An empty life needs an empty tomb


Over 2200 people swarmed into the auditorium of White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ for Easter Sunday morning. There was great singing by the praise team and the congregation and songs with solo parts by elder Gordon Dasher and  Missy Robertson of Duck Dynasty. My heart was full to the point of tears as we sang about the One the tomb could not hold.

Jase Robertson gave a wonderful communion meditation and together we remembered the body and blood of the Lord Jesus who died for our sins. We gave our gifts and then Alan Robertson and Mike Kellett gave a wonderful message about Jesus and his work for sinners like us. An empty life can only be filled with the one the tomb was emptied of. The whole service focused on the good news about Jesus and what he accomplished by living and dying and then living again “for us”.

When the invitation was given many walked to the front (no one ever goes forward at the invitation alone) for prayers for sick family members, problems with marriages, and personal failures. And there was the usual love and forgiveness sealed with hugs and tender words of encouragement, and of course sincere prayers asking God to intervene as He wills.

Among those who came forward was a man whose beard and long hair resembled Jase Robertson. He and his wife had driven in from Indiana. Jase explained that this morning he had shared the good news with this man and then asked him what he had to say to the congregation. His words were brief and to the point. “I have lived a very rough life for the past 41 years and I want to give myself to Christ”. Soon Jase baptized this 41-year-old, a 13-year-old girl, and an African-American family of five, dad, mom, and three teens. Seven people who were helpless and hopeless have decided to follow Jesus and now the one who is the resurrection lives in them and they are assured they will live forever because of Him alone.

After sharing a delicious meal with my daughter, son-in-law, and our three grandsons, I am home and I can say that Easter this year was God blessed and couldn’t have been better.

If you read these words, somebody you, whose life is a mess, with no hope for a future with God, Jesus Christ is the answer! I hope you will consider him and his claims.

Royce Ogle

Easter 2013

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Repent and be Baptized


 

Apologist/preacher/evangelist Ravi Zacharias has the following tag line on the first page of his ministry website, “Helping the thinker believe, and helping the believer think“. And the name of his nationally syndicated radio show is “Let my people think“. My goal in writing this piece is not to change anyone’s mind but rather to stir up whoever reads these words to do some thinking. I’m convinced thinking is becoming a lost discipline. It is very easy to get into the habit of going to Google rather than your own cognitive skills, and the Teacher who is the Holy Spirit.

Remember the “greatest command”?

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.” Matthew 22. 36

 Not much is said about the part of this command from Jesus that I have in bold fonts, but there it is. How do you love God with your mind? Some of the ways are that you think much about him, that you store away in your memory his promises, that you discipline yourself to think about the right things, and that you actually do some critical thinking about what you believe and why you believe it. So, my challenge is “Think about these things“. That’s all I request.

How John the Baptist got his last name. In the Old Testament we read often of ceremonial washings, and other religious cleansing related to water but not until we meet this strange man, John The Baptist, do we begin to become acquainted with water baptism.

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord;

make his paths straight.’”

4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s-hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them,“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves,‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees.Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn,but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:1-12

In verse 11 of the passage above John said “I baptize you with water for repentance”.

John’s baptism was not repentance. John’s baptism was “for” repentance. He cried out as he preached “Repent!” (vs. 2) He called on people to change course, repent means do a mental U-turn and begin doing things differently. He emphasized the urgency of his appeal, “the kingdom of heaven  is at hand” (vs.2) Notice that those who were coming to him to be baptized were “confessing their sins”(vs.6), a sure sign they had repented. Baptism was not repentance, the people repented and then were baptized. John’s response to the religious bunch who came to be baptized is proof. “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. ” (vs.7a-8) He knew they had not repented. They had no works to show they had. Rather, they were depending on a heritage of faith, And John wasn’t buying it for a second.

Is there any thinking person who believes that unrepentant sinners were coming to John to get repentance? Or that the people had not repented until the split second they were raised from the water? Such thinking defies human logic. No, the record is clear, John baptized those who had repented, the sects of the Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t qualify precisely because John knew they had not repented. John’s baptism was “for repentance” but it was not repentance. Again today I carefully read every text mentioning John the Baptist’s baptism and the only logical conclusion is that John baptized people who had repented. They were identifying with those who had repented of their sins and had decided to follow God. If this is true, and it is, why then would we conclude that baptism in Acts 2:38 would follow a rule we just decided would be illogical?

Believer’s baptism is not faith. When Peter began his great address following the events of Pentecost he first explained that what the people were witnessing was a fulfillment of the prophet Joel who said the result of this outpouring of the Spirit would be…”And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21) Peter recited a promise from God to the people that was true then, and is true now, but a promise that many people absolutely deny.

Peter also used the same word John the Baptist had used before, and one Jesus himself used often, Repent! To participate in John’s baptism one needed to repent first, and then be baptized. Acts 2:38 records Peter’s answer to men whose hearts had been convicted of their sins and convinced about Jesus, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Repent always precedes baptism. And, “repent” or repentance, implies faith. It is impossible to repent without faith and it is just as impossible to have faith without repenting. I cannot go out my front door to the mail box without leaving my house behind. And, I can’t come closer to my house without getting farther away from my mail box. Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. That is the exact point James was making when he said “show me some works” and I’ll believe you have faith.

Christian baptism is believers baptism. Our church of Christ tradition is that we baptize lost people. The candidates we baptize can have faith but it means nothing until after they are immersed. The Bible never teaches or implies any such thing. Rather, over and over and over again the Bible teaches that believers are saved. The biblical order is this one illustrated by Philip’s ministry. In Acts 8 Philip preaches and the response was (vs.12-13a) “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip”. The people heard the gospel (Romans 10:17), they believed, and they were baptized.

According to the Bible unbelievers are lost and believers are saved. I can’t find on place in my Bible where  unbelievers were baptized. We don’t baptize lost people, we baptize those who are trusting Jesus Christ and the Bible record is clear, they are saved.

(I should say here that in the Bible the words “faith” and “believe” and forms of “belief” do not mean only giving mental assent to a set of facts as one would “believe” Ronald Reagan was once President of the United States. Always, “faith” and “believe” or “belief” means a reliant trust, a dependence upon Christ. And true biblical faith is present only in those who are repentant and whose future works/obedience prove up their faith.)

To “Obey the gospel” is to believe it. It grieves me that in far to many instances baptism gets more attention than Jesus and his work for sinners. Tens of thousands are betting their souls on the fact that they have been “scripturally” baptized. Unless those dear people either went down into the water with their faith set on Jesus or have since put their trust in him, they are lost. Only those who are actively trusting the Lord Jesus Christ are Christians, period.

I have carefully read and re-read every passage in the New Testament that discusses obedience or disobedience and not once does the Bible even hint that to “obey the gospel” is to be baptized in water. Not once! I have asked someone, anyone to prove me wrong and to date no one has. In every case the Bible record is clear. Those who are obedient to the message of the gospel believe it and those who do not believe it are disobedient. There is not one exception to this rule. I think it is a good practice to use Bible names for Bible things and here many have jumped off course. (See my post, “Obey the gospel” on this blog, Grace Digest.)

I conclude with a quote from the post referenced above dated April 2, 2007

“After Christ’s death and resurrection, I can find no instance in the Bible of a Christian who was not baptized.  Nor can I find any case where it was not believers who were baptized.  The Bible pattern is always the same. They hear the gospel, they believe, and they are baptized.  The great commission says we are to “go and make disciples, baptizing them….” How do we make disciples, or learners? By preaching the gospel. That is the way Paul and Peter did it.

Every person I have talked to who believes that water baptism is essential to salvation will agree that it is possible, and even likely, that a person can be baptized and yet be lost. And they will also agree that the reason that could happen is that they did not believe. So what saves?  No person can believe on Christ and be lost. Baptism does not save then, faith in Christ does. We are baptized showing a good conscience toward God, identifying with Christ and His church. We are saying when we are immersed, the “old man” has died, my “old self” is being buried, and I will be raised to live a New Life in Christ. We are baptized into His death that we might be raised with Him in life everlasting. In baptism we “put on” Christ by faith and we live “in Him”.   Saving faith, or belief, or trust, is much more than giving mental assent to the facts of the gospel story. You may believe in the historical record of Jesus and even believe that His resurrection from the dead actually happened. But if those facts you believe in your head are not “mixed with faith” (Hebrews 4:2) you will die in your sins.

If I am diagnosed with a serious heart problem that requires surgery to correct, it will not be sufficient to know the doctor and have confidence in him. For the result I want and need I must trust him to do the surgery. I must place myself at his disposal, leaving the results to his care. Anything short of that will not solve my heart condition. You and I have been diagnosed with a fatal condition, SIN, and the result is physical and spiritual death. Jesus is the doctor. Only He can cure the SIN problem. Only he can give life to the dead. Trust yourself to Him to do what He has promised. Place yourself at his disposal by simple trust and He will give you eternal life and forgiveness of sins.”

In his letter to the church at Ephesus Paul wrote these words.

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Do you agree that a dead man is very limited as to what he can do? Yet, that is the picture Paul used to describe the people of God before God did his work of grace. We were dead (vs. 1, 5) but God made us alive together with Christ (vs 5). God did that, you did not do that! “And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God”. (vs 8) God did it this way “so that no one may boast” (vs 9) Not one of us can truthfully say, “Look what I have accomplished, I am now a Christian.” The one who does is very deceived and wrong. Salvation is God’s doing. “We are HIS workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…” (vs 10)

So, let the one who glories, glory in the Lord! There is an old song that most people who read this will know well. Part of is goes like this.

Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law’s commands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.

“Rock of Ages Cleft for Me”

May we see the beauty of Christ and have a glimpse of his matchless grace that makes dead men live forever, and creates new hearts that want to please God, and love everyone. Jesus saves, Jesus saves!

The Journey from Legalism to Liberty in Churches of Christ


In the Bible there are many passages of Scripture that are so wonderful, so majestic, that I can hardly take them in. I read them and am in awe! I think about them and meditate and ponder and measure myself against them and wonder if I have begun to appropriate their promises for myself. I am often convicted, sometimes shamed, and at other times filled with thanksgiving. Some of what I find in the Bible seems to big for me. It is like walking into the front door of the Dallas Autorama, where do I begin? How can I possibly be able to see and appreciate it all?

One of those passages that to me is much more than enough for my mind and my heart is this one.

1″Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:1-4)

Where do I start? I mean this passage is so jam-packed with wonderful truth that I can hardly decide where to begin unpacking its promises. Maybe the best way is to go line by line and see what God is saying to us.

Vs. 1. Peter establishes his apostleship and the deity of Jesus. And he lays out the fundamental truth that every Christian is equal in that each of us have our standing in Christ by faith and that the only righteousness we can claim is His righteousness. Here is the basis of unity among believers, a common faith that gives each of us “equal standing”, even with the apostles.

Vs. 2. More grace and more peace come to us in knowing Christ more, for He alone is the source of grace and peace. Paul prayed for believers that they would “grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord”.

Vs. 3. Jesus said “I have all power in heaven and in earth” and here Peter says is it by His “divine power” that we are given “ALL THINGS that pertain to life and godliness”, “through the knowledge of Him (Jesus)”. Let’s see now. I’m living here on earth and I want to be godly. How do I get equipped for the task? Peter says get to know Jesus more because He is the source of ALL THINGS I need for living and being godly. If in Him I find that I have ALL THINGS that means that NO THING will be lacking. My ability to live a godly life, and the power to perform it, and even the will to do it, is locked up in the person of Jesus Christ. But there is more! He has a purpose for me and every other Christian. That divine purpose is that we bring him glory and share in his glory and that we are becoming like him now and finally will like him be excellent!

Vs. 4. By the means of his great and precious promises to us, and for us, we literally take on the divine nature and thus escape the corruption of this world.  Our greatest needs are spiritual needs and only He can provide them. Our greatest enemies are spiritual enemies and only by His power and might can we fight them…and win. And our common desire for immortality can be realized only in Him who was and is and is to come, our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Hebrew writer said that in “these last days God has spoken to us through His Son”. The revelation of God we call the Bible is the story of the loving Creator loving those he created, again and again showing mercy, offering grace, and being rejected. The central theme and central person are one and the same, Jesus Christ our Lord. Only through His work and His worth are sinful men and women set right with God. Knowing Him, really knowing Him, and giving Him honor and glory, with our lips and in our living, is man’s highest good. He is our peace. He is our righteousness. He is our joy. He is our assurance. He is our life. He is all we need.

A Heritage Hijacked

Just over a decade ago I started worshiping, working, and loving, in a Church of Christ. I didn’t know much about the churches or the Restoration Movement but I determined to learn. And so I did. In a few months I started to learn that I knew more about the CoC heritage than most people my age who had been in the RM for generations. And I was shocked at how much churches today are unlike the founder’s dreams and ideals.

The Campbell’s, Stone, and others had some noble and good ideals. They dreamed of Christians from every stripe worshiping together in primitive ways and so infusing the message of the gospel and Christian morals into the culture that someday the whole earth would improve spiritually and morally so that in Alexander Campbell’s mind, the church’s impact on society would usher in the millineal reign of Christ on earth. Of course he was wrong about the end of his dream but none-the-less his dream was noble and pure.

Fast forward a few hundred years to the last 60 or 70 years and up to today and most of our more traditional congregations hardly resemble what the founders envisioned. Alexander Campbell coined the phrase “We are Christians only, but not the only Christians.” But now, in the year 2010, a rather large but steadily decreasing number of our churches hold to the premise “We are Christians only, and the ONLY Christians!” They will tell you in a hurry that even many other church of Christ folks are lost, in addition to two other significant groups who share with them a common heritage.

A movement that began as a “unity movement” to unite into one “the many sects” of Christians is now as fractured as any group on earth except for Baptists who have split and the splinters have split and there are dozens of Baptist groups of different flavors.

A movement that was pure in ideals and noble and right in vision was too soon hijacked by legalists. They turned what was a Bible loving and Christ honoring group of local churches into largely fragmented sects who each believed only they were saved and that everyone else who was not exactly like them in belief, and practice, were lost.

Get in line or you’re out!

By the early 192o’s, salvation and worship were clearly articulated by two sets of five points. Salvation became these 5 points.

1. Hear (Rom. 10:14-17)
2. Believe (Mark 16:16)
3. Repent (Acts 2:38)
4. Confess (Matt. 10:32-33)
5. Be Baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; I Peter 3:21

And, most of those who adhere to this “Plan of salvation” will add a 6th step, “Live a faithful life”.

While these 5 points are biblical and good and right, putting your faith in a “Plan of salvation” does not save. Faith in Christ saves. Interestingly, not one chapter in the New Testament includes all of these 5 steps but the NT references salvation scores of times. I wonder, how did those earliest Christians manage to “turn the world upside down” for Christ and win tens of thousands before even one of these passages was written?

Here is the problem with the “Plan” as I see it. It has become a check off list. A candidate for baptism will be asked the following questions. (That he “heard”, step 1, and believes, step 2, is assumed. In reality he may or may not have heard the gospel) “Do you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God?” The candidate responds “Yes.” “Have you repented of your sins?” He responds “Yes.” “Who is going to be the Lord of your life from this day forward?” He responds “Jesus”. And then he is baptized after the baptizer says “Based on your confession of faith I baptize you for the remission of your sins.”

Check, check, check, check, check. Now it may very well be that this fellow believes Jesus is the Son of God in the same way he believes Richard Petty was a race car driver. That is not faith, that is giving mental assent to a fact. In many cases this person has trusted a “plan” to save him and not the Lord Jesus. The proof is in the puddin’. I have seen door knocking campaigns where of more than a dozen who followed the plan not one life was changed an iota. Sometimes though God saves in spite of our ignorance and unbelief. Maybe the gospel gets in someway and a few will trust Christ and not in the plan of salvation and be saved.

Worship is just as glib. Again, 5 is the number. There are 5 acts of worship. They are”

1. Singing
2. Preaching
3. Praying
4. Giving
5. The Lord’s Supper.

Click, click, click, click, click. People are taught that if you do right you will be right. This is what the legalist refers to as the “Pattern of worship”. If you follow this pattern you are right and if you don’t…..Oh wait a second! Singing must be only A Cappella. You might ask, “Where does the Bible say that?” And the answer is unbelievable, really it is. What you will be told in essence is “We believe it because the Bible doesn’t say it. We have our reasons..”

If you don’t follow this so-called “Pattern of worship” you are not obedient to Jesus and you are lost. (Never mind that even the order of the 5 acts are points of disagreement and one group will condemn another to hell if the order isn’t as the first group says it should be….??? I’m not making any of this up.)

So, generic Christian Bill goes off to the “building” on a Sunday morning and one by one he clicks off the 5 acts. He sings the 3 songs and the invitation song. He eats a tiny cracker and drinks some Welches grape juice. He listens to the preacher. There was an opening prayer and a closing prayer. He puts $5 bucks in the collection plate and He is home in time for the kick off and he has done what is “authorized”, he has scripturally worshiped! Really?

Lets just examine one of the 5 acts of what is “authorized” and is one fifth of the “pattern” to be followed. Prayer. Someone prayed twice and Bill might have even prayed, but more than likely he only listened to someone else pray. Now I ask you, when we read in the Bible that the early church “prayed together” is this what they did? Surely, with a tiny bit of reflection, nobody believes that is what they did. So has bro’ Bill violated his own pattern?

Here is the flaw of the 5 step plan of salvation and the 5 acts of worship. A person who is not a Christian can breeze right through both of them and in fact they do it all the time. How can I be so sure? I personally know people, close friends, who did it for years. That is until they came to know the only source of eternal life, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Doing right does not make one right.

Everyone who has been around our churches of Christ very long knows several people who have been baptized more than once. Some of them have been immersed 3, 4, or more times. Why? They thought they didn’t do it right. They simply couldn’t understand why their lives were no different since they had followed the “plan”. Only when a sinner puts his faith in Christ, when he believes in a trusting and dependent way upon Jesus does he get what he needs and wants. For many it is synonymous with baptism. However, that is not true with everyone. I know an elder, a very godly man, greatly used by God to share the good news all across the country, whose testimony is that it was years before his life started to match his confession. Baptism, and the other acts are useless unless the candidate, like the man from Ethiopia long ago, believes “with all his heart” in Jesus Christ the God-man, and not in a plan.

Shaking off the shackles.

In the last 11 years I have seen a noticeable difference in my own congregation. The message of the grace of God demonstrated in the doing and dying of Jesus has started to grip the hearts of more and more of God’s people and the harvest of souls is increasing. All around the country people are leaving the bondage of legalism and embracing the love and grace of God. Their testimony is that finally they are free from doubt, free from worry, because they have been convinced that it is not about them but about Jesus. His dying for them, His burial, and His resurrection for them is an objective fact and their faith in Him is sure and firm.

Ephesians 2 answers the objections of the legalistic types whose indictment of anyone who preaches or teaches salvation by grace though faith alone is that we don’t value “works” or “faithfulness” and that we believe a person can live any old way and be fine in God’s eyes. Nothing could be more wrong.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

A careful reading of this passage precludes any nonsensical idea that just because one holds to salvation by faith that he does not value good works.

This is astonishingly clear. Salvation is not the result of works! (Vs. 9)  By the way, that is true before or after one is converted. But keep reading.

Christians are God’s product, His “workmanship”. We are His “creation” in Christ Jesus for what purpose? GOOD WORKS! And, this is something that God didn’t just hatch up at the last minute. No, He prepared this plan “beforehand”. What is the plan? “That we should walk in them”. (Vs. 10)

This is not my plan, it is God’s plan. Just as sure as God created dogs and bull frogs God created Christians to “walk in”, or “do” “Good Works”! A person who does not do “good works” as a lifestyle is not a Christian. Read 1 John. He says this exact same thing. So are “works” important? Yes, so important that God’s design for Christians included them. But, make no mistake about it, not one person will be saved because of their good deeds. “Not of your own doing” in Vs. 8 and “Not the result of works” in Vs. 9 means exactly what it says. No seminary degree with an emphasis in biblical languages is required to unpack this passage and understand it.

So, how about you? When you retire at night do you have the assurance that everything is OK between you and God? Are you trusting Him? Or, are you depending on your ability to worship right, be good enough, and hope it all works out in the end? There is a better way! Put your whole trust in Christ alone and enjoy the love and grace only he gives.

I suggest that everyone who reads this post take some time and read John 17, slowly and prayerfully, asking God to show you the truth of those words. You will find that you are safe in Him.

For truth,

Royce Ogle

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin


The title of this post is a quote from Romans 4 in the Bible. The impact of this statement is highlighted in the context of the great apostle’s theme of justification by faith.

“What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say?”Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.” (Romans 4:1-12)

This should be very good news! And, it is good news to those who understand what Jesus accomplished for wicked, ungodly sinners when He took upon him their sins and paid the awful price the justice of God demanded. He cried from the cross, “It is finished!” With that cry and his shed blood and final breath, sinful mankind had been reconciled to God. Three days later the certification that God’s plan of salvation was complete was displayed as a risen Jesus. Our three common enemies had all been unquestionably defeated for good, death, hell, and the grave.

This is not good news for everyone…

That God is not counting sins against those with their faith in Jesus is not good news for the self-righteous. They are not unlike their first century counterparts who were the most religious folks of their time, the sect of the Pharisees. Oh yes, we have plenty of them today.

They love the praise of men. “Listen to me”, “see what I have done”, “notice what I avoid”, “honor me because I am such a good person”. These church members never miss a service, they do all the right things so far as can be humanly observed, but inside they are corrupt to the core.

They want part of the credit for their salvation. The message of the grace of God offends them deeply, it makes them angry. It is not unlike the anger the church folks had against Jesus. “Eating with sinners!”, “Doing things we don’t approve on the Sabbath, the nerve…!” He deserves to die!”

Good news for those who trust Christ alone…

This is really not complicated. If you will take a deep breath or two and read carefully through the text quoted above, and, if you really want to know the truth, you can.

The plan that Jesus would die for sinners, in their place, for their sins, was not a remedy quickly and frantically put together because of the sin of Adam. No, before the creation, in eternity before time, God purposed to bring glory to himself by justifying guilty sinners. Peter, in the first major address after Jesus’ resurrection said,

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:22,23)

Paul joins Peter and confirms this eternal plan of God.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.” (Ephesians 1:3-8)

All of your sins (past, present, and future) are forgiven, removed, and forgotten.

Answer this question. How many sins had you committed about 2,000 years ago? How many ways had you offended God before the earth was spoken into existence? None! ALL of your sins were in view in eternity past when God’s “definite plan” was conceived and you “were chosen in Him” and He decided to make you “holy and blameless” to the “praise of His glorious grace“.

This is one time in your life when something that sounds to good to be true IS! In the person of Christ, by his work and worth, God has forgiven ALL your sins and declared you “right”. So, your righteousness does not rise from your performance but rather from God’s decree. He “counts” (credits, or puts to the account of..) you righteous based on the perfection both in the living and dying of Jesus Christ.

The Hebrews writer said it another way. In comparing Jesus and his priestly work of offering himself, to the human priests who daily had to make offerings for sins, he made this declaration.

“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)

Those who are being sanctified” is you and me, if we are trusting in Christ alone and not ourselves and our ability to do good. Jesus made one offering for sins, once for all time, once for all people, and once for all sins, and He sat down…

Duty does not determine destiny…

Has it ever occurred to you that God doesn’t have to wait until next month to see what you will do next month? Or next year? God knew before time what you would do today and every tomorrow and loved you anyway to show His glory.

I understand this is new territory for some who might read this. It really does sound too good to be true! And, as I said earlier, many are offend by God’s message of salvation by grace. In fact, Jesus promised it would be so. I can’t change that. I hope you will have an open heart for God’s truth. It is after all, God’s truth, not mine.

I’ll end this post with three propositions for your consideration. God’s plan of salvation is complete but still in progress, we are perfect but not yet, and we are on our way to being just like Jesus in a perfect place, in a perfect body, perfectly righteous and holy.

As to our standing with God…

1. Our “positional” standing. We stand by faith in Christ, have been declared “righteous”, are adopted as sons, promised an inheritance, been given life eternal, promised a bodily resurrection to immortality, have our names in the book of life, are sealed by the Holy Spirit, and are SAFE.

In this sense we are “saved” or “have been saved”. Our destiny is settled. Based wholly upon the worthiness and merit of Jesus we have been justified, redeemed, reconciled, set right, and been made perfect by God. We did not deserve it and can’t claim any credit for the gift we have received. The theological term that represents these truths is Justification.

2. Our “practical” standing. Unfortunately we still fall far short of God’s ideals of worship, devotion, and morality. We still sin. But, God is at work in us to change us so that we are becoming more like Jesus. He uses circumstances, the Bible, other Christians, and most importantly, the transforming work of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, to constantly and consistently make us more what He desires and destines us to be finally.

We are to cooperate by obedience, by saying the same thing about our sin God does (confession, 1 John 1:9), by prayer, giving of thanks, by putting God’s words into our hearts. and by loving God and others the very best we can. What God has begun in you He will complete. Ours is to live like whose we are. The theological term that represents these truths is Sanctification.

3. Our “future” standing… We are promised a home with God, one not made with human hands, a glorified body like the body of Jesus, the absence of worry, fear, doubt, sin, death, and we will experience the joy we share in the glory of God and the Lamb of God who took away our sins. We are promised a shared inheritance with Jesus as adopted sons and daughters to live, rule and reign with him forever. The theological term that represents these truths is “Glorification“.

In the act of “Justification” God sets sinners right with himself and has saved them from the “Penalty of sin“.

In the act of “Sanctification” God’s children are being saved from the “Power of Sin”.

In the act of “Glorification” God will save his own from the very “Presence of Sin“.

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sins” If this is not your blessing it can be and should be.

Do a lifestyle U-Turn. You have been doing it your way for a long, long time. How is it working out for you? Changing the direction of your lifestyle from self-rule to God’s-rule is called “repentance”. God commands every person to repent. Change your mind now!

Put your whole trust in Jesus Christ. He promises everlasting life and resurrection of the body to those who will simply depend on Him. Most people I know, church folks and unchurched, believe Jesus existed, and most believe he was raised from the dead after his death on a cross. Most people know John 3:16.

It is one thing to believe some facts and quite another to depend on those facts. Or, to be more exact, it is one thing to believe a person lived and did good things, even miracles, died on a cross, and was raised from the dead. But to rest on those truths, to trust dependently upon Him is much, much more than just agreeing to facts. Take God at his word and trust Him to give you eternal life and a home with Him.

Come out for Jesus! Make it public that you are trusting Christ and that you intend to follow him. Say it and show it. Tell a minister, a Christian friend or relative. Then follow the Lord in a symbolic death, burial, and resurrection in the waters of Christian baptism. By doing so you are identifying yourself as one of God’s people, a follower of Jesus. You are showing that you have died to your old life and are going to life the Christ-life going forward.

Love God and love your neighbor as you live your new life for Jesus sake.

Agape’

Royce