For God does not show favoritism

*Bible Verse: Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

On Friday evening, we’ve all meditated on the 5th verse on the second chapter of the letter of Romans. We prayed together asking God’s help to remove our stubbornness and unrepentant heart. We continue from where we’ve left off then.

But before we do so, let me tell you about some thoughts from last night. A movie I’ve watched a while ago has been lingering in my mind. Inception. Maybe some of you here watched it? For those of you who haven’t seen it, I do not recommend watching it. But if you will watch it, please pray before watching it and then pray and read the Bible after watching it.

But let me tell you the ending now to spoil it for you so you don’t have to watch it. The last minutes of the movie is shows the main character spinning a totem, a spinning top on the table. If the totem continues to spin, it means he is dreaming. If it stops, then he is in reality.

While the totem spins, he suddenly hears the voice of his daughter. Rather than waiting to see if the spinning top stops, he immediately walks out to see his daughter. Camera zooms into the spinning top. It wobbles a bit and then the film blacks out.

It leaves people wondering, what happened. A lot is at stake. If that thing keeps spinning, no matter how wonderful a life moment you are in, that isn’t real. It’s a dream. His actual body is somewhere sleeping as he dreams. He will live in that sweet dream forever, while reality goes on in the outside world.

Which reminds me of another scene in the first of Matrix movie series. Hopefully more of you may have watched that movie?

It’s the scene where a bald head guy is chewing on a nice juicy steak with agent Smith, the bad guy. They are in the matrix, it’s not the real world. The guy chewing the steak knows that but he trades the reality with the virtual reality which is not the true true reality. He rather fool himself in a fake world for pleasure than face harsh reality.

Now, you may be wondering at this point, what does all these movies have to do with what we’ve read from the Bible today.

You see, what we read in the Bible today isn’t the most exciting verses in the Bible. It’s harsh if you think about it. God repaying everyone according to what they have done? God not showing any favoritism? These are hard pills to swallow.

Wrath of God is very difficult to preach. Not only because it causes allergic reaction for many of us who are deeply entrenched in the false idea of God’s love that’s only about hugs and kisses no matter what but also for the sake of those who may question their salvation and lose conviction of it after hearing about God’s wrath. What if someone thinks ‘Am I really saved?’ and gives up on God? Or worse, get turned off by the idea of punishment and leave God?

Let me make this one thing clear. Paul didn’t write this letter to condemn people to hell. The theme of his letter is righteousness of God that was revealed from heaven, Jesus Christ, in whom we are saved through faith. Those who are in Christ Jesus, they are saved, and nothing can separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. That’s the bottom line.

But chapter 2 looks into what will happen to those who are not in Christ Jesus, whether a man is a Jew or a Gentile. In that matter, it even applies to those who consider himself an atheist or a Christian. Unless I am in Christ Jesus, I am fully liable to the wrath of God that is being revealed from heaven and there is no way out from that, no escape, period.

Here, in chapter 2, the apostle explains clearly what will happen to those who are not in Christ Jesus. He states the consequences that will happen to those who are not in Christ Jesus. He compares and contrasts those who are in Christ and those who are not and what will happen to those two groups.

7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

To those who are saved, they will receive eternal life. Saved people aren’t perfect people. But they are persistent people. Persistent in what? In doing good. They are persistent in seeking glory, honor and immortality. And let me emphasize, it’s not my personal glory, honor and immortality but that of God’s. God’s glory, honor and immortality.

John 5:41 “I do not accept glory from human beings, 42 but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44 How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?

1 Samuel 2:30 “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.

1 Corinthians 15:51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

I have to clarify one thing. Just because someone is persistent in doing good, and persistent in seeking glory, honor and immortality, that doesn’t mean they will get eternal life.

For example, what if someone has nothing to do with Jesus Christ, no faith in Christ, yet do good and seek glory, honor and immortality? Technically speaking, we can’t do good nor seek God’s glory, honor and immortality without Jesus. But let’s say someone came really close to it maybe? A moral man, an upright man. He doesn’t believe in Jesus, however, he sure lives much better life than thousands of Christians combined. What happens? I think as we continue to study Romans, we will find the answer to that question.

Verse 7 tells us something very important. As for those who are in Christ Jesus, you will find them in their persistence in doing good, seeking glory, honor and immortality. You see that without fail.

Now, making a distinction as we did is very important.

Unless we are careful with verse 7, we can fall into the trap of self-righteousness. That is, believing my good deeds, will save me.

The important truth we learn from Romans is that my righteousness will not save me. That’s what’s presented from very first chapter of Romans. We are saved by the righteousness of God, Jesus Christ, in whom we are called by faith, by grace.

Understanding verse 7 in the light of Jesus Christ is critical so we won’t think our moral and good deeds, apart from having faith in in Jesus Christ, will save us.

Verse 7 is important because it helps us from falling into another trap that we may easily fall into in the walk of faith so called lawlessness. Antinomianism.

For example, just because I recite some prayers, just because I say I believe in Jesus, doesn’t mean all is done and I have nothing else to worry about anymore.

What if my life remains the same? In fact, what if, rather than living as what verse 7 says, I live the life of verse 8? That’s self-seeking, rejecting the truth and following evil even though I may have outwardly said I believe in Jesus?

Am I born again merely because I prayed: “LORD JESUS I REPENT OF MY SINS COME INTO MY HEART AND I WILL MAKE YOU MY LORD AND SAVIOUR ”

In Matthew 5:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Let’s conclude. The world we live in will present to us alternative ways to live and view things than that of the Bible. There are point of views that are far more attractive than what the Bible says if we are only thinking about what makes me happy and what serves me the best.

They are like that juicy steak the guy in Matrix is chewing on. It may not be real but it’s sure looks great and taste great although it’s not really there. Or it’s like the guy from Inception walking outside hearing the voice of his daughter, even though, the totem still spins.

There is a saying don’t choose the second best in place of the very best. But what’s more important than that, is to live in reality rather than living and believing in what is not real. The Bible we are holding in our hands, that tell us what is real, and reality isn’t always pretty.

It tells us we will die. It tells us there is a judgement afterward. This book will point out your sins, this book will contradict you and offend you. But it will never fail to tell you what is real.

What will you choose?