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Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Doctrine of Justification

Here is an excerpt about the nature of justification, very useful and encouraging to think upon what Christ has done for us and how we could never earn His favor, it is only through the finished work of Christ that we are righteous before God.

 

The doctrine of justification, the storm center of the Reformation, was a major concern of the apostle Paul. For him it was the heart of the gospel (Rom. 1:17; 3:21–5:21; Gal. 2:15–5:1) shaping both his message (Acts 13:38-39) and his devotion and spiritual life (2 Cor. 5:13-21; Phil. 3:4-14). Though other New Testament writers affirm the same doctrine in substance, the terms in which Protestants have affirmed and defended it for almost five centuries are drawn primarily from Paul.

Justification is a judicial act of God pardoning sinners (wicked and ungodly persons, Rom. 4:5; 3:9-24), accepting them as just, and so putting permanently right their previously estranged relationship with himself. This justifying sentence is God’s gift of righteousness (Rom. 5:15-17), his bestowal of a status of acceptance for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor. 5:21).

God’s justifying judgment seems strange, for pronouncing sinners righteous may appear to be precisely the unjust action on the judge’s part that God’s own law forbade (Deut. 25:1; Prov. 17:15). Yet it is in fact a just judgment, for its basis is the righteousness of Jesus Christ who as “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45), our representative head acting on our behalf, obeyed the law that bound us and endured the retribution for lawlessness that was our due and so (to use a medieval technical term) “merited” our justification. So we are justified justly, on the basis of justice done (Rom. 3:25-26) and Christ’s righteousness reckoned to our account (Rom. 5:18-19).

God’s justifying decision is the judgment of the Last Day, declaring where we shall spend eternity, brought forward into the present and pronounced here and now. It is the last judgment that will ever be passed on our destiny; God will never go back on it, however much Satan may appeal against God’s verdict (Zech. 3:1; Rev. 12:10; Rom. 8:33-34). To be justified is to be eternally secure (Rom. 5:1-5; 8:30).

The necessary means, or instrumental cause, of justification is personal faith in Jesus Christ as crucified Savior and risen Lord (Rom. 4:23-25; 10:8-13). This is because the meritorious ground of our justification is entirely in Christ. As we give ourselves in faith to Jesus, Jesus gives us his gift of righteousness, so that in the very act of “closing with Christ,” as older Reformed teachers put it, we receive divine pardon and acceptance which we could not otherwise have (Gal. 2:15-16; 3:24).

~J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993)~

James Boice also had a concise yet accurate definition of it in his commentary on Matthew 5:4

Jesus Christ came to step between the wrath of God against sin on the one hand and all who trust in Jesus Christ on the other. He took the blow of God’s wrath upon himself, paying the full penalty for our sin, and God has placed the full righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ to our account, so that we are seen as being perfectly acceptable before God in him.

~James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002).  Page 29 ~

 

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Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Encouragement, Justification

 

Resting in God’s Will

I read this devotional tonight and immediately thought of the true joy which can come from contentment in God alone, no matter what we may be going through. In facing the trials of this life, I have learned the following story to be an accurate view of the difficulty we may face as well as the hope which rests in God’s Sovereign purposes. May this be an encouragement to everyone who reads this as it has been to me tonight.

I suppose I used up all my vitality in the Lord’s work, and in bearing the burdens necessarily laid upon me by my dear husband’s state of health and there was not enough left for the baby. It has been an inexpressible disappointment to me, and I do not care to dwell on it. I thought I sorely needed the comfort a baby always brings to me, and I had looked forward to it with the most intense longing.

But I know God’s will is best, and I am satisfied! I do not permit myself to dwell on what might have been. And in the lonely night hours, when sorrows and losses and anxieties are so sure to come and claim a hearing, I can only turn resolutely away and say over and over and over to myself and to God, “Thy will be done, Thy will be done!” until the sweet refrain lulls me to sleep when nothing else would. And so I have learned to make the sweet will of God literally my pillow; and upon it I often realize with Faber that “no cradled child more softly lies than I.”

—To a Friend, September 2, 1873

~Hannah Whitall Smith and Melvin Easterday Dieter, The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life: The Unpublished Personal Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith~

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2012 in Encouragement

 

Be Careful When Fasting

An excellent excerpt on how fasting, journaling, and other means of spiritual growth and exercise can just as easily become a means of legalism and pride.

How self-deceived we humans are when it comes to matters religious. So many things that start off as incentives to repentance and godliness develop into vicious idols. What starts as an aid to holiness ends up as the triple trap of legalism, self-righteousness, and superstition. So it was with the bronze snake in the wilderness. Although it was ordered and used by God (Num. 21:4–9), it became such a religious nonsense in later times that Hezekiah destroyed it (2 Kings 18:4).

So it sometimes is with other forms of religious observance or spiritual discipline. One may with fine purpose and good reason start “journaling” as a discipline that breeds honesty and self-examination, but it can easily slide into the triple trap: in your mind you so establish journaling as the clearest evidence of personal growth and loyalty to Christ that you look down your nose at those who do not commit themselves to the same discipline, and pat yourself on the back every day that you maintain the practice (legalism); you begin to think that only the most mature saints keep spiritual journals, so you qualify—and you know quite a few who do not (self-righteousness); (c) you begin to think that there is something in the act itself, or in the paper, or in the writing, that is a necessary means of grace, a special channel of divine pleasure or truth (superstition). That is the time to throw away your journal.

Clearly, fasting can become a similar sort of trap. The first five verses of Isaiah 58 expose and condemn the wrong kind of fast, while verses 6–12 describe the kind of fast that pleases God. The first is bound up with hypocrisy. People maintain their fasts, but quarrel in the family (58:4). Their fasts do not stop them from exploiting their workers (58:3b). These religious people are getting restless: “We tried fasting,” they say, “and it didn’t work” (58:3). At a superficial level they seem to have a hunger for God and his way (58:2). The truth is that they are beginning to treat the fast as if it were a bit of magic: because I’ve kept the fast, God has to bless me. Such thinking is both terribly sad and terribly evil.

By contrast, the fast that pleases God is marked by genuine repentance (58:6–12). Not only does it turn away from self-indulgence but it actively shares with the poor (58:7), and intentionally strives “to loose the chains of injustice,” “to set the oppressed free and break every yoke” (58:7), to abjure “malicious talk” (58:9). This is the fast that brings God’s blessing (58:8–12).

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in Edification

 

Seeing God in Affliction

I read this from the June 20th devotion and wanted to post this here for everyone to read.  It is encouraging to me to be reminded that even in our affliction, we can know that God is still sovereign and trust in Him.  Even further, we can reflect upon the truth of the Gospel in that not only does death remind us of the ugliness of sin but the death of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Here is the devotion, I hope it encourages you as it did me.

 

Sometimes translation difficulties prompt Bible translators to include footnotes that preserve alternative possibilities. Sometimes no alternative is included, and something important is lost. One instance of each kind is found in Psalm 116, and both deserve thoughtful reflection.

(1) The NIV reads, “I believed; therefore I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’ And in my dismay I said, ‘All men are liars’ ” (116:10–11, italics added). The Revised Standard Version renders the first line, “I kept my faith, even when I said.…” The latter is a perfectly possible rendering of the Hebrew, and most modern translations have followed it. Paul quotes from the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew, commonly called the Septuagint (or LXX), which preserves the meaning found in the NIV of Psalm 116:10–11 (see 2 Cor. 4:13).

But in this case, surprisingly little is at stake. Perhaps the NIV rendering is a trifle stronger: the reason why the psalmist said he was greatly afflicted was that he believed (“I believed; therefore I said”). In other words, it was nothing other than his faith in God—and the entire relationship with God that such faith presupposes—that enabled him to see that when he faced terrible suffering it was nothing other than the affliction meted out by God. But more importantly, both the NIV and the RSV make a point frequently illustrated in the Psalms, and particularly illustrated in Job: when someone feels crushed (116:10) or utterly disillusioned (116:11), and says so, it does not follow that he or she has abandoned faith. Rather, the unguarded accents of pain, offered up to God, give evidence of both life and faith.

(2) The NIV’s “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (116:15) is often cited at funerals, and doubtless it expresses an important truth. But there is good reason to think that the word rendered “precious” should be rendered “costly” or the like: hence Jerusalem Bible’s “The death of the devout costs Yahweh dear.” The psalmist’s rescue from the borders of death (116:3, 8) makes that rendering more likely. Certainly Jesus recognizes how costly is the death of one human being (Matt. 10:29–31).

If that is the case, it is vitally important to see that although God in his sovereignty rules over everything, including all deaths, this reign for him is not some cold piece of accounting. He knows better than we do the sheer ugliness and abnormality of death, how it is irrefragably tied to our rebellion and the curse we have attracted. It is immensely comforting to perceive that the death of the devout costs Yahweh dear. Still more wonderful is the price he was willing to pay to supplant death by resurrection.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in Encouragement

 
 
In Christ Jesus

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus