March 1, 2020
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
I was hoping that the “Leaning Tower of Dallas” would have fallen yesterday. For such an odd event, it would have added to the story if the tower would have fallen on February 29th. Two weeks ago, plans were laid to bring down an abandoned building in Dallas with dynamite, but the central core of the building including the elevator shaft survived the blast and are still standing. It has now become a tourist attraction similar to the much older and much more famous “Leaning Tower of Pisa” in Italy. However, the plan for the Leaning Tower in Dallas is not to leave it for future generations to use as a backdrop for selfies. There are a few people who do not find the leaning tower as entertaining as the rest of us because for them it is a real problem and they want it gone. The Leaning Tower of Dallas may not be a real problem for you, and you may not have made a special drive to it for a selfie, but you do have lingering problems in your life that you want gone.
When problems linger, it makes it hard to picture a future without them. When problems linger in your life it leads to frustration, bitterness, despair, etc. But what if someone who knew exactly what the lingering problems were in your life offered you a box and said that there is a gift inside, and it will answer all your problems? I bet this has happened to you in the past. It has happened when you were sharing a lingering problem with someone and the next time you saw them, they had something for you to solve it. Or, someone was listening to you through all your devices and an ad popped up on a screen promising to solve a problem you didn’t realize you had, so you bought what the ad was selling. Either way, you’ve had problems and have tried the solutions. And, sometimes the solution does not work, and you are left with your problem. At other times, it does work, but then something else replaces that problem. In the end, what you and I need is one gift to solve all our problems.
There must be one gift to solve all our problems because all our problems came from one place. In our reading from Romans 5, the Apostle Paul was guided by God to point out the one reason you and I have problems in our lives when he wrote, 12 …“sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” Your problems are caused by sin, and the worst problem we all share is death. With these words in Romans 5, Paul referenced our reading from Genesis 3. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve did not listen to God’s command and sinned by listening to the devil. When Adam and Eve sinned, they gave up all the good things God had made them. When they sinned, they were left with problem after problem because they were now ruled by the devil who hates all that is good and wants all people to suffer. Worst of all, Adam’s sin lingers on in you and me, and our children. You and I live lives filled with problems that all end with death. So, we have lots of problems that all came from one place and we would like one solution.
There is one solution for the one place all our problems came from. In our reading from Romans 5, the Apostle Paul wrote, 15 “But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” For each trespass, sin, problem we have caused ourselves or someone else, or problem we have because of someone else, even Adam and Eve’s sins, Jesus died on the cross. The final universal problem we all face because of Adam and sin was given to Jesus. He took the problem of death and sin and solved it by giving his innocent life as a sacrifice and rising from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection and eternal life through him is the universal solution for all people. This means Jesus’ gift to you is complete, but it does not always feel that way.
When you and I look at our lives, they do not feel like Jesus’ gift completely solved all our problems. Instead, it looks like Adam’s sin and the one trespass are far more complete in their power to touch all aspects of our lives because sin still lingers in our lives like a leaning tower that we want to see fall. When problems from sin linger like a leaning tower, Jesus’ gift feels like a small wrecking ball trying to bring it down. So then, the solution for lasting peace comes from a more complete understanding of what Jesus has done for you.
When your focus switches from the problem to the solution, Jesus’ gift to you gives the lasting peace you are looking for. So often you and I are frustrated as believers because we go looking for solutions to problems when the answer is right in front of us. It is like when we get a package at our house and I bring the box inside. Then, I try to open the box buy pulling it as hard as I can, but the tape is too strong. I struggle minute after minute while my wife is standing there with scissors to open the box. Finally, I give in using the scissors and the box is open in seconds. The solution was right in front of me, but I did not want to use it. Jesus is the solution to all your problems, but the devil’s lie is that he is not. The devil’s lie is that Jesus cannot be the answer to your sins because you still sin and have problems in your life. The devil then tempts you to solve your problems without Jesus, and that is where you and I run into trouble.
When you and I try to solve our problems on our own, we get stuck in them. Our reading from Matthew 4, shows why the solution to our problems is with Jesus’ gift alone. After Jesus was baptized, he went into the wilderness where the devil tempted Jesus to solve three problems. First, he tempted Jesus to turn rocks into bread to solve his hunger problem because he had been fasting in the wilderness for forty days. Then, the devil tempted Jesus to jump off the highest part of the temple to solve the problem of God supposedly not caring for him. Finally, the devil tempted Jesus to bow and worship him as a trade for the all the kingdoms of the world to solve the problem of God not allowing him to rule the nations as king without first dying on the cross. Jesus did not attempt to solve these problems on his own but let God’s Word be the solution and the devil left him defeated. Jesus is the solution to your sins because he did not sin. He is your solution because he obeyed God for you as Paul wrote in Romans 5, 19 “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” Our answer to problems, sin and death is not to look inside ourselves, but to look to Jesus’ righteousness and his resurrection. When we are faced with guilt, we have Jesus’ forgiveness and his righteousness covering us. When we face lingering problems, we fight against them with God’s Word to keep us from giving into temptation. When we face frustrations that problems and sin linger, and death will come, we remember that the war, the final battle, the complete gift is ours through Jesus’ victory to give us eternal life.
There is a box up here with the words “A gift for every problem” written on it. Notice I did not use any tape to close the box, so that it would be easy for me to open. Would you like me to open it? Before I do, stop to think what you really want to be inside, something to solve all the problems, hardships, troubles, frustrations, sins and guilt in your life. Do you want it to have a diploma inside, cash, blinders to keep you from looking at what you are not supposed to be looking at, the deed to your home, a couple of college funds, one bottle of pills to take once a day rather than many pills and many bottles or maybe just one pill, the complete guide to men or the complete guide to women, etc.. What do you need this box to have inside? Keep in mind too that this box says, “A gift for every problem,” so if it only solved your problems, then it would not be the complete. This box has to have something inside it that can solve every problem for every person. Now, I’ll open it. And, it’s the Bible. Is that what you were expecting to take away your lingering problems and give you lasting peace?
Everyone waiting for the Leaning Tower of Dallas to come down recognizes that it will one day be gone and something else will take its place, but for now the it lingers. Trust in Jesus means one day you will be in heaven and all your problems will be gone, but for now they linger. You have what you need though to get through because you have the God’s Word to defend yourself against the devil. Use God’s Word and there you will see that your problems do not completely rule your life because they end. And there you see Jesus’ gift to you is complete because his gift lasts.Amen.