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Health Care, Fear and the Christian Life

Don’t Be Afraid – Russell Moore

It is a sad day … no, not about health care. It is sad to see so many, I would even venture to say a majority of fellow believers (many possibly assumed believers of the verbally violent conservative bent) controlled more by their affections and longings for a temporal, earthly kingdom that will pass away, yes, even America with all of its greatness, instead of the eternal kingdom ruled by Jesus with His might and power that will never pass away. It is sad to see fellow believers more mournful for the loss they feel of their “rights” or privileges that are gifts of grace to begin with, than upset about the tragedy of sin in their own hearts or the tragedy that a great majority of people around us will go to hell under God’s just punishment (think Jesus looking over Jerusalem and weeping). It is sad to see believers more willing to voice their outrage, anger and fear over legislation that will come and go (all the while ignoring His sovereign authority over that legislation to begin with) than voice their commitment to the Gospel and commitment to solid doctrine.

I am not without fault in these areas. I’ve learned the hard way in the not-so-distant past. This isn’t to say I didn’t struggle with these affections during this recent process even. This does not mean I don’t hold the same convictions I’ve always held. And it doesn’t mean I withhold commentary on points of conviction or withhold my involvement in the political process. If anything, we need more and improved discourse concerning all these issues and more to come. It is unfortunate public discourse has devolved into “tweet” snippets of useless rhetoric that does little to address actual issues.

What Is Christmas About? – The Good News of An Objective Salvation

Re-post from December 24, 2008.

Thankful For the Active Obedience of Christ

J. Gresham Machen on the Active Obedience of Christ:

“Do you see? Christ has passed the test. He has earned the reward. Heaven has been secured by his perfect obedience to God’s law. And he did not do all this for himself as if he needed to earn heaven for himself. He did all this for his people – even for you, O believer! On your behalf, he actively obeyed, thereby saving you and placing you beyond the possibility of ever becoming unrighteous again. Your status is secured eternally – what a great hope!” So when you comprehend the full obedience of Jesus Christ – both active and passive – you understand why Dr. Machen had such great hope as he lay upon his deathbed. In his own words, “How gloriously complete is the salvation wrought for us by Christ! Christ paid the penalty, and He merited the reward. Those are the two great things that He has done for us.” No hope without it! Complete hope with it!”

The Active Obedience of Christ – Wayne Grudem:

“If Christ had only earned forgiveness of sins for us, then we would not merit heaven. Our guilt would have been removed, but we would simply be in the position of Adam and Eve before they had done anything good or bad and before they had passed a time of probation successfully. To be established in righteousness forever and to have their fellowship with God made sure forever, Adam and Eve had to obey God perfectly over a period of time. Then God would have looked on their faithful obedience with pleasure and delight, and they would have lived with him in fellowship forever.

For this reason, Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience to God in order to earn righteousness for us. He had to obey the law for his whole life on our behalf so that the positive merits of his perfect obedience would be counted for us. Sometimes this is called Christ’s “active obedience,” while his suffering and dying for our sins is called his “passive obedience.” Paul says his goal is that he may be found in Christ, “not having a righteousness of [his] own based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil. 3:9). It is not just moral neutrality that Paul knows he needs from Christ (that is, a clean slate with sins forgiven), but a positive moral righteousness. And he knows that that cannot come from himself, but must come through faith in Christ. Similarly, Paul says that Christ has been made “our righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30). And he quite explicitly says, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19).”

David, the Bread of Presence and the King of Glory

Then David came to Nob to Ahimelech the priest. And Ahimelech came to meet David trembling and said to him, “Why are you alone, and no one with you?” And David said to Ahimelech the priest, “The king has charged me with a matter and said to me, ‘Let no one know anything of the matter about which I send you, and with which I have charged you.’ I have made an appointment with the young men for such and such a place. Now then, what do you have on hand? Give me five loaves of bread, or whatever is here.” And the priest answered David, “I have no common bread on hand, but there is holy bread—if the young men have kept themselves from women.” And David answered the priest, “Truly women have been kept from us as always when I go on an expedition. The vessels of the young men are holy even when it is an ordinary journey. How much more today will their vessels be holy?” So the priest gave him the holy bread, for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence, which is removed from before the Lord, to be replaced by hot bread on the day it is taken away. – 1 Samuel 21:1-6

The Parable of the Sower

It has been said of this parable by many teachers in our various camps that each of these instances are representative of different types of believers, the mature and immature, the unfruitful (yet saved) and the fruitful. Yet the text of Matthew 13:3-9 (the parable itself) and Matthew 13:18-23 (the explanation of the parable by Jesus Himself) negates this faulty understanding.

There is only one who is saved in the end: the one who springs up by God’s power and produces fruit, not on account of the fruit itself that is produced (for we are saved by faith alone as Paul clearly articulates in Romans 4:1-25), but on account of the real, effectual, supernatural change that is made in a persons’ life by God’s Spirit in creating faith where there was none, being evidenced by the fruit (that is, authentic God-wrought faith is never alone (Martin Luther), but by God’s grace, it always produces fruit out of the faith He grants us, though we are still imperfect to be sure).

If you have true saving faith, there will be a sure change and shift in your life, a true love for the things of God, His Words, His actions, loving what He loves, hating what He hates, repenting of wickedness and leaning on Christ alone for your salvation and nothing else. That doesn’t mean there will not be struggling and fighting for these things against our wicked hearts. But it does mean that God’s power working in you will be plain and made obvious.

The Unreachable Demands of the Law of God

“For whoever keeps the whole Law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the Law.” – James 2:10-11

Our culture is strongly opposed to any idea of eternal judgment, wrath, torment, and separation from God because of wrong deeds we have done. Most people would say, “Sure I’ve done wrong things. But I’m no Hitler. I’ve raised my family well, I’ve provided for them, I’ve helped the homeless, helped orphans even; I’ve given to charities, I’ve given to church. Sure I’ve done wrong things in my life, haven’t we all? But surely those good things in my life will outweigh the bad, right? Surely the Lord or Saint Peter or whoever will let me through the pearly gates because I’m basically a good person.”

When weighing our worthiness to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, it is natural for all of us to instantly begin comparing and sizing ourselves up to others around us or in history. We then deceive ourselves into thinking that since we personally don’t see anything possibly worthy of eternal condemnation and punishment, then it must not be so in reality, objectively, outside of us. Yet, when weighing our worthiness or unworthiness, the Scriptures say nothing of the comparison of ourselves to others, but rather it compares us in relation to God and Him alone. Do you want to truly weigh your holiness (or lack thereof)? Then weigh it against the infinite holiness and majesty of God. Here is the place where you will see how far you fall short.

Now the unfortunate thing is that we have no ability naturally of ourselves to see the holiness and righteousness of God with which to compare ourselves to begin with, because we are spiritually blind and in fact we are, “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). But that is why the Lord gave us the Scriptures, so that He can sovereignly reveal Himself, by His Spirit alone. We must wait on Him and His illumination though.

But, by the grace of God, He has given us Scriptures that show us our lost condition and we have this verse in James that comes along and says, “For whoever keeps the whole Law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” How in the world is seeing our lost condition good news you say? Let’s continue, we’ll get to that.

Let’s just say for arguments’ sake you keep the Ten Commandments, except that you break one. According to this verse in James, you are now accountable for the whole thing, for you have become a transgressor of the Law. One sin, one falling short of the Law of God, and you are done for. And being “done for” means the Lord punishes you for eternity, because the One offended is infinitely and eternally holy.

But why is this so with the Law? Why is it breaking one Law constitutes breaking the entire thing? James explains why when he says, “For [God] who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the Law.” Whereas we want to cut each commandment up into little pieces (originally given to us in that way so the Lord could give us specifics and no wiggle room), to the Lord, the entire Law, the summing up of God’s revealed decrees, is a whole unit. It isn’t segmented, it is one organic piece, like a window. If you break one part of the window, the window is broken. So it is with the Law of God.

Then, Jesus came along and summed up the whole Law when He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30) If we can say with Jesus that this is the summing up of the whole Law (Ten Commandments and otherwise), then it is right to say that breaking any one of the commandments of God is ultimately failing to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” So if you commit murder, you have failed to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” and you are thus subject to the judgment of God for all eternity. If you commit adultery, the same stands. And so it is with all the commands of God.

Here’s where the news just gets worse for humanity, though. All of us can attest that we probably have not broken just one single commandment. If we can say that, we’re probably deceiving ourselves. But how many of us would say we’ve broken all Ten Commandments?

Many deceitful teachers of all kinds love to preach from the Sermon on the Mount. “Ah,” they say, “I just love those passages because the instructions are just so simple. I teach these things to myself daily … along with Buddha’s wise teachings. Don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t give false testimony … yes, what great passages of teaching us to do what is right.” Really? It is obvious to me when someone says they love the Sermon on the Mount in the way stated above that they have absolutely no idea what Jesus is actually saying in it. It is a hard sermon.

Let me quote you just one passage: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).

Here’s my question: just going on the text above as the definitive rule of whether or not you will go to hell based upon just one day’s worth of deeds, how many of us have broken this Law? How many of us have been unjustly angry at someone? All of us, in some form or fashion have committed this and do so daily. I myself do this all the time and am desperately wicked as a result.

So is Jesus merely giving instruction on how to live? Or is He doing something else? Could it be Jesus is showing that performing external deeds and adhering to the Law in that manner totally neglects our hearts’ disposition in obeying it in the first place? If you have been angry with anyone, ever, Jesus is calling you a murderer and you are thus liable to judgment. Let that sink in. I am a murderer. And that is just one Law that Jesus refines. Theft? Adultery? Go through and read what Jesus is saying. It is quite radical and shines a spotlight upon our ruined natures. We are desperately wicked.

All of this shows that the Sermon on the Mount was not meant to just give us more instruction to follow, because based on Jesus’ principle, it is absolutely impossible for fallen man to adhere to the Law in order that he can be saved. The Sermon on the Mount raised the bar of the Law to a level that shows us we are lost, ruined and unable to do that which God commands.

Where is there hope in all of this? What a bleak picture for humanity! And with the current cultural climate so obsessed with positive thinking therapy/salvation, it is no wonder no one wants to hear these things. The truth is very difficult to believe, which is exactly why we need the Spirit’s working in us to show us its truth and validity.

Praise God He sent Jesus to do that which we could never do, so that by trusting in Him alone, we gain all that He merited in His morally perfect life. Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, right before he starts going through the refining of the Law of God, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18). Until what is accomplished? The fulfilling of the Law of God by Christ Himself.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law of God because He is the last Adam, the perfect Savior who accomplished all that we infinitely couldn’t. Whereas Adam, as humanities representative, failed in the task given to him by God, Jesus as the last Adam succeeded as the representative of all those who trust in Him alone (and not their works!) to bear their deserved wrath on the cross and credit to them all the rights and privileges earned during His earthly life.

God’s Law stands and we are required to uphold it for the glory of God, but also for own eternal futures’ sake. However, as shown above, we are incapable of upholding it ourselves and are thus thoroughly lost. Therefore Christ came and did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves, that by trusting in Him and His work, you will be saved from the coming day of judgment upon all people for all time.

The message of the Law is not one merely of giving us instruction on how to live. It is primarily about Christ and His bearing the demands of the Law on behalf of His people. The Law is a mirror we hold up to expose how far we fall short of the glory of God, and yet at the same time it points to a great Law-bearer, who came and suffered wrath in our place for all the laws we have broken and then credits us with His perfect life and righteousness. There could be nothing better!

Our Judgment Landing on Christ

Tonight, I was reading through chapters three through five of Lamentations and Hebrews eight and I noticed a giant correlation between these chapters in both the Old and New Testaments. The lesson of Lamentations, or at least one lesson amongst many, is that God is serious about sin and its resultant judgment. If you test Him with your unrepentant sin, He will bring you to nothing, mercifully emptying you in hopes that you will see His faithfulness to keep you from pursuing that which injures the glory of God and thus you. Yet if you continue in it, He may be done mercifully intervening with trials that He means to move you toward repentance and faith and trust in Him and thus leave you to your sin. This is a frightening prospect and is in itself judgment.

This should give us great pause and reflection upon our own lives and the wickedness therein. We are depraved sinners, who, even in good things transgress His holy law with motives that are not set on exalting Christ and the glory of His grace in every way. We infinitely fall short of the glory of God. Praise Him there is mercy in Christ! But may we not be evil and abuse it to our detriment! We must be on our guard.

So the overall theme of Lamentations is that God does judge sin (being that the book was written in the aftermath of God’s punishment against Jerusalem), even in those He had made a covenant with. Yet He is faithful to those who mourn their sin and seek Him, who wait on Him to act in their hearts and thus turn from those things which displease Him, only by His power. He is faithful to forgive us our debts, yet He is a just judge who rightfully acts for His own glory and name (for what in the universe is there that is better to stand up for than the glory of God and His honor?).

In Hebrews, we have an excellent picture of Christ fulfilling the old covenant within the new. But before I get to that, we must understand the old covenant first. The old covenant, the very covenant that the people of Jerusalem had broken prior to God judging them, which happened right before the context of Lamentations, is where God said, “If you are faithful and perform all that I have commanded according to this covenant, things will go well with you; if you don’t, they won’t go well with you and I will inflict my wrath upon you (my paraphrase if you can’t tell).” And that is exactly what God does.

Prior to Lamentations, Jerusalem had done what was evil in the sight of the Lord and their hearts were far from Him, disbelieving Him and turning to worthless idols and wickedness. Therefore, in anger that the Lord slowly and patiently held back, not desiring to inflict wrath on them from His heart because He loved them, He waited no longer and punished them to defend the honor of His name. And this wasn’t just a quick deal. He inflicted wrath on them worse than that of Sodom! With Sodom at least the Lord consumed them with fire and that was it. But with Jerusalem, their pain and misery lasted a long time. And it was ugly. People died of starvation and even ate their own children, amongst other things. Yeah, it was bad. People that had lived in luxury were now begging on the streets and their children were starved with no where to turn. The Lord had brought them to nothing and they were the scorn of the nations.

The Lord takes His glory, honor and name seriously. He is just. This is little studied attribute of God these days, yet it is vital to get this before we can get His amazing grace. If we defile His glory and honor with our words, thoughts, actions, and deeds, He will consume us with His burning anger. Even now, in the time after Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, is this the case. He is the same now as He was then. This is very sobering and should display to us the unfathomable justice of His character and the utter wickedness and proneness to sin of our own hearts.

Yet, the whole reason Christ came was precisely because the old covenant with all of its regulations and stipulations, could never be upheld by mankind in order to attain salvation. We are a doomed people if we attempt to win favor with God through our religious working and toiling. Just look at Jerusalem in Lamentations!

But why is this so? Because by our works, even the best that we can offer for a lifetime of good deeds, cannot make us right with this just and holy God presented to us in Lamentations (who is the same God today). Our offense against God is infinite, so even one transgression is punishable forever. Yet how many sins do we commit every minute? “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). So without faith, even our good deeds are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

But Christ came and fulfilled the covenant from our side precisely because we were unable to. All religions, in some measure, say the exact same thing, just in different ways. “Do this to get right with God, or to become (a) god,” or some other variation. And in fact, the first covenant said something to this effect. Regardless, the message is the same. But in the Gospel that God had unraveled over the course of history, by the work of Christ, the Son of God becoming a man, He did everything perfectly on our behalf and even took the punishment that we deserve in Himself at the cross, and rose from the grave proclaiming victory over death – all this for those who believe and trust in Him alone.

Without Christ we are hopeless, just as Jerusalem was in Lamentations, save God’s mercy toward them. As Hebrews 8:7 says, “For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.” Indeed. Then as it says right before this verse in Hebrews 8:6, “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” And that promise is the hope of the glory of God for all eternity. Nothing can satisfy the human soul more. It is what we were made for!

The new and final covenant is a covenant in which instead of God telling us to do this and do that to get right with Him (as in the first covenant, the old one), Christ Himself fulfills and does it all perfectly on behalf of those who trust Him for salvation! And not only so, but He also takes the punishment that we earned for our wrong-doing against God in Himself on the cross, removing all obstacles between us and Him forever. And you think the picture in Lamentations of God’s judgment is dreadfully awful? We have absolutely no idea how infinitely and dreadfully awful the cross was for Jesus who experienced the wrath of God for us who believe in Him. And He did all this in love toward us, that we might glorify and enjoy Him forever, the very hope of heaven itself.

Christ is our only hope of salvation, for it is He who attained it for us. And this very grace in the Gospel is the only way to change from the heart and grow in His grace. May we turn to the Lord and seek His infinite grace to save and deliver us, both those who have yet to trust Him, as well as those who have.

It is Finished

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” – John 19:30

These are some of the most hope-filled, joy-inflicting, theologically deep words ever spoken by our Savior, for the edification of His people. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” we who love Christ have much reason to rejoice. Paul expounded upon this joy in Romans 5:6-11, amongst other places. With such force, Jesus makes a proclamation about eternally deep things that have just occurred upon the cross. What are these things? What is it that had been accomplished?

1. The wrath of God was satisfied.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding” (Psalm 111:10). God is holy. In American evangelicalism, it seems we have largely forgotten this aspect of God’s character, yet it pervades everything He does. Sermons are not preached on it though. Why? Because it is highly uncomfortable. We are a comfortable nation. We like things in bite-size chunks of information. We like positive, life-affirming messages, not dark, gloomy, terrifying messages. Yet as Tim Keller has said, “If we play down harsh doctrines, we will gut our pleasant and comfortable beliefs too.” God’s holiness makes us squirm, as it should. But we must not play it down, but proclaim it. The whole Gospel only makes sense when we see what it is we are being saved from. Merely preaching “God loves you” does no justice to the entirety of the Gospel we proclaim. The question is, “How has God loved us?” The Scriptures present all of this very clearly.

When seeing the holiness of God, Isaiah, one of the holiest men in Israel himself (who, if anyone had reason to stand because of righteousness, it was him), was shaken to the core of his being, riddled with fear, totally undone because of his own uncleanness in the presence of this holy, majestic, spiritually terrifying God who has always existed and full of infinite power that cannot be measured by any man. Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Isaiah, despite his holiness, was a sinner in the presence of the God of the universe that could crush him with a thought. This is the God we serve and should serve with a good level of reverential fear.

What does His holiness entail? Justice and righteous. It entails His Creator rights, to do whatever He wants with His own creation. God owes no one mercy. Isaiah got it. He knew he had no right to demand anything of God whatsoever. All he could do was fall on his face and beg for mercy because of His justice that should have squashed him. No one can tell God what He should or should not do. Job got it. At the end of the book, he put his hand over his mouth and said he had uttered things he did not understand against God. We throw the terms justice and righteousness around a lot in songs and in conversation, but what does it mean that God is just and righteous in relation to sinners, like us? It means that because of our sin, we should be thrown into the Lake of Fire described in detail in Revelation and spoken by Jesus in the Gospels more than any other person. These are not my words, they are Scripture and we must speak what it says boldly, without fear, yet do so in love.

Do we feel the weight of that in our souls, even as believers? Do you feel that bad off because of your sin? Consider how your sin has offended an infinitely holy God. Well we all should feel it, because the degree to which we feel our sinfulness and how much it has offended God on this infinite level, is the degree to which we will appreciate the work of the Gospel for us and specifically the words, “It is finished,” knowing that should have been us on that cross, for all eternity. Yet Christ, in His willing, submissive love, substituted Himself for those the Father had given Him before the world was made (John 6:37, Ephesians 1:3-6). Jesus drank the full cup of God’s just anger and wrath that had to be satisfied. And He did this in our place. So even as believers, though we have confident access to the throne of God through the blood of Christ, even when we sin, we should stand in awe and wonder that we have been spared an eternity of torment, knowing that by God’s choice alone and His doing in you (bringing you to faith by His power), we were spared by the work of Christ, not because of anything we’ve done past, present, or future, but simply because of God’s good pleasure to save us. Christ took God’s wrath in Himself upon the cross for us who believe. And after it was completed, He proclaimed these words, “It is finished.”

2. God’s name had been vindicated for having passed over former sins.

In Romans 3:25 we are told that, “God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God�s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” Because God is holy, as discussed in the last point, he must damn sinners who come into His presence. He cannot just sweep our sins under the rug as many suppose. “Oh come on in you rascal sinner you.” No. The person who has offended an infinitely holy God must pay the penalty of eternal death. This is justice. Yet, how was God to maintain the honor of His name while forgiving sinners? How in the world is that possible? Only in the cross was this possible.

For God to let sinners pass into His presence without them being judged shows no regard for the most exalted, most valuable thing in all the universe: Himself, His name, His being. Therefore something had to be done. And that thing was the sacrifice of His own Son in our place, as our substitute. Only in the sacrifice of His own Son could God vindicate the justice and honor of His name for having passed over sins previously committed that had not been dealt with, while at the same forgiving sinners who through faith are declared righteous. So the cross was 1) for God, and then 2) for us. When Christ spoke those three words, God’s name, the highest value in the universe, had been preserved from being unjust, while at the same time, we sinners who slapped God in the face with our wickedness, were forgiven and declared righteous in His presence by the blood of Christ. Stand in wonder at such infinite power and yet infinite love displayed in the cross!

3. God’s people were justified.

Not only had God vindicated his own name and honor, declaring Himself to be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus … and not only had Jesus taken the wrath of God in Himself on the tree, taking the sins of all who would believe and willingly had them placed upon His own head, sins that were made His very own … but He also gave us His perfect record in exchange. When Jesus uttered those three words, we had been declared righteous in the presence of this just and holy God who should have destroyed us for all eternity. That was what we were owed. We earned wrath, it was the wage for our deeds. Yet we received mercy because of God’s great love for us from all eternity in declaring us pure and spotless, without blemish, because of Christ’s accomplishments and record before the Father.

When Christ said, “It is finished,” the Father now saw His people whom He foreknew (fore-loved) in relation to His own Son. The righteous standing He possessed before the Father is now our righteous standing forever. The emptying of Himself on the cross and the justification of our souls by His blood, making us to stand upright in the presence of God was now finally completed. No more would God be separated from His people. The work of Christ had finally been completed.

All of this together means that, as believers, on our worst day of Gospel-abuse (abuse of grace by sinning and taking advantage of God’s forgiveness) and God-dishonoring behavior, we are never so bad off that God’s eternal declaration that we are righteous will become null and void. Would you exalt your sin to the level of God by making the supposition that it is too bad for Him, in His infinite power, to forgive? We are His! Our fate was sealed in the cross before we were born, and in time He brought it to pass that we should be born again by His Holy Spirit and thus granted the gifts of faith and repentance. We should then mourn for the sin in our lives and how it grieves the Holy Spirit within us. Yet at the same time we should rejoice that our sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ, and when He said, “It is finished,” it was really done with! What hope!

But all of this also means that on what we perceive to be our best day, we have never arrived to a point where we do not need this Gospel grace. Isaiah 64:6 says that even our righteous deeds are like filthy rags, tainted with impure motives, though we do not realize it. We have competing affections in our hearts that moves us to idolatry even in those good works, whether idolatry of the approval of others or idolatry of how good we think we are now. As David Phillips used to say, we need to repent of our repentance, because many times even that is tainted with sin. On our best day, we should be very cautious that we pursue the mercy of God all the more in reverential fear, knowing that though God should have rightfully crushed us, yet He spared us. So do not become arrogant because of the grace you have received, as if you are a more righteous person over others, but stand in fear that the mercy of God did not pass you over and leave you in your sin, in order that you may be humbled in His presence and serve Him with a right heart.

4. The evil works of Satan and his angels was totally undone.

At the cross there were three points at which suffering was coming upon Him: by 1) the wrath of man, 2) the wrath of Satan, and 3) the worst, the wrath of God. But on this point in particular, the greatest Satanic attack ever devised and carried out was directed at Christ. Satan knew that if Jesus could be made to come down off the cross and disobey the Father, the divine plan would have been undone and Satan would have succeeded in his devious plans to thwart God. Yet Christ obeyed to the point of death, even death on a cross. He willingly submitted to the infinitely humbling terms of what Calvary meant for Him. And in doing so, Jesus triumphed over all the forces of darkness and made them a footstool for His feet. Just as Genesis 3:15 prophesied at the very beginning of man’s fall into sin, so it came to pass, that Satan bruised Christ’s heal on the cross, but Christ crushed Satan’s head by the cross, and sealed it in the resurrection. All the forces of wickedness could not hold down the Prince of Glory.

Satan has been defeated and he knows his time is short before the Day of the Lord comes and he is cast into the Lake of Fire. In the mean time, he seeks to devour and take out as many as he can by blinding the minds of unbelievers, keeping them in darkness, and keeping them from seeing the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ. May we pray for God to remove their blindness (whatever unbelievers are in your lives) and give them eyes to see Christ in all His magnificence, that they may be saved through God-granted, supernatural faith.

But for the believer, what eternal harm can be done to us by Satan? Paul said, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). When Jesus said, “It is finished,” Satan was undone and no longer could he hold the children of God in darkness by his evil works. All the frightening demonic possessions, influence of those in power over others, influence in destroying the church from within through destructive, heretical doctrines, and the torment inflicted by these workers of evil cannot keep God from saving His people. It has already been accomplished through the blood of Christ and nothing can stop Him from saving sinners. What a hope in evangelism!

“It is finished.”

What magnificent words coming from our Savior! Volumes and volumes could be written going into detail about all of the aspects of what was accomplished in the cross and in the resurrection, in the entirety of the Gospel itself even. At the end of John’s Gospel in the last verse of the last chapter, he says, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). The same can be said of what was accomplished for us at Calvary. The depths of God’s justice and power are clearly seen. So also His love and infinite mercy are perceived, that He would save anyone at all. We see how awful we are sinners that it would take the sacrifice of the Son of God to save us, and yet we see how much we are loved at the same time. And wow, the number of books that have been written over the course of church history concerning the work of Christ in His life, death, and resurrection is staggering. What amazing resources at our disposal! www.monergismbooks.com … get to reading! 🙂

May we all revel in the Gospel and what was accomplished in it for us, meditate on its implications for our lives, and because of it, be enabled and moved to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love all those in our lives just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us. Jesus said these things were the summing up of the whole law in the Old Testament, that is, loving God with every facet of your being and loving your neighbor as yourself. But we as sinners are incapable of doing this in ourselves. And so Christ Himself came and fulfilled the law on our behalf so that we can now do it to His glory, by His power working in us! Only the Gospel’s power enables us to do that which God commands of us.

John Owen said, “To suppose that whatever God requireth of us that we have power of ourselves to do, is to make the cross and grace of Jesus Christ of none effect.” We are dependent upon Him not only for every breath, but to do anything to His glory and honor. We are dependent upon Him even for our faith, from beginning to end. As broken sinners, how desperate are we for Him? Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). I pray we would believe and feel that. Fall on your face and rejoice for the mercy provided and completed for us through Christ! It is done! What freedom!

The Greatness and Sufficiency of Christ

Christ is our only hope in life and death. There is no satisfaction, no joy, no true everlasting happiness apart from Christ. God has spoken to us through creation. But more specifically, He has spoken to us in His Son, Jesus Christ, through His word, the Scriptures. What may be known about God, His eternal nature and His divine attributes, are clearly displayed to all in His creation (Romans 1:19-20). But we must know more in order to be saved because of our plight in sin. And God has spoken to us, loud and clear, in His word, the Scriptures, loudly proclaiming that through faith alone in Christ, His death and resurrection for your sins, you can be justified before the Father, that Christ’s perfect account is imputed to us when we believe in Him. We then stand justified because of Christ’s cross, His atonement for our sins. God has spoken to us in His Son (Hebrews 1:1-4). And not only does He save us for all eternity through faith in Him from sin, death, and hell, but He also is our comforter, our intercessor, our great High Priest while we are still in this world of sin. When trials, temptations, and pain come our way, our first inclination is to turn to people first for hope and comfort. And though it is necessary to obtain comfort from friends and family, the comfort they can provide is finite and limited. So our first response to pain and trials must be to turn to Christ and then secondarily, turn to people. He is the great Physician, the great Care-giver, the great Counselor (Hebrews 4:15). There is no one that satisfies like Christ satisfies. During the past several days, I have found my hope and comfort in Him alone. Christ has strengthened me through fellowship with believers for sure. But they cannot provide the true fellowship I need from Christ alone. Though I desperately need fellowship with other believers, I need Christ 10,000 times more than I need them. And He gives me fellowship with Himself through their fellowship. But if I go to them alone and not to Christ, I will be left dry. I must fly to Christ first and then to believers fellowship. I could be stripped of all earthly things and Christ would satisfy me because He is my Rock, the great King of kings and Lord of lords. There is no one like Him. The point of trials is that we may turn from our sin and turn to Christ, for the unbeliever and the believer. For the unbeliever it’s a call to repent from sin and believe in the name of the Son of God, that you cast your all upon Him and His sufficiency. For the believer it’s a call to trust Christ all the more with every facet of your life, that in everything you set aside all idols, hope, and trust in anything that’s finite and contingent, and cast yourself upon the free grace and infinite mercy of Christ. As strange as it is to the natural mind, both blessings and trials are mercy from God. Yes even trials are mercy, and given in order that we may turn from sin, and trust in Christ alone. Where else can we go in seasons of suffering? What other hope is there? What other name under heaven is given to men by which we must be saved but by the name of Christ? I have found nothing in this world, not even relationships, not even marriage, to satisfy my soul as Christ does. He has been just astoundingly faithful and proven Himself true over and over again, in order that I must throw myself upon Him. He is lovely, holy, righteous, beautiful, trustworthy, all-encompassing in His glory.

Understanding Justification: Central to the Believer’s Relationship with Christ

On the cross, Jesus bore the sins of any who would believe in Him. He atoned for their sin and wickedness, having become a perfect sin sacrifice, He turned away the wrath of God, He then died, and rose from the grave, conquering sin, death, and hell, that anyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life in Him. Within the work of the cross though, there is a giant, eternal, judicial act that occurs where the Father declares the believing sinner righteous in His sight, having the very righteousness of Christ imputed to him or made the sinners’ own. We are clothed in the righteousness of Christ and on our worst day or our best day (morally speaking) we can do no better than what Christ has already done at Calvary. This is justification. It is finished. I cannot make this any clearer.

A problem that I see amongst many of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is the problem of sinning (which we all do), but then feeling totally unworthy to even approach the throne of God to confess those sins for fear of His wrath or disapproval. And in not approaching Him they then fall into more sin and thus the cycle continues, turning into a works-based approach to God. At the heart of this though is a misunderstanding or a lack of understanding (and believing with their hearts) in the justification that occurred at Calvary. At the cross, Christ became the believer’s sin substitute, he literally turned away the wrath of God, and the righteousness Christ earned has now become our own. At the cross, the Father declares the sinner to be righteous, because of Christ. So when we sin, that sin is covered by the blood of Christ. And not only so, but God couldn’t be more pleased with you, even in the midst of that sin, at that very moment! When the Father looks at you, even in the midst of your sin, He sees Christ! That is absolutely remarkable! You couldn’t have done any better than Calvary. It is through the lens of the cross of Christ that we view ourselves in relation to God now. As Romans 8:1 says firmly and confidently, “There is therefore now no condemnation in Christ.” Justification lies at the heart of the Gospel and is something we must grow in our knowledge of and belief in (by God’s grace) to even defeat the very sin that hinders us in approaching God.

Now, so that people reading this don’t go and take this to mean something it doesn’t, I want to clarify this point. Though the believing sinner is declared righteous in the sight of the Father based upon the free grace that comes from the cross of Christ, this does not mean that we continue the pursuit of sinning just because the Father declares us to be righteous. It means the opposite in fact. Because Christ has done this for us, how can we not but turn from our sin in great thanks? We are to never say in our hearts, “Well, because God sees me as He sees Christ, I can do whatever I want. I’m saved right? And my sin is covered … so why not?” I want to warn those of you who think this at some level: you may be in danger of having never possessed authentic, God-wrought faith to begin with. Why is this? If you claim faith in Christ, believing Him to be the only Son of God who became your sin substitute (the Gospel), and then continue living your life in a sinful, rebellious way, showing no real change, you may still be under the condemnation of God, not possessing true faith that saves. It is like saying, “I’m going to turn to the right,” but instead you continue straight ahead as if your words mean nothing. Your words don’t line up with your actions. It’s not about perfection though, because we all know, based on personal experience, that we all sin, every day, and fall short of the glory of God continually. It’s not about perfection, but it’s about direction. Do you struggle with your sin? Or do you pursue sin, unrighteousness and rebellion as if you were an unbeliever? Does your life look any different than that of the unbelieving world? You may need to check your faith for authenticity. It is a very dangerous thing to acknowledge salvation in Christ and yet show no change in your life from before your alledged salvation experience. You and those around you can have no confidence that you are saved if you live your life as if an unbeliever. It may be that you are one. The mark of the believer is one of change, but not perfection. It has been said many times, “Once saved, always saved.” But I prefer the phrasing I read off one of the articles on Monergism.com, “Once Saved, Always Changed.”

However, as believer’s, when we do sin, as a great friend of mine (Jon Dansby) put it, “We have the best theological view of ourselves in the midst of our sin.” When you are sinning, what do you have to offer God? Absolutely nothing. You are morally bankrupt. You’re a sinner through and through, and you know it. We are morally corrupt and defiled in our natural state, and this sinning could not make that any clearer. We trample on the glory of God every day with our sinning and our wicked hearts. And we deserve the hottest corner in hell for our actions against an infinitely glorious Creator, with whom there is no sin or unrighteousness. He would have been perfectly just to send us there for eternity with no mercy. Romans 3:9-18 comes alive in the midst of our sinning and is made to ring true of all of us. If we were to just leave it there, without any hope of being saved from this plight, then yes, we should all fear the eternal wrath and condemnation of God, and recoil in anguish at what befalls us, and we should mourn our eternal souls. But the doctrine of Justification comes in with mighty power and states that you the believer, a mere unworthy worm of a sinner, are declared by the great Judge, that could have poured out His wrath rightfully on you, to be righteous, because of the work of Christ on the cross. Because of His work, He has now, even in the midst of that sinning, imputed the righteousness He earned to you. What a great and glorious thing! What a great exchange! He took your sin from you, nailing it to the cross, and then gave you His righteousness! How glorious! What a great and wonderful, loving, merciful, kind, just God!

This is the hope that we exult in in the midst of sinning: that God declares sinners to be righteous through the cross of Christ. Understanding the judicial act that occurred at the cross and applying it to our lives is a life-long process of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And I pray for all of you, even those who don’t believe, that God would grant to you repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and in His wondrous work at Calvary.

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