God in His Holiness vs Man in His Sin

We will never fully understand the holiness of God – but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try.  The holiness of God is so important that we can’t afford to ignore it.  Because we must deal with God, we must of necessity deal with His majestic holiness.  The more we meditate on the holiness of God, the more we appreciate why sin totally cuts us off from God – and the more we will cry out to Him for forgiveness through the blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. A vision of God’s holiness helps us understand the depth of our sin and that is good for our souls.  John Stott says it best:

JB-Holiness-1-1280x768Even though we may not realize it now, the most terrible result of sin is that it cuts us off from God. Our highest destiny is to know God, to be in personal relationship with him. Our chief claim to nobility as human beings is that we were made in the image of God and are therefore capable of knowing him. But this God whom we are meant to know and whom we ought to know is a righteous Being, infinite in his moral perfection. The Bible consistently stresses this truth:   Continue reading

Man in Sin

Man's_Sin,_and_God's_Promise_(Bible_Card)Yesterday, I talked about the fact that Jesus came into this world to “save His people from their sins” and yet people would rather be saved from everything else except their sins.  The reason for this is that many people do not sin as man’s greatest problem.  But as D. A. Carson points out,

 If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior.

Today, I would like to discuss the subject of Man in Sin.  What does the Bible mean when it says that man is a sinner?  I would like to share five things in response to this question based on the teaching of the Bible. Continue reading

How I Became A Christian

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro. 5:8).

Today, I thought I should share how the LORD opened my eyes to His glorious grace in Christ.  I was nine years old.  I remember vividly what happened.  I picked up a small gospel tract in my Dad’s study.  My father is a Gospel Minister as well.  He has been since before I was born.  So being born in a pastor’s home, the seed of the Gospel was planted in my heart from a very young age.  I loved going to church with my parents every Sunday and at any other time there was something going on at the church.  I loved the daily family times of prayer which we used to have as a family throughout all the years, I was growing up at home.  I loved to pray!  I loved the Word of God!  I loved the church!  For the most part, I was a good kid (not perfect by any stretch of imagination).  I was doing well in school and was well-behaved at home most of the time. Continue reading

Be Killing Sin Or Sin Will Kill You

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:5-11).

Yesterday, the Apostle Paul exhorted us to set our minds on things above and to remember our identity in Christ if we want to become like Christ.  Today, he exhorts us to “put to death…what is earthly…”  In the verses above, he goes on to give us a general (not exhaustive) list of what he is referring to as “earthly.”  Paul gives the strongest warning to the Colossians (and to us) against these sins, namely, “On account of these the wrath of God is coming.”  In other words, an unchecked life of sin, a habitual life of sin invites the wrath of God upon itself.  As one theologian has rightly said, habitual sinning is tantamount to “spiritual suicide.”

“Be killing sin, or it will kill you.” John Owen

“Be killing or it will be killing you,” John Owen writes in his book, The Mortification of Sin inspired by Romans 8:13 which reads, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  Even though we have died with Christ and have been raised with Him unto newness of life, the old man still remains in us and seeks to regain control of our lives.  We must constantly be on our guard and fighting against remaining sin.  We are to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) and “be all the more eager to make our calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10) by putting to death the old man so that the life of Christ might be more clearly manifested in us.  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for He has not left us to pursue Christlikeness on our own and in our strength.  While verse 12 of Philippians 2 (and other passages like it) rightly urge us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling,” verse 13 of the same chapter reminds and encourages us that “it is God who is at work in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

The call to pursue a Christlike life demands that we exercise utmost care and utter dependence on the Lord who alone is able to supply us the spiritual resources that we need to battle against sin in our lives.  Praise be to His Holy Name that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3).  We have the Holy Spirit living within us and He will fight for us even as we fight with Him against the flesh.  As Paul writes in Galatians 5:16-17, we are to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” 

While the battle against sin still rages, we have the confidence that in Christ our victory is sure for He has conquered the power of sin through His sacrificial death on the cross for us.  Therefore, when we find ourselves to have fallen into sin, we can run back to the Lord pleading for forgiveness with a repentant heart with confidence not in ourselves, but in the Lord Jesus Christ who is our “Advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1).  We can say with Micah in confidence:

“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.  I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me.  He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication” (Micah 7:8-9)

“Behold, The Lamb of God…”

Those were the words of John (inspired by the Holy Spirit) when he saw the Lord Jesus Christ according to his own account in John 1:29, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

What John said about Jesus in this verse is very important for us all to grasp.  The truth contained in these words concerning Jesus matter for all eternity.  Simply put, John is telling us that Jesus is the only One who has the power to take away our sins.  Jesus is the only One who can forgive us all of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  In Jesus, we have redemption in His blood, the forgiveness of sin according to the abundance of His glorious grace (Ephesians 1:7).  It is Jesus alone who can cleanse our guilty consciences by His blood which was shed for us on the cross (Hebrews 9:9, 11-14).

In referring to Christ as the “Lamb of God,” John identifies Jesus as the One to whom all the Old Testament sacrifices pointed.  Jesus is the Great Sacrifice by which the sin of man is atoned for and by which man is reconciled to God.  Matthew Henry, commenting on this verse writes:

Of all the legal sacrifices he chooses to allude to the lambs that were offered, not only because a lamb is an emblem of meekness, and Christ must be led as a lamb to the slaughter (Isa. 53:7), but with a special reference, [1.] To the daily sacrifice, which was offered every morning and evening continually, and that was always a lamb (Ex. 29:38), which was a type of Christ, as the everlasting propitiation, whose blood continually speaks. [2.] To the paschal lamb, the blood of which, being sprinkled upon the door-posts, secured the Israelites from the stroke of the destroying angel. Christ is our passover, 1 Co. 5:7. He is the Lamb of God; he is appointed by him (Rom. 3:25), he was devoted to him (ch. 17:19), and he was accepted with him; in him he was well pleased. The lot which fell on the goat that was to be offered for a sin-offering was called the Lord’s lot (Lev. 16:8, 9); so Christ, who was to make atonement for sin, is called the Lamb of God.

But there is something else that John wants us to see – rather something that he wants us to do in response to the fact that Jesus Christ is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  John wants us to cast the eye of faith upon the Lord Jesus Christ and trust Him alone for forgiveness and cleansing from sin.  Henry’s comment on this sums it all:

It is our duty, with an eye of faith, to behold the Lamb of God thus taking away the sin of the world. See him taking away sin, and let that increase our hatred of sin, and resolutions against it. Let not us hold that fast which the Lamb of God came to take away: for Christ will either take our sins away or take us away. Let it increase our love to Christ, who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, Rev. 1:5. Whatever God is pleased to take away from us, if withal he take away our sins, we have reason to be thankful, and no reason to complain.

And so with John’s testimony concerning Jesus, comes the call of faith to all sinners.  John is calling us all to look to Christ and be saved.  We are not to look to ourselves, but to Christ and Him alone.  We must not look to our families, but to Christ alone.  We must not look to our congregations or denominations.  No, we must all look to Christ and Christ alone.  Not once, not twice, but always!  It must be Christ and Christ alone!  He alone is the One who is able to cleanse us from our sin!  He is the ONLY perfect and acceptable Lamb of God’s own choosing.  He alone is the Author and Perfector our faith who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross and despised the shame and is now seated at the right hand of God Almighty (Hebrews 12:2) where He intercedes for us daily.

The gospel call to us all is, “Look to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!  For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22).

“Not Ashamed of the Gospel”

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

Over the next few days, I would like to focus our discussion on the gospel.  A few days ago, I posted some videos by John PiperMichael Horton, and Jefferson Bethke talking about this very important subject.  I encourage you to revisit them if you haven’t already or if you simply don’t have enough time to read this blog.  But I hope that you will take some time to consider with me Paul’s words recorded for us in Romans 1:16-17.

“Not Ashamed of the Gospel” – Paul begins verse 16 by making this bold statement that he is “not ashamed of the gospel.”  O, how we need such courage and bravery today.  It is a terrible blight in our day that there are not enough men whose backbones are strong enough to stand up for anything.  There are not enough men who are bold enough to stand up for their convictions regardless of the cost!  That’s tragic!  Paul was a different kind of man.  It is worth noting that he was writing these words from Rome where he had been imprisoned for the sake of the gospel before his death!  Even though he knew that this bold statement would be considered outrageous by many in his day and that it would get him into further trouble, nothing could stop him from declaring his position on the gospel.  He was unstoppable!  He was the kind of person who would just make his opponents mad!  They couldn’t silence him!  For as long as he could breathe, he was determined to make this gospel known to the nations!

A Bold Statement:  The gospel “is the power of God for salvation!”  Here is the crux of the matter!  The reason Paul was so bold and unstoppable with respect to the gospel was because he so believed that the gospel “is the power of God for salvation” for all men (Jews and Gentiles alike).  Paul had been given this conviction by the Holy Spirit.  He once was lost but now was found.  Once, he was blind to the glories of the gospel and its liberating power through Jesus Christ.  But now he could see because the Lord was pleased to remove the scales from his eyes (Acts 9:1-19).  He personally experienced this very truth – that the gospel is indeed the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (emphasis added). 

A Sincere Confession:  Some background to Paul’s life as a Jew would be helpful here because for him as a Jew, this was not only a bold statement.  It was also a sincere confession.  As a Jew, he had been taught that his salvation rested in his personal obedience to the Torah and all its stipulations as set forth at Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19).  He once considered himself “blameless” with respect to “righteousness under the law” (Philippians 3:6).  Paul, with permission from the Jewish high priest, was determined to persecute Christians.  Any good Jew, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ crucified for sinners, was a “stumbling block” (1 Corinthians 1:22).  Anyone who endeavored to preach this gospel was not only weak but also a great enemy to the entire Jewish establishment.  But when Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus, he was radically changed and by the grace of God, he wholeheartedly embraced the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for himself!

First, the focus of his life changed!  From that point on, he learned to “glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).  From a purely legalistic, moral and physical perspective, Paul had more than enough reasons to boast (glory) in the flesh.  Yet, he considered all that “loss for the sake of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:7).   In verse 8 of Philippians 3, Paul refers to this as “refuse” or “dung!”  That’s how disgusted he was with his own righteousness according to the law?  Why?  Was it because the law is bad?  Of course not!  In Romans 7, Paul himself makes a very strong defense of the law.  No!  It was not because Paul thought that the law was bad.  Rather, it was because Paul had discovered that his “righteousness according to the law” was like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) before God.  He realized that all those “good things” (i.e. his Jewish descent and his adherence to the law), were not good enough to commend him before God for salvation (Philippians 3:1-14).

Secondly, the passion of His life changed!  He was willing even to suffer for the sake of this gospel.  He was changed from a persecutor to a preacher of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Christ had now become the singular passion of his life as he himself writes in Philippians 3:8-9, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (emphasis added).  That was Paul’s confession as a changed Jew!  Praise be to the Lord for that!

So when Paul writes in Romans 1:16-17, he knows exactly what he is talking about because he was personally a beneficiary of this wonderful gospel of God’s grace.  He wants to tell us that God has put His saving power in His gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and not anywhere else!  Thus, we may safely conclude that salvation does not, cannot and will not come to us (as sinful creatures) through any other way but through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ which tells us that nothing in us or about us can commend us before God for salvation.  Even our very best deeds, are “like filthy rags” before God, yes “dung” – so ugly, worthless and disgusting!  But thanks be to God that that’s not the end of the story!

“The Just Shall Live By Faith”- By trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are given a new (yes, a REAL) righteousness, a “righteousness from God!”  Paul writes, “For in it (in the gospel), the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (parenthesis added) – Romans 1:17.  In other words, this gospel announces to us that a new kind of righteousness which does not depend on us but on God Himself is being offered to sinners like you and me!  This gospel announces to us release from bondage to the law.  This gospel calls us to trust God for our salvation.  This gospel offers us salvation by faith alone in Christ alone!  This gospel is the world’s best news!  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)!   We need to hear and believe it as does every person on the face of the earth!  As it is written, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).  It’s only by trusting in Jesus Christ that one is saved from sin and from the eternal wrath of God.  That’s why the gospel also called “Good News!”  Praise the Lord through Jesus Christ!

In my next post, I plan to move our discussion on this important subject along.  Lord willing, I shall attempt to answer the question, “What Constitutes Saving Faith?”

Rejoicing in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!  I pray that you are too!  See you tomorrow, God willing!