“ Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, 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, 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.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  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.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The Lord gives His Promise to the sinner. He cleanses the sinner, He makes righteous the unrighteous. He is the ultimate gift giver, promise giver and promise keeper. He freely, graciously and abundantly gives to His people, to those whom He has purchased with His own blood. He not only creates us through His Word of promise or Gospel, but He also re-creates, sustains and nourishes. He finishes what He begins. He gives again and again. So much so, that His Words of Promise, or His Gospel are always the gifts that keep on giving. They aren’t measurable, instead they are poured out immeasurably. This is why Paul keeps using the phrase in Rom. 5 “much more…and more than that” when speaking of God’s gifts in Christ for us. Just when you think it can’t get any better, God gives even more…much more. 70 times seven, we cant quantify it.
He does all of this, not for the good or godly person, but He does it for the sinner, the ungodly. He gives His gifts to you, while still a sinner. Our Lord doesn’t wait until you’ve gotten it together or have shown a little effort. He doesn’t wait until you do “your part” so that He can finish what you’ve begun. He doesn’t justify or make clean the one in whom He sees some sort of potential or hope down the road, but rather St. Paul tell 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.
During this season of Lent, while we are still here in our sinful flesh, we can actually get it all wrong. We can reverse things, wrongly flip them around and make the Gospel, His gifts, about OUR doing, OUR restraint, our Law keeping, our own efforts to make ourself clean. The Old Adam, or sinful flesh always turns gifts into earnings, grace into some form of Karma, but Jesus tells the crowd and His disciples
“ And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
For while we would like to make Lent and every season of the church for that matter about us and what we do, Jesus came to earth to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He came to die on a cross and rise for us.
So to be clear, even the denying of ourselves, Jesus speaks of, is not some form of monastic living where we do “this or that”, refrain from this or that or follow some sort of pious regiment in order to better or justify ourselves, but Lent truly looks to Jesus who is heading to Jerusalem as the Lamb of God who bears our sins. He has come to take up His cross and destroy sin death and the devil for you. To give His victory to you. So, denying yourself or, “losing your life” as Jesus puts it, is ceasing your various means of self-justification. It is confession. “I, a poor miserable sinner” It is confessing that you can’t fix what is broken in you and the world around you because of Original sin and instead “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2) Lent is about being repented by the Lord Himself and being cleansed by this Jesus who goes to die for you. Lent is about the death, or drowning of our Old man, the one who always turns Gospel or God’s gifts, Promises into Law, and turns receiving from our Lord into your own doing and working.
So, while we’re still trying to justify ourselves, despising the Lord’s gifts, while we were even enemies of God, Jesus died for us. He didn’t wait until we got better, because we never would get better, He didn’t wait until we fixed our spiritual blindness, deafness and deadness because we can’t. With man, Jesus said, this is impossible.
Rather it is Jesus Himself who is our Healer, the One who absolves us, is our righteousness, our life. He speaks us clean & righteous with His Word of Gospel or Promise, delivering all that He has won for us…to us. . He washes us clean and pours out His own precious holy blood for us. He justifies us before the Father, so that we are at peace with God, and not at war any longer. Therefore, we walk and even “stand” as Paul puts it, by faith, or by simply receiving all that He gives us in His Promises.
This way, even as we suffer in this world, we can rejoice, for God is with us and for us, not against us. In other words, even the struggles, the suffering we experience in this world becomes gift to us, as Christ Himself has joined us in our weakness, given us the Holy Spirit and is our strength and comfort. We know that because of His demonstrated, ongoing and active love for us at the cross, where His blood was poured out to forgive our sin, any suffering we experience is never to destroy us, or because God is angry with us, but it is God’s gift for our endurance, character and hope. So, as those who are purchased and loved by Christ Himself, as sinners who have been cleansed, washed white as snow, we don’t see suffering as pointless and hopeless, or even something to try and figure out, but we receive all from the Lord as gift, for our benefit, from the hand of a Father who loves us as certainly as we are Christ’s own. We have been baptized by Him, given His Name. For, in Christ we are made alive and we, through holy baptism we are joined both to His death and His resurrection. So any suffering, trials or hardship are only for a season, they are not eternal, for we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and by faith we walk and are upheld by His Promise to deliver us from all the evils of sin, death and the devil. Therefore, we confess with St. Paul:
“If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.