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

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Jeb’s Story


It was an unusually beautiful Sunday afternoon in the courtyard of the wealthy widow, Abigail. Abigail’s deceased husband had done very well and had left her a sizable inheritance, including the nice property on  a hill overlooking Jerusalem, and a bustling wine business. Abigail was known as a shrewd business woman but for the last two years was almost as well known for her hospitality and philanthropy. She had converted to the Way several months after the well known events of the execution of Jesus of Nazareth and his reported resurrection.

This woman who had earned a reputation as a heartless, and sometimes less than ethical business woman, was now unbelievably generous. It was rumored that she repaid people she had cheated and had given a small fortune away to the needy since joining the Way.

Today, as was her custom of late, she was hosting a gathering of disciples of Jesus. They had started to gather early in the morning and had talked, heard readings from the Torah, sung Psalms, laughed and shared stories. Soon they would all share an agape’ meal and near the end of the meal they would eat some unleavened bread and drink wine to remember the body and blood of the Christ. But, a guest had requested that he be able to share his story with the others.

Abigail began speaking. “Please pray with me. Almighty God and Father, the God of Abraham, together we give you thanks for Messiah who has given us his life and his peace. Please give strength  to our brother Jeb as he speaks to us. May each of our lives honor the Christ of our God, please help our brothers and sisters who are suffering great persecution for the sake of our great God, Jesus Christ our Lord and Messiah.”

The last thing anyone knowing Jeb would expect would be that he would be speaking before perhaps 300 people, some of them the most prominent citizens of Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Even more out of character was that this guy who was known for shady business dealings and an affection for wine and women had converted to the Way.

Jeb rose to his feet and began speaking with a trembling voice. “My name is Jeb and I am a follower of the Way. I have lived my whole life in the city of Nazareth. I own two inns, have some cattle, and other small business interests, but I am not proud of my life.
I came from a good family, devout people of God. Our custom was to attend synagogue, repeat daily prayers, and keep all the customs of our faith. I was the rebel in my family. At a young age I started to lie for my own gain, steal, cheat, and when I was old enough I was consumed with lust for women. That all changed two years ago….”

To be continued….

Royce

Indwelt and Empowered by the Holy Spirit


Among our churches of Christ there is lively, and decades old debate, concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Some deny He is a person, others deny that He indwells Christians, and still others disagree about the extent of His work in the life of a modern day believer.

This post is not an attempt to fix any of this, but is an attempt to encourage us to carefully look at what the Bible actually says. There are some statements by Peter in the book of Acts that raise some questions that we should at least acknowledge and I believe they beg for an answer.

The Holy Spirit indwells Christians

For those of us who do believe that the Holy Spirit indwells believers today there is broad agreement that He comes to be “in” us at the point of our conversion. Jesus said of Him,

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers ofliving water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit,whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16,17)

Jesus gives this comforting promise of the Spirit’s presence “in” His followers and then even indicates that the Holy Spirit is actually Him indwelling them. He continues by saying to them,

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18)

Paul confirms this idea in Colossians 1:27 using the phrase “Christ in you”. There are many other passages that make it very clear that the Holy Spirit resides “in” believers.

Does the Holy Spirit come to the believer when he is baptized?

Of those in churches of Christ who believe in the indwelling of the Spirit, the answer to this question is a resounding YES! Peter’s words in Acts 2 were,

“Repent and be baptized every one of youin the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38,39)

It is this passage that ties the reception of the Holy Spirit to the point of one’s baptism. How could it be more clear? It is after all Peter’s own words! But, there is a problem, this is not all Peter had to say on the subject.

Peter has more to say…

Peter has preached the good news to a Gentile audience in obedience to God’s command and they believed, received the Holy Spirit and were then baptized. (Acts 10) The order was not what we would expect if we take the Acts 2 verses at face value. Peter said of those new believers,

“Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10:47,48b)

“As we have…”? That is what he asked. In the next chapter Peter visits the Jewish brothers in Jerusalem and defends baptizing Gentiles. I encourage you to read the whole chapter but this part of Peter’s defense is striking.

“If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17)

Now according to Peter’s words the receiving of the Holy Spirit is tied to “believing”, not baptism. In fact, just before the Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit when they believed, and before they were baptized Peter made this statement.

“And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he (Jesus) is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:42,43)

How do we reconcile Peter’s clear statements? He received the Holy Spirit when he believed just as the Gentiles did when they believed. How does this mesh with the traditional teaching of coc brothers about when one receives the Holy Spirit, and further at what point is one saved?

The question then is when did Peter believe?

  • Did Peter believe at the moment he was baptized? This would have to be the correct answer if we believe it is only at the moment of immersion that the Holy Spirit is given. But, this is not a logical conclusion. The only reason a person would want to be baptized is because they already believe, not to believe. We are right I believe to assume Peter was baptized but we have no record of it.
  • Did Peter believe when he saw the resurrected Christ? I believe it was only after Peter and the others saw for themselves that Jesus had been raised from the dead that they truly put their trust in him. After they witnessed the risen Lord there was never again any of the doubting and fear that characterized them up to that point.

In the passages in John chapters 7 and 14 Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come to be “in” believers when he was “glorified” (John 7:39) later in John’s gospel we can read when that event took place. Jesus had been crucified, he has been buried, and now he is clearly alive. On the evening of the day he rose from the dead he appeared to the disciples in a room with the doors closed. The disciples certainly were expressing unbelief and fear. Here is John’s account.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:19-22)

It was when they saw his hands and his side that their fears vanished and their faith was firm. Thomas was absent at the event and only after he too had seen the evidence did he believe.

I can’t think of any reason, any evidence from the scriptures, that should make me doubt that the disciples received the Holy Spirit on that exact moment. Was Jesus speaking in vain? Hardly! Peter’s defense to the elders about baptizing the Gentiles was that they had received the Spirit just as he did when he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

What about Pentecost?

Again I’ll use Jesus and Peter as expert witnesses. Jesus said of Pentecost, in fact his very last words before his ascension,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Pentecost was not about people being first indwelt by the Spirit but rather it was about Holy Spirit empowered witness. (Luke 24:49) Peter said this in his address right after this power had fallen upon them.

“But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,and your sons andyour daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Acts 2:16-21)

It takes this sort of Holy Spirit power and authority to snatch men and women from the clutches of the evil one. Remember when Jesus gave the marching orders to the disciples? “I have all power (authority) in heaven and in earth, therefore go….” (Matthew 28:18)  The purpose was to receive Holy Spirit power. (Luke 24:49)

This Pentecost power was not a one time event never to be repeated. We can read later in the Acts that they were again and again filled with the Spirit for power to witness to the claims of Jesus.

You and I are too commanded to be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)  We too need his power to present the claims of Christ to hopeless and helpless sinners. If we humans know how to give good things to our children how much more does our heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit’s power for witness to those who ask and keep on asking him? In Acts 4:31 when the Apostles needed a fresh anointing of Holy Spirit power they prayed for it just like they did earlier in Acts.

God’s work must be done by God’s power. That is Jesus’ plan, not mine. Every person who puts his trust in Jesus is indwelt and those who want to win the lost to Christ need the filling of Spirit as well.

What about water baptism?

The Bible pattern for water baptism is perhaps best illustrated by the man from Ethiopia. After Phillip had preached Christ to him he requested to be baptized. Phillip replied “If you believe with all your heart you may…” Water baptism in the Bible is always believers baptism and is almost always immediately after one has professed faith in Christ. The act alone neither saves or imparts the Holy Spirit but is the God designed gospel symbol of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It is one moment in the life of a person when they are completely surrendered to another, “self” is not in control. Baptism in the public identification of a person with Christ and Christ’s people.

I can’t find any account in the Bible of Christians who rejected baptism. Rather they at once hurried to be immersed. They knew it was their coming out for Christ, that it would separate them from the word at large and set them apart them as God’s own.

There is no Bible precedent that I can find for baptizing anyone who did not in public,  acknowledge his faith in Jesus Christ. Sinners are not candidates for baptism, believers are. And, the clear teaching is that those who trust Christ are saved. This view agrees with Peter’s statements although it goes against our traditional view.

I repeat often that I might be wrong, I am not infallible. But, I might be right too. What do you think?

Agape’,

Royce


Jesus said, “I will build my church…”


In the 5th chapter of the Revelation John wrote about the scene revealed to him when Jesus would break the seals and read from the scroll. The whole 5th chapter is remarkable but these verses caught my attention.

“And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9,10)

Jesus said in Matthew 16:18b,

“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

And he is doing just that. I wonder if we sometimes get off message, out of focus, and busy doing the wrong tasks?

Jesus is building HIS church, not our church. The question then becomes “Will I join Him in what He is doing?”. “Will you join Jesus in what He is already doing?”. You see, in spite of our pettiness, our in-fighting over singing, our doctrinal differences, Jesus is at work gathering His chosen ones who will one day rule and reign with Him. And, it is clear He is doing it quite well. He will do it with us or without us, but He will build His church!

Who are those He is redeeming? They are “from every tribe and language and people and nation”. He is calling to himself people for his own from every people group, pretty effective huh?

I am not the King, I am an ambassador for the King. My role is to serve the King. He says to his people “I have all power in heaven and in earth, go in that power and tell the good news. Baptize those who believe my story and teach them to love the unlovely, be holy, and keep telling the story until I come.”

He enables us to love the unlovely, He empowers our words to the powerless and helpless, and He promises that if we will tell the story as we live our lives while loving others He will do the church building.

Not one person will be left out who should have been saved. So we can confidently say to the thirsty, “Come and drink from this water and you will never thirst again! And to the hungry, eat this bread and you will never again be hungry. And we speak words of life to the spiritually dead and they are raised to eternal life in the power of the Spirit. Why? Because He is “with us” and “in us”. Immanuel is with me today as I go in his name to herald the good news of Jesus.

What if I don’t go? What if you don’t go? What if your church don’t go? Jesus will still be building His church and will keep building it until the last sinner is made a saint and He comes for His own.

His church will be built and it will be from every people group. Let us join Him in what He is already doing.

Agape’

Royce