you ever been entrapped in a castle called doubt? Do you know who owns this castle? The Giant of Despair. Isn't that great language? The Giant of Despair has trapped Christian, and he beats him mercilessly. Christian is beyond the point of hope.

Bunyan in his book has masterfully put a friend with Christian in his cell, and his name is Hope. Hope says to Christian over and over again… He reminds him of God's Word. He reminds him of God's faithfulness. He keeps pointing Christian to what's true until finally Christian goes, "You know what? I didn't even realize it. I have a key, which is the promise of God's Word, and this key will unlock every door in the Castle of Doubt if I'll just exercise faith, if I'm just reminded of my hope."

There are some of you in here today who are in the castle of doubt. I've been there. You're being beaten by the giant of despair. I have been there. I just want to tell you if you understand the gift of salvation, there's hope. Even in your present suffering there is hope. Others of you have friends who are in that castle, and it's your job to be the friend to Christian and remind him of the hope we share.

This isn't wishful thinking. It's not just abstract thinking. It is a certainty of the things that are to come. But not only do we have hope; we have something else. Look at verse 5. "…and hope does not put us to shame, because…" What else do we have? We have God's love. Not just any love but an unconditional love.

"…because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Let me unpack this. Let me help you understand. This is an unconditional love for you. God has demonstrated his love in two ways. The first one… Look at what it says. "Because he has poured out into our hearts the Holy Spirit." God has internally witnessed to you his love. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ, you know the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It's something you can't describe. It is a surety you have when you read God's Word and you have understanding and there's something that leaps in you.

It's the affections you have for God and wanting to please him. It's the conviction you have when you go, "Oh man. Forgive me, Lord." It's the wisdom, the counsel, the motivation to love. That's God's Spirit in you. It's the understanding of his Word. That's the doctrine of illumination. God has given you an internal witness, but he has also given you an external witness. What does he say right here? What's the external proof of God's love for you but the cross of Christ?

There has never been a greater demonstration of love, but here's how it's different from any love you've ever experienced. It's unlike any human love in that it's unconditional. Human love is, "Hey, what have you done for me lately?" This is different. This is an unconditional love. Paul says in this passage, "Maybe a man would give his life for a righteous person, someone who's known to be a good guy. Maybe he'd give his life for somebody who has been good to him, but Christ's love is so crazy in that he was willing to die for his enemies."

That's unlike any kind of love, and that is the love God has for you. That's crazy to believe there's a God in heaven who loves you so much there's nothing you could do to make him love you more and nothing you could do to make him love you less. Let that sink in for a second. Do you know any love like that? Have you ever experienced a love like that? Only through Jesus. Understand this, gang. I don't obey Jesus… I don't follow him in order that he'll love me more. There's a tremendous difference between acceptance-based performance and performance-based acceptance.

Performance-based acceptance says, "Hey, you'd better behave. You'd better live rightly. You'd better get this right. You'd better do more in order to be accepted by me." That's totally different than acceptance-based performance, where I know I'm loved, I know I'm secure, I know I'm at peace with God, I know I have access, I know I have hope, I know I'm loved by him. With that kind of love I'm like, "Lord, how do I live in such a way as to honor and please you? You died for me. Now how do I give in return?" Those are two very different things.

My son chooses to mow the yard today, and he mows the yard going, "Oh man. My dad is going to kill me if I don't get this done. It'd better be done right. Oh, I've got to mow this yard. He's an exact man. He's a judging man if it's not done right," or he mows the yard and goes, "Man, if I could get this yard done before my dad comes home, it would be so great to surprise him. I'd love to do this just to thank him, because I love him. He's good to me." Two different motivations.

Some of you guys are trying so hard because maybe God is going to love you more. That's a bad theology, and that's not understanding the gift. You don't understand the gift yet. Look at the next gift. Verses 9-10. You open this up. Even better. It gets better and better. "Since, therefore, we have now been justified [declared righteous] by his blood [through the cross] , much more shall we be saved…" What are we saved from? "…saved by him [Jesus] from the wrath of God." We're saved from the wrath of God. Circle the word saved.

"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." Think about this. Paul assures us that we will escape the coming wrath of God. Why? Because it says we have been justified, declared righteous by Jesus. Why will we escape the coming wrath of God? Because we have been reconciled. We are no longer enemies.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:9 he says, "For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ…" When we talk about the wrath of God, when we talk about the sin nature of man, people bristle. It's offensive. The cross is offensive to me. "Who are you to tell me I need forgiveness?" That offends people. Jesus said the cross is a stumbling block. "I'm a stumbling block to people."

When you talk about the wrath of God, that is not politically correct. Everybody bristles. "The wrath of God. See, that's the problem. You talk about Jesus is the only way. You talk about hell. Look at the God of the Old Testament, the wrath of God. What's Noah doing? Why is God flooding the earth?" Let me just tell you really simply. The same guy is saying, "Why doesn't God do something about evil? Why doesn't he step in and stop terrorism?"

Let me say it like this. To struggle and question and wrestle with the coming wrath of God when God will judge this world and everyone who rejects this gift will be eternally separated from him… Do you realize that? Everyone who doesn't accept this gift will experience the wrath of God. God will go, "Your will be done. You want nothing of me? You will never be reminded of me again."

To wrestle with the wrath of God is to wrestle with and question the justice and goodness of God. To struggle and wrestle with the wrath of God is to wrestle with the justice of God. You see, God is just, and there is a day when he must judge sin forever. He will do something about evil, but…check this out…he has already done something about evil. At the cross he poured out his wrath on his Son.

At the cross he demonstrated both his wrath and his love for us. You realize that, right? The reason we escape his wrath is because Jesus paid the penalty for us. God doesn't overlook his justice. God doesn't overlook his righteousness. He can accept us because Jesus paid the penalty. He has done something about evil. He has done something about sin through the cross, but he will ultimately do something about evil when he displays his justice on a world that has rebelled against him and he says, "My patience, my longsuffering is over." There will be an end.

You've heard Todd say it often. There is often a second chance, but there is always a last chance. Second Peter 3:9 says the reason God has delayed his wrath is because he's patient toward you. He doesn't want anyone to experience his wrath but more to come to know him. There's often a second chance, but there is always a last chance. As believers, we're going to escape his wrath.

J.I. Packer said, "God's wrath in the Bible is never the capricious, self-indulgent, irritable, morally ignoble thing that human anger so often is. It is, instead, a right and necessary reaction to objective moral evil." Why doesn't God rid the world of evil? Well, where do you want him to start? For those of us who have trusted in Christ, we escape this wrath, and we know he will ultimately do something about evil.

The last gift we have, the final gift… This is something the world wants, doesn't have, and can be yours. Great gifts come in the smallest packages. What does it say? "More than that, we also rejoice…" Circle that word, highlight it, or star it. It's the gift of joy. We have reason to rejoice. "…we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

How many people do you know in this world who have true joy? Not something they're trying to find on a Friday night that's fleeting. I'm talking about joy. I'm not talking about something that's circumstantial; I'm talking about joy that is rooted in God through Jesus Christ that doesn't change with circumstance or time. I'm talking about a joy that's not earned but made possible through Christ for those who have been reconciled with God.

If you were here at our Easter service or at the church leadership conference, you were introduced to our friend Dee Elliott, a man who has been so faithful in this church for so long. Dee now suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease. He's trapped, paralyzed, in a wheelchair. You would think when you look and talk to Dee, "Man, how bitter would you be? You can't do anything for yourself anymore." This once strong, independent man, a grad of the Naval Academy.

You go and talk to him, and you're like, "That's different. I don't sense bitterness. I see joy, a joy this world does not understand. This man is telling me…" He has said so many times… He likes to quote Charles Spurgeon, the famous preacher who said, "Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light." Meaning, "Hey, Blake. Yeah, I'm trapped in this wheelchair. I can't do what I once did, but make no mistake about it: I have joy. It can't be taken from me. You could take my legs. You could take my arms. You could take my health, but I have joy."

I just sit there and look at Dee and I go, "Dee, you fire me up. You inspire me. You encourage me. You help me. You bless me. You remind me of Romans 5. You tell me it's true." I look at a world all around me. It's desperate for the blessings of God, and it's trying to find it everywhere but God. I have to be honest with you. We hear words like peace and access and hope and love and salvation and joy, and we kind of go, "Yeah."

I pray God wrecks you. I really do. I pray God shakes you and wakes you up to the reality that, as believers, you have something that's more than just words on a page or words we sing. You have a true hope. You have peace with God. You have an unconditional love. You have a joy. You're going to be saved from the wrath to come.

Your life, Christian, should look different, not so you can earn these things but because you already have them. I pray you rest in these things this week. I pray that you serve him boldly. I pray you tell others of the joy, of the gift that can be theirs if they will receive it. Let's pray.

Father, thank you for your kindness. Thanks for your many gifts. Lord, rattle my cage this week. May I not be numb to the truth of your Word and the songs we sing but may I be convinced. Thanks for men like Dee. Thanks for books we can read like Romans. Thank you for books like The Pilgrim's Progress that illustrate the truth of the Christian journey, for friends you put in our lives who remind us of hope.

Thanks for an unconditional love we have received through the cross, a love that's unlike any other in this world, one that's not earned, one that's not deserved, one simply given to us. I pray for the hearts of my friends in here today, Lord. For those who know you, may they be strengthened and encouraged today. May you open their hearts and their affections to the reality of the truth. For those who don't know you, Lord, I pray that they would receive the gift, that they would open it and experience life in your Son. In Jesus' name, amen.