Posts Tagged With: theology

Can we Agree on This? Christian Worldview pt. 3

A reader asked me to define “Christian Worldview” before I go on any further in this series. Although I was doing so implicitly, it gave me the opportunity to answer him from the best of my understanding. I believe the definition below is a clear foundation from which Christians should be building their family lives, church lives, social lives, and ministries. I do hope all believers in Christ Jesus could agree to it. Here it is:

The Christian worldview is that there is one true God, eternal, uncreated, existing in three Persons, co-eternal, each one being God in all His attributes.

He is the Creator of all things, and He has created humankind for His own glory and purpose – chiefly so that we might know Him, honor Him for who He is, and enjoy His good gifts forever.

There is evil in the world because humankind chose to reach for autonomy from Him, to be “as gods.” We tried to become our own judge, our own standard of good and evil. This has resulted in the evil and chaos in the world – all sin and brokenness a result of this disconnection from our true relationship with God.

Although God is within His right as the Sovereign Judge to allow humanity to fully perish in sin, He yet intervened to save a vast multitude. He has done this through choosing a people, the descendants of Abraham, with whom He made an unconditional covenant of grace. Through the history of Abraham’s descendants, God has been slowly revealing His greatest moment of glory – the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of His Son Jesus Christ, who though eternally God chose to empty Himself to become a man, born of a virgin, and at the end of His life, the penal substitution before God for all who would ever trust Him and thus receive His forgiveness and salvation.

We need a Christian worldview because most people do not believe this is the real history of God’s interaction with the cosmos (world). When people believe other things, and do not repent of their own religions and sins, they cannot be reconciled to God in Jesus Christ. They must hear His gospel and be baptized into Him – and He receives all who come to Him, never casting even one person out.

The Apostle Paul tells us that “though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…” (2 Cor. 10:3-5 ESV).

That is the battle cry for us to wage a war of truth against Satan’s world of lies. We are to use God’s Word to cut down arguments that are exalted against the knowledge of God so that the people in bondage to lies can be set free in the love of Jesus Christ.

Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead – there will be a resurrection of all people, some to hell, some to the presence of God in a renewed heaven and earth. Those who have turned to Christ Jesus will be received into the presence of God as if they were Jesus Himself, having received His own righteous standing before God as He Himself received our sin and condemnation on the cross.

In the end of all things, Jesus will reconcile all things to Himself in that nothing in the universe will be independent of His rule and reign, and all things will acknowledge that perfectly.

And, I should add this as well – that in Jesus Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). No human being knows anything apart from Christ having given them life, logic, reasoning, and the spirit of inquiry. This is the common basis for all human beings: we are created by the Son of God, and for the Son of God. Any structures of philosophy and religion which do not place Him at the blazing center of thought are faulty structures.

Right?

The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). We can know nothing apart from Him. We cannot justify one iota of our knowledge without beginning with Him. This is the Christian worldview.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Foundations of ItC blog, Jesus the Pinnacle of History, The Message of the Bible, Understanding the Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

To Crush the Head of Cynicism: Christmas

The original cynic is the serpent in Eden: “Has God indeed said…?” (Gen. 3:1b). The first humans were created to love God, trust Him, and enjoy His fellowship unhindered. Satan slipped in just a small, harmless question to the woman – what would seem so innocent to ask, but the true face of it shows through. (Bear with a little embellishment of the imagination here).

Is God really trustworthy? He must be hiding something from you. Think of it, Eve, I mean… yeah! This garden is great. Sure, you get to eat anything you want, well; almost anything. Why has God withheld this one tree from you? What pleasure and joy has He kept for Himself? Don’t you think it was a little unfair of God to keep the best for Himself and to leave you with all of these mediocre treats?

CYNIC!

Here God created an entire universe to share with the humans. The earth was their glorious playground – open for their enjoyment and sustenance. But isn’t it the way of the cynic, to spot the one tiny little rule in the world of liberty and love, and to HAVE to break it? God must have been keeping something back from Adam and Eve! He sure was – death, disease, destruction, divorce, murder, adultery, drug abuse, war, lying politicians, mass-shootings in elementary schools, poverty, starvation, dysentery, and all the billions of other forms of brokenness we now have to live with in our once perfect world.

MAYDAY! SEND HELP!

The human race listened to the cynic, and fell hard. Each of us today is born under the curse of that first sin – that first questioning of God’s goodness and love. And don’t we still question Him there? When things go horribly wrong, whom do we blame ultimately?

Are you a cynic? It’s hard not to be when just about everything in our society is built on cynicism.

Yet Christmas is the crushing of the head of the cynic. Look at the promise God made to the cynic right after the fall of humankind:

So the LORD God said to the serpent: … I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel (Gen. 3:14a, 15).

BOOM! Head-crushing battle coming! Do you see the capital “S” for Seed in the second mention of seed? That’s because that would be… JESUS. Yahweh God, in the very moment of our greatest brokenness and need, promised a gift; a Savior – the very thing we would need most. God promised to crush the head of the cynic with the foot of His own Son.

But notice also that the seed of the serpent would bruise Jesus as well. Here is the gospel of Christmas right there in the 3rd chapter of the Bible: even though humankind sinned and did not trust God, but sided with the cynic, God immediately went to work to restore us and bring us light in our darkness.

He did it. He accomplished His promises. One lonely night in Bethlehem, Judea, a little baby was born in an animal stable. He was born from the virgin – the Seed of the woman! Jesus had come to do His Father’s will… and what was that? “that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day” (John 6:38b).  Jesus came out of heaven – He left His eternal throne of glory to be born a peasant child. God became flesh and walked among us, folks!

God forever refutes the cynic from Eden – He did give us everything He had, the very, very best that heaven had to give: JESUS THE SON OF GOD!

This is the point of Christmas. Jesus was born; God invaded our world as a common-man. He lived the perfect life of obedience and sinlessness that Adam and Eve failed to live… and Jesus offered His perfect life as a sacrifice to pay for our cynicism and sin. He accomplished redemption for His people! Christmas!

He crushed the head of the serpent just as He Himself was being crushed on the cross. Christmas!

He bled and died in the place of you and me. Christmas!

His love was on full display for a rebellious, ugly humanity. Christmas!

God is the true Santa Claus: He truly gives gifts to all people… but even better, He gives gifts to those who do NOT deserve it, have not been good little boys and girls, and actually deserve a lot worse than a lump of coal. CHRISTMAS!

And Jesus proved all of this by rising from the dead. Easter! Oh, wait…

Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the giver of the gift of forgiveness, and you shall be saved.

Merry Christmas, 2012

Christmas Jesus

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Categories: Jesus the Pinnacle of History, The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Everything You Have Ever Done Will be Exposed pt. 4/4

I present to you the final part of Ben Askins‘ superb handling of Romans 2:6. If you missed parts 1, 2, and 3, please do go back and read them. This is worth your time – CNN, Fox, MSNBC, and Infowars are not. Tune in to the everlasting Gospel of Peace. I mean to truly entice you to read this entire sermon. Having been there when he preached it, I know the impact cannot be quite the same for you now, but for heaven’s sake, take the time and think through this stuff. Everything for you, forever, is riding on this truth.

Thanks for reading, and remember to stop by Ben’s blog and subscribe.

—–

Indeed, the only thing we provide in our salvation is the sin which makes it necessary.

Charles Spurgeon says that we receive this justification with “the empty hand of faith.” It’s true in a sense that the hand of faith is an empty hand, in that it brings nothing of value, but I do not think that is a fully accurate description of the biblical testimony on this matter. It’s not as if we haven’t already received much from the hands of God for which we are already responsible. He has given us life and relationships and opportunities and resources and we have wasted them all. These hands we bring to him are not merely empty. We come to him with the broken hands of faith. We’ve broken them abusing ourselves and others and we’ve wasted them seeking our own glory and we are completely responsible but we run to him as children to a father, helpless, broken. “Daddy, I broke it. Daddy, I wasted it. Will you help me?”

At first we think we turn to run to him, but when we become aware of ourselves, of reality, we realize that that we are too broken to do so and it was He who ran to us first. That he comes to us and justifies us, not because of anything we ever did, but in spite of everything we have ever done.

Now, I don’t want to get too sidetracked, but I do want the glorious immensity of this doctrine of God justifying and sanctifying sinners, of declaring sinners righteous in Christ and making sinners righteous by Christ, to be magnified in your heart and mind before you leave here tonight. So think closely for a moment about the idea of creation ex nihilo, creation out of nothing. God created the world out of nothing. If this is not the mystery of all mysteries, it is certainly a strong candidate for that position. He doesn’t create the world out of himself and he doesn’t create it out of pre-existing material, it’s not a soup or pottery. He makes everything out of nothing and everything was good.

And yet, in regenerating, justifying and sanctifying rebel sinners God is, in fact, doing a greater work than making the good creation out of nothing, if that can be imagined.

He is creating good out of evil.

We expect good to come from good and evil to come from evil. But where only evil exists, God brings out good. He does not make evil good or confuse good with evil in the process. This is, in fact, the mystery of all mysteries, the paradox at the center of God’s revelation. The creation of Adam was a declaration of God’s almighty power. But the new creation of humanity in the second Adam, Jesus Christ, through election, redemption, regeneration, justification and sanctification unto glorification is a still greater testimony to God’s incomparable perfections.

Worship him! Love him! Be in awe of the God who not only creates all things good, but when we have broken it he makes all things new! He miraculously brings good out of evil, and he so graciously intertwines the good of those who love him with his own glory, such that the one will never be sacrificed at the expense of the other. In Christ we can know that our own good is as sure to come from the depths of our greatest suffering as we can be that God is working out the purpose for everything, his own glorification. We can be assured that our final good on judgment day is as certain as God glorifying himself; and God is in his very nature glorious. In this way we are guaranteed to become the righteousness of God.

But that’s a whole other sermon unto itself.

So, if it is indeed the case that we are justified by faith apart from works of the law, how can we then be judged according to our works as our text so clearly states?

The first key in understanding the role of works in judgment and justification is that Christ’s death in our behalf removes our guilt, but not our responsibility. We remain perpetually responsible for our actions, even though the shame and penalty for those actions have been absorbed by another.

So, will the sins of believers be made public on the last day? There are theologians and commentators who argue that since the sins of Christians are covered by the blood of Christ, they cannot be a subject of discussion at the judgment. Account to ChristAlthough the Bible teaches that believers have the guilt and penalty of their sins removed and are clothed with Jesus’ perfect righteousness and thus are not in danger of being cast into hell, Scripture does teach very clearly that all Christians will have to give an account on that day. The reasons for this assertion are manifold.

First, one cannot avoid the biblical passages that speak of the judgment as an event that includes both the saved and the unsaved (e.g., Eccl. 12:14; Mt. 13:30, 36-43, 47-50; 25:31-34, 41; Ac. 17:30-31; Rev. 20:12-13).

Second, the evaluation of a believer’s works on the day of judgment is explicitly taught in the epistles and is used by Paul to urge believers to greater diligence in doing good: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil..” (2 Cor. 5:10) “For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Cor. 4:4-5). “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” (1 Cor. 3:12-15).

“Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God… So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (Rom. 14:10,12). An account cannot be given, however, except by a careful disclosure of one’s entire conduct, and thus the imperfections and failures of the faithful will of necessity also be made public.

Third, passages which warn believers that “God will judge the secrets of men” (Rom. 2:16); that men will give an account on the day of judgment “for every careless word” they speak (Mt. 12:36) cannot (given the context and audience) be restricted to unsaved sinners. Statements made by Jesus and the apostles, which are intended to spur Christians on to greater obedience, lose all their force if they do not apply to believers!

This view of the judgment raises a number of objections. First, if Jesus paid for all our sins why would He bring them up again on that day? Would this not bring shame upon the saints? Is not such shame incompatible with the joy of that day, when sinning will be no more? One must keep in mind that the sins evaluated are forgiven sins. A passage of Scripture that teaches that genuine believers will not experience shame at Christ’s coming is 1 John 2:28. “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”

“Believers do not turn in shame from Christ for they know that their sins have been forgiven. They are free from shame. But those who have pretended to be Christians cannot stand in the revealing light of his coming. They cannot hide their shame.” (Simon J. Kistemaker)

They [the sins of believers] are brought up not to shame the believer but to magnify God’s grace and determine a suitable reward. Further, all saints who appear before the Son of God in their glorified bodies will be happy to confess all their sins to Christ. Being perfected in sanctification, Christians on that day will not feel shame but rather will experience the sweetest type of spiritual joy.

They will evaluate their own works not from a standpoint of selfishness, ego or self-glorification, but from the standpoint of having the mind of Christ. Thus, even the most faithful of saints will throw their crowns at the pierced feet of the Savior (Rev. 4:10).

Second, doesn’t the Bible say that the sins of believers are covered (Ps. 32:1), washed away (Ps. 51:2), cast into the depth of the sea (Mic. 7:19), taken from us as far as east is from west (Ps. 103:12), never to be remembered by God (Isa. 43:25)? Indeed, it does say these things. However, these statements must be understood within the full context of Scripture. A reading of the Bible reveals that not only are the sins of believers such as Moses, Abraham, David and Peter remembered by God, but they are recorded in Scripture and published before all for eternity (Isa. 40:8). When the Bible speaks about God removing and forgetting sin it means that the guilt and penalty of our sins have been removed. God no longer holds the sin against the sinner for Christ has paid the price. The passages regarding God forgetting sin must be applied to guilt and punishment for it is impossible for them to mean that an omniscient being forgets our sins.

So, how do we live in light of the knowledge that we are justified by faith but will be judged according to our works? Scripture abounds with admonitions and examples in this regard, but I will choose one which I think is both easily overlooked and remarkably vivid when correctly understood. Ps. 23:4-5a says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

Picture two armies arrayed for battle, facing each other several hundred yards apart. A scene right out of Braveheart or The Patriot or Glory. The captains of the armies traditionally meet on the battlefield to discuss the possibility of a truce, the rules of engagement, the expectations of the battle. When our Lord declares us justified he prepares a victory feast for us in the presence of the world, the flesh and the devil rather than a negotiation table. The enemy arrives to negotiate the terms of battle and finds that we are already celebrating victory! In justification we are declared victorious and begin to enjoy the spoils of victory before the battle has been waged.

It is completely counterintuitive. “You are victorious! Now go fight the battle! Fight like a champion! Be what you are in Christ!” This is one of the keys to understanding gospel-centered Spirit-empowered faith-driven obedience to God: be what you are in Christ. God has declared you righteous, sinner, now live righteously. You need fear no evil, not your own sins, not the sins of others, nothing. Everything you do is permanent and you are responsible for everything you do, but everything which Christ has done is just as permanent and has been credited to you and your guilt to Him. We are declared justified, though the final judgment has not yet taken place. Court is not yet in session, but a verdict has been rendered and all of the charges have been “dismissed with prejudice.”

We are declared to be what we will become, what God will make us. He will complete the good work he began in you, working in you to will and to do according to his good pleasure. The law is then no longer a curse to us which we cannot obey, but a promise of all that we are and are becoming and will be in Christ. “You will not kill. You will not steal. You will not lie. You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself.” Now go and live in the fearless, risk-taking, self-sacrificing love of your Savior; go live in the freedom of the righteousness of Christ given to you, so that you won’t be ashamed on the day of judgment. Freely you have received, now freely give.

Freely Give

 

Categories: The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Everything You Have Ever Done Will be Exposed pt. 3

If you didn’t catch parts 1 and 2 of Ben Askins‘ sermon, please read them and then come back here.

If there was a video recording of all your thoughts from yesterday, and they were going to be posted on the internet, would you ever be able to show your face again? Probably not. This is the sermon for you. The final part will be posted tomorrow…

Remember, everything you have ever done (thought, felt, or pondered), will be exposed. Have a great day!

—–

The second problem is that fulfilling your duty to obey the law does not earn you any rewards, and obeying God’s law is our duty. Luke 17:7-10, “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Since there is no merit in performing one’s duty and only guilt is incurred by failing to do so, the scale of good would be empty and the scale of evil would be full. Let’s be perfectly clear that there is no justification in that.

Legalism and Moralism are forms of self-justification which rely on a goodness, a righteousness inside of ourselves where only guilt and sin exist. It is self-delusional to look to the source of a problem in the hope of finding the solution to that problem. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” (Mt. 7:18) Permanent guilt is not removed by obeying the law, unless it is obeyed perfectly. And it has become an almost cliché truism to recognize that “nobody’s perfect.”

In fact, the statement “nobody’s perfect” exemplifies the basis for another, opposite theory of justification commonly held today. I naively used to think that when people said “nobody’s perfect” that this was a kind of tacit acknowledgement of the biblical doctrine of original sin, that everyone is sinful by nature and choice. However, as I began to ask deeper questions and listen more intently to what people were saying I realized I was completely wrong. “Nobody’s perfect” is used to justify nearly any infidelity, even when recognized as wrong, by an appeal to the universal failures of others. In fact, if you confront someone about a specific instance of wrongdoing “nobody’s perfect” is often used very basically as a “you too” deflection (tu quoque), but it is still more complicated than that.

When confronted with our own guilt the tendency is to “squirm” or deflect, to seek to justify ourselves. This self-justification, oddly enough, often comes through an appeal to universal imperfection: “yeah, well, nobody’s perfect.” “Nobody’s perfect” becomes the justification for our own sinfulness, rather than the grace of Christ. “Nobody’s perfect” becomes the practical basis for doing whatever we like as though we are in fact perfect, since our wrongs aren’t any wronger than anyone else’s. “Nobody’s perfect” is not a tacit acceptance of Original Sin, it is a practical way of shifting responsibility so that we no longer consider ourselves guilty when staring in the face of our own guilt. If “nobody’s perfect” then, simply by adjusting our ethical standard to match the level of our ethical failure, then it is as if everybody is perfect, which is sheer relativism.

“Nobody’s perfect” really means “nobody can judge me.” If everyone is guilty, then nobody is guilty; or so the logic goes. It’s not an admission of guilt.

We can place this view of justification into the categories of Antinomianism or Lawlessness and the category of Relativism. It is a form of self-justification which looks outside of us to the common guilt of others as the basis for our justification. It seeks to lower the standard, since if everybody breaks the law, then the law must be wrong. If you want to see a great example of this kind of relativistic, lawless self-justification, watch the documentary “Bigger Stronger Faster.” The premise is a film about the use of performance enhancing drugs in American culture, particularly in sports; but it becomes an interesting exercise in self-justification and rationalization. Well, worth the rental.

As I said, Legalism and Lawlessness are the “two thieves” between which the Gospel is “crucified.” Legalism and Moralism look inside of us for a righteousness that isn’t there while Lawlessness and Relativism look outside of ourselves in order to declare our own comparative righteousness based on the fact of universal guilt.

Nowhere to hide

Nowhere to hide

This is just spiritual alchemy. No amount of special pleading will turn your own guilt or your neighbor’s guilt into righteousness when God judges the secrets of men.

No amount of self-deception will remove your guilt.

Now, keep clear in your mind that there are Christianized forms of Legalism and Moralism, which give lip-service to the idea of being justified by faith in Christ, while still practically looking inside one’s self for the righteousness of doctrinal orthodoxy or church attendance or adherence to extra-biblical standards of goodness as the basis for God’s favor. “Run, John, run. The law commands, but gives me neither feet nor hands. Yet sweeter news the gospel brings. It bids me fly and gives me wing.”
And there are also Christianized forms of Lawlessness and Relativism which give lip-service to the idea of seeking an “alien righteousness” outside of ourselves in Christ, but uses the idea of that righteousness as the basis for continuing to love sin, to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator. “Free from the law, Oh blessed condition. I can sin as I please and still have remission.” I don’t think it’s too harsh to say that someone who views being rescued from a burning building as a good reason to rush back into the building is stupid. Lawlessness is stupid.

Here’s a quick check for believers: Do you tend to justify yourself? When your co-workers or parents or spouse or friends confront you about a mistake or a failure or a sin, do you look for ways to excuse yourself or do you live a life of repentance, as if your justification for all of your life is entirely outside of yourself in Christ alone? If in even the simple, basic interactions of daily life you seek to justify yourself, what evidence is there in you that would lead anyone to conclude that you have been justified in Christ alone? Live and breathe and laugh and weep and suffer and die as if you can only ever be justified in Christ alone. And when confronted with your failures, don’t justify yourself; repent and be justified in Christ.

So, having demonstrated the errors of justification by legalism or lawlessness we return to the question: can permanent, everlasting guilt be removed? Not easily. In fact, with man this is impossible. However, with God all things are possible.

Proverbs 17:15 says that “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” So how does God justify the wicked (Rom. 4:5) and condemn Christ the righteous (Is. 53:6) without being an abomination to Himself? How does God impute evil to a sinless man, let criminals go free, even graciously rewarding them, and still be just and righteous? How can the cross on which Christ died ever be considered justice, rather than an abomination?

The answer lies in the implications of the following statement: Christ was completely God and completely human, perfectly sinless. Theologians commonly make the distinction between Christ’s active obedience (His life lived in perfect righteousness, fully obeying the commands of God in all things at all times) and His passive obedience (submitting Himself to the shame and agony of death on a cross at the hands of wicked men). It is commonly recognized that in the totality of Christ’s obedience is the foundation of the complete righteousness imputed to sinners.

Christ’s active obedience necessarily entails obeying the two greatest commandments of God: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mt. 22:37-40)

It is my argument that, given a world full of sinners and the law of love quoted above, the death of a perfectly obedient man given the God-like opportunity to accept the judgment of “his neighbors” would be a case of consequent absolute necessity.

In other words, if the history of the world is full of sinners (and it is) and the penalty for sin is death (and it is) and the two greatest commandments are to love God and people (and they are), then the substitutionary death of Christ must occur if He is to remain truly perfect, sinless (and he is).

If Christ is to remain perfectly good He must choose to become evil; if He is to be completely sinless He must choose to become sin; if He is to remain completely obedient to God He must embody disobedience. If permanent, everlasting guilt is to be removed then it must be the case that “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

You see, in order for Christ to continue to love God with all His heart, soul and mind He must (among other things) live in such a way as to display that God is just, that no sin will go unpunished and no truly good act will go unrewarded. Christ was “put forward as a (sacrifice) by his blood… to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” (Rom. 3:25) God had mercifully chosen to largely “overlook” the sins of men from the time of Adam to Christ, being patient and not exacting the punishment deserved from men for their disobedience. This, however, could open the door for questions regarding whether or not God is just (not that He could be charged with being too harsh, mind you, but for being too lax in His judgments). In order for Christ to obey the two greatest commandments, He had to choose to become evil out of love for God (by choosing to accept in Himself the evils committed by all of humanity throughout history), so that God might be just in delivering his wrath upon Christ, who had become the evil of all humanity.

Christ chooses to become evil, to have our sin counted as his own, in an act of loving obedience to the two greatest commandments.

For Christ to choose to become evil, to choose the cross, was the only way for God to be just in punishing a perfectly sinless man, and Christ remains perfectly sinless in choosing to become evil because becoming evil for the purpose of proving God’s justice was done out of love for God and people, obedience to the two greatest commandments. He necessarily chose to become sin in order to remain sinless. The absolute only way for Christ to perfectly obey the two greatest commandments in a sinful world was for Him to become the sinful world and for God to punish Him for it in death. Because of this loving act of obedience, God puts all things in subjection under His feet (1 Cor. 15:27) and He purchases the chosen people for whom He laid down His life, receiving their punishment and displaying the greatest love (Jn. 15:13).

And all of this was done according to God’s eternal plan, in order that His righteousness might be shown, “so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:26)
So how can permanent guilt be removed? How can God be both just and the justifier of sinners? Christ, in order to remain perfectly sinless, becomes sin and receives the just wrath of God for being evil (which was severe physical, emotional and spiritual punishment culminating in death), while the reward of His obedience is graciously given to those for whom he died, and Christ is raised again to life because of His perfect sinlessness. He pays the penalty for sin and overcomes the power of sin, proven by His resurrection. Death could not keep him, since he owed nothing and he could not be held. It’s not wrong for God to impute sin to Christ, for Christ had chosen to become sinful out of love for God and man; and it’s not wrong for God to impute Christ’s righteousness to us, since he will make us the righteousness of God. In this way we are declared righteous in Christ and we begin to progressively be made righteous by Christ.

Our justification and our sanctification are both in the gospel, in union with Christ; not by works of the law and not by adjustments of the law. Justification and sanctification are both inseparably in Christ. Just as he can’t be divided into parts (or merely be our Savior and not our Lord), we cannot have justification without sanctification. “We are justified not without works, yet not through works, since in our sharing in Christ, which justifies us, sanctification is just as much included as righteousness.” (Calvin, Inst. 3.16.1) We are justified by faith alone, but not a faith that is alone. Faith = Justification + Works.

(To be continued…)

Categories: The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Everything You Have Ever Done Will be Exposed pt. 2

Please read part 1 of this God-exalting sermon from my friend Ben Askins.

Is this a long-ish post? Yup. Should you make time for it and come back to read parts 3 and 4? You better believe it, my friends.

Here is part 2. Soli Deo Gloria!

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Human history has a terminus point, a time of reckoning. God permitted a long age of rebellion. For thousands of years God has showed patience and longsuffering to a wicked world. He has blessed the wicked with sunshine, rain, food and delights of every kind (beautiful beaches, lovely sunsets, family, friends, sex, a good night’s sleep, great food, fun vacations, laughter and pleasure). But a day is coming when all rebellion will be crushed. For the unrepentant this life is the closest thing to heaven they will ever experience. There has been a long day for sinning; therefore, God has ordained a special day for judgment. The definitive victory over evil that Christ achieved at the cross becomes a perfected reality on that day when the sheep are forever separated from the goats. “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Rom. 2:4-5)

The final judgment resolves the many injustices that occur in this world that have not been rectified on earth. There are wicked people who live and die in the lap of luxury. There are murderers, rapists and thieves who are never caught, exposed and punished for their crimes. There are dictators who oppress the poor, torture and murder innocent people, and yet live in palaces and die at a ripe old age. There are many people who have been severely wronged and have not experienced vindication, closure or justice in this life. There are millions of God’s children who have been slandered, beaten, imprisoned and even murdered for their faith.

Will a righteous and holy God allow such inequities to go unpunished? Will the God of perfect justice allow injustice to continue interminably in His universe? Will the Lord allow evil people to get away with their sins and crimes? God’s holy nature requires that all injustices be resolved.

God displays His perfect justice by publicly exposing all sins and crimes, by publicly declaring the guilt of the offending parties and by publicly meting out the sentence of condemnation. There is a day of perfect justice and closure because God’s nature demands it. There are no ethical loose ends in Christ’s kingdom.

Every mother and every father of every little boy and every little girl kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery will finally witness the perfect wrath of Almighty God poured out in full fury on all those guilty of such wickedness, from the civil magistrate who fails, out of laziness, incompetence or bribery in his duties to enforce the law and protect the most helpless, to those who buy and sell and trade in the rape of the most innocent among us.

Neglected Child

Every mouth will be stopped and every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, in heaven and on earth and, yes, even under the earth on that great and terrible day of the Lord’s judgment.

And you and I will be judged according to how we have responded or not responded to such tragedies. “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to (Christ).’” (Mt. 25:44-45) Oh Lord forgive us for endlessly quibbling over the logical order of the divine decrees or drawing lines of division among ourselves over the difference between a “universally sufficient atonement which is particular in scope” and a “universally accomplished atonement which is particular in its application” while our children and our neighbor’s children are used like Kleenex and thrown away, while there are still places on this planet where the glorious name of Christ has never been heard. Oh Lord forgive us… and help us to obey.

Everything you do is permanent and you are responsible for everything you do. There must be and there will be a day when God will judge the world and bring an end to all rebellion against Himself forever.

Hell is eternal because everything you do is permanent and you are responsible for everything you do. Just because you are no longer ashamed by the guilt of your past sins doesn’t remove your guilt for committing them. The passage of time doesn’t remove guilt.

The punishment in hell is varied in severity, since “that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Lk 12:47-48). But the punishment received according to the works you have done will continue so long as your guilt remains. And your guilt is permanent. “Because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Rom. 2:5) Hell is everlasting because your guilt is everlasting.

So can permanent, everlasting guilt be removed? The answer to this question is something into which angels long to look.

Some turn to the statements of the immediate context of our text for the answer, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” (Rom. 2:13) “Those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.’ (Rom. 2:7)

“They who pervert this passage for the purpose of building up justification by works, deserve most fully to be laughed at even by children.” –John Calvin, Commentary on Romans 2

Every philosophy of life, every worldview, no matter how mismatched and cobbled together or sophisticated and self-consistent, has a theory of salvation, which contains a doctrine of justification, a way that humanity can respond to the prescribed problems of the human condition, of dealing with guilt.

The President tells us that we can be saved from the apocalyptic judgment of global warming by minimizing our carbon footprint and recycling (among other things). The Buddha told us that we can be freed from the wheel of reincarnation by attaining self-awakening through the Noble 8-Fold Path of having the right view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration which lead to attaining right knowledge and right liberation. These different worldviews contain different doctrines of justification, different ways for dealing with human guilt and failure. Essentially, one answer offered is that we can make up for our guilt by believing and doing the right things. Justification = Faith + Works.

June 28, 2009 marks the completion of the Anno Paulino or the Pauline Year, which the Pope instituted in honor of the 2000th anniversary of the apostle’s birth. In the papal decree Urbis et Orbis it states: “The gift of Indulgences which the Roman Pontiff offers to the universal Church, truly smoothes the way to attaining a supreme degree of inner purification which, while honoring the Blessed Apostle Paul, exalts the supernatural life in the hearts of the faithful and gently encourages them to do good deeds… Each and every truly repentant individual member of the Christian faithful, duly absolved through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and restored with Holy Communion, who devoutly makes a pilgrimage to the Papal Basilica of St. Paul on the Ostian Way and who prays for the Supreme Pontiff’s intentions, will be granted the Plenary Indulgence from temporal punishment for his/her sins, once sacramental forgiveness and pardon for any shortcomings has been obtained. The Christian faithful may benefit from the Plenary Indulgence both for themselves and for the deceased, as many times as they fulfill the required conditions but without prejudice to the norm stipulating that the Plenary Indulgence may be obtained only once a day.”

Best known for his rich proclamation of free grace and severe condemnation of any church that would preach a different gospel, Paul’s birth being celebrated with indulgences is the irony of the century.

Biblically, we can place these varied but similar perspectives in one of two categories: in its narrower and more stringent form we can categorize it as Legalism, that we are justified by our obedience to a strict code of belief and ethics. In its more general, liberal form we can call it Moralism, which does not require strict adherence to a law of some sort, but general adherence to moral principles of one kind or another.

Moralism is just Legalism’s lazy little brother.

The problems for the Legalist and the Moralist are two-fold. The first problem is that obedience to law and morality in one instance does not remove the permanent guilt for disobedience in any other instance. There is no justification for stealing a candy bar earned by offering to mow your neighbor’s lawn. That idea is just sheer nonsense. The idea that there is a balance on one side of which are weighed your good deeds and the other of which weighs your failures is wrong because it fundamentally misunderstands the nature of guilt and responsibility. Doing good in one instance cannot negate doing evil in another instance, even if it mitigates the consequences of evil, since everything you do is permanent.

(To be continued…)

Categories: The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Everything You Have Ever Done Will be Exposed pt. 1

That was the message given by brother Ben Askins at the Evangelical Church of Fairport one Wednesday night in June 2009. His text was Romans 2:6… “he will render to each one according to his works.” How Puritan of Mr. Askins. Short. Stark. Powerful.

We as Protestants fight tooth and nail against any suggestion that our standing with God could be based on our works and deeds – but to the detriment of biblical theology do we ignore the many passages that warn us… we will be judged according to our works.

With Ben’s permission, I am re-posting his moving sermon here at ItC blog, in 4 parts. Of the thousands of sermons I have heard since 2009, few have stuck with me like this one. Literally. Every. Thought. Will. Be. Made. Known. Wow…

Please check out Ben’s blog B.C. Askins: The Man with the Golden Gun

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Romans 2:6, “He will render to each one according to his works…”

Everything you do is permanent. This is a fact as basic as our own existence. The fact that you were here at church at 7PM on June 24, 2009 is now irreversible. That is what you were doing and it will forever be the case that that is what you were doing. Yes, I’m aware of the invention of the eraser. But erasing something which you wrote an hour ago does not change the fact that you were writing it an hour ago. Cover-ups, apologies, confessions, self-delusion, erasures, reparations, none of these things removes the permanency of our every action at every moment in our lives. Everything you do is permanent and you are responsible for everything you do.

And that is the teaching of our text: “He will render to each one according to his works.” Everything that you do is permanent and everything that you do is done before the face of God, who will render to each one according to his works. Yes, you, Christian, you will be judged according to your works. Christian, atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, man, woman, child, we will all be judged according to our works, to what we have thought, said and done in this life. “To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

According to the gospel, on that day of final judgment God will judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. The judgment will be according to works and it will be public and it will be exhaustive.

No secret thought or motivation left unpunished or unrewarded. I will see your sins… and you will see mine. I will see how you really thought about me and why you have done the things you have done.

I will see how you’ve thought about my wife. And you will be called upon to give an answer for every careless word spoken, every lustful glance, every self-centered motive, every rebellious action. If the idea of the rest of us seeing publicly all of the shameful things you have thought, said and done terrifies you, then that is a legitimate response. It is legitimate, but not at all adequate. How lowly we must think of the God who sees and knows all, how little we must think of the judge with whom we have to deal, to be terrified at the idea of other mere men and women observing our wickedness and self-righteousness, but not terrified enough to stop ourselves from sinning before the face of God! “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt. 10:28) “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me…” (Ps. 139:23) He will. Oh yes, he will.

Objections to this clear doctrine of Scripture abound, from both professing Christians and unbelievers. 

The unbeliever objects to the entire idea of judgment, of punishment, of hell on many different levels. Atheist journalist Christopher Hitchens decries the concept of “thought-crimes” held against us by what he calls a “voyeuristic deity.” Another objection is that even if certain people do deserve punishment in certain cases, such as Hitler or Pol Pot, there is still no reason for that punishment to be everlasting, unceasing.

Professing Christian will object that the Bible says that the sins of believers are covered (Ps. 32:1), washed away (Ps. 51:2), cast into the depth of the sea (Mic. 7:19), never to be remembered by God (Isa. 43:25). That we are justified by faith alone.

Believers, allow me to make clear to you at the outset that the degree to which you are resistant to this biblical doctrine of universal judgment according to works is the degree to which you have misunderstood the doctrine of justification. It is the degree to which antinomianism (or lawlessness) has eclipsed the gospel of Christ in your understanding. And the degree to which you feel natural comfort in the face of this troubling doctrine is the degree to which legalism has surpassed Christ in your heart. It is my hope that before we are through this evening that the gospel of grace will be set forth clearly on this question of the final judgment, so that you can be freed from lawlessness and legalism, the two “thieves” between which the gospel of Christ is perennially “crucified.”

Tonight, I will respond briefly to the objections of believer and unbeliever by attempting to bring the full weight of the Scripture to bear upon the concepts of judgment and justification. Then we will look at three different, but common, formulations of justification: two of them are false and one is true. Which of them you believe is something for which you are permanently responsible.

So Christopher Hitchens accuses God of being a cosmic voyeur and that the idea that God will judge us for our thoughts is, to him, repulsive. Like many of the assertions of the so-called “New Atheists,” this barely deserves a response. It’s not an argument, so it can’t really be refuted. If he and I were to have a discussion or debate on the matter, and he were to raise this objection I might simply reply, “Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, dude.” Hitchens, like many atheists, gets thing precisely backwards, assuming that he is the judge and God is the one on trial. Nothing could be further out of touch with reality. However, his assertion does raise the question, why does God judge even the secrets of men? After all, no court on earth does such a thing.

No Secrets

The answer is a simple one. Our distinction between public and private sins does not exist for God. He is everywhere present and all-knowing. Every instant he is everywhere, seeing and evaluating everything. We live every moment of our lives as though performed on a stage before him. “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” (Heb. 4:13). As I said, everything you do is permanent and you are responsible for everything you do.

God will judge men’s thoughts – ” Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5); He will judge men’s words – ” I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Mt. 12:36-37); and he will judge men’s deeds – “And then will (Christ) declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Mt. 7:23). “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’” (Mt. 25:41-43).

The secret things will be judged because perfect justice demands it. Some of the most heinously wicked acts in all of history have been done in secret. All sins will be laid bare. Secret offenses will be brought into judgment. This includes the hidden motives of every action; for we may do that which is right from a wrong motive, and so the deed may be evil in the sight of God, though it seems right in the sight of others. The secret things are of the very essence of our actions. Whether or not an action is good or bad very much depends on the motives behind it. It may seem good, but the motive may tarnish it; and so, if God did not judge the secret part of the action he would not judge righteously.

Think what it will be to have your motives all brought to light, to have it proven that you were godly for the sake of gain, that you were generous as a mere exhibition, or zealous simply for the love of praise, that you spoke carefully in public to maintain a good reputation, but that all the while everything was done for self, and self only.

Indeed, on that day God will reveal all secrets, even secrets that were secrets to the sinners themselves, for there is sin in us which we have never seen, and iniquity in us which we have never yet discovered. We have managed for our own comfort’s sake to blind our eyes somewhat, and we take care to look away from the things about ourselves which it is inconvenient to see; but we shall be compelled to see everything in that day, when the Lord judges the secrets of men. The deeds of the night. The sins hidden behind closed doors. Even sins hidden from husband or wife. If a professing Christian is living in dishonesty, untruthfulness, fornication, adultery, uncleanness or idolatry it will all be made known on that day. For “the sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later (or trail behind them NIV).” (1 Tim. 5:24). All hypocrisy will come to an end on that day. Hypocrites will have an eternity to ponder their foolishness and shame.

It is also true that some of the most selflessly loving acts are performed in secret. All the sacrifices, good deeds and secret works done on behalf of Christ will receive a reward. The greatest deeds that God delights in are those that are done by his servants when they have shut the door and are alone with him; when they have no other motive but to please him; when they intentionally avoid publicity, choosing the final praise of God over the immediate praise of men; when the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. It would be an injustice if such deeds were left out at the final judgment. This fact should be a great incentive for kingdom work. We strive for righteousness and make our bodies living sacrifices not to receive the praise of men but to hear the words of our precious Savior, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Mt. 25:34). The wise and diligent Christian lays up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Mt. 6:20). The fervent believer runs the race so that he may obtain a prize (1 Cor. 9:24). The faithful servant will receive an imperishable crown (1 Cor. 9:25). What is done for Christ will last forever. “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.” (2 Jn. 8). Be diligent. Run the race. Fight the good fight, for your labors in Christ are never in vain. You will receive a reward that can never perish or be taken away when our king returns.

Now Scripture testifies that the final judgment is a public event. Jesus will return in glory surrounded by the host of heaven. As the judge he will summon all mankind (Mt. 25:32) and the dead will arise at His call (Jn 5:28-29), coming forth from their graves and even the oceans will give up the dead within them (Rev. 20:13). God has ordained the final day to be public for several reasons.
First, its public nature will glorify Christ. Our Lord who was publicly humiliated, condemned as a criminal and crucified will be publicly exalted and vindicated before the whole human race. Every mouth will be stopped and every knee will bow before Him.

Second, God has decreed that the secrets of men whether good or evil will be exposed in a very public manner. Every sinner will hear the story of his wicked life published to his everlasting shame. The public nature of the event is obviously intended to magnify the guilt, shame and dread of the occasion.

Third, the public nature of the event is also a vindication of the saints. Not only will God’s people witness the exposure and condemnation of their enemies and persecutors; the persecutors of faithful Christians, the skeptics and mockers of the truth, will witness the gracious exaltation of believers for the fruits of faith, the good works done in the body. It is a day when the tables are turned, when the humble shall be exalted, the meek shall inherit the earth and the wicked, the proud, and the boastful shall be abased. All who laughed at the truth will be publicly cast into hell.

(To be continued…)

Categories: The Message of the Bible | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The World’s Most Famous Man Revealed!

Middle East: Almost beyond imagination, archaeologists have found reliable, verified, historically significant documents which were written by the very men who knew the world’s most famous man personally. He lived on earth almost 2,000 years ago, but yet the expansive library of ancient texts which together attest to the direct words of this man show us today that his words are unparalleled in importance among all other words ever written.

His words are unmatched in authority, majesty, and promise. To make things even more mind-blowing, archaeologists have also found even older texts from the centuries before he was ever born, showing hundreds of predictions about his nature, his birth, his life, his death, and even his resurrection from the dead. Statisticians estimate that the odds of one person being able to fulfill all of these predictions is approximately null… impossible, astronomical.1

In other words, the claims and realities surrounding this man’s being are impossible to ignore, refute, or overturn. All signs seem to point to the unavoidable conclusion: God became a Man and lived among us.

There’s only one issue left to tackle: people will do anything to avoid this conclusion. Are you avoiding it?

1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (NASB).

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1. Les Krantz, What the Odds Are (HarperPerennial, 1992).

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