The True Jewish Justification

October 20, 2010 at 11:30 am | Posted in Romans | 5 Comments
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Some people were already arguing against the doctrine that Jesus had given to Paul. They were saying, “Look, if he’s teaching that God’s Law was given to point out that it could not be kept, then why should we even do good? Let us do more evil to bring about more good.” But the Holy Spirit through Paul says that God is righteous. He is not slack concerning His promise. He requires faithfulness, because He is faithful. He can judge our unrighteousness, because He is righteous. How do the just live? Or what do they live by? Faith.

The Holy Spirit sums up this part of the argument by declaring everyone guilty.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Romans 3:10

He is quoting, opening, and alleging Psalm 14:1-3: “[To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.] The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

They were not “seeking” God. By saying, “No God,” they were also saying no “to” God.

The way people try to justify sin would make you think sin was actually good for you.

I need to get more focused on how I feel. If I feel good doing something, then it must be right. If somebody tells me something, I hope it is “confirmed in my spirit,” so that I don’t have check the Bible – that’s too confusing, that’s too much hard work.

typical church-goer

Satan wants you to believe that the best law to follow is: “Do what feels right – that’s the best thing for you.” But even if we did have some excuse to sin, the sin still wouldn’t be good for us.

Destruction and misery are in their ways:

Romans 3:16

That’s not only the misery and destruction of the people I sin against, the people I hurt with my sin. No, that’s my own misery and destruction, too. By way of illustration, every time a doctor tells a smoker that he’s dying of lung cancer, he must be secretly thinking, “Does that surprise you?” People who smoke cigarettes may honestly enjoy it, but they can’t honestly say that they thought it was going to be good for their health. If I know the first thing about the Bible, why would I be surprised when sin causes me to get hurt, to get sick, to cause division among my friends and neighbors?

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Romans 3:23

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:23

These are easy-to-understand verses that can be used to show an unbeliever the way to salvation.

Romans Chapters 3-6 are also key to understanding the doctrine of justification.

When you read the Bible, pray for the Holy Spirit’s help in understanding the Scriptures. If I had a book about electrical wiring, and I wanted to know what something in the book meant, I would like to be able to call and ask the electrician/author what he meant. The Holy Ghost is the Author of the Bible. He explains how we can be “justified” before God – how we can be counted as “righteous” before God, beginning in Romans 3:23 and on into Romans Chapter 4.

What does “righteousness” mean? It means being “right” with God.

To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Romans 3:26

Because everyone has sinned, no one can be right with God because of what he or she does. How, then, can we be right with God? We can be right with God if He forgives us. The Bible says He forgives us if we believe and trust in Jesus. Then He views us as being right with Him.

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Romans 3:24

Then, what does God expect from us when He sees us as justified or “right” with Him? He expects us to do good things.

Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

Romans 3:31

Romans Chapter 4 addresses the misconception the Jews had about their ancestral father, Abraham.

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Romans 4:1-3

Abraham was “counted as righteous.” We might say he was “saved” by his “belief” – by “faith.” Not only Abraham in Genesis, but David, in the Psalms, knew that their works couldn’t outweigh their sin.

Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

Romans 4:6-7

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

Psalm 32:1-2

It is not the man who hasn’t transgressed or the man who hasn’t sinned who is right with God. It is the man to whom the Lord has not imputed iniquity. David understood that the truly blessed man of God had his sins covered, and his transgressions forgiven, and his iniquity was not imputed to him or counted against him.

Will the flood waters call us to repentance, to seek forgiveness? For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.

Psalm 32:6

Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.

Psalm 32:11

The Holy Spirit knew that the Jews would point to Abraham’s circumcision and say, “Wait a minute, Paul, you told us that outward circumcision didn’t count as righteousness. Abraham is the one who received the sign of circumcision.”

So the Holy Spirit has Paul say, “Yes, but look at when he was circumcised.”

Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

Romans 4:9-12

Abraham was counted as righteous first because of faith, then the circumcision was received as a sign and an outward seal. That’s how the ordinance of baptism is supposed to work for New Testament Christians. It does not save us, but it is a sign that marks us as believers.

What is the specific example of Abraham’s faith? When did he believe God, and not hold to belief in the natural?

And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.

Romans 4:19-22

We have a common expression whereby we say someone is “as good as dead.” That’s how Abraham was when Sara got pregnant.

Who are you going to believe? The television anchorman on the evening news or God? The “scientist” who tells you the earth is billions of years old or God? We all have faith in something. And we really don’t struggle with faith in the natural. Most people will plop down in a chair they’ve never sat in before without a second thought.

Romans 4:21 says Abraham was fully persuaded. Are you fully persuaded? Or are you like King Agrippa: “almost persuaded?” 90% persuaded is not really persuaded at all.

Making the Argument of Grace through Faith

September 13, 2010 at 11:47 am | Posted in Romans | 5 Comments
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Romans Chapter 2 tells us that we are guilty before God, and that we can’t use our heritage, our religious rituals, or the outward evidence of our behavior to achieve righteousness before God. Chapter 3 starts off by countering the arguments that could come up after the Holy Spirit has already proven that everyone, including the Jewish people, are guilty before God.

The first argument is, “What good is it even being Jewish, then?”

It turns out that, according to God, there are many advantages to being Jewish. God gave His Law to the Jewish people and made a Covenant with them and gave special blessings to them, not the least of which is that the Messiah would come through their heritage.

Some people were already making another argument against the doctrine that the Holy Spirit was teaching through Paul, saying, “Look, if God’s Law was given to point out that it could not be kept, then why should we even do good? Let us do more evil, to bring about more good.” But the Holy Spirit through Paul says God is righteous. He is not slack concerning His promise. He requires faithfulness, because He is faithful. He can judge our unrighteousness, because He is righteous. How do the just live? Or by what do they live? By faith!

Chapter 4 uses the specific example of Abraham, the ancestral father of the Jewish people, to show how Jewish people in the Old Testament times were justified by faith, before the Law, and before circumcision.

Dr. Law and Dr. Grace

September 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Biblical Doctoring, Romans, Salvation | 16 Comments
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Two of my favorite sermons of all time are Payday Someday by R. G. Lee and Dr. Law and Dr. Grace by Lester Roloff. Once I used Dr. Law and Dr. Grace for a Sunday School lesson, and I modified it a little. I’m going to present “my” version of it here, without any claim of originality whatsoever. For any part of it that is helpful, all the credit must go to Brother Roloff. For any part of it that is incorrect or unhelpful, all the blame must go to me.

Dr. Law and Dr. Grace is the story of two doctors. These doctors are very unusual. They are unusual for two reasons: (1) They never make a mistake when they diagnose a patient; (2) they never charge any of their patients any money. Despite these remarkable facts, however, most people still flat-out refuse to go to them for help.

Here is a prospective patient: He has read in the Bible that there is none righteousness, no not one, and none that really knowingly seeks after God. (Romans 3:10-11) But he knows something is wrong with him because of his symptoms, his condition, and his behavior.

So he goes to see Dr. Law. Dr. Law is always in his office. He is already waiting for this patient. There is no one else waiting to see him. The patient starts to tell Dr. Law about the signs and symptoms of his illness, but Dr. Law says he does not need the patient’s help to make a diagnosis. The patient is surprised that Dr. Law thinks he can make a diagnosis without any input from the patient, but Dr. Law says that he doesn’t “think” he can make a diagnosis – he already knows what the problem is: The patient has a heart problem.

The patient tries to argue: “But, Doctor,” he says, “I’m having trouble with my hands: They want to fight, and click the mouse on my computer at the wrong times, and point my fingers at other people who are having problems.”

“No,” says Dr. Law, “the problem is your heart.”

The patient objects: “It’s my eyes – they want to look at things I shouldn’t be looking at.”

“No,” says Dr. Law, “it’s your heart that has a problem.”

The patients pleads, “What about my tongue? I accidentally mashed my thumb the other day, and my tongue started cursing. My tongue always wants to be sarcastic and put folks in their place, and it is constantly trying to set forth all my own personal opinions.”

“No,” says Dr. Law, “the problem is with your heart.”

The patient says, “It’s my ears – the things they like to hear! It’s my feet – the places they want to go!”

“No, son,” says Dr. Law, “you’ve got heart trouble.”

The patient, exasperated, demands, “I need you to recommend another doctor for a second opinion.”

Dr. Law says, “There’s only one other doctor I would ever recommend for you, and since you won’t admit it’s your heart, it won’t do you any good to see him.”

So the patient sets out to find another doctor on his own, and he finds one: Dr. Vain Religion.

Dr. Vain Religion looks exactly the way a doctor is supposed to look, and a part of the patient somehow just likes him right away. The patient tells this new doctor that he has already been to see Dr. Law.

Dr. Vain Religion says, “Ah, Dr. Law’s too old. He doesn’t know the modern ways. He’s confused about the method and the message. He hasn’t attended the same doctors’ seminars that I have.”

The patient agrees. He did not like Dr. Law, either.

Dr. Vain Religion examines the patient and he says there’s nothing seriously wrong. He recommends that the patient go to church. He also recommends that the patient get baptized, join the church, get a job at the church, and start helping others.

The patient is willing to do these things, and in fact he does. However, none of this helps. The patient gets tired doing these things. He gets weary, and his symptoms keep coming back. He winds up getting extremely frustrated, and, in despair, at his wits’ end, he goes back to see Dr. Law.

Dr. Law’s diagnosis hasn’t changed, but the patient asks him what he recommends, and he says: a new heart. This is a big problem. Dr. Law recommends a new heart, which requires a surgical operation, but Dr. Law does not operate.

“Great,” says the patient, “what you’re telling me is that I require surgery but you won’t perform surgery! Doesn’t that mean I have to die?”

Dr. Law says, “As far as I’m concerned you do, but I just make the diagnosis.” Then he takes the patient by the hand and leads him through a door to another office, and introduces him to Dr. Grace.

Just like Dr. Law had been, Dr. Grace seems to be waiting for this particular patient. Just like Dr. Law, Dr. Grace does not charge any money. There is a world of difference, though, in their bedside manners. Dr. Grace is warmly welcoming. He beckons the patient to come into his office. He is extremely glad to see this patient.

Dr. Grace tells him that all his first-time patients have the same trouble: they all need new hearts.

The patient is still nervous and scared. “Is there anyone else who can assist you in helping me, Dr. Grace?” he asks. “Do you have a nurse? Can I call my wife, or my best friend?”

“No, son,” says Dr. Grace, “this is a personal matter, just between you and me. You can tell your wife and friends about it later.”

“I’m not an idiot,” says the patient to Dr. Grace. “There is no way this is going to be free.”

“I don’t want to mislead you,” says Dr. Grace. “The visit and the consultation are free, but the operation costs a great deal. However – someone else has already paid for it.”

So, by faith, the patient lies down on the table, with no anesthetic, and he submits to the operation. For the first time he sees his old heart the way it really is. It’s rotten and black. It looks terrible and smells even worse. Out it comes, and in goes the new heart!

This new heart is pure and clean, and the patient feels a new flow of life. After the surgery, Dr. Grace tells the patient that no follow-up procedure will be necessary. The operation was successful and permanent! He does however recommend some exercises: some kneeling, some lifting up of holy hands in love, some walks through the community, knocking on doors, some exercise of the vocal chords in praise.

Before leaving, the patient gets to meet the Friend Who had paid for his operation. This Friend has nail scars in His hands. He has a spear-pierced side.

The patient goes back to thank Dr. Law. After all, Dr. Law had been stern and obstinate, but he had helped to save the patient’s life. This time, Dr. Law looks different. The patient realizes that he will always love Dr. Law for leading him to Dr. Grace, and for helping him meet the Friend Who paid for his operation: the Friend Who was really responsible for giving him a new, clean, pure heart.

Big Words of the Christian Life: Propitiation

March 11, 2010 at 11:35 am | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 23 Comments
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Here are three Big Words of the Christian Life:

*Justification: the act of God, Who, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ to be righteous

*Adoption: the act of God by which He grants believers an adult standing in His family

*Regeneration: the act of God which grants a second, spiritual birth, and new life, to the person who has trusted Jesus Christ as his Savior

Here is a fourth Big Word of the Christian Life:

*Propitiation: The sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross which made it so that God could be both merciful and just in saving lost sinners

That is Propitiation defined. Here is Propitiation declared:

Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

Romans 3:25

God and Jesus work together in everything having do with salvation, so do not get the idea that God “set Jesus forth” because He was angry at Him. They are one God – one God in three Persons. (The Holy Spirit is also included in the Godhead.) Propitiation in general means to appease wrath, but God and Jesus sort of agreed that the Son would be the sacrifice for sin. Jesus did not plead with an angry God Who was prepared to destroy everyone. This was God’s plan, but God’s holiness and justice and wrath do require blood for the remission of sins. “Through faith in his blood,” says Romans 3:25, and to declare His (God’s) righteousness. Propitiation is the only way God could still be righteous and forgive sinners.

The sins that were past – the sins of the Old Testament and from the beginning of the world – had not been forgiven. They had been passed over through the forbearance of God.

Propitiation defined
Propitiation declared
Now,
Propitiation demanded:

Jesus Himself was the propitiation – and propitiation was the transaction between God and Jesus. Propitiation was the only possible meeting and satisfaction of God’s love and mercy with His wrath and justice.

Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

Hebrews 2:17

Jesus, the great High Priest, did what no earthly priest could ever accomplish in the Levitical system. He fully atoned for the sins of all God’s people for all time. Under the Levitical system of propitiation the high priest carried the blood into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled it on the mercy seat, between the images of angels looking down at the top of the ark, the dimensions of which represented the Law of God. God’s Law had been broken, and only His Own blood would satisfy His wrath and the curse caused by the breaking of His Law.

My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

I John 2:1-2, emphasis added

If you have a Bible version that uses “sacrifice” or “atoning sacrifice” you are missing out on a big part of the richness of what God is telling us here. Our Advocate with the Father is not just some heavenly lawyer. He’s not some created being – not even an angel. He is Jesus Christ the righteous – and when God’s justice demands satisfaction for the penalty of sins, He not only brings payment in to the mercy seat, He is the payment – the bloody sacrifice that is demanded.

Propitiation defined
Propitiation declared
Propitiation demanded
And here’s the part that’s even richer:
Propitiation desired:

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

I John 4:10

God loved us – we did not love Him. He desired us – we did not desire Him. He sent His Son – not only to make the sacrifice, but to be the sacrifice. That’s propitiation! God did not just “demonstrate” His love. (Romans 5:8) He commended His love – He sent His love – His Son! Herein is love – do you want to know what love is? Do you want a motivation to be loving?

Propitiation defined: Tell people about it.
Propitiation declared: Look to Jesus whenever you don’t feel loving. In fact, look to Him all the time.
Propitiation demanded: Remember what our sin cost God.
Propitiation desired: Remember that God was not trapped by some mysterious cosmic law into doing what He did for us. He truly loves us.

Let’s love like Him – giving, providing, encouraging with words and deeds, covering the sins of others, fixing other people’s messes, getting involved in other people’s problems.

Big Words of the Christian Life: Justification (Part 2)

January 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 8 Comments
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Last time, we looked at God’s Motive in justification:
1. There was no other way for sinners to be made righteous, unless God Himself did it.
2. He did it for His Own glory.

We also examined the Meaning for justification: It is the act of God, Who, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ to be righteous.

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:21

That’s an even more Biblical definition of Justification. God made Jesus to be sin for you and me, even though Jesus Himself never sinned, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Jesus.

Here is an illustration I am borrowing from Roy Gustafson and Warren Wiersbe: Let’s say you decide to buy a Rolls Royce. You think to yourself, “Well, I spent a fortune, but I don’t care, because everyone knows that Rolls Royces don’t ever break down. Therefore, I won’t ever have to see a repair shop again.” However, sure enough, you do start to have car trouble one day. So, you call the dealership and immediately a mechanic arrives and fixes the car. Days and then weeks go by, and after a while you get worried about the cost of the repair, and, tiring of the dread, you are anxious for them to send you the bill. You call Rolls Royce, Inc., but they tell you, “We have no record anywhere in our files that anything ever went wrong with a Rolls Royce.” We might say that, when God justifies a lost sinner, there’s no longer an “official record” of that sinner ever having sinned.

Curtis Hutson illustrates this another way, by comparing God’s imputation of righteousness and willful “forgetting” of sins to the “clear” button on a microwave oven that lets you start over if you programmed in 30 minutes, when you only meant to program in 30 seconds. He says that God has a divine “forgetter.”

Having said all that, however, I do want to address a couple of misconceptions about justification. The purpose of this lesson is to try to make Justification very simple to understand, but remember, the deeper into theology we go, the more practical it gets.

It is important to know if you’ve been justified, and it is important to know what it means to have been justified, and it is important to live like you’ve been justified. Justification does not really mean that it is “just as if” you never sinned. Justification declares you righteous before God – it takes away the record of your sins. But remember, it is a legal, forensic term. When my wife and I got married, we were legally declared married when somebody said, “I now pronounce you man and wife.” But nothing physically changed about us at that instant. Justification is an event – it happens in an instant. There are other “big words” in the Christian life which are part of a process – such as “sanctification” – but the record of your sin, at the moment of true salvation, is really and truly covered with the blood of Jesus under the doctrine of Justification. Your slate is then “clean,” but your slate is not then “blank.” God is not, from that time on, watching and waiting, without knowing, to see whether you will ever sin again. No, He already knows you will sin after being justified. Therefore, we need to remember that Justification declares you to be, not only redeemed from the price of sin, but actually righteous before God. That is even better than “just as if” you never sinned.

Let’s review:
1. The Motive for Justification: We were meritless sinners with no hope for righteousness outside of God’s Own righteousness somehow being imputed to us.
2. The Meaning of Justification: It is the act of God whereby He, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ to be righteous.

Now, let’s examine at the Method of Justification, meaning how it’s done – how God ordained it to be. We want to know why there is justification, what is justification, and how justification works. These inquiries mirror three of life’s biggest questions for every one of us: Why am I here? Who put me here? How did He do it?

I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?

Job 9:2

Supposedly, the ancient philosopher Socrates, after much deep consideration, once said to his protege’ Plato: “It may be that God can forgive sin, but I don’t see how…” He was describing a real problem. God is just. We have sinned. God forgives sinners. But where did His justice go? Or: God is love. God gives us justice. But where did His love go?

Justification is God’s glorious solution to this problem. It cancels our sin debt, but not by having God overlook it.

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Romans 3:24

God’s justification and our redemption are by grace, not by merit. God did not see something in us worthy of justification. He justifies because He is the God of grace. He is not lonely. He is not frustrated. He is not lacking in worshipers. He needs nothing outside of His Triune Self to be complete and satisfied. The word translated “freely” in Romans 3:24 means “without a cause.” It describes the same idea behind the way the Jewish and Roman authorities tried, convicted, and killed Jesus: “without a cause.” There was no cause in Him for Him to be punished. There is no cause in us for us to be pardoned or saved – much less justified and given God’s righteousness and the standing we are given.

I want you to cancel the idea that you are basically a good person, or that God saw something in you that could really be useful, or that He finally got you to start acting the way you ought to act so that He could save you. NO! Salvation – redemption – regeneration – justification – is of the LORD!

So, Justification is by grace, and now we will see the other part of the Method of justification: it is through faith. And if it is through faith, it can not be of works.

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:20

Oh, how the carnal man hates to hear this! He says, “But it MUST depend in some way on what I can do. I will accept God’s grace, but can’t I add some of my works to it? Surely I can’t admit that I am totally incapable of helping myself in any way.”

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Romans 3:27-28

Now we see that Justification is all God – His grace, received by faith – nothing good inherently in us – nothing good we were able to do. But what about God’s holiness and justice? The Bible says that sin charges a debt, and that debt must be paid. The answer to this dilemma is that Justification is the act of God’s grace, appropriated by faith ALONE – in the blood of His OWN SON.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Romans 5:8-9

God poured out His wrath for my sins, but His Son took it in my place. The debt that was owed for my sins was paid – but Jesus Christ the Righteous is the One Who paid – and He paid it in full! “It is finished,” He said, and, because He was telling the Truth, I live! I have eternal Life. I am justified before God!

I not only can try to tell you what Justification means – I have had it happen to me personally. The devil accuses me of sin – I accuse myself of sin – you can accuse me of sin if you want. But when God hears the accusation and looks in His divine account books for the record of my sin, He does not see it there. The record He sees is the record of His Own dear Son coming up out of that empty tomb, with nail prints in His wrists, saying, “Paid in Full.
God says, “I have no legal record of the sins of the accused. He’s My child, My son. He’s RIGHT with Me – JUSTIFIED.

If that is your testimony, too, you need to stop listening to whomever or whatever is telling you that you are still guilty. If your testimony is that, “I really didn’t realize that justification is the gracious of act of God. I’ve been trusting in myself or my deeds or works,” then forsake that right now. Believe that Jesus Christ paid for your sins in full, and call upon Him to save you. You, too, can be Justified.

Next time, we will look at the marks of justification.

One Year Athe-versary

January 5, 2010 at 11:17 am | Posted in ProfessingAtheists | 1 Comment
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This post is a couple of days late, but, in celebration of the one year anniversary of this blog (which actually started on January 3, 2009), I have decided to re-post the post which has been by far my most-read post. It is one in a series of posts which make up an ongoing dialogue between a Christian and a professing atheist.

Professing Atheists Worship Creation Rather Than the Creator

Professing Atheist: I would challenge any Christian to step out side of the Christian “box” and just for a moment consider the vast scientific evidence regarding the origins of the universe and of life.

Christian: Since you have brought up scientific evidence, this may be helpful: Little children, in elementary school, are commonly taught the “scientific method.” I know it’s more complicated than this, but, basically it boils down to teaching them to take matter and examine its properties, and learn about it, using their natural senses. Touch it. Look at it. Smell it. Taste it. I’m not opposed to children being taught that way, but think of the spiritual implications. In Genesis Chap. 27, Isaac employed a form of the scientific method with Jacob. Jacob and Rebekah plotted to deceive Isaac into thinking that Jacob was Esau. Isaac touched him. He listened to him. He couldn’t see him but, no doubt, he smelled him. And he came to the wrong conclusion! It would have been better for Isaac just to believe God’s promise by faith, that Jacob, although the younger, and not Esau, was to receive the blessing.

Professing Atheist: Have you ever been in an aircraft? If so, the fact that you landed again is because a large number of scientists kept working and improving things until they got their sums right. Evidence matters. Planes fly, diseases are cured, water comes out when you turn the tap on, and you and I can argue in cyberspace like this. You benefit from real, evidence-based science as much as I do. It’s hypocritical of you to dismiss it.

Would you say that (for example) Iranians and pagan Vikings would be “without excuse” if they “failed to acknowledge” God?

Christian: Hypocrisy is being grateful for the benefits of evidence-based science while ignoring God, who created all the scientific laws that the aviators, doctors, and engineers have discovered (John 1:3). Every time your heart beats, it is not thanks to cardiology or cardiologists. It is thanks to God, Who has caused it to beat, by His sovereign power, your whole life. When you expel the next breath of air from your nostrils, you will have hope of another breath, not because a scientist discovered evidence of the air you breath, but because God provides it (Isaiah 2:22).

You can check this out by climbing up on a roof. Shake your fist, and cry out, “I don’t believe you exist, Gravity! You can’t be real! If you were real, you would not have held all those Norsemen and Iranians down! You would have let them float away in true freedom! Therefore, I defy, O Gravity, that you exist!” Then, leap off the roof. (By the way, I do not recommend that you really try this.) But if you did, you would see that, if you break God’s law of gravity, then God’s law of gravity will break you – literally. It’s the same way with God’s Biblical laws. You can break them if you want. But, if you do, they will break you (Galatians 6:7)

Professing Atheist: Well, I have other, more worthwhile calls on my time, but the Devil can quote scripture, as they say, so here I go. You will be as familiar with John 3:16 as I am, or as any of those people who hold up placards at wrestling matches. You would, I feel sure, assert that God’s purpose to all humanity, in sending his Son to die for us, is loving and merciful. Tell me, what do you believe that loving and merciful God, and gentle Jesus, meek and mild, have in store for these billions of people, all ignorant, in my humble opinion, through no fault of their own?

Christian: When considering the decision to accept, or willfully reject, the truth of the existence of God, it is irrelevant what anyone “thinks” would produce results, or what anyone’s humble “opinion” is – apart from Scripture.

I hope that the more worthwhile calls on your time do not include actually going to the wrestling matches where the John 3:16 placards are held. You are coming to that verse in isolation, not taking into account the entirety of Scripture. These Iranians and Vikings you mention – just like me, and just like you, and just like everyone else – are wicked sinners, who deserve God’s judgment (Romans 3:10; 3:23). Because He is loving and merciful, He sent His Son to die. Because He is just, righteous, true, and holy, He must judge those Who reject His Son.

(The other posts in the series – which received some attention, but were not nearly as popular as the one posted above – can be viewed here:)

Atheists Aren’t Real
Professing Atheists Are in Denial
Professing Atheists Are Disturbed by the Truth
Professing Atheists Fear the Bible
Professing Atheists Try To Allay Their Fears
Professing Atheists Understand More of the Bible Than They Want To Admit
Professing Atheists Are Incapable of Being “Good”
Professing Atheists Conveniently Pick and Choose Their Own “Morality”
Professing Atheists Do Have Faith
Professing Atheists Are Affected by Their Past
Professing Atheists Are Angry at God
Professing Atheists Pretend They Would Like God If He Could Be Controlled
Professing Atheists Despise the Idea of Answering To Their Creator
Professing Atheists Are Blind to Their Own Lack of Objectivity
Acting Like We’ve Been There

Big Words of the Christian Life: Justification (Part 1)

December 29, 2009 at 10:31 am | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 44 Comments
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Many Christians tend to shy away from some of the great Truths of the Bible for two reasons: One, they seem so hard to understand. Two, they just don’t seem as practical. We want our Biblical lessons to focus on how we can get money; how we can have happier marriages; how we can be healed; how we can beat stress; how we can have great sex. But the fact is, the deeper into doctrine you go, the more practical it becomes. We sometimes live very defeated Christian lives because we’re afraid to try to understand just what God has done for us in Christ Jesus.

In the past, I have taught basic discipleship lessons: salvation, baptism, everlasting security, church membership, sin, prayer, the world. These lessons on “big words” are not really more difficult. They just have more syllables in the title.

Justification

I want to focus on:
1. The Motive for Justification
2. The Meaning of Justification
3. The Method of Justification

I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?

Job 9:2

Prior to our salvation we were not “just” with God: we were not righteous before Him. Why? We might say it is because we had sinned. But we must understand that the bigger issue is not that we had sinned – the bigger issue is that we are sinners.

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:19-20

One of the reasons God gave the Law is so that everyone could plainly see his/her own sinful condition – for none of us have ever come close to keeping the Law of God. Therefore, the Law “stops every mouth.” No one has a valid argument that they are not guilty before God.

God’s motive for justification – for somehow making guilty unrighteous sinners right before Him – is the Truth that there was absolutely no other way for us to do it. He has to do it for us – to make us righteous – or it could not be done.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Romans 3:21

Whose righteousness is involved in justification? Is it ours or God’s? God’s righteousness must be imputed to us in justification, for there is no other righteousness outside of God.

1. God’s Motive in Justification:
A. There is no other way.
B. It is for His Own glory.

Those are the motives for justification. We see why there must be such a thing as justification if we are to have a relationship with our Creator; if we were to be saved from judgment and hell; if God’s great plan of redemption and salvation is to bring Him the greatest glory of forever and all time.

1. The Motive for Justification
2. The Meaning of Justification

Now, I want to look at the meaning of justification – the definition. What is “Justification?” Justification is a forensic term – a legal term. It is the act of God, Who, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ, to be righteous.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Romans 3:23-26

Everyone has sinned and come short of the glory of God, and not just a little short. No, we fell way short. We were totally depraved – completely without merit. God has freely justified those who have been born again by His grace. God gives His righteousness as a free gift. But it is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and it is not a cheap gift. Christ Jesus is the Propitiation. A propitiation is a sacrifice which satisfies the punishment that is justly due. God declares justification for the remission of sins, so justification is real, even though it’s an act of declaration, and not a physical change. God Himself shows that He is just through His Own act of Justification. God legally declares sinners to be righteous when – and only when – they believe in Jesus.

Justification happens instantaneously. It is not a process. If my kids turn on the yard sprinkler, and we all run through it, some of us get a “little wet” and some of us get a “lot wet.” There are different degrees of “wet.” But if we all run, and leap into the air, and land in the deep end of the swimming pool, then we all get completely soaked. That’s how justification is. In an instant, every Christian who truly believes is justified to the same degree as every Christian who has ever been justified. And that degree is 100% – fully soaking wet.

Justification is not something earned. It is not a process of working and getting good enough to be justified. God does it all. And it does not change.

After the end of the O.J. Simpson trial, people used to always ask me this question about O.J.: “But do you think he’s really guilty?” And I would respond: “No, I know for a fact he’s ‘not guilty.’ He was declared ‘not guilty’ in court.” That is not the same as saying he’s innocent. It is not the same as saying “he didn’t do it.” I don’t know if he “did it,” because I wasn’t there – and you don’t either. The jury came back and said “not guilty,” so legally he was declared not guilty.

I’m sure O.J. felt pretty good about the American legal system’s version of “justification” at the time, but God’s Justification is even better. In a “not guilty” verdict there is still a record of what was done. Justification is even better than a “pardon.” A pardon says that, whether you did it or not, we’re letting you go. Justification is saying: Not only are you not guilty – but you are completely righteous – all your record is wiped clean and there’s no more evidence of it. You are declared to have the same righteousness as Jesus Christ Himself.

Next time, we will see the Method of Justification.

The Dash Between Two Dates

December 22, 2009 at 7:16 pm | Posted in Salvation | 3 Comments
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When someone dies, it may appear that his whole life was summed up in a dash. John Doe, 1930-2009. That dash between the two dates may seem long or short at the end of our lives, but the fact is, none of us ever really know how close we are, at any given moment, to the end of that dash.

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

James 4:14

Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.

Job 14:1

A good question to ask ourselves is what are we going to do with that little dash between two dates while there is time. Will we spend it on ourselves? Will we spend it pursuing silly, vain things? Or will we give it to the Lord? The offer of redemption is for a limited time only – you must by faith receive Jesus, and the price He paid, before you die and before He comes back.

According to the Bible, everyone has sinned, and all sin is against God, Who is holy and just (Romans 3:23). The wages of sin is death (eternal punishment). But God, Who is also loving, would rather give you a free gift than pay you what you have earned (Romans 6:23). This gift must be received by faith. You cannot work for it (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 10:9,13).

Eternal salvation comes from believing that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world, and specifically your sins – that He was perfectly sinless, God’s perfect Sacrifice Who died in your place – that He was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures – and that He is alive and able to save you now (John 3:3-7, John 3:16, I Corinthians 15:3-4).

Who “KEEPS” Me Saved?

November 4, 2009 at 10:18 am | Posted in Eternity | 8 Comments
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Some people have heard that they have to be righteous to go to Heaven. Therefore, they try hard to do “good deeds,” and to say “good words,” and to think “good thoughts,” and to be “good people.” When the idea that people can achieve “self-righteousness” is exposed to Scripture, however, only the most stubborn still hold onto the false belief that they can “save” themselves.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Romans 3:10

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Isaiah 64:6

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

Titus 3:5

Hopefully, upon learning of the futility of attempted self-righteous salvation, the unbeliever will repent and call upon Christ the Savior. There is rejoicing even in the presence of the angels in Heaven when this happens (Luke 15:10)! However, there is a strange thought circulating about, by which it is sometimes said that the salvation of the Lord, which comes by His grace through faith, can be lost, stolen, or rejected. In response to this strange thought, there is probably a nicer word than “heresy,” but I can’t think of it.

Let those of us who are born again, the elect of God according to His grace and mercy, remember that we did not save ourselves, and we are utterly incapable of “keeping ourselves saved.” Many modern translations of the Bible get a key phrase in Philippians 3:9 wrong. They say that righteousness is “through faith ‘in’ Christ.” The King James (not the New King James) Version hits the nail right on the head when it says that, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” (Emphasis added.)

Today, as I type this, I am found in Jesus Christ. I am righteous in the sight of God only because the righteousness of His dear Son has been imputed to me. The eternal continuance of this gift of righteousness is not because of my great faith. It is because of the wondrous, magnificent, awe-inspiring, unchanging, never-ending faithfulness of Christ Himself.

Eternal Destruction

November 2, 2009 at 9:21 am | Posted in Biblical Violence, Eternity | 22 Comments
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Some Bible words can be hard to understand. If you are going to get a grip on the idea of “propitiation” or “justification” (Romans 4:25, 3:25), you had better be prepared to stay up all night. There are other words, however, which are extremely self-explanatory. Take the word “everlasting.” Something that is “everlasting,” is something that…(all together now)…LASTS…FOR…EVER.

When God says something is everlasting, it may blow our minds a little. After all, most things in this world have a start and a stop, a beginning and an end. The sun comes up; the sun goes down. Plants spring up and grow; plants wither and rot. People are born; people die. In God’s realm of eternity, however, there is no true end or beginning. So while the conceptualization of “everlasting” may be difficult, the basic sense of it is not. This is a great encouragement to true Christian believers and a great condemnation to those who have rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Unbelievers will experience punishment forever.

And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;

II Thessalonians 1:7-9

However, believers have the assurance of knowing that their salvation may never be lost.

Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace,

II Thessalonians 2:16

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