Right answer, Wrong question?


If it were not so sad it might be amusing that so many people think they have the right answer when they have never really considered the right question. Unless the right question is posed and answered little is gained.

I read Christian blogs, lots of them. There is considerable chatter across blogdom on the subject of what I’ll call the “technicalities of salvation” for want of a better term. On Church of Christ blogs there is much give and take about the role of water baptism. There are some who believe immersion in water is absolutely essential for salvation and there are others who do not go that far but still have a very high view of the act. There has been tons of bandwidth dedicated to this question, “Is baptism a work?” There are those obligatory standard questions about the role of obedience and how it comes into play when a person becomes a Christian.

Then there are those discussions about what you must do to stay saved. Must your church be a cappella? Can you allow female Christians to serve the Lord’s Supper to others and still be in God’s grace? These are very important and weighty questions for many, many people of the Stone-Campbell heritage. Nobody wants to be out of the Kingdom on a technicality!

Restoration folks are not alone in their probing and seeking the right answers to important questions. Many Southern Baptists are all in a tizzy because of the growing trend of Calvinism among their ranks. There are all sorts of warnings about the dangers of these people and what they believe and teach and frankly much of what they fear has no basis in fact. They range from saying they are not evangelistic to believing a person can be a Christian and live like the devil himself and all in between.

Other Christian groups are not exempt from the irresistible urge to know exactly the split second a sinner is saved. And they want to be sure about some monumental things.

  • Is our church the true church?
  • Am I good enough?
  • Can I know for sure I’m in?
  • What if I forgot to confess some of my sins?
  • Does our church follow the right order of worship?
  • Will my parents or my child be lost because they are in the wrong church?
  • Can other people really be saved who aren’t like us?

All of these and others are questions serious people are grappling with and they really want to find the correct answer. After all, their eternity depends on it!

I think that rather than spending time debating works vs. faith, the efficacy of baptism, the mode of baptism, church differences, good works, Calvinism vs Free will, etc. etc. there is a more pressing question that is not being asked.

Is Jesus Christ sufficient? Is He enough?

In my view when you get this settled, most of the other stuff people debate about and divide over means little. Obviously you will answer Yes! That question might even seem silly to many people. But is it?

If the work and worth of Jesus fully satisfied both God’s holiness and His justice, and if He did it for me, then there is nothing more needed to appease a holy God who hates sin. God has done everything necessary to set men right with Himself. Now he offers life everlasting to those who will take him at His (faith) word and follow. It is a gift undeserved and unearned. This is called grace!

Every person who insists your must do this and do that, keep this ritual and say these words and attend this particular church are without knowing it answering the right question. And the answer is, Christ is not really enough. I need Him and what He has done but I also need this and …… Well maybe, just maybe, the good news (gospel) is much better news than you thought.

Christ is quite enough! You need no more than Him

“19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
(2 Corinthians 1:19-22 ESV)

I believe God only forgives our sins on the basis of Jesus and His death for our sins on the cross. And, I believe we are made righteous based on the flawless life of Jesus which was given for us.

God does not make ungodly sinners His own dear children based on what Christ has done and….anything. The exact reason Paul thrashed the Jewish believers for insisting on circumcision for Gentiles is that they were adding to Christ’s work and worth. Christ and…. is never the right answer.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14 ESV)

Let us then not boast in what we have done, what we know, our denomination or lack of it. May we cling only to the Christ of God who alone is eternal life. He is the answer!

Royce


 

 


 

 



 

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“Not Guilty!”


Did you know that the Bible words “Justified” and “righteousness” both come from the same Greek word? “Justification”, “justify”, “justified”, and “righteous” and “righteousness” all have the same basic meaning “Not Guilty!”

It would be foolish for me to try to give a lesson in the Greek language of the 1st century here. I have had two semesters of Greek, and not long after the Roman Empire fell, at least it seems that long ago. You are welcome to do the research yourself. Both the English words “Justification” and “Righteousness” come to us from one Greek word, or a derivative of the word, and in each case the meaning is “Not Guilty”. And, I think we misunderstand their meaning.

The Bible leaves no doubt that all of us are sinners. To say otherwise is to call God a liar according to John in 1st John. Paul said it this way, “There is none righteous (not guilty)”. And that all of us are in fact “guilty” before God. Our problem in fact is exactly that we are “guilty” and can’t do anything to fix it.

God is “righteous” (not guilty) and when He came in flesh to “save” (make them not guilty, same Greek word) His people from their sins, His life showed that he in His humanity was “not guilty”. He died for us, the “just” (not guilty) for the “unjust” (guilty) so that God could be “just” (not guilty) and the “justifier” ( maker of not guilty ) of those who come to Him by faith.

How is it then that any man (whom God has declared “guilty”) can become “not guilty” by his own doing? Or how could he even contribute in any way to his own “not guilty”? The answer is he can’t.

Jesus took every man’s sins upon him and paid the penalty in full. He died for us, in our place. But he also lived a perfect “not guilty” life. He fulfilled all of the covenant requirements, for us. Based completely and only upon the death of Jesus for our sins and His righteousness (not guilty), God can declare those who were in fact guilty, “Not Guilty” and still be “not guilty” Himself. For you see, if God arbitrarily declared a guilty person, not guilty, He himself would become guilty. It would be wrong to claim total righteousness and justice and claim the guilty not guilty when in fact they are very guilty.

This is the gospel. Those who put their trust in Jesus God makes “not guilty”. And in the end He is all that matters because He is the judge. If He says “Not Guilty!” you are not guilty.

It was God’s plan before the foundation of the world. It was Jesus who came and lived and died and rose again. It was God who called me to himself. I can claim no part at all in making myself “not guilty” before God. Neither can you. Remember, God doesn’t measure men by other men. He measures them up against Jesus Christ and they are short of the mark every time.

What is the point of all this? Give up! Surrender! Wave the white flag! Stop trying to do what only God can do for you. Put your trust in Christ alone and give Him all the glory for he makes the guilty “Not Guilty”.

Agape’

Royce

“Not Condemned”


 

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Roman 5:1)

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

In Romans 5:1 we have the promise that  we presently “have” peace with God. This is not speaking of the “peace of God” which we can also claim. But rather it is the opposite of being at odds with God because of sin.

We are in this joyful state of being at peace with God “through” our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the ground and basis of our peacefulness with God. There can be no peace with God except through him.

Then there is the first part of the promise “we have been justified by faith”. This is bedrock truth stated in the past tense. Paul’s letter to the Romans begins by giving his own apostolic credentials and he then mentions those to whom the letter is addressed.

“…you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:6)

” To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.”
(Romans 1:7)

So the letter is not addressed to all Roman citizens but to those specific ones who are “called ” to be Christians, “called” to belong to Christ. Next Paul tells them why he thanks God for them…

“…because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” (Romans 1:9)

He was not thankful for them because of their charitable work or that they had a big missions budget, but rather because their “faith” was well-known across the whole world!

And so it is, we have been called to Christ and have been justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Christ alone is the ground of our faith and hope. He alone is the way to God the Father. It is his worth and work that set us (past tense) right with God so that by his saving and satisfying acts we right now have peace with God. This is one of the “Gospel Bookends”. The other now follows.

In Romans 8:1 the same truths are stated in a different way. In Romans 5:1 we are told what is present. In Romans 8:1 we are told what is missing.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Condemnation is missing! The one who puts his whole trust in Jesus at once goes from “condemned” to “uncondemned”. Isn’t this precisely what Jesus told the Jewish leader Nicodemus when he came inquiring about him?

“Whoever believes in him(Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18)

Jesus clearly laid out two conditions, two states in which a man could find himself. He did not mention religion, He did not mention the Law, and He did not mention good works. What He did say is so very clear.

Not Condemned? “Whoever believes in him (Jesus).”

Now Condemned? “Whoever does not believe…”

It is true that those who put their whole trust in Jesus are not condemned, but more than that they will never be condemned. Jesus said these words as He addressed a huge gathering at Capernaum.

37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37-40)

Jesus states the Father’s will twice.

“…that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” (vs 39)

“…that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (vs 40)

And in those two consecutive verses Jesus makes it plain that every person who trusts in Him will be raised from the dead. Eternal life is a present, permanent, possession.

It is not possible to be “condemned” and at the same time have “eternal life”. And it is not possible either to “not condemned” and maybe miss the resurrection. The two “I wills” of Jesus in passage are conclusive. There can be no other legitimate meaning to what Jesus promised.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

When darkness seems to hide His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

This old hymn states it well. Edward Mote wrote these truth filled words in the year 1834. In the following 176 years no one has discovered any Bible truth that is more foundational, that make us more secure.

We have been justified, we now have peace with God, and we have no condemnation because we are in Christ Jesus the Solid Rock.

Agape’

Royce

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