The Answer

March 18, 2010

Here’s what Jack has been up to!  This Tuesday, as we prayed as a staff, Jack asked the Lord to use these crosses to draw people to our church this Easter and ultimately to draw people to Himself.  We agreed together that as people drive by and see the crosses, their hearts would be stirred.  Maybe they would be stirred by the reminder of their childhood in Sunday School hearing about Jesus and the cross.  Maybe their hearts will be stirred to wonder what the cross is all about.  Maybe their hearts will be stirred to get to church this Easter as many choose this day of the year to go to church.  And maybe their hearts will be stirred by the sovereign Lord who uses various ways to draw people to Himself.

Please pray with us that the words of Jesus would come true again this Easter season:  “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  (John 12:32)  Pray that unbelievers will come to church.  Pray that as the gospel is preached, God would regenerate hearts.  Pray that the lost and blind would come to their Savior and see and love and worship the One who came to save.

Grace to you today,

Eric

PS:  Jordan guessed it!  Albert did not.


Galatians, Catholics, Reformers and Us

February 10, 2010

We are at a section break in our study of Galatians and it’s hard to believe we are already 2/3 through this book!  Galatians can be roughly broken down into three main sections:  1)  History:  1:10 – 2:21; 2)  Theology:  2:22 – 4:31; 3)  Ethics (how should we live?):  5:1 – 6:10.  We just concluded chapter 4, wrapping up the theology section.  Paul has drawn on theology, history, the Old Testament, Abraham, Moses, faith and law – all in order to defend that justification is by faith, and faith alone.  The main point Paul has been seeking to make in this second section can be summarized like this:

God’s plan for sinners to be made right with Him (justified: declared not guilty) has always been through faith in Jesus Christ alone.  There is no other way.  You can see this going all the way back to the faith of Abraham in the promise of God, centuries before the law.  This is the point of the life and death and resurrection of Christ, that through faith in Him, sinners can be justified by God.  “We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”  Gal. 2:21

It is so crucial that this truth occupy the core of our relationship with God, because one step away from the reality of who we are in Christ is a step away from God.  And worse, it is a step towards ourselves.  Faith connects us to Christ and His work and His accomplishment, His merit and the reward He has earned for us.  Faith completely takes us out of the picture and makes our lives and eternity about Christ and wrapped up in Him.  Faith shows us that we could never earn this kind of love or grace from God, it is completely free to us!  Faith makes Christ the subject of the sentence of our lives.

To turn from faith is to turn to ourselves.  To turn from faith in Christ is to turn toward pride in ourselves.  We begin to look at our work, at our accomplishments, at our merit and the reward from God that we think we can earn.  That is the essence of legalism – thinking we either initiate or maintain our relationship with God through our own obedience to God.  This includes not only our obedience to God’s laws, but even our obedience to our own interpretation or application of God’s laws, in the form of systems, routines, or expectations.  Faith opens up a path of freedom that realizes that Christ’s is a finished work, to be received, rested in, marveled at and enjoyed.  Legalism binds us to the reality that our works, our obedience, our efforts count toward God’s acceptance of us from moment to moment.  This is going back to bondage from which the gospel came to set us free!

So here’s the thing: this temptation to drift from simple faith toward legalistic pride is as old as time.  The Galatians were getting sucked into it.  The gospel was not enough, Christ was not enough, justification by faith was not enough.  They were being led to believe they had to add to it all with their own obedience to the law.  Paul fought against this distortion of the gospel with the letter we now read and benefit from.  Fifteen hundred years later, the one Christian church had drifted away from faith alone into the lie that our efforts contribute to our relationship with God.  Through obedience, the proper observance of the 7 sacraments, and even through the purchase of indulgences; God’s acceptance of your life could be moved or manipulated, moment-by-moment.  You could therefore never be ultimately sure that you were right with God.  The reformers fought against this distortion of the gospel at the cost of their own reputations and lives.  And as Christians in the year 2010, we are daily tempted to drift from full trust and rest in Christ and Him alone into the lie that our behavior, our actions, our obedience today affect God’s acceptance of us.  Also, that our failures, our disobedience our lack of effort in biblical directions makes God mad at us.  This is a lie!  And we must fight against this lie in our daily lives.

The astounding news of the gospel of Jesus Christ tells us that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone!  This is the gospel Paul preached to his friends in Galatia in order to set them free.  This was the rallying cry of the Reformation, setting guilt-ridden peasants free.  And this is the good news that will daily set us free from ourselves to rest in, love, worship, live for and be free in Him.   

I hope you will live today in the good of the eternal declaration of God over your life, which will never change no matter what you do or don’t do today, which has been secured for you through Christ, which has been made real in you through the Holy Spirit, and which is all yours simply by faith.

Eric


Final Quotes

November 20, 2009

We hope you have enjoyed these quotes this week.  It is simply staggering that sinners like us can be declared righteous by God because of Jesus Christ and His work on our behalf.  And all we need to do is to receive this gift of righteousness through faith!  This week we’ve heard from a handful of deep thinkers, and how grateful we are for pastor/scholars who help us think clearly about what God has done.  As wonderful as these quotes are, there is nothing more wonderful than God’s word, itself.  In the end, what God tells us in His word has the power to transform our hearts and minds.  Here are three passages from Romans – enjoy!

Rom. 3:20-26: For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put 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. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Rom. 5:1-11:  Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Rom. 8:33-38:  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 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.

 

 


Justification Quotes

November 20, 2009

(from Chuck)

“That word justified is important. It refers to your status before God.  When you put your faith in Jesus, God the judge hands down the verdict that you are righteous. He transfers the perfect, sinless record of Jesus to you. This is amazing grace at its most amazing. In the moment that you first believed, your past sin didn’t cease to exist. You hadn’t done any good work that could somehow make up for your disobedience. Yet, God completely and totally forgave you.  He not only wiped the record of your sin away, He credited the righteousness of His Son to you.”  CJ Mahaney


Justification Quotes

November 20, 2009

(from Cathy)

“Among all the realities of the invisible world, mediated to us by the disclosures and promises of God, and to which our faith responds, there is none that more strongly calls into action this faculty for grasping the unseen than the divine pronouncement through the Gospel, that, though sinners, we are righteous in the judgment of God. That is not only the invisible, it seems the impossible; it is the paradox of all paradoxes; it requires a unique energy of believing; it is the supreme victory of faith over the apparent reality of things; it credits God with calling the things that are not as though they were; it penetrates more deeply into the deity of God than any other act of faith.”
—Geerhardus Vos


Justification Quotes

November 19, 2009

“The meritorious ground of justification is not faith; we are not justified on account of our faith, considered as a virtuous or holy act or state of mind.  Nor are our works of any kind the ground of justification.  Nothing done by us or wrought in us satisfies the demands of justice, or can be the ground or reason of the declaration that justice as far as it concerns us is satisfied.  The ground of justification is the righteousness of Christ, active and passive, including his perfect obedience to the law as a covenant, and his enduring the penalty of the law in our stead and on our behalf.” Charles Hodge