Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Romans Series Message #44

Justification By Faith & The Believer’s New Identity In Christ
Romans 4:5

Most Americans who were outraged in 1995 when O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the murder of his wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ron Goldman, found some satisfaction when he was found guilty of another crime last October and then sentenced to 9 years in prison. And as outraged as most of us probably were at the jury that acquitted Simpson back in 1995—can you imagine how much more outraged we would have been if he had been found guilty but then pardoned by the President of the United States. And how much more angry would we have been if the President, on national TV, said to Simpson: “In this full pardon that I am granting you, you shall be seen and considered as a law-abiding citizen with full rights of citizenship in this country and shall be treated as one who has never even committed the crime for which you were found guilty.” Something like this would probably have caused a riot every bit as destructive as the LA Riot of 1992 after the four police officers who had been charged with beating Rodney King were acquitted.

I mean, how can a person who really did break the law and especially in such an unbelievable horrendous manner be told that he is not guilty and then be treated as a law-abiding citizen, be restored to the full rights of citizenship, and not have to be punished for his crime? Well, let’s turn to Romans 4:5 and find out.

Do you know what it means when God justifies the ungodly? It means that God says to people who have broken His law in heinous and horrendous ways that they are not guilty, and that they are to be treated as those who have not broken His law, as well as given full rights to God’s Kingdom, and will never be punished for their crime. And all because they placed their trust in Jesus Christ, Who took their place as their sin bearer and stood in their place as their law-keeper. You see, this is what it means to be justified by faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Now we have over the last couple weeks considered the fact that in justifying us, God has separated our sins from us, covered them with Christ’s blood, and will never remember them again. Thus, in justification, the believer is indeed freed from his sin and from the penalty of his sin.

But there is more to justification than that. You see, in justifying the believing sinner God also credits him or her as having perfectly fulfilled His law and thus all of His demands and expectations for Christ’s sake. That’s right—as one who has been justified—you are seen by God as a “law-abiding” citizen of His Kingdom even though in your experience you were and are a law-breaker.

Now how can this be? Because as our substitute, Christ obeyed perfectly on our behalf and in our place, every aspect of God’s Law and thus perfectly and completely satisfied everything God expects, requires, and demands of us. This is also what it means to be justified. This is what it means when we say that the moment a person places genuine faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the very righteousness of Christ is then imputed to him and applied to his account.

If we do not understand that in imputing Christ’s righteousness to our account—that God really and actually sees us as having perfectly fulfilled and obeyed everyone of His Laws, in Christ Jesus our substitute—we do not understand our justification and certainly can never totally enjoy it.

Look at Romans 8:1-4. Verse 4 makes the point that those who are in Christ, which is defined as those who no longer walk in the flesh but according to the Spirit—which according to verse 9—simply means you’re saved—are those who have had the Law of God fulfilled—and that means obeyed— on their behalf and in their place by Christ.

In other words, besides having all your sins removed from you and covered by the blood of Jesus and besides being granted all of Christ’s righteousness—you, as a believer in Christ Jesus have had the total requirements of God’s Law fulfilled on your behalf by Christ so that when God looks at you and your life—He sees that His Law has been perfectly fulfilled in you.

Paul, in Romans 10:4 makes the point that Christ is the end or the fulfillment of the Law to everyone who believes. The word “end” comes from the Greek word telos and means: the completion, the fulfillment, the accomplishment, the conclusion, or the end of something. In this verse then, Paul is telling us that Christ has completed, fulfilled, and accomplished all of the Laws requirements on our behalf and thus has brought to an end its righteous obligations and demands against us.

What this means is that in effect, as far as God is concerned, the person who has placed faith in Christ Jesus for salvation not only has been separated from all of his sin and separated from his sin record, he is also seen as one who, in union with Christ and because of Christ, has completely kept and obeyed all of God’s law perfectly and thus, has nothing to answer for as far as sin and the breaking of God’s law is concerned. In a sense, it is as though the believer has never sinned because in justification, God reckons to the believer’s account the fact that Christ Jesus perfectly fulfilled God’s Law on our behalf as our substitute.

Listen, if Christ was our perfect substitute as Scripture says and took all our sin upon Him and gave us all His righteousness then we are seen by God as those who are as righteous as He is because we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness. And in that righteousness of Christ’s, which is applied to our account, is the fact that Christ in His life perfectly obeyed and thus fulfilled all of God’s law on behalf of the people He came to die for.

If this is true, as the Scriptures teach it is, then we have to conclude that the believer is one who, in Christ and because of Christ, has no sin reckoned to his account any longer and in fact is seen by God as one who has perfectly kept His Law.
In other words, the believer is seen by God, in the act of justification, the moment he first believes and for all of eternity, as a person whose sin has been completely removed, covered, forgiven, and who has perfectly met and obeyed all the righteous requirements of God’s Law. Thus, as far as God is concerned, the justified sinner is not only declared righteous—in God’s sight he is righteous.

Oh, I know that we are not experientially righteous—that is—I realize that in our life experience we are growing in righteousness as we are fighting sin. But, in our position before God—as He really sees us—we have not only been declared righteous—we are righteous and this is our new identity in Christ.

Listen, God doesn't say things about us that aren't in fact true. And so if God says we are justified—which is what He declares us to be on account of Christ—then we must truly and really be righteous in our position before God. I have heard preachers say that when we are saved it is only a legal –pronouncement and that there's no real change in our identity and position before God at all, it is simply that God declares us righteous but does not necessarily see us as really righteous and totally sin free. That is not true.

There is a declaration, there is a legal statement but there is a second aspect and theologians call this the ontology of justification, or the reality of it and it is this that God not only declares us to be righteous based on the satisfying work of Christ, but in Christ, He makes us righteous in our position and standing before Him.

In other words, in declaring us righteous, God also gives us a new status, a new position, and a new identity before Him as one who in His sight is righteous.
The Westminster Confession of Faith of 1646 put it this way:

“Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.”

Now we are not made righteous in our experience—that is what happens in our sanctification as we grow in Christ to become as righteous as He says we are in our position before Him. And this is the reason why throughout the Epistles, the motivation for believers to live righteously is that they are righteous. In other words, our sanctification is the living out of the truth of our salvation. And so, you must see then, that when you were justified by faith you were not only declared righteous by God—you were made righteous by God. That which is declared about us by God can only be declared because in fact it is true that we have been recreated in His image and thus are righteous before Him. That is one reason why in Hebrews 2:11, Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers, because in a very real sense we bear the same family markings, the same family nature, which is the imputed righteousness of God.

I have told you before that one of my most favorite passages in the Bible is the story of the prodigal son. The reason for this is because it is not a story about a prodigal son as much as it is a story about a gracious merciful and loving father and His act of justifying his prodigal son. Turn to Luke 15:11-24. Now, we don’t have time to pull everything out of this story that is possible to pull out but I do want you to see how Jesus illustrates our justification in his story.

When the prodigal son came to his senses and began the journey home to seek his father’s mercy, he was surprised to meet his father out looking for him. (17-20)
What the son did when he saw his father we don’t know but we do know what the father did—he ran and actually the word in Greek is “sprinted” for his son and embraced him and continually kissed him over and over again before the returning boy had a chance to say a word. In other words, the Father had already forgiven him apart from anything the lad had done, said, or thought. But even though completely forgiven and restored to fellowship, the father could not have the prodigal son travel through the village and then enter into his home and sit at his table in the filthy sinful rags of the far country. So immediately, after expressing his forgiveness of and love for his wayward son, the father, in verse 22, tells his servants to “quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him.” Now the best robe was the father’s robe and so the son’s rags—his sinful rags, if you will, are removed from him and he is clothed in a new robe—the robe that was his father’s. In other words, the father’s robe in which the son was robed signifies the father’s own righteousness provided to the son as his own.

It's as if the son cannot receive all the blessedness of the father's table until he is robed in the right robe. And in addition to that—the Father’s desire was not to parade his son’s sin for all to see as it would have been seen in the rags his son was wearing from the far country—His desire was to remove every vestige of his son’s sin and cover him up with his own robe so as to turn the attention of onlookers from his son’s sinful disgrace to his own grace. And that glorified the father.
Listen the forgiven son is not who is glorified in this story—it is the wondrously gracious and forgiving father who is glorified.

I think the parable illustrates beautifully what happens when we place faith in Christ. The Father—not only forgives us and removes our filthy rags and garments of sin from us—He then gives us the best robe—His own robe—the robe of His righteousness and not only declares us righteous—He makes us righteous in our position and standing before Him as well. And then, just like the prodigal in verses 22-24, we are granted not only full forgiveness and full reconciliation but also the full privileges that come with being a son of God who has come of age and proved himself worthy.

Now why do I say that? Why do I say that we like the prodigal are treated by God as those who have come of age and proved themselves worthy? Because in giving the prodigal son his ring and in killing the fatted calf and in having a party for him, the Father is doing for him what was done for a son in those days who had come of age and had indeed proved himself worthy as a son before the Father. But—he didn’t prove himself worthy. In fact, all he did was prove himself unworthy. And this is true, but and this is a great big “but”—the Father in giving the son his own robe made him worthy. And that is exactly what He has done for us when we came to Him for forgiveness and reconciliation—He by virtue of applying Christ’s righteousness to us and Christ’s keeping of His Law to us—gave us His best robe and made us righteous, which makes us worthy before Him as a son.

But notice the older son’s reaction in verses 25-30. He is angry that his brother can be so easily and quickly and completely forgiven and not have to be made to grovel before the family as one who is shamed instead of welcomed and received by the Father. Interestingly enough, the only one in this story who remembers and brings up the sin of the forgiven sinner is not the Father but rather the older religious brother—the one who spurned and despised his father’s wondrous grace.
Again, God does not say things that are not true and He does not say things about us that are not true. If you have come to Christ for salvation then you are saved because you have not only been declared righteous—in God’s sight you are righteous.

CONCLUSION

As we close, look back at verse 24 one more time.

Notice that it says, “And they began to celebrate.” Listen, when you were saved—when you first placed your faith in Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior—God the Father declared you righteous and the party began. And the party will never ever end.

Listen, the Bible in Luke 15:7, 10, the same chapter we find the story of the prodigal son in, tells us that when you repented and placed your faith in Christ that there was great joy in heaven. And what is important to realize is that as great as this joy is in heaven the moment you first believed—there is a day coming when it will be even greater and much more intense and even more glorious.
That is day when in death you actually go home and arrive at that party in heaven that started the day you first believed. And that party only gets better as we spend eternity in a never-ending celebration of the grace, mercy, and glorious joy of our Heavenly Father as people who truly have been given a new identity in Christ Jesus. But until we get to the party—let us live as people who have a new identity in Christ—let us live righteous lives because in God’s sight we are righteous.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Romans Series Message #43

Happy Are Those Whose Sins Are Covered & Whose Sin
The Lord Will Not Take Into Account!

Romans 4:7b-8

One of the most exciting aspects of the New Covenant, which God promised in Jeremiah 31 and then instituted through Jesus Christ and His finished, completed, victorious, atoning work at the cross is that God does not remember the sins of those people regardless of whether they are Jews or Gentiles who enter into this covenant through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Look at it. Its in Jeremiah 31:31-34.

Now that covenant and that aspect of God not remembering our sins anymore is reiterated in Isaiah 43:25. Look at it.

In Isaiah 38:17, Hezekiah in talking to God, put it this way—“For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.”

The prophet Micah communicated the same thought when he wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit of God in Miach 7:19, speaking of God, that:

He will again have compassion on us. He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You [God] will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

David, the psalmist, restated the covenantal promise in Psalm 103:12 when he wrote: “As far as the East is from the West—so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

And then we see the promise reiterated in Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17.

Now, what part of “not remembering our sins anymore” do we not understand?

Or—maybe, I should rephrase my question to, “Which part of ‘God not remembering our sins anymore’, do we not believe?”

That is the issue—isn’t it?

Well, God knew that we who can grasp the doctrines of grace oftentimes can’t get a grip on His grace.

And so—let’s go back to Romans 4:6-8 and continue on with where we left off last Sunday—and let’s see if we can’t be persuaded to believe that God really has separated our sins from us and will not ever bring them back for us to face or deal with again.

We left off in the middle of verse 7.

The second part of verse 7 is not simply reiterating or restating the thought of the first part of the verse.

It, while still talking about how God views the believer and his sin is bringing up a different aspect from what was previously said.

Whereas, in v. 7a, the point is that in justification God separates the believer’s lawless deeds from him—here in v. 7b, the idea is that in addition to separating the violations of God’s law from the believer, God also covers the sin.

Thus, God first separates the sin from the person and then deals with it by covering it with something.

It is important to understand then that the sin had to be separated from the person in order to deal with it. Thus, our sin cannot be effectively dealt with until it is removed from us—that is separated from us so that its connection with us is broken.

And we know from 2 Corinthians 5:21 that our sin was separated from us and placed upon Chirst—that is imputed to His account.

And the reason for this is because it was to be judged by God in Christ.

Thus, it was to be dealt with while imputed to His account rather than imputed to our account.

Now please understand that once your sin has been imputed to Christ’s account—once all your sin has been imputed to Christ’s account—it is no longer on yours.

Thus, it is no longer a part of your ledger—so to speak.

And the only way it ever could be—would be for God to impute it back to your account—but that is an utter impossibility.

Thus, to think that you still have sin to answer for when you get to heaven means that God either did not impute all your sin to Christ’s account to pay for or He imputed it back to your account once it was paid for.

Besides both of these scenarios being impossibilities—they are also heresies.

OK, so God in v. 7a separated your sins from you and then in v. 7b, He covers all of your sins.

And what He covers all your sins with is the blood of Christ that was shed for our sins. Look at Hebrews 9:22.

Christ’s blood is what God covered our sins with—all of them—every single one of them—without any exceptions. Therefore, if God were to look at your sin—what He would see is blood—the precious blood of His Son that was shed at the cross for those sins and specifically as the payment for those sins because of God’s great love for the sinner.

This whole idea of God covering the sinner’s sins with the blood of His Son is pictured for us in the OT Day of Atonement.

On that day, the high priest took the blood of the sacrifice, which was made just moments before in the Temple courtyard, and he sprinkled it on mercy seat, which covered the Ark of The Covenant.

The Ark of The Covenant contained the Law of God, which the sinner had broken.

Without the blood being sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat—the broken law demands judgment from the sinner.

But when the broken law inside the Ark was covered by the blood of the sacrifice—God’s judgment was turned aside and His love and mercy were released to the sinner and the sinner was released from the burden, guilt, shame, and punishment of his sin.

This is what David is speaking of here in the second part of verse 7.

And there is a contrast of sorts found in Psalm 32 where this quote comes from.

Turn there if you will.

In Psalm 32:3-4, David admits that he had been trying to cover up his own sin but it was not until he confessed his sin and turned to God for forgiveness that his sin was really covered.

And what Paul is trying to communicate to us in using David’s words is that because sin has actually and truly been punished in Jesus, sinners can find relief from sin’s burden, guilt, shame, and punishment if they will come to Christ for salvation.

I find it interesting that on the Day of Atonement, prior to the priest sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat so as to signify sin being covered by the blood of Christ—another goat—the scape goat—had been brought to the priest and he had confessed the sins of the people over the head of this goat and then the goat was sent away into the wilderness.

Do you see the picture? Before the sins could be covered—they had to be separated from the sinner—which is exactly what Paul is teaching us in Romans 7.

First, our sins were separated from us and then they were covered by the blood of God’s perfect sacrifice—the Lamb of God—Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

And then in verse 8, Paul again quotes David. The quote is from Psalm 32:2.

In Psalm 32:2, the actual words are: “How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity.”

What David is actually saying is that since God has already removed the sins form the believer and covered them with the blood of the sacrifice that the only way a man could ever be held accountable for them again could only be possible if God were to impute them back to the sinner again.

Knowing that this is impossible, David simply makes the point that it is impossible for the man whose sin has been removed from him and covered by the blood to ever have his sins re-imputed to his account so as to be responsible and answerable for them again.

But, oh how we sometimes act, pray, feel, and live as though this were possible.

Listen, if you are still answerable for your sins—then you are still accountable for your sins, which means you are still responsible for your sins, which can mean only one of two possible things—either God did not separate your sins from you or after separating them from you and covering them by the blood of Christ—He re-imputed them to your account.

Both of which would be considered blatant heresy in any ancient church counsel.

Now let’s look at how Paul rendered the quote in Romans 4:8
“Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD will not take into account.”

The reason why, Paul renders David’s quote this way is because this is what David’s words mean—if God will not re-impute your sin back to your account—there is no sin to take into account when God looks at your life.

Listen, if your sin was removed from you and covered by the blood of Christ—there is simply no more sin to deal with—it has all been dealt with by God in Christ at the cross forever.

Which is why God says in Jeremiah 31:34b—“I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Now, Look back at verse 8. The actual word that the NASV translates as “not” is “never”. “Not” means “never”.

And “Never” means “never”. And it, like every other word in Scripture, must be taken literally and at face value.

Once God has forgiven our sin through Christ—what this verse is telling us is that He will never, never bring it up again.

He will never again bring it up in this life and He will never bring it up in the day of judgment.

And that is why David and Paul say that the person who sees this and believes this is “happy”.

So—if you don’t accept this and persist in the belief that your sin will be taken into account by the Lord on a future day—you won’t be happy—in fact, you can’t be.

Now, I understand that there are believers who really struggle with what we are talking about because they believe that at the Judgment Seat of Christ they will have to give an account for their actions after salvation, which obviously would include their sins.

Their real problem is that they don’t understand the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Whereas, most believers realize that the Judgment Seat of Christ is not about qualifying them for heaven or losing their salvation—they do think the believers' judgment is going to be having to answer for and lose rewards for the sins they committed after they were saved.

I love what John MacArthur says about this very concern.
“If that's true folks . . . . [the] Best thing to do is to live your whole life ungodly, get saved the minute before you die and then you're all right [because then there won’t be any sins after your salvation to be judged for or give an account for.”

Other believers have concluded that the Judgment Seat of Christ is where believers will be judged for unconfessed sins. In other words, the sins you forgot about and didn’t confess or didn't confess willfully will have to be paid for and you'll have to get zapped.

Again, let me cite MacArthur in answering this one.

“The Bible doesn't say that. That betrays a lack of understanding of confession. Confession has nothing to do with forgiveness. Forgiveness has already taken place. Confession is homologeo, to say the same thing. To agree with God you're a sinner and thank Him that He already forgave you.”

Then MacArthur goes on to explain what the Judgment Seat of Christ is all about.
“It is simply a place of rewards. There will be no condemnation. You see every believer will have praise. There won't be anybody condemned. There won't be anybody shipped back to hell from heaven. There will be no one who will have to be punished. Christ bore all punishment. There will only be praise, but there will be varying degrees of praise depending upon the work of your life, you see. When it says in 2 Corinthians 5, "We shall all appear before the judgment seat," it's the word bema in the Greek. It refers not to a tribunal or a court. It refers to the Olympic stadium which was outside Corinth.

And whether it was a garland or a Loral wreath or an oak left cluster or whatever was the award, the winners went up and ascended the bema and there were rewarded for the victories. Every believer will be at the bema, which means everybody's going to get an award or a reward, a prize. Everybody will have praise, some more than others. Some will be more highly honored than others because some will have lasting and eternal work. Others will have worthless effort, but all will be saved. That's this judgment.”

You know, I can tell some of you this until I’m blue in the face but it doesn’t sink in unless and until you hear a big name like John MacArthur say the same thing.
I think it’s the two witness thing—you need to hear it from more than just me.
Well, regardless of what I think or John MacArthur thinks—what’s important is what the Bible says so turn to 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.

Paul, here, makes the point that he is not at all concerned about how others perceive and judge him. In fact, he does not even try to examine himself. Rather, he is content to leave the examination of his ministry and his works to the Lord.
Then in verse 5, he makes the point that at the Judgment Seat of Christ when and where Christ examines our works as believers that this judgment will examine our motives and heart attitudes and that when the judgment is completed—each person will receive varying degrees of praise from God.

There is nothing said there about being judged for sin that no longer exists and there is nothing said about rebuke or punishment or shame or exposure.
The word that is mentioned is praise.

Now take a look for just a moment at 1 Corinthians 3:8, 13-14. The focus in these verses regarding the Bema Seat is “rewards” not judgment.

Look at 2 Corinthians 5:10. The word “recompense” in the NASV or “receive” in the KJV comes from the Greek word, komisetai, which means: to receive back what is due or to be paid back what has been lost. In other words, it is a time in which Christ reimburses us for what we have lost in pursuing risk and sacrifice for His cause as well as rewards us for the quality of our service to Him.

The word “bad” is the Greek word, phaulon. It does not mean evil or sinful or wickedness or immorality as the Greek words, kakos and poneros do.

Rather the Greek word, phaulon means that which is “worthless, useless, or simply good-for-nothing”.

The word describes activities that are neither sinful or necessarily having eternal value—they are in effect, morally neutral and could be such things as taking a walk, taking a drive, watching a good family-friendly video, going shopping, eating, pursuing a hobby, playing a game, working on the house, etc. in which such activities were undertaken with no thought of glorifying God in them.

In other words, the Christian family that simply spends every evening of the week watching and enjoying good family programming may find themselves experiencing very little in the way of rewards at the Bema Seat.

On the other hand, the Christian who is out of the home every chance he can get working in some Christian ministry or endeavor in order to make himself look good or out of a sense of duty or just guilt rather than a desire to make much of Christ may find himself coming up short on rewards at the Bema Seat as well.

You see, the recompense for activities and endeavors that are not done for the purpose of making much of Christ is simply “no reward” or “a lack of reward”.
It is not punishment or embarrassment or public exposure and shame—it is just a loss of rewards and with that a certain amount of regret for the wasted time and effort on things that did not glorify God.

When I was in Jr. High School every May we had a school award assembly in which we received academic and athletic awards.

And we all sat there excited at the prospect of being called up to receive a certificate or better yet, a ribbon, or even better than that, a medal, or best of all—a trophy.

And even though everyone who was involved in sports or attempted to study was recognized for something not everyone received the same awards or praise.
But, no one, not a single person was brought up to be shamed or disgraced or judged or made to look bad.

That wasn’t what this was all about—and neither is the Judgment Seat of Christ.
The Judgment Seat of Christ is about rewarding and praising us not exposing and shaming us.

And it is about rewarding us and praising us for our work in His Kingdom.
Look at 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 again.

"Every man's work shall be made manifest, for the day shall declare it because it shall be revealed by fire. And the fire shall test every man's work of what sort it is."

There's coming a day when everybody's work is going to be tested.
Why? So God can determine of what value your service to Him as a Christian was so that He can what—Punish you? No, the passage specifically says—reward you not punish you.

Every man shall have praise. You may only have a little piece of precious stone and a little hunk of gold left in your little pile when the fire's done and God will say here's your reward.

You were faithful in that little. And that is what you will be rewarded for.
But keep in mind everyone shall have praise and every believer shall receive a reward for something.

And no one—absolutely no one is being shamed or having sin exposed or being punished—because their sin was already removed from them and punished in Christ Jesus on the cross of Calvary.

So relax and serve God out of joy for His marvelous grace rather than out of fear in which you are trying to make up for the false expectation of judgment and shame you think you will receive.

CONCLUSION

You know, I wonder what God has to do to get us to believe that He really loves us and has our best interests in mind?

Kill His own Son to save us! Consider Romans 5:8.

He who did not spare His own Son for us—will He not freely give us all things?!
Oh when will we quit doubting Him and His promises and His Word and His Love for us?

When will we finally take Him at His Word and believe Him that our sins are gone—forever removed from us as far as the east is from the west?

I cannot wonder if the greater sin is not the breaking of His Law as much as it is the breaking of His heart when we doubt the integrity of His love for us as the very ones He gave His Son to die for?

But praise the Lord—even if that is the sin you are committing this morning as you are listening to me and thinking—“this is just too good to be true”—He paid for this one too and you’ll never have to answer for it.

Romans Series Message #42

Really Forgiven & Truly Free
Romans 4:7a

I have been amazed at the thousands of people who were taken in by the frauds of Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford and ended up losing their life savings.

But I find it almost amusing that those who are interviewed almost without exception make reference to these two men’s greed without ever considering their own.

I mean, the reason why many handed all their money over to them and especially to Stanford was because of the promise of returns that were out of this world—that were just too good to be true and they, because of the blindness of their own greed, got suckered.

And that is why authorities warn people to check out offers, products, and services that just seem too good to be true before pulling out their wallets.

Well sometimes, we see truths in the Bible that seem too good to be true and when we read them—we wonder if they really can deliver what they are promising and are really saying what we think they are saying—because again—they just seem too good to be true.

And, in many of these cases, God provides us with confirming witnesses not to confirm His testimony as being true but to confirm in our minds and hearts that what we think He said, is indeed what He did say and meant to say.

One of those places is found in our text this morning—Romans 4:6-8.

Previously, Paul has told us in Romans 3:28-4:5 that a person is justified before God—that is declared righteous—not by his good works—but rather through simple faith in Christ Jesus as his or her Lord and Savior.

Now, the question that arises in this teaching is—does this mean that God is promising to forgive all my sins—past, present & future—when He says that He will justify the person who comes to Him through Christ?

And if this is what it means—am I right in thinking that I am totally forgiven and free of my all of my sins—past, present & even future—right now as I live my life on this earth?

And furthermore, if this is what it means then am I also right in thinking that what God is saying is that when I die and step into His glorious presence that He will find nothing in me that offends Him and demands that He judge me and condemn me to hell?

And if all of this is true and I am understanding the passage correctly—is it possible that I have been completely and totally forgiven and separated from the very worst and heinous sin that I have ever or will ever commit against the Lord?

And finally, if I am understanding all of what Paul is teaching us correctly then I should no longer be living my life as one who is overwhelmed by guilt and feelings of unworthiness and with a sense that God is mad at me and wants nothing to do with me.

Rather, I should be living my life, in Christ, as one who has been gloriously forgiven and whose guilt has been washed away and who can live and should live life graciously free and secure in the promise of God to have totally forgiven me of all my sins.

Thus, are we correct in thinking that all this is what God is saying through Paul in the first part of Romans 4?

Yes—we are correct in our understanding but just to confirm that we are understanding all of this correctly God provides us with the personal and experiential testimony of David whose testimony was recorded as inspired Scripture in Psalm 32.

And the interesting and really very powerful thing about God using David’s testimony is that David was a man whom, after he was declared righteous by God, committed the unbelievably heinous sins of adultery and murder.

And God does this for a very important reason—and that reason is that most Christians have no problem understanding, believing, and accepting the fact of God’s forgiveness for their sins committed before salvation.

There problem is with the great and awful sins they commit after they have been justified.

I mean, certainly I understand how God can forgive me for my past as an unbeliever when I knew no better but isn’t it a different story when I sin and sin greatly as one who has come to know the Savior?

Well—let’s find out.

Again, you must understand where David had been before his testimony was taken and recorded for us as sacred Scripture.

He had, as a believer, succumbed to the power of sexual lust, so as to, as a married man, have sexual intercourse with another man’s wife. And then when he discovered she was pregnant by him, he in his effort to cover up his sin had her husband killed. Then, without so much as batting an eye, David married her, making it look as though he was this benevolent king who took in a poor soldier’s widow.

That is where he was at. And, upon being confronted with his terrible sin, he runs to God with it and confesses it to God.

We see this in Psalm 51.

But, the answer he receives to his confession of sin is found in Psalm 32:1-5.

And it is verses 1-2 that Paul uses as his eye-witness testimony in Romans 4:6-8 to help us to understand just what kind of a justification and salvation we have as believers in Christ and to what extent He has forgiven us.

And what we should see as we work through David’s testimony in Romans 4 is that:

When God justifies the sinner who comes to Him through faith in Christ Jesus alone He separates from that believing sinner all of his sins regardless of how bad they are, how many they are, or at what point in life they were committed and forgives him of them all.

And as a result of this truth—all believers should live their lives as people who are genuinely blessed and happy.

In other words, we should live our lives as people who have been set free from all of our sins and thus the guilt and shame of our sins, so as to live our lives as graciously free, secure, happy, and loved human beings.

That is what David means when he says, “Blessed are those”.

So, if you are a Christian—that is you have been justified by God—as a result of faith in Christ Jesus alone to save you from your sins—you should be living as a graciously free, freely forgiven, completely secure, totally accepted by God, and thus, unconditionally loved human being.

And here’s why.

If you have come to Christ for salvation, then all your lawless deeds have been separated from you so that there is no connection between you and your sin any longer. (7a)

Lawless deeds are those actions we commit, which violate God’s Law as primarily seen in His Law.

And if you are wondering if God has an issue with you in regard to the breaking of His Law—let’s review the Ten Commandments for just a minute and as we do this—take inventory and see if you are guilty of breaking God’s Law.

And by the way, just to keep all this in perspective, if you have broken only one of these laws just once—you are looking at a penalty of eternity in hell.

And to make it even more interesting—according to James 1:10, “whoever keeps the whole law but stumbles in one point—he has become guilty of all of it.”

So, go with me to Exodus 20:1-17 and let’s see how we make out.
And now—just in case you are thinking that you passed the test—let’s take a look at how God the Son—that’s Jesus is going to use these commandments in judging people.

Go with me to Matthew 5:21-22.

Now lets consider Matthew 5:27-28

I think it is perfectly clear that no one will pass God’s test of righteousness and that everyone is a lawbreaker and continues to be a lawbreaker.

But again, note what Paul quotes David as saying—“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven.”

The word, “forgiven” comes from the Greek word, which means: to send away or to separate completely from.

In other words, “Blessed is the man whose lawless deeds—violations of the law if you will—have been separated from him—so that God sees no connection between the violation of His Law and the man who violated it.”

That is what it means when this word is used. The moment you believed in Christ, God in effect, in justifying you, separated any connection between you and the breaking of His Law, because in imputing to you all of Christ’s righteousness—God imputed to Christ all of your sin.

You see, justification consists not only in the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to our accounts but also to the imputation of all of our sin to Christ’s account so that it is once and for all time separated from us and paid for in Christ Jesus.

Thus, in justification, all of our sin debts become Christ’s as all of His righteousness becomes ours!
Thus, the person who has placed faith in Christ for salvation is forever separated from his or her violations of God’s Law because those violations no longer exist—they have been paid for completely in Christ.

Which is why the Psalmist is able to say in Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

As far as God is concerned, if you are a believer in Christ, your violations of His Law—your sins—have been so separated from you that there is no connection between them and you and never will be.

There simply is no “paper trail” that can connect you with your sins because as Colossians 2:13-14 tells us, the paper containing the list of all your sins was nailed to the cross.

Listen to these verses:

“When you were dead in your in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He [God] made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us, and He has taken it out of the way having nailed it to the cross.”

Now, back in Romans 4:7, the reason why the word, which means “to separate our sins from us”, is translated as “forgive” is because when God separated our sins from us and placed them upon Jesus at the cross and then punished Jesus for them—it was so that He could forgive us of these violations of His law.

Our violations of God’s Law were removed from us and placed upon Jesus and God punished them in Christ on the cross and that is why we who have placed our faith in Christ alone for our salvation have been forgiven of our sins.

They truly are forgiven because they truly have been separated from us and punished in Jesus.

Thus, just as there is no connection between the believer and his sins as far as God is concerned—there is no connection between the believer and the punishment for his sins either.

And unless you understand and believe this truth about your justification and your sins, you will struggle with any kind of real spiritual growth in your Christian life.


And this is why before we get to the believer’s sanctification and spiritual growth in Romans 6-8—we are learning about our justification here in chapters 4-5.

Now, before we close, I want you to understand that this act of separating the believer’s sins from him is an act that Christ accomplished on the believer’s behalf, once and for all, at the cross and it is an act that God applies to the believer, once and for all, the moment he first believes.

The word “forgiven” is in the aorist tense that indicates an action that is accomplished once rather than continually.

In other words, the moment you believed, all of your sins—past, present, and even future—were separated from you and your account—once and for all—so that as far as God is concerned you have been forgiven by Him once and for all.

The other interesting thing about the word is that it is in the indicative mood, which means that this state of having your sins separated from you and thus being forgiven by God is the actual state you are in—in other words—what is indicative of every believer in Christ is that they have been forever separated from their sins and are thus living in a state of forgiveness and acceptance with God.

Finally, it is a passive verb, which means God did it for you—you didn’t do it for yourself.


CONCLUSION

Now I don’t know about you—but this is a truth that I find too good to be true.

I mean—to think that because of what Christ did for me at the Cross, my sins have no connection to me because they have been completely and forever separated from me—is a truth that simply seems to good to be true.

Because if it is true—that means that I will never have to face them or answer for them or be judged for them or be held accountable for them because they have no connection to me whatsoever.

Too good to be true and that is why God used two witnesses to confirm this truth so that we would understand and believe that it is true and more importantly true of us—if we have believed in Christ for our salvation.

It is one thing to understand the positive side of our justification, which is that God has imputed to us all of Christ’s righteousness but unless He imputes to Christ all of our sin, which is the negative aspect of justification—we cannot be saved from our sins.

Because to be saved from our sins—every single one of them—they all had to be removed and separated from us and imputed to the account of the only One Who could pay for them—Jesus Christ our Lord.

So let me ask you—have your sins been separated from you as far as the east is from the west?

If they have—are you living like it?

And if they haven’t—why would you delay in coming to Christ to have Him take them away right now?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Romans Series Message #41 Romans 4:1-8

Salvation Is By Faith Alone

Back when I was a teenager and even a young adult, one of the things I tried not to do, unless I had a lot of time to spare, was to ask my dad to explain certain things to me—like how mechanical devices, such as a car runs. You see, my dad wouldn’t just tell me that the car’s engine runs the car—No, he would get out a piece of paper, draw an engine, with most of its parts, and spend the next 15 to 20 minutes explaining to me in great detail, more than I ever wanted to know about internal combustion engines. He loved to explain things and he loved to get into the details because he enjoyed not only the fact that something worked—he enjoyed knowing why it worked.


Well, the Apostle Paul was a lot like my dad—he too, enjoyed and found great value in explaining how things worked—especially how God in His sovereign purpose chose to save sinners from their sins and from His wrath for their sins. And in a day, in which, many churches have boiled the plan of salvation down to a formula consisting of four “spiritual laws” and a “pre-packaged prayer” that takes about 15 seconds to recite—Paul’s taking a sixteen chapter, 433 verse, over 7000 word Book the size of Romans to explain God’s plan of salvation seems a little obsessive and maybe even a bit “over the top” to a lot of people today. But you see, he wanted us to know as much as it is possible for us to know about our salvation because it is only then that we can truly understand the heart of God and thus, understand life and live life as graciously free and loved people who know God and enjoy God and are able to trust God in all of life even those days when our world is rocked forever by circumstances that we would never choose for ourselves.


Listen, the Christians who really know their God are the Christians who understand their salvation. And Christians who understand the nuts and bolts of their salvation understand life and why life is sometimes so very hard and filled with hard things and hard suffering. Christians who understand their salvation because they see it from God’s point of view because they have invested time and work in studying a Book like Romans are able to persevere through life not merely as those who survive but as those who thrive because they know and understand that everything that happens to them occurs for a divine reason rather than mere random chance that has no reason.


And while I could go on and on in explaining to you why understanding your salvation is beneficial to you—let me just sum up the reasons by saying that God’s ultimate purpose in our salvation is His glory—and whereas God is glorified greatly in saving us—He is intensely glorified when we who are saved come to know, understand, and find great joy in the details of how He saves sinners. And this is what Paul begins to explain to us beginning in Romans 4.


Now, by way of review, the Apostle Paul, in Romans 1-3 has been explaining to us why mankind is condemned before God what God has done to remedy that condition. In essence, he explains in Romans 1:18-32, that all people without exception have suppressed His truth and replaced His means of finding happiness, joy, significance, satisfaction, and the answers to life’s questions with their own means and devices. They have, as the prophet Jeremiah put it, “forsaken the fountain of living waters (God) with cisterns, broken cisterns of their own making that can hold no water.” And in rejecting God as the greatest treasure and pleasure in life—all people without exception have condemned themselves to an eternity in hell—which is the only fit penalty and place for people who have treated as unglorious the great and glorious and awesome and majestically incomprehensible God of all that is and is not.


Then in chapter 2, Paul makes the point that there is simply no way for us to be religious or spiritual enough to make up for our sin. And finally in chapter 3:1-20, the apostle Paul explains that this sin of despising God, rejecting God, ignoring God, neglecting God, and not trusting and enjoying God as the greatest treasure and pleasure in life is universal—there are no exceptions—every person who has ever been born and ever will be born is guilty and thus condemned to an eternity separated from God.


Romans 1-3:20 is the bad news of the Gospel—we are sinners who are separated from God and condemned to an eternity of separation from God in the Lake of Fire and can do absolutely nothing about it. And then in Romans 3: 21-31, Paul gives us the good news—whereas, we could do nothing about our lost and condemned state before God—God did do something—He provided a means by which the sinner can be saved from his or her sins and be reconciled to God and become the recipient of eternal life. And that means of salvation is none other than Jesus Christ, whom according to Romans 3:25-26, God the Father sent to the cross to bear the sin penalty for those people who would place their faith in Jesus as their salvation from God’s wrath for their sins.


Now, here, beginning in Romans 4, Paul begins to explain God’s plan of salvation and today we will see how it is that God saves people and that this has always been the way and always will be the way that God saves people from their sins and the punishment for their sins. In teaching us how God saves sinners—Paul, first shows us what does not save sinners in God’s sight—our own good works and personal merits.


In Romans 3:1-8, Paul uses two very well-known Jewish personalities to make his point that no one has ever been saved by their own merits, works, or standing. Abraham was the father of the Jews and David was the King of the Jews. Other than Moses, these two men are probably the most important and prominent men in all of Israel’s history. And both men were considered by the Jews to be among those who would be resurrected in a righteous resurrection to heaven. In other words these two men were thought to be acceptable and accepted by God. They were “saved” men whose sins had been forgiven and thus they were acceptable to God and in the resurrection they will go to heaven. . . .but was it because of their good works, religious heritage, social standing, or personal merits? This is the question Paul answers for us in Romans 4:1-8 and as we consider this passage of God’s Word I want us to see that:


Those who have found acceptance with God have not done so through good works but through simple faith in Christ Jesus alone.


On the way to the Shepherds Conference I was talking to a young man from Florida who was flying to LA to visit his mom. Our conversation got around to God and the Bible and so I asked him what he believed was necessary for a person to be found acceptable to God. And his reply was not surprising—He said that he believed he was acceptable to God because he worked hard, had no hatred in his heart for anyone, and was a good person. In other words, he thought acceptance with God was something to be earned and that salvation is a wage to be earned rather than a promise to believe. Well, what do the Scriptures teach? Let’s find out.


1. The life of Abraham reveals that salvation is not the result of works but faith. (Rom. 4:1-5)


The first thing I want us to understand in verse 1 is what it is that Paul is asking in his question. Another way of putting it, which helps us to understand exactly what he is asking and answering is: “What did the Old Testament Father or Patriarch discover about God’s salvation with respect to our flesh or our works?” In other words, what role, if any, do we play in our salvation? This is the essential question Paul is going to answer for us in chapter 4.


A. Abraham found that if salvation were based upon one’s works, it would be an earned salvation and those saved would have something to boast about because of their part in earning and contributing to their salvation. (1-2)



If Abraham, the man the Scripture refers to as “the friend of God” was justified—that is declared righteous and thus acceptable to God on the basis of his own good works—then he has contributed to his salvation and thus earned it and thus has a reason to take credit for his salvation. “But not before God.” In other words—But this is not the way it is! God’s work of salvation is exactly that—God’s work not man’s.


God desires and in fact demands all the glory in salvation. Thus, nothing in the work of saving sinners can be attributed to the sinner or the sinner would be able to claim some of the credit. All of the work in saving a sinner is accomplished by God. Salvation is all of God and thus all of grace (Rom. 3:27-28; 11:6).


B. Abraham found that salvation is not based upon one’s works but rather upon one’s faith and so he believed God and his faith in believing God was credited to him as righteousness and he was subsequently justified. (3-5)


Ø Note how Paul begins this argument in verse 3: “For what does the Scripture say?” That is of the utmost importance and we should not miss it. Paul appeals to Scripture as the final authority. He does not appeal to his own opinion, feelings, church tradition, church history, religious scholars, or a church vote. No, his final and only authority is what God has said in the Scriptures. And we should be no different—especially when it comes to our salvation and how God saves sinners. The final authority in what is required for salvation is what God has said is required not what we may feel or think is required.


Ø And note what the Scripture says: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”The Scripture Paul is referring to is Genesis 15:6. He argues that Genesis 15:6 does not say "Abraham worked for God and therefore was justified." Nor does it say, "Abraham did acts of love and therefore was justified." Nor does it say that Abraham made progress in character formation and therefore was justified. It says, Abraham believed in the LORD and that his faith was credited to him as righteousness.

Now please note the context surrounding this verse. In Genesis 15:1-6, we have God concluding a promise to Abraham that He began to communicate to him in Genesis 12. Now look at Abraham’s response to God’s promise in verse 6. Note that verse 6 says that “Abraham believed in the LORD”. By-the-way, this is the first time the word “believe” and the first time the phrase, “believe in the LORD” is used in the Bible.

To believe “in” the LORD is to fully embrace not only the promise of the Lord but Lord Himself as the giver of the promise. In other words, the promise is believable because the maker of the promise can be trusted to be true to his word. So here in Genesis 15:6, Abraham is believing in the Lord to be true to His promise and this trusting in the Lord is what God reckons to him as righteousness. What this means is that when Abraham believed in God and wholeheartedly embraced Him as His God by believing His promise and acting upon it that God “reckoned” or “imputed” or “accounted” to Abraham a righteousness that did not belong to him.

In essence, upon Abraham believing in or even “into” God--God applied to Abraham’s account His own divine and perfect righteousness and thus was able to “justify” Abraham, which is to simply declare him as a righteous person. And this is essential for anyone who desires to be in a relationship with God and have eternal life. What did Jesus say was required to go to heaven in Matthew 5:48? We have to be as perfect as God is! That means as righteous as God is. And when God, upon Abraham believing in Him, imputed His own righteousness to Abraham—He in essence, attributed to Abraham’s life—His own divine righteousness—so as to make him acceptable to Him. That is what it is to be justified. And it is the result of faith in God not works.

And in Romans 4:5, Paul makes the point that this is how God saves us as well. When we believe in Jesus Christ as the God-man as our Lord and Savior—when we fully embrace Him as the only way of salvation and come to Him to be forgiven of our sins—we too, are “justified”. You see, the moment you believe in Christ and trust Him as the only way of salvation—God the Father immediately forgives you all of your sins and imputes to your account all of Christ’s righteousness thus making you in God’s sight as righteous as He is and thus acceptable to Him. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Now it is important to also understand that just as the righteousness attributed to the believer’s account is not his own—neither is the faith that is exercised to procure it. Again, remember that salvation is all of God. It is God’s work from beginning to end and no part of it—even the smallest part—is of us—for then God would not receive all the glory—He would have to share it with us. You see, even the faith to believe is given to those who do believe or else it would be a work. And if you don’t believe that believing in Christ for salvation is God’s work in your life—look at John 6:28-29.

And what was it actually that Abraham believed and we have to believe to be saved? The gospel. Jesus made the point in John 8:56-58 that “Abraham rejoiced to see His day”.

In other words, Abraham saw and knew from afar—prior to it actually happening the coming of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Seed of the woman Who would destroy the works of Satan and sin and provide salvation for all whom would believe from all the people groups of the earth.

How did he see this—how did he know this? God told him. Look at Galatians 3:6-9 and especially at verse 8. Verse 6 ties us back to Genesis 15:6 but notice what it was Abraham believed—it was the Gospel preached to him by, according to the first part of verse 8—“The Scripture”. Now, the interesting thing about this is that there was no Scripture even recorded at the time of Abraham. To be sure, the events and the words, which would be recorded as Scripture in the Book of Genesis had taken place and were taking place—but nothing had been recorded as of yet. So what does Paul mean when he says that “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.” Well, the key is to find out Who said: “All the nations will be blessed in you.” Find that out and you’ll have the identity of who is being referred to as “The Scripture” here in Galatians 6:8. The One Who gave Abraham this promise was none other than the LORD Who spoke to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. Thus, Paul is equating The Scripture with The LORD and I think specifically with the member of the Godhead Who does speak to us and Who did inspire Scripture—God The Holy Spirit. Thus, the Gospel—the Good News of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, God The Son, alone was preached to Abraham by God Himself and in believing God—Abraham was saved.

2. The testimony of David reveals that salvation is not a reward to be earned but rather a gift to be received and enjoyed. (Rom. 4:6-8)

Finally, in verses 6-8, Paul uses another Old Testament personality—one who was a forgiven adulterer and murderer to explain to us what the ungodly sinner who believes the Gospel receives—Forgiveness of His sins and true happiness and joy and freedom.

CONCLUSION

And so here we are this morning—some of us are sinners who have believed God and run to the cross of Calvary placing our faith in Jesus alone to save us from the wrath of God for our sins and others of you who have not are sinners on the brink of hell.

How can you get right with God, and be forgiven, acquitted, counted as righteous in his presence rather than guilty and ungodly?

Only by trusting in the One who justifies the ungodly.

Christ died to pay our debt. Christ lived to provide our righteousness. When we despair of ourselves and trust the God who justifies the ungodly, God reckons our sin as punished on the cross, and God reckons Christ's righteousness as imputed to us.

Do you want to be right with God? Do you want to have under you a firm unshakable foundation for life and eternity? Do you want peace that passes all understanding? Trust in the One who finds His greatest joy in forgiving sinners who will come to Him by placing their faith in Christ.


Pursuing the Glory of Christ as though He were the most important pursuit in all the world--Because He Is!

" Looking for the Blessed Hope and the appearing of The Glory of our Great God and Savior, Christ Jesus." Titus 2:13