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

I Am Encouraged!


Mid afternoon today, Carol and I returned from Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Tulsa Workshop. The Tulsa Workshop is an annual gathering of Church of Christ people who meet for worship, including great singing and preaching, and a great exhibit hall filled with booths promoting Christian schools, children’s homes, missions, ministries, church architects, publishers, etc. and several sellers of Christians trinkets.

This was my second year to attend and I enjoyed it just as much as last year. Meeting friends I made last year and making new ones were highlights of our experience. It was very encouraging to have several people introduce themselves as Grace Digest readers. I was literally shocked when one very well-known preacher, one of the key-note speakers, told me “I read your stuff and really like it…“. It just shows to go you that you never know!

It was especially nice to meet Al Maxey, a New Mexico preacher and prolific writer and thinker. I have admired his work and we had corresponded a few times but I was delighted to meet him and hear him speak three times. He speaks as well as he writes and his messages were timely and much needed.

I was able to spend time with and share a meal with Edward Fudge, who has become a special friend and mentor, and one of the best men I know, relief worker Mike Baumgartner. Dr. Joneal Kirby the founder of Heart to Home Ministries, and her assistant Lauren Vincent were also at the table. Other friends to numerous to mention were there and we enjoyed their company and their ministries during those days.

In my view, the most encouraging and exciting thing about our trip to the Tulsa Workshop this year was the preaching. Everyone I heard speak lifted up the Lord Jesus Christ and made clear that He alone can save a sinner from their sins. Frankly, in some Church of Christ gatherings you are likely to hear more about the Church of Christ than the Christ of the Church but not this time. The message of grace is sweeping across the churches like a prairie fire and again and again God’s grace, demonstrated in Christ Jesus our Lord, was reinforced by each key-note speaker I heard.

Perhaps, just perhaps, New Testament Christianity is finally being restored! I love the ancient plea “We are only Christians but not the only Christians“. It is a theme I can embrace and wear with pride. I don’t completely agree with everything any Christian group teaches but I have found in the Restoration Movement some dear followers of Jesus with whom I expect to be in fellowship with eternally. Every group has its baggage, some history they would like to forget, and a scattering of knuckleheads that are at best troublesome.

I will quickly admit that I am not infallible, the needle on my sanctification gauge is not to the “full” mark, and far too often I don’t love like I should and still call myself a follower of Jesus. I and you are works in progress. On our way toward being like Jesus may each of us major on Jesus and minor on everything else and love everyone in his stead. Love them ’til they ask us why!

Thanks for reading Grace Digest. I sincerely hope it is a blessing and honors Christ.

Agape’

Royce

…On Spiritual Transformation


Spiritual Transformation is an important subject in the Christian community and rightfully so. One of the inescapable truths that serious church leaders must grapple with is the apathy of those who populate church pews on Sunday. Common knowledge is that perhaps as much as 90% of all the work in a local congregation is done by about 10% of the members. The numbers fluctuate a bit but this sad template applies to most churches and across denominational lines.

To say that “most” church members are content to show up once a week for a worship service, give some money, sing a few songs, listen to the preacher, and live much like their pagan neighbors the rest of the week is not a stretch. Since this is true, the challenge is how do we get “Mr. Joe Christian” transformed from nominal believer to an on fire disciple?

Based largely on the popular idea that more “activity” equals more “maturity”, many church leaders have simply opted to create more and more opportunities throughout the week for members to be involved. In my view, having committees,  ministry teams, and small groups staffed by people with little appetite or aptitude for God solves nothing. Unless church leaders are content with a church that operates like a civic club that methodology is not a good idea.

The apparent question then is how does “Spiritual Transformation” happen? There is no valid answer unless we first know “what” it is. The first thing we must understand is that it is a work of God.

“for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13)

This important text, understood in context, lays the foundation for any spiritual transformation of the believer. I invite you to read the prior 12 verses and you will see the Apostle’s plea for selflessness, putting the interests of others ahead of our own, and imitating the humility of Christ. The verse preceding  the one above gives the correct response to the knowledge that God is at work in us for His pleasure.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12)

The often quoted phrase “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is more often than not taken out of context and misapplied, putting “self”in the seat of power only God deserves to occupy. The “work(s)” we do are in the knowledge that our part of the equation is to humbly walk with God as He directs.

Paul’s absolute confidence in God’s ability to transform believers into the image of Christ should encourage each of us that in our own lives and the lives of those in our faith communities, God is at work!

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)

It is God’s will, work, and purpose to transform every believer into the image of Christ. That work will be final at the resurrection. Until then we must cooperate, on purpose, if we want God’s best life now. We must not only know God is at work but we must do the work of a disciple, that is we must practice the disciplines of the Christian faith. Bible study, prayer, and interaction with other believers is essential to our growth.

A man is what he thinks. The remedy is to think right. The injunction of Romans 12 applies here.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1,2)

Two striking truths challenge us from this passage. First, we are to give our whole selves to God as a sacrifice. This is true worship! The implication is human effort alone is worthless to God. Secondly, we must have renewed minds. Unless, and until, we are no longer depending on the energy and resources of human flesh, and we begin to have minds filled with God and his purposes and not focused on our own agenda’s, there will be little “Spiritual Transformation”.

What then is the solution for the church at large? First, know and admit the problem. Our people have not been taught correctly. We have taught for centuries that more “church” related activity equals spiritual growth. Instead of a recipe for maturity this method often results in hypocrite church members.

Once we believe and admit the bankruptcy of human effort we must focus our personal and cooperate teaching and practice on the worth and work of God in us by the Holy Spirit. We must dethrone “self” and invite God to have free access to every facet of our lives.

More trust and less trying, less hustle and more humility, and ego crushing purposeful living and loving will open the door wide for God’s work in us and through us.

Agape’

Royce

Facing 2010 with Expectancy


2010 will mark my 65th year on planet earth. I’m getting old but I stand on the starting line with a twinkle in my eye, with a sense of expectancy, and with faith in my heart.

What will a new year bring? Who knows but God alone? I know that whatever it brings will come to me with God’s approval and for my good. It might be great blessing or it might be pain and suffering, or even death, but it will be filtered through His sovereign will. Of this I am sure and am content.

My prayers and my dreams are alike. I desire that my future, however long, be marked with increased holiness, a more desperate prayer habit, loving others more frequently and in tangible ways, and being a blessing rather than waiting for one.

I want to become one who loves God more than I love the approval of men (This is an admitted struggle for me all of my life). I want to place more emphasis on adjusting my life to the truth I know than seeking more truth. I want my teaching to be marked by more integrity, my love for my wife and family to be more generous, and my need for repentance less frequent.

If I could be granted but one wish it would be at this time next year God could say of me “Royce is my friend”.

An honest appraisal of this man who has been a believer for almost 50 years is not pretty. I love satisfaction at the expense of sanctification. Sometimes I spend more time on Face Book than in God’s book. I tend toward measuring myself against men rather than against the God-man. I am too negative and skeptical at the expense of being poor in spirit. And, perhaps worst of all, sometimes I try to rationalize rather than repent.

So, I lean heavily upon the arm of the everlasting One, wallow in His grace, and give thanks for His faithfulness. I am the chief of sinners but I know whom I have believed and am confident that one golden day break He will complete his work of making one helpless sinner into the glorious likeness of Jesus Christ the Lamb of God.

I will not live in Romans 7 forever. Sooner than later I will move to Romans 8. Count on it…

Happy New Year! Agape

Royce