I don’t know about you but I keep trying really hard. I really believe that one of the greatest weaknesses of Christians today is that they keep trying really hard to earn something they can’t earn.
Let me explain.
Throughout the New Testament, we read over and over that salvation, faith, justification and pretty much all that has to do with God and how He relates to us is a gift. I have a really hard time accepting gifts from people. Don’t you? I mean, I have no problem giving gifts to people but I don’t want them giving them to me.
Why is that? Why do we struggle so much with accepting things that are freely given?
I really think this is one of my problems with the gospel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the gospel. I’m saying this is one of my problems with grace. We too often operate on the American ideal of “no such thing as a free lunch.”
When it comes to lunch that may be true but it is not true of the grace of God.
This year I am undertaking a venture I’ve never done before. I’m spending the entire year of 2017 in one book of the Bible. My book for 2017 is Romans. We’re in May and I’ve made it all the way to chapter 4. This has been a rich time in what is probably the Apostle Paul’s greatest theological work.
So this morning I read Romans 4:13-25. I had some thoughts I wanted to share in hopes that it will encourage and challenge you as much as it has me.
1. Adherence to the law will not produce blessing.
Now before you push back too much, let me explain what I mean by this statement. Our adherence to some type of “be better” mentality is what I’m referring to. See, too often in modern American Christianity, we hear this false gospel of works preached. Oh, these so-called “preachers” may not precisely say these words of “work hard and you’ll earn God’s favor,” but that is precisely what is being espoused from too many of our modern day preachers. Paul, in Romans and many other writings, will have none of that.
We think that if we just work harder, do more and be better, we will have God’s blessings. And that is simply not the case. What brings God’s blessings is faith. Faith is pretty simple. Look at this text. Faith is described as simply believing that God will do what He has said He will do. God made a promise to Abraham. Abraham believed that God would do as He promised. That, my friends, is faith.
That faith is both the gift of God and the vehicle He uses for our justification. Without faith, we will not see God, no matter how many rules we follow.
Only grace by faith can save.
Without grace, the law produces a dead promise and dead men. Only faith brings life.
2. You cannot fulfill the works of the law.
You may think you’re a good person. I’ve heard that so many times I wanna throw up. Let me correct some faulty theology real quick. You’re not good. Neither am I. We are sinners in the hands of a holy God who hates sin and we have no hope on our own. We’re in the middle of the Pacific with no life vest surrounded by sharks and the waves are choppy.
You, me, we are dead in the water.
One of the problems Paul was addressing here was the Jewish notion that doing what the law required produced righteousness. Paul is saying that’s not true. The reason it isn’t true is because the law is impossible for you or me to fulfill. The law was never meant to save; it was meant to point us to the One who could fulfill it. Only One has been able to fulfill the law. Without faith, the promise of righteousness is only available to those who fulfill the law and no one, except Jesus, has been able to do that so far.
Only the grace of God secured by faith in Jesus can save you or me.
3. Faith brings glory to God.
Faith brings glory to God because faith, by its very definition, takes God at His word. Faith brings glory to God because faith believes that only God can accomplish what He has promised. We cannot produce what God has promised. Only God can do that. Faith brings glory to God.
I really love verse 23 and the beginning of verse 24 here. Paul gives us some much needed encouragement. The Bible was written for a number of reasons that would take too long to explain all of them but one of the reasons is in verses 23 and 24. Look at what Paul says here, “But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also.”
That is so good. In His kindness, God reminds me and you in these words that the gift of faith and our subsequent justification are His work alone and have been applied to you and me if we are “in Abraham” by faith in Jesus. If you are in Jesus, His very righteousness has been counted to you. What grace! What joy is ours!
Preach the gospel to yourself, friends. Read His Word, see His good gifts. Stop trying to earn His favor. If you are in Jesus, His favor and righteousness are yours by faith. Revel and rest in His grace!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Is the Reformation over?
I’ve heard this question asked a lot recently in many places on social media. There’s been a couple things this week in my own life and experience that tell me unequivocally that the Reformation is not over. Not by a long shot. And not only is it not over, we have much need for continuing reformation within American “Christianity.”
There were two things this week that happened that illustrated this to me. One is the idea of observing Lent. Now, in fairness, there are some protestant traditions that observe Lent. But not many. In fact, I can only think of two Protestant traditions that observe Lent: Methodists and Anglicans. If I’ve missed some, sorry about that.
As an aside, I’m a big fan of the reformed movement among the Anglican Church these days and I hope and pray that it bears much fruit.
Back to my rant…
So I expressed confusion as to why Protestants would be observing Lent; not criticism, merely confusion. And I got blasted by all these “Protestants” for my statement. It illustrates yet again to me that we, even “Christians”, will happily be offended by other people’s opinions and also that most modern day evangelicals have no idea what is and is not biblical.
The second thing that happened this week is what I really want to focus on. In a meeting this week at work, while listening to a sales presentation, I heard something that I hope is not a common belief but I fear that people believe it.
Here’s what happened. This dude was sharing with everyone how he “came to faith” and his life since. He said, “I’ve heard the audible voice of God twice in my life.” It was all I could do not to laugh out loud. But then I saw that everyone around the table was staring at him intently and several people were nodding their head.
To say I was stunned is an understatement. I was around a table of people who claim to be Bible believing followers of Jesus and it looked to me like everyone was buying this load of crap.
The audible voice of God?!
I want to be really clear here.
This dude has never heard the audible voice of God.
Neither have I.
Neither have you.
God no longer speaks in an audible voice. He has spoken and He continues to speak by His Word. You don’t need to hear the audible voice of God.
You need His Word.
This was one of the most important rallying cry of the Reformers; Sola Scriptura.
What has happened to Protestants? How have we allowed ourselves to fall back into “traditions” and the mysticism of Catholicism?
The apostle Peter addresses this also in 2 Peter 1. Here’s what Peter said under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,
“For we do not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:16-21, ESV)
What was Peter saying there? Read it carefully. Peter was saying, ‘Hey, I was there. I heard the very voice of God. But we’ve got something better: the Bible, the prophetic Word.”
What does that mean for us today?
You don’t need to hear the audible voice of God.
You have the voice of God. It’s called the Bible. If you want to hear God’s voice, read His Word. Carefully, faithfully, and in the community of God’s people.
He has spoken; of that, make no mistake. But let us be careful that we hear what He has said and is saying by His Word and not what the voices in our own heads say to us.
Let us give thanks to God that He has spoken a sure word to His people by His Word.
Soli Deo Gloria!