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Life Theology

Why is it important to understand the difference between justification and sanctification?

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:  “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;  blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Romans 4:5-8)

Justification involves God forgiving sin. Some would argue that it does not, but without the forgiveness of sin, we cannot be made right with God.

In Paul’s magnificent treatment of this doctrine in Romans 4, he points to David as proof that justification is by faith alone, when he wrote in Psalm 32, “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.”  Forgiveness happens when one person says to another, “I won’t count this against you. I choose to forgive, rather than condemn.”

Justification and forgiveness change the way one person is viewed by another.  When God justifies a person, he makes a legal declaration about them. He makes them right in relationship to himself.  But this does not change people in a practical way.  There is no change in our thinking, behavior, or attitude.  Justification is not sanctification, for when God sanctifies a person, he actively does something in them.

You might think, James, why are you writing this? What’s the big deal? Why do I need to know the difference? After all, as long as you read the Bible and love Jesus, you don’t need to know these theological definitions, right?

Wrong.

If you think justification and sanctification are the same thing, then the very foundation of  your standing with God will shake beneath you.  You will despair of God’s love after that lonely late night affair with pornography.  You will doubt that God is for you when you yet again blown up at your children for running around the house.  You will wonder if God will ignore your prayers after you have neglected sharing the gospel with your neighbor. You will wonder if God will abandon his commitment to you after you have spoken harshly to your spouse.

If, to you, justification and sanctification are the same, you will always wrestle with whether you are enough for God. The truth is, you and I will never be enough. But Jesus is. So praise be to God that because of Christ “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:4).

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Life

Why should judgment cause rejoicing?

The fact that God will judge the world should cause his people to rejoice. Why? God’s judgment proves that he is a God who cares about justice, righteousness, and holiness. Psalm 98:4, 8-9 reminds of of this:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises.

…Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
before the Lord, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

Going beyond this precious fact, what truly grips my heart and causes it to rejoice even more is that Jesus Christ, the God-man, is the One who will be judging the world.  In John’s gospel, Jesus said:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment (5:24-29).

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Theology

Passion Week – Good Friday Meditation

Part 5 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

1 Peter 3:18:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:21:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus did not come to make you a good person with upstanding morals and decent ethics.  He came to make you a perfect person.  How does he do this?  He died in our place and bore the concentrated wrath of the Father that we deserved for our sin.  Our sin was credited to him; his righteousness was credited to us. Whoever believes in him, by faith, is presented to the Father, not as a “good” person, but as a completely perfected person.

Hear these penetrating words from C.S. Lewis.

God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing — or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God — the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up.  If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.

Father in Heaven, let me feel the weight of glory of Christ’s crucifixion. This is no game. My sin is serious, and it put the God-man to death. Yet that is the only way I could be made perfect, the only way I could be right with you. Thank you for your Son. Thank you for the Cross. Let my eyes always be on the Cross.

Categories
Theology

Sermon 8: Sin Darkened Hearts

Sin Darkened Hearts
Series: Redemption
Pastor Steve Moltumyr

Romans 1:18-32

  • God reveals righteousness and wrath.  Both of them reveal who God is.
  • The wrath of God is a permanent, consistent attribute of God that is a holy response to everything that is unholy.

Why do we deserve God’s wrath?

  • We suppress the truth about God.
    • We don’t lack information about God, we deliberately reject what is uncomfortable for us to hear.
    • The universe is God’s signpost that points us to his power and nature.
    • At the most basic level, we suppress truth because we don’t like it.
  • We refuse to glorify and thank God.
    • We are not courteous to God.  This cosmic ingratitude causes us to live in the illusion of self-sufficiency.
    • Our refusal to acknowledge God is at the root of all our sin.  In essence, we want to be our own god.
  • We create idols to replace God.
    • Idols do not have to be primitive statues of wood or stone.
    • If you rest your security in anything other than God, you are putting your hope in an idol.  You are an idolater.
    • The end result of consistent, unrepentant idolatry is that God gives us what we want.

The Solution

  • As we look at this vice list, it should be like looking in a mirror.
  • We must look to Jesus, the only one who never committed one of these sins listed.  Even though he was innocent, he took on our sin and God’s wrath so that we might be forgiven and become his righteousness.
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Reviews

The Book of Eli

This weekend Carly and I went to see The Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington. Eli is filled with bloody fight scenes, engaging cinematography, and intense mystery.  I won’t tell you too much; I don’t want to be a spoiler.  But here’s a quick premise.

In post-apocalyptic, wasteland America,  Washington plays Eli, a sunglass-wearing, nomadic warrior who has a good heart but isn’t afraid to finish a fight. He’s been walking across the country for the past 30 years, since the ‘last war.’  The war caused a rip in the ozone layer, bringing about a bright flash from the sun which incinerated most of the world. There are no more amenities or grocery stores or booming metropolises. Clean water is hard to find and bartering everyday items is the new currency.

Eli travels with nothing more than a backpack, a water canteen, a machete, a sawed-off shot gun, and a thick leather-bound Bible.  Gary Oldman co-stars as Carnegie, a power hungry man who covets Eli’s book, the only one that survived the “flash”.  Washington is on a mission to find the place where it will be read, respected, and treasured.

What I want to comment on is the role the Bible plays in this film.  I don’t know what the directors mean to do, but the Bible is the central focus — more so than Washington’s character, in my opinion.  How gutsy of the directors to make a movie where the Bible is the only book wanted and needed in America!  This movie made me want to read my Bible more and know it better.  It won’t take long the viewer long to find out that most of the people Eli’s age died in the war or passed soon thereafter.  Since the Bible he owns is the only one left, most of these young people have never heard of God or learned how to pray.  Imagine a world where no one knows John 3:16.  Imagine a world where no one takes the Lord’s name in vain because they haven’t even heard his name.  This is Eli’s world.  Everyone is in survival mode, and murdering for a cup of water or a battery is all in a day’s business.  Society has fallen apart.  Chaos has taken over, and there will be no restoration until God’s word has been spread.  What a concept.

Carnegie wants Eli’s Book, not for spiritual growth, but to control the people of the towns he is rebuilding across the country.  His plan is to use it for selfish gain and prosperity.  Viewing the movie through theological lenses, Carnegie plays the role of a greedy prosperity pastor.  Just like Carnegie, pastors who espouse the prosperity gospel peddle God’s word for selfish gain.  They don’t want the Bible to be read, respected, and treasured in order to taste and see the glory of Jesus Christ.  They want to use and manipulate the Bible for their sinful desires.

Whether it’s money or power or possessions or fame, the desire for anything other than Jesus will only lead to destructionThe Book of Eli beautifully paints this reality.  Whether the directors meant to or not.