Would You Sell Christ for Riches?

 

In my quiet time this morning I came across a comparison in Matthew 26 I hadn’t noticed before. This is why I’m adamant reading books of the bible multiple times is of such significant benefit to us – as we grow in knowledge and godliness, the Holy Spirit reveals new gems of wisdom to us in holy Scripture.

The Setting

Jesus has just finished preaching about His second coming, the judgement; and the Passover is two days away. The chief priests and elders are plotting to kill him, and want to do so as soon as possible.

While Jesus was in the town of Bethany, in the home of a man named Simon (the leper), a woman came to Him and, as He reclined at the table, opened a magnificent alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, and anointed Him with it.

The Giver

As she poured it over His head the disciples openly resented her for it, saying “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor”. But Jesus rebuked them, saying “She has done a beautiful thing to me… When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.”

Now, the woman probably had no idea she was doing it in preparation for His upcoming burial – but God did. Our work means more in God’s plans than we often realise. And Jesus honours our faithfulness and generosity. Sometimes, what we think might be best in a situation might not actually be; but God always knows what’s best, and will always carry out His plans. Our job is to be as wise and obedient as we can be, doing all things through faith.

The Taker

After this passage, it is briefly mentioned that Judas approaches the chief priests (who are trying to kill Jesus), and asks, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”. They then proceed to count out a cost that was the equivalent of what a beast of burden (such as a donkey) was often sold for.

The Comparison

Judas was not willing to give up his own life to Christ – instead, he wanted to know, what could I have that would be better? He believed the lie that knowing Jesus Christ was not the best thing one could experience in life, and instead, sought out material riches to fulfill his soul.

What about you? If presented with the option, can you truly say that the glittering and clang of jewels and gold doesn’t appeal to your heart more than the gospel call of Christ?

Or, is this an ongoing struggle for you? Perhaps you find it hard to keep Christ as the Lord of your life, and find your heart competing with other idols for lordship. If this is so, be encouraged – take heart from the great faith of the woman who anointed Jesus. She saw no greater good than to honour her Lord with her best, and so it should be with us.

 

 

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What Good Thing Must I Do?

 

“Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

Most of us are familiar with the story of the Rich Young Ruler from Matthew 19. As I read from verse 13 to 30 in my quiet time today I noticed something that I hadn’t before.

The Rich Young Ruler was working out of a framework most of us live by because, well, that’s just the way the world works most of the time. That framework is the idea that in order to receive something, we must do something to earn it. This is a good principle to keep us from being elitist and having a sense of entitlement by virtue of our existence. Working hard to earn or achieve something produces in us substance of character and fortitude. All good things.

But when it comes to the gospel, we must understand that the way things work in God’s Kingdom take the principles of the world and flip them on their heads.

The problem with the Rich Young Ruler’s question is that he is assuming that in order to attain eternal life, he must do something to earn it. And this is what many Christians today believe – but this is not the gospel!

Jesus’ response is brilliant: “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only One who is good.” The thing we get through salvation is God Himself! And God is not something we can have or achieve on our own – it is purely by God’s grace that He extends His love and relationship to us. God IS our salvation, from God Himself.

Let us not be foolish like the Rich Young Ruler, or even like the Galatians – who Paul rebuked for “turning back to those weak and miserable principles (?) Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (Galatians 4:9).

It is by grace we have been saved, through faith – not of our own works (our own doing), so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8). Salvation is completely God’s work, completely His own predetermined election and grace, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We need only repent, turn from our sins, and believe and trust in what Jesus has done; enjoying the free grace and mercy of our Heavenly Father.

Unbinding Bitterness to Refresh with Forgiveness

 

I always like to be honest and transparent across all contexts – friendships, family, as well as blog posts. I’ve had so much I wanted to write about for a while, but this takes precedence today; it is so timely for our family.

Our church is going through a rough time at the moment. There’s been division, dissension, disunity, quarreling, gossiping, anger, confusion and hurt among many brothers and sisters. Our husband and I got caught up in some of the thick of it by becoming aware of some of what had gone on. We were devastated. It grieves our hearts so much to see people we love and respect so deeply, be either the initiator or the receiver of conflict and pain.

We have our own opinions, of course – and we have had to struggle against our own pride to pray earnestly for God’s wisdom, that He may lead us in the way He wants us to go – whatever that looks like. But, all things aside, I personally have to confess my own sin, not that of others – and it’s a tough one – unforgiveness.

Blegh.

It feels gross just saying it. But, there it is – recently I have caught myself feeling hurt on behalf of others, and becoming angry about it. The events that have gone on are unjust and certainly cause for upset, but not to the point of me holding bitterness and resentment toward other Christians, for we are called to be better than that.

Because, while I may sit here and say truthfully, “but they did this/said that/did this to that person/those people! They are so hurt and devastated! How can I not be mad at them? What they did was wrong!”, it is far better for me to decrease my own voice, and to turn up the volume of Jesus’ voice instead. Because do you know what you really become, when you focus on all those things pertaining to the hurt, and the sin, and why you can’t not be upset and just move on? Do you want to know?

Self-exalting.

Woooaahh, you might think. I’m not self-exalting – if anything, I’m exalting others, because of my concern for them! No, friend – and I’ve had to spend all day preaching this to myself – your concern isn’t really with them. Your concern is with your own need to be the judge and justifier in all things.

Think about it. A lot of the stuff going on actually has nothing to do with me, and yet I’ve made it my business to be angry on behalf of those who have been hurt. Yes, what has happened is awful – and should and must be dealt with – but it is never permissible for me to put myself in the place of judge over other Christians to the point of sinning against them myself. I have in doing so just become a hypocrite.

Want to know something else? Unforgiveness isn’t just self-exalting. It’s also exceedingly thankless and selfish. Let me show you:

 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Matthew 18:21-35

Because God has shown us mercy, we must also show mercy. And let’s look again at what Jesus said at the beginning: Peter asked, “how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?”. And Jesus replied, “Seventy seven times”. And by the way, there’s no asterisk there – no loophole or clause that says, “forgive only if they’ve repented, or taken responsibility for their actions, or admitted they were wrong”. No, we offer forgiveness – with exceeding joy!! – because our own Lord and Saviour offered forgiveness for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2), while we were still dead in our own sin (Col. 2:13).

Let us instead be like Philemon, who Paul admonished to refresh him in Christ by forgiving the charge against Onesimus (Philemon verse 20). By obeying Christ at His Word, allowing Him to unbind the bitterness and unforgiveness that reigns in our hearts, we are free to refresh others, and are ourselves refreshed.

I hope this encourages you, friend – wherever you’re at. May God bless you with an abundance of wisdom to see clearly, mercy to forgive freely, and peace to love joyfully.

Kissing Jesus’ feet: Comparing our Worthiness for Salvation

 

Luke 7:36-50

He marveled at the man who had caused such a stir among the people. “A Prophet?”, “Elijah?”, “Messiah?”. Everyone had their thoughts on who this peculiar Nazarene really was; and now here he sat, eating dinner with him in his own home. Simon felt rather pleased with himself to have gained the attention of this remarkable man he had heard much about.

As they all reclined at the table, a woman known well in the town for her outrageous sinful life attended to this Nazarene, called Jesus; she had brought with her an alabaster jar of beautiful, expensive perfume. She cowered down before him, warm salty tears trickling down her cheeks onto his feet. With tender hands she cleaned his feet with her hair, trembling as she gently poured her perfume over them. This woman, filthy in both her sin and her poverty, was anointing Jesus.

Simon couldn’t believe it. He was as disgusted as he was livid. This sinful woman, he thought, has come into my home, and cleaned and anointed the feet of my guest! Surely, surely if this man were a prophet, he would send this sinner away!

Everyone else also along with Simon were shocked and disgusted at the woman’s gesture; everyone except Jesus. As if sensing the contempt of his fellow diners, Jesus directed a question to Simon:

Simon, I have something to tell you…

With the passing of time in our Christian faith comes an increasing familiarity and comfort about ourselves. Anyone who has been a Christian for a long period of time – whether raised in the church or not – faces an ongoing battle against pride and self-righteousness for a godly humility that marked their need for saving in the first place.

We all come to Jesus like the sinful woman. So aware of our need for salvation, we humble ourselves before him, offering our very best. But over time, as we fight against pride, we may become like Simon; a person who is not only completely comfortable professing his own self-righteousness, but feels entitled to make judgements about Jesus’ state of righteousness as well. So should we ever stop kissing Jesus’ feet?

Jesus said to Simon, Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?

Surely this can’t be a trick question, Simon thought. So he answered, I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.

You have judged correctly, Jesus said.

Wondering what precisely Jesus point was, Simon noticed that his attention had turned to the woman. He motioned to her, looked back at him and said, Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.

Simon was in still silence. He was shocked both by Jesus’ commendation of this woman, and also his apparent vindication of her. Who is this who even forgives sins?, he heard the others say.

Jesus turned to the woman and said, Your sins are forgiven.Your faith has saved you; go in peace.

Many people may attribute this verse as helpful to those who have come from an ‘overtly sinful’ life, much like the woman in the story. I know many times I have found comfort in this passage, because such a life describes who I once was. I relate very personally with this woman.But I believe this is attributable to all Christians – whether their lives have been externally marked by obvious sin or not – because all of us were marked by a debt we couldn’t repay.

We were “dead in (y)our transgressions and sins, in which we used to live when we followed the ways of this world” (Ephesians 2:1-2). The girl who came to Christ from a life of debauchery and wickedness was no more dead in sin than the girl raised in the church before she was saved at the age of 6. An external life of sin may result in different consequences, feeling dirty and even more unworthy than her ‘pure’ counterparts. A life lived in faith and obedience to God from a young age may render questions about whether she’s really good enough; wondering if her love and thankfulness will match those who seem to have been forgiven so much more. But wait, what did Jesus say again?

Your sins are forgiven.Your faith has saved you; go in peace.

Think not on how much or little you believe you have sinned – for all have sinned, and all are justified freely by His grace through Jesus Christ. If you are in Christ, your past sins are no longer held against you – so let only thankfulness for Christ’s sacrifice be the marker of your love for him. And our thankfulness is born out of a constant, rich humility, reverence and joy in what Christ has done – a response that overwhelmingly pledges all of my best, all of my utmost, for His glory. Sisters, may we never stop kissing Jesus’ feet. Go in peace!

Pray This Hallow’s Eve

 

In lieu of tonight’s Halloween festivities, there are a multitude of opinions about whether or not Christians should participate, and the extent to which they do. I don’t have a particular affiliation either way – I won’t be participating, but only because I’d rather snuggle on the couch and eat candy with my husband!

If you would like a great source that talks about the origins of Halloween, what it entailed in its day, and how Christians can use it as a time to share the Gospel, I recommend the post by Travis Allen here. However, I think it’s times like this that are great reminders for us to be prayerful.

In particular, pray for:

  • The safety and protection for all children who are trick-or-treating
  • The parents who are either taking their children out, or handing out candy – that they would be safe, vigilant, and wise with how they direct the night
  • Those who do not know Christ to realise that there really is a supernatural world, and that they need a Saviour to save them from imminent destruction and separation from God if they do not believe the gospel
  • The Christians who are participating; that they would be discerning, alert, prayerful, and eager to sew the gospel into the festivities for those in their community
  • Protection against the Devil’s schemes and deception
  • Lots of fun!

Whatever you’ll be doing tonight – whether it’s trick-or-treating, watching scary movies, having friends over for a party, or just hanging out at home – I hope and pray that you’ll be safe, prayerful, and have a Christ-glorifying fun weekend! 🙂

We are God’s Watchmen

 

This structure was a typical watch tower in ancient Israel. Though not as seemingly impressive as many towers today, it served a great purpose for God’s people. The men assigned to the tower (watchmen) were responsible for being alert to any dangers coming from afar towards the city, and warning the people in good time to save themselves (see 2 Samuel18:24; 2 Kings 9:23). God draws a parallel from this all-important job to the purpose of His prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 33).

Spiritual Watchmen

The prophets of the Old Testament were God’s spiritual watchmen (v. 7-9), tasked with warning the Israelites of their sin and rebellion towards God, that they may turn from their ways and be saved from impending judgement. As with regular watchmen, the prophets were held accountable for the destruction of the people if they were not faithful in warning them of their sin (v. 8). However, if they were obedient to the Lord and warned the people, the responsibility was passed on to each person according to how he chose to respond to God’s warnings (v. 9). The Israelites tried to argue, “the way of the Lord is unjust!”, in a futile attempt to justify themselves and make their own escape; but the way of the Lord is true justice, and the people had become enslaved in their own rebellion, bringing about judgement on themselves (v. 19).

What’s the point?

“Our offences and sins weigh us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?” (v. 10)

The Israelites were burdened by the depth and devastation of their sin. Over centuries and generations, they had swung back and forth on a spiritual see-saw between repentance and rebellion. This cry against God was as if they were saying, “well, since we’ve sinned so greatly, what’s the point in obeying God? We’re going to get judged anyway. We might as well just continue doing what we want while we can.” But God’s response is simple and perfect: “As surely as I live,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (v. 11). Because of God’s great love toward mankind, and His desire for all people be saved (2 Peter 3:9), a way of salvation was available; even in the midst of brutal rebellion! The way for the Israelites to avoid judgement was to repent of their sin – abandoning a life lived for themselves and their own purposes – and turning their hearts and souls wholly to God.

We are God’s Watchmen

Just as the prophets of the Old Testament were called to be watchmen for the people of Israel, so we as Christians are called to share the gospel with unbelievers, and to warn our brothers and sisters of sin:

“Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” Acts 20:26-28a

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the men and women of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” 2 Timothy 3:16

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20a

Are you a faithful and obedient watchman? Do you warn people of sin and judgement, calling them to repent and be baptised? Do you preach the whole, true message of the gospel (such as the one found in Acts 2:36-40)? Are there Christians you know who are struggling in some way against sin, who need gentle correction and encouragement? Pray for opportunities to share the gospel, and ask God to help you to be someone who directs their fellow brothers and sisters to Christ.

God’s Gospel of Grace: Part 3, Salvation

 

“But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,”

Romans 4:5

This post is part 3 in a series that looks holistically at the gospel – you can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here. So far we have seen our need for salvation (the why), and our Saviour (the who). This post will wrap it all up by looking at Salvation (the what).

Works vs. Faith

“But to him who does not work, but believes…”

Works and faith in regard to salvation are completely opposed to each other. The former brings to mind the belief that one is saved, or made right, by working for it (doing good things). Good works are by no means bad to pursue – but they should spring out of a thankfulness of our salvation, which comes not by works, but by faith. Doing good things will not get you into heaven, nor do they guarantee you a place in heaven if you’ve been more good than bad. Only faith in Christ will get you into heaven and save you. If we could earn our salvation by good works, then God would owe us salvation; but it cannot be achieved by human merits, therefore faith is a free gift to those who believe, given out of His great mercy and kindness.

Counted Righteous

“… his faith is accounted for righteousness,”

When God, who is the justifier of all who have faith in Jesus, gives the gift of faith to someone that they might believe in Him, that person will fully understand and acknowledge three main things: first, that they are a sinner (imperfect); second, that they cannot attain perfection on their own, and therefore need a Saviour; and third, they will relinquish all attempts at relying on any good work to make them ‘good’, and get them into heaven; and instead trust in Christ’s work on the cross as the means for their salvation. Faith (trust) will lead to completely understanding that it is not what we do that makes us good, or righteous, before God – but only faith in Jesus Christ and His work will result in righteousness being counted to us. This is what saves us! We do nothing to earn our salvation, it is a completely one-sided transaction – when we put our faith in Christ and repent (turn away) from a life of sin, He takes our sin, and we get His righteousness. This righteousness is what saves us from judgement and punishment, and instead places us in a perfect, loving relationship with God – what an incredible gift!

And this incredible gift is the good news – the gospel – and we should be so enamored, so amazed by the glory of God in this wonderful gift, that we share it with all people we know, and say with the apostle Paul: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes”!

I encourage you to consider deeply the wonder of God’s grace toward us; the fact that even though we have not done, and cannot do, anything to earn our salvation, yet He freely gives it as a gift through faith to all who believe. Share it with all you know, and never cease giving thanks and rejoicing in our great God!

God’s Gospel of Grace: Part 2, Saviour

Emilyandme

“But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed… through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all … (have been) justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

Romans 3:21-22, 24, 26

This is part 2 of a series called God’s Gospel at Grace, which is looking at the gospel in depth regarding sin, the Saviour, and salvation. I would recommend reading the pre-series summary first here, and then Part 1 here.

The picture above is of myself (right) and my friend Ellie* (name changed for privacy). When I met her, I was not a Christian, and my ideas and impressions of Christians I had formerly known were that they were unkind, judgemental, narrow-minded and very, very boring. What a refreshing experience meeting Ellie was! She, and her friends, were the greatest example of grace, appreciation and welcome (AND fun!) that I had ever encountered. She faithfully shared the gospel with me, answered all of my questions, and over a period of time helped me to better understand who God is and what His gospel meant for me. After a LOT of research into the historicity and validity of the bible (I recommend this book as a great resource!), I had faith and put my trust in Christ as my Lord and Saviour! Today, October 1 2014, marks 3 years since I became a Christian – what an appropriate day to begin writing about our Saviour and His gospel!

Background

Earlier in Romans Paul stated that God’s provision of righteousness is through faith (1:16-17). From then on, his goal was to sufficiently prove the sinfulness of humankind, to present the reason behind the need for this provision. As mentioned in the last post: forgiveness makes no sense, in fact is not needed, if there is nothing to forgive. So Paul’s argument for the sinfulness of humankind provides sufficient evidence of this: that we need to have righteousness provided for us, since we cannot achieve it ourselves. When he says that this righteousness has been “witness by the Law and the Prophets” (3:21), he is referring to the fact that the Old Testament prophets and writers were compelled by God as they wrote, and spoke of His new covenant, or gospel, throughout their work (see Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:25-27, Isaiah 9:6-7; 53:1-12). Romans 3:21-25 looks at three very important aspects of Christ’s saving work on the cross: justification, grace, and faith.

Justification

An appropriate synonym for the word ‘just’ is ‘good’ – when someone is justified, they are declared good, righteous, or without fault. Paul’s presentation of mans sinfulness highlights the fact that man is not just (perfect) and cannot justify himself (become righteous) through any means on his own. Therefore, every person stands before God as a guilty sinner, because they do not have the perfection, or righteousness, necessary to be declared ‘good’ in the sight of God, who is the perfect judge. This is why our justification must come from outside of ourselves. The only way we can be justified is if a righteousness is provided for us. This is what Christ’s death and resurrection on the cross provides.

Since the punishment for sin is spiritual death (that is, eternal hell), the payment for our righteousness therefore had to be spiritual death. On the cross when Jesus died, He not only died physically, but experienced a very real separation from God – an unbelievable punishment for a perfect person to endure. And because Jesus is infinitely holy and perfect, the sacrifice He made by physically dying is infinitely valuable and powerful. It is enough to save anyone from all of their sin, that they may trust in His death and resurrection, receive His righteousness, and be declared just in God’s sight.

Grace

This leads to the second element of Christ’s work on the cross – grace. Or put another way, kindness or love which is undeserved. When you receive a gift for your birthday, you don’t deserve it – that is, you haven’t done anything to inherently deserve a gift – but a person gives you a gift out of grace. The same can be said of what happened when God provided a Saviour for humankind: a demonstration of perfect, undeserved kindness – grace.

God didn’t provide a way to be righteous because he had to – He did it so that His glory and His grace might be made obvious through our salvation (Romans 3:26). We are sinful and do not have the capability to be righteous – we also don’t deserve salvation; in fact, we deserve eternal punishment, because that is what sin results in – but God’s love and grace is demonstrated in that He was able to offer His Son as a perfect sacrifice on our behalf, so that Christ could take our punishment, and we could take His righteousness. This simultaneously displayed God’s perfect justice: the penalty for sin is death, so it must be paid – and we must have a perfect righteousness in order to be declared just before God – so in an act that was the Greatest Exchange in history, Christ took our punishment for our sin, and God attributed His righteousness to us who trust in Him. God swapped our sin for Christ’s righteousness. And this righteousness is ours, but it is based solely on the work of Christ. His resurrection is evidence that the payment was accepted by God (Romans 3:24), and therefore there is now no condemnation (punishment) for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

Faith

Finally, the last element of Christ’s work is faith. Before we go on, let’s break down the gospel so far:

  • We are born sinful
  • We must be perfect/righteous in order to be in right relationship with God, and go to heaven when we die
  • We are incapable of achieving perfection
  • Perfection/righteousness must be provided for us, through a means outside of ourselves
  • God provided Christ’s dying and raising back to life as the means for us to have perfect righteousness

Which leads to the next important question: how is this righteousness transferred? How does a person actually receive this righteousness? The answer: faith. Faith is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8) through grace. By God’s loving kindness (grace), and through hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17), faith is given to someone so that they may understand, trust and believe that Christ died on the cross and rose three days later, and that this act was done on their behalf, to save them from judgement because of sin. This faith, or act of trusting in Christ, is what leads to justification – when a person truly receives faith to believe in the gospel, they are pardoned from the guilt and penalty of sin, and declared righteous before God; having received Christ’s righteousness.

The gospel is the greatest and most powerful truth in the world – and we as Christians are never more loving than when we faithfully and truthfully declare it to others, that they may also receive faith and put their trust in Christ for salvation. And the gospel, in its awesomeness, should never cease to amaze those who have known it the longest – how wonderful a truth, that while we were living lives away from, and even in rejection of, God – He provided a way for us to be saved, to know Him as our Heavenly Father, and to one day be with Him after our time here. We have an amazing God!!

Some questions to mull over: If you are not a Christian: how do you respond to the truths laid out in the bible? What do you think of God’s act of sacrifice, out of love for you? Are you willing to trust not in yourself/others/the world, but in the only one who can save you from the penalty of sin? Are you willing to leave a life of sin (living for yourself) to live a life in God’s love, worshipping, loving and enjoying Him? I encourage you, if you’re at a point where you’re unsure/searching for answers, to seek out a good church in your area, or speak to a trusted Christian friend; or better yet, pray! Salvation comes through faith, and you can ask this of God by acknowledging sin in your life, and asserting that you want to trust in Him instead. Ask for forgiveness and for faith in Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross.

If you are a Christian: are you faithfully sharing the gospel with those around you? Are you praying regularly for opportunities to do so? Do you share the whole gospel, or just the ‘nice bits’? What is your reaction to the gospel now (appreciation, indifference, familiarity, interest?)? I encourage you to pray that God would reveal more of His magnificence to you through knowing His gospel, and Himself, more intimately.

God’s Gospel of Grace: Part 1, Sin

 

“There is no one who does good, no, not one… Destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Romans 3:12b, 16-18

This post is part one in a series of three that will look holistically at God’s gospel of grace. You can see the pre-series summary here. If this is your first time, you may like to read the ‘start here’ section first, which you can do by clicking here. The structure of this post comes from the outline given in the John MacArthur study bible, and is explained more in depth in one of his sermons on this passage, which you can view by clicking here – I highly recommend it as a must-watch!

A right understanding of forgiveness cannot be achieved without a right understanding of sin. Why? Because forgiveness doesn’t make sense if there’s no sin. If there’s no sin, there’s nothing to forgive. But as Christians we know that in Christ we have forgiveness – this implies that something needed forgiving – sin.

To understand this crucial starting point on which the gospel is built, we must turn our eyes to the Word of God to see what He has to say about it. The book of Romans is one of my absolute favourites, it very accurately details the wonder and glory of God’s goodness in light of our depravity and futility. The general theme of Romans is Righteousness; that is, being right/good/perfect, in thought, word and deed, in the sight of God. Paul explains throughout the book that man is not righteous, that only God is righteous, and that the gospel is the only way a person can become righteous in God’s sight. To go a bit deeper, let’s look at chapter 3:9-20 in detail.

The Courtroom, the Judge, the Accused

The language Paul uses as he writes throughout this passage is judicial; complete with an arraignment, an indictment, a motive and a verdict. A judge’s responsibility in the court of law is singular: uphold the law. When a law has been broken, the judge must cast a decision that will enforce a right punishment against the accused. Paul has set up a courtroom, if you will; with God as the holy judge, and humankind as the accused.

The Arraignment

“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.” Romans 3:9

Whenever the New Testament text refers to Greeks/Gentiles, they are referring to anyone who is not Jewish. In Romans 2 Paul had already discussed and confirmed the different ‘spiritual advantages’ of the Jews over the Gentiles. Gentiles have the moral law written in their heart, and also a conscience that acts as a mechanism by which God warns us when we are living in sin. The Jews’ advantage is this – that the law of God has been written down and taught to them. But even this, Paul says in verse 9, is to no avail – we are all under sin.

Sin is any nature that produces works, words, thoughts and attitudes that do not accord with God’s holy nature. This sinful nature is the human nature – when we are born, we are not holy and have a nature that contrasts God’s holiness; this nature then is evil. This is true of all people (Romans 3:23). There are a few arguments/evidences that attest to this: the fact that the wages of sin, or the result of sin, is death, and everybody dies, therefore all people sin (Romans 6:23); the evidence of past judgements – the flooding of the world, destruction of cities/nations, plagues, famines and other catastrophes – all a result of the sinfulness of humankind; but the best argument of all for sin, has been written by God Himself in His Word. This leads to verse 10, “As it is written…”

The Indictment

Paul makes 13 accusations by taking verses from the Old Testament as proof of the sinfulness of humankind. This form of Hebrew writing is called a Cheruz – “string of pearls”. It was a commonly used technique in rabbinic culture, where a Rabbi would string together “pearls of truth” from Scripture in order to make a point in his teaching. Since Paul was formerly a Pharisee, it makes sense that he would be familiar with such a technique. The indictment Paul gives in verses 10-18 comprises a description of the character, conversation, and conduct of people who are sinful.

Character: There is none righteous, no, not one (Psalm 53:3); There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become useless; There is none who does good, no, not one (Psalm 14:2,3 & Psalm 53:2). Since the fall of man in Genesis 3 (the story of how sin entered existence, which you can read here) every person is born with a sinful nature; that is to say, that their basic instinct is to not worship, honour or glorify God as God. We are completely and utterly devoted to the fulfillment and exaltation of ourselves in all that we do. And this isn’t news to us – a glance at man’s history, and the current state we are in as a species, sheds a lot of light on our nature. We are not basically good – we are evil. Only God is good, and since our nature opposes His, that makes us evil.

Conversation: Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practised deceit (Psalm 5:9); The poison of asps is under their lips (Psalm 140:3); Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness (Psalm 10:7). Jesus said in Matthew 12:34, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. What you think about and care about in your heart will be made evident in how you speak. James 3:1-12 describes the dangerous impact the tongue can have; that with the same mouth we praise the Lord, and also curse others and lie. The sinfulness of our nature impacts our speech, making it imperfect and unholy.

Conduct: Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known (Isaiah 59:7-8); There is no fear of God before their eyes (Psalm 36:1). It follows logically that who you are and what you say leads to how you act. A life lived in rejection of God will result in no true peace, joy or fulfillment – and this is a universal struggle that all people are aware of. No matter what you own, achieve, or possess, if God’s glory is not the end goal of everything you do, you will never know peace (Isaiah 59:7-8). In this passage Paul addresses the root problem of humankind’s sinful conduct: There is no fear of God before their eyes.

The Motive

There is no crime without a motive, and the root motive behind sin is a lack of a fear or understanding of God. It is written in Psalm 36 that the wicked do no have the fear of God before their eyes, and then in contrast in Proverbs 16:6, that by the fear of the Lord men will depart from evil. So we have the problem (no fear of God), and a solution (the fear of God leads to righteousness). Fearing God refers not only to a fear of judgement; but to a reverential respect toward Him, a sense of awe at just how vast and how great and how holy He is. True fear of God does not inspire panic, a desire to flee or a sense of dread; it causes us to be so amazed by all of who He is, that we can’t help but respond with worship and love. What drives your life is determined by your attitude toward God: do you reject Him, flee from Him? Or do you desire to worship, love and delight in Him?

The Verdict

We find the ultimate verdict in Romans 3:19, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law (everyone), that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God”. God is the perfect judge, and His perfect law is the standard by which we are measured. But we do not measure up – we are not perfect. We have not lived a life that is completely righteous. Therefore, our mouths are stopped – we have no defense, since the evidence against us (that is, our imperfection measured against God’s perfection ) is substantial enough for the judge to make a summary verdict: guilty. But, have hope – for God’s work as Judge did not end there!

The Gospel

In the light of sin, and how futile and desperate a position it places humankind, does the gospel now seem more or less glorious? So much more! Because even though under the law we deserve death as punishment for sin, God provides sufficient redemption, as seen in verses 21-24: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed” – we cannot prove ourselves perfect under the law, so redemption must come apart from the law – “The righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory (perfection) of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Sin requires just punishment from God, and the punishment is hell. The value of the punishment must always fit the value of the crime (this is true in our own legal system). Because God is infinitely holy and great, any sin committed is infinitely offensive, resulting in an infinite punishment (hell). And we cannot rescue ourselves from this, because we cannot be perfect or righteous; we need to be able to claim someone else’s perfection, someone else’s righteousness, if we are to be saved from punishment. So when Jesus offered up His life on the cross, He wasn’t just dying for us – He was dying so that God’s justice would be satisfied, His blood being the payment that clears our guilt – so that God as the holy judge would be able to look at Christ’s suffering and death in place of our own! So that in God’s sight, we might have the righteousness of Christ apart from the law, and so be saved from an eternal punishment – freely given by His grace! How amazing!

I’m excited to write the next post, which will be part 2 – the Saviour. Knowing Christ and His work on the cross is the foundation of our salvation, and is a constant joy for me to learn more about! I hope this post was helpful and enlightening to you. God bless!