Rom. 5:12 (13-16) 17-19
First Sunday in Lent
“What’s Your Destiny?”
One of the things that I have noticed, in all the sports that I have watched, whenever a team wins a big game or a championship game, I have often heard athletes say, “We are a team of destiny.” The suggestion being, there was nothing anyone could do about it, they were going to win. Some of the Patriots no doubt felt this way last month, especially since they came back from being down 28-3. Last year in the EPL Leicester City won the league championship, as 5000-1 underdogs. I heard some of my beloved Green Bay Packers talking like this when they won the Super Bowl six years ago. We all know a pastor, not me (he likes to wear a bow tie), that said that year that it was God’s will that the Packers won. Well, while we can debate if God is a Packer fan, there are a lot of differing opinions and beliefs regarding destiny. St. Paul talked about this subject as well, when he wrote his letter to the Romans. In the fifth chapter, Paul compares how Adam influenced our destiny versus how Jesus did. As we examine all this here today, we will ask ourselves the question, “What’s Your Destiny?”
I don’t know about you, but I hear a lot of people talk about destiny, or fate, and stuff like that. Couples who talk about how they first met and fell in love, how people got started in their jobs or careers, and stuff like that. There are also a lot of different beliefs as to how this all works. Astrologers think our destinies are determined by the placement of the stars and the planets in the skies. God says a big fat “NO” to that. Others think God has stamped our lives out for us and that we cannot deviate from His plans. Those of the new age persuasion think our destinies are determined by the nebulous concept of “Karma.” But what did Paul have to say about this?
In Romans 5, starting with verse 12, Paul is discussing how two people, Adam and Jesus, can affect the destinies of everyone. First, he talked about Adam. The effects that Adam had on us and on this world were big. Paul wrote, “12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Now how is that for one person’s actions altering the destinies of billions of people! Because Adam and Eve sinned, because even though they were in paradise and walked and talked with God face to face, they still chose to disobey Him, sin entered this world that was Paradise, and because sin entered the world, death entered the world with it. Let’s make sure we are clear on this, if Adam and Eve had never sinned, nor any of their descendants, they all would still be alive today. There would be no worry, anxiety, despair, pain, flu, political conflict, sadness or anything we consider. . . bad. But because they sinned, the world, all creation was ruined. And once they sinned, sin got under their skin, into their DNA if you will, and all people born since then have been born sinful. We don’t have to do anything bad to be sinful, we just are sinful. (Original sin)
A lot of people these days reject that notion. Nobody likes being held responsible for what someone else has done. I remember as a kid in school getting aggravated with my more rambunctious classmates when their misbehavior got my whole class punished. Or in my days in the University of Wisconsin Marching band, if one guy was caught loafing, the whole band had to do the routine over again.
But one of the problems with sin is that it is hereditary. It is handed down from one generation to the next. Not specific sins or deeds, though, just sinfulness in general. Many people think that only the specific things they do are what gets them in trouble with God. The problem with this is that then people think they can repair their deeds or avoid the consequences of them. Paul’s point is clear: to belong to the family of Adam is to be sinful. And to be sinful is to be under the condemnation of death. Sin results in condemnation by God and death. And unlike your favorite superhero in the latest Marvel comic book movie, there is nothing we can do to get ourselves out of that predicament. We’re stuck. We need help.
And that is where Jesus comes in. While Adam’s influence on our destiny brought us sin and death, Jesus’ influence is far different. Again, we see what Paul said, “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ, abounded for many.” In His death, Jesus showed us God’s grace. All mankind has had to face sin and death on the account of the original sin of Adam and Eve. But all mankind can also receive salvation through the saving work and sacrifice of one man, who also happens to be the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
We should also be aware that the scales are not balanced here. It isn’t like Jesus death and resurrection make up for what happened to us because of sin. What God did and overcame is far greater than what Adam & Eve (and what we) have done. It isn’t like what happened in the garden of Eden got us into a mess this high, and then Jesus’s grace gets this high. Jesus’ work goes far higher. Again, listen to Paul, “17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” God’s grace and love and His ability to forgive is always greater than our ability to sin.
So there it is, two destinies that everybody has to face. Both Adam and Jesus determine the destiny of all people. But they are two different destinies: those who are of Adam are headed for hell, and those who are saved by Jesus and are forgiven, innocent. There is a cemetery in Britain, that has on one of its tombstones:
“Pause my friend, as you walk by,
As you are now, so once was I,
As I am now so you will be,
Prepare my friend, to follow me.”
A visitor added:
“To follow you is not my intent,
Until I know which way you went!“
Here is how Paul put it: “18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” While we inherited the mess of sin from all the way back to Adam, we have been found not guilty, declared innocent by God, of all that sinful mess. Not because we are so great. Not because we are so lovable. But because God loved us, chose us, and sent His Son to rescue us.
Now we started this sermon by thinking about “destiny.” When I think of that word, the first thing I think of is Darth Vader telling Luke Skywalker it is his destiny to join Darth on the Dark Side. By Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection, and by receiving the gifts He gives as a result of that, our destiny is no longer death and hell, but an eternity spent in God’s presence in heaven. Because of Jesus and our faith in Him, heaven is not just our home, as the hymn says, it is our destiny. May God grant you the assurance of that fact in our Lenten journey and always, for Jesus’ sake, and in His Name.