Tag Archives: Justification

A Perfect Saint for Recipe (Good) Friday

Last year for Good Friday I posted a different sort of recipe. It was a recipe for Redemption and the Bread of Life. This year I had another idea for a special Good Friday recipe.

The Perfect Saint

Ingredients:

1 sinner justified by faith
The Holy Spirit
1 lifetime

Directions:

The first part of this recipe comes as a gift from God. “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” Romans 3:28 (NIV). It happens in an instant when the sinner believes in Jesus as their Savior.

Once the sinner is justified, the Holy Spirit dwells within their heart and begins the lifelong process of sanctification. This process cannot be rushed but must happen in step with the Spirit of God. “He who began a good work in [this justified sinner] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV).

At the end of the lifetime of the justified sinner, he or she will stand before God as the perfect saint, clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

Although a single recipe for the Perfect Saint causes the angels to sing and our Lord to smile, each Saint is enhanced by the support and prayers of other Saints, a community of the children of God.

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:10-14 (NIV).

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Works of Service Don’t Earn Salvation

It is clear in scripture that God has work for His people to do, but what is the purpose of those works and what do they accomplish? In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul explains the purpose of works:

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV).

The works that God has given us to do are not for the purpose of earning our salvation. Paul is talking here to those who are already God’s people by faith in Christ before the works are appointed. But the work He has appointed for us – that the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are called to prepare us for – are for the purpose of building each other up, for strengthening the faith and knowledge of His people so that they might know the fullness of the blessing of salvation and eternal life. The works of service that God has set before us are for the purpose of helping His people to trust in Him each day and to bring us together in unity.

There is nothing in the whole of scripture that suggests that our works of service will gain for us salvation or peace.

I am thinking today about Martin Luther because tomorrow is Reformation Sunday. Martin Luther was a monk who is considered the father of the Reformation. Of his years as a monk he remarked, “If anyone could have gained heaven as a monk, then I would indeed have been among them.” Yet throughout this time he felt no peace with God and believed that he was far from Christ. He lived in constant fear of God and hell, wondering if he had done enough, if he had been good enough, to earn salvation. He tried, in vain, to find an assurance of salvation in his works of service.

His superior at the monastery ordered that he pursue an academic career and so Luther began his academic career, as a student and then professor, at the University of Wittenberg. It was during this time that he studied the book of Romans and came to understand the doctrine of justification by faith. It was only then that he found peace with God as he understood the assurance of salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Christ. He came to the point where he could honestly say, “Is it not wonderful news to believe that salvation lies outside ourselves?” And it is wonderful news, indeed, that we need not earn our own salvation.

That is what the Reformation was all about. The Church had become corrupt. The common people were denied the ability to read the scriptures for themselves and were taught that they would pay for their sins in purgatory when they died. But they could avoid such penalty by paying indulgences to the Church, in essence buying their own salvation. Luther opposed this practice and fought for the Gospel when he hung his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church, calling for a public debate of his arguments made in that document.

Because of his actions, and his refusal to recant what he believed the scriptures clearly taught, Luther was eventually excommunicated from the Catholic Church. But he had found peace with God, knowing that he was justified by his faith alone and so his excommunication did not matter to him. He certainly did work as a pastor and teacher so that the body of Christ might be built up and God’s people might attain the full measure of the fullness of Christ, but he never again worked to earn his salvation. He knew that it was a gift of God.

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Fighting for Joy – A Book Review

A couple of months ago my fellow blogger Pr. Bryan Lowe over at Broken Believers posted a book review of “When the Darkness Will Not Lift” by John Piper. I commented on his post that it looked like a great book and that I should add it to my already long reading list. His reply was, “Not getting it is NOT an option.” I heeded his directive and bought it that same day from Amazon.com. I am so glad I did because he was right. Not reading this book is not an option for anyone who has struggled with depression or knows someone who has or is.

Piper’s short work (only 79 pages) was written as a single chapter in a larger book, but then was also published separately. I may have to get the larger book, but for now I want to share with you a snippet of the wisdom I found in this book.

First and foremost, Piper recognizes that he cannot possibly plumb the depths of his subject – fighting for joy in Christ when depression will not go away – and that the causes and cures of depression are as varied as the people who suffer with it. His work is a starting point, and a good one at that.

What I liked best about this book is that in the Introduction Piper lays a groundwork in the Christian faith that I believe is easily forgotten in the mind of someone with depression (and is often not understood by Christians generally). He explains the difference between justification and sanctification, cautioning that the two not be confused or combined because keeping them separate is the foundation of “fighting for joy like a justified sinner.” (Piper, pg. 14).

He explains justification in this way:

The biblical truth of justification says that my rescue from sin and God’s wrath is first a legal rescue, and only then a moral one. First, I am legally absolved of guilt and credited with a righteousness that I don’t have. That is, I am declared righteous in the courtroom of heaven, where God sits as judge, and where I, without justification, would stand condemned by his law. That’s what the word “justify” means: not make just, but declare just. (Piper, pg.14-15).

Justification happens the moment we believe Jesus died for our sins and trust in Him as our Lord and Savior. Nothing we do thereafter changes our legal status in heaven.

Sanctification, on the other hand, takes much longer, sometimes a lifetime. It is the process by which the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the heart of the believer, slowly but surely changes who we are to be more like Christ. We often “lament,” Piper says, that the change occurs so slowly and we have failed in being perfect once again.

Piper further explains the difference between justification and sanctification:

Both justification and sanctification are gifts from God. Both are bought by the blood of Christ. They are inseparable, but different. Both are by faith alone. Justification is by faith alone because only faith receives the declaration that we, the ungodly, are counted righteous. Sanctification is by faith alone because only faith receives the power to bear the fruit of love. (Piper, pg. 18).

In the first chapter proper, Piper clearly stresses that depression can often have a medical cause. Sometimes other chronic illness or pain can lead to depression. The body, mind, and soul are all interconnected. He states that those who fight for joy but for whom the darkness does not lift can nonetheless truly be Christians. This is an important chapter to read for Christians who are unfamiliar with depression and might be tempted to tell a depressed person that if they truly had faith they could snap out of their depression. Often it is just not that easy.

If all you did was read the introduction to Piper’s book, you would be blessed. If you read on through chapter 1, you’d be doubly blessed. But he goes on to share so much more with so few words. In the interest of space, I won’t go into depth on any of the points in the rest of the book. Piper shares some tips to help someone struggling with spiritual or physical depression to fight for the joy of Christ, and they are all relevant at one time or another in the life of both Christians and non-Christians. He relates his points with some great stories, too.

After reading this book, I agree wholeheartedly with Pr. Lowe: “Not getting it is not an option.” It’s only $7.99 on Amazon.com and well worth the money and the time it takes to read it.

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Sin, Redemption, and Grace – My Tuesday Three

This is week two of “My Tuesday Three,” and I am so excited about what I’ve found for this week. As I determined to find three separate but related posts, I was blessed to have God lead me to the perfect three for this week. They all touch on the themes of sin, redemption, and grace, but from different perspectives. I am pleased to share these posts with all of you, and hope you are as blessed by the message of hope that they bring as I was.

The first post I want to showcase is titled Saddened by My Fallenness by Pastor Bryan Lowe over at Broken Believers. I’ve been reading Bryan’s blog for quite some time, and he has a wonderful ministry for Christians struggling with mental illness, though his posts are equally uplifting for all Christians. This particular post really spoke to me in its brutal honesty. From the first paragraph Bryan revealed such truth about what I have come to know about myself without God:

Scripture never flatters the human heart.  It acts on us directly, “dividing the spirit from the soul.”  I find no glowing review of our common humanity, nothing leads me to draw any other conclusion.  At our deepest essence, we are depraved, separated from truth and goodness.

He goes on to explain that it is those who recognize and mourn their own sinful and depraved heart whom Christ came to save and whom God comforts and heals. We must never think that we are completely cured of our depravity, but must continually turn to God for strength and healing. Bryan concludes with a wonderful quote from Martin Luther, but you’ll have to go check out the post to read it.

The second post that I want to showcase is titled The Good Shepherd: Tending a Blemished Flock by Chris Yeager at Chris Yeager Writes Blog. I found Chris’ blog because he submitted a poem to Idylls for the King, the Christian literary blog I contribute to. I read a few of his posts, which were all wonderful. But this one in particular struck me as one I wanted to include in My Tuesday Three because it fit so well with Bryan’s post, and then the third post I found later fit wonderfully, too. This post also includes the cutest picture of his young daughter and a story of her getting in trouble and locking herself in the bathroom that perfectly illustrates our relationship with God when we sin and don’t know how we will ever be able to make it right. Chris writes:

It is very easy for us to lock ourselves away from God and fear what He will think of us if we open up the door.  Our sin or disobedience can seem so great that we would rather try to hide it away and hope that He will ignore us.  But God is a seeker…He is a good shepherd who finds His sheep wherever they may try to lose themselves. He is the healer and redeemer, cleansing us of our blemishes so we can stand before Him unashamed. 

It is when we know we have done wrong, and that we can’t do anything to make it better on our own, that we must turn to God for redemption. God knows our depraved hearts, and yet He loves us enough to send His only Son to die for our sins so that we could be redeemed.

The third post that I want to showcase is titled Abraham and David: Saved By Grace by Loren at Answers From The Book. I’ve been reading Loren’s blog for some time, and always learn something new. His posts are well supported by scripture and always encouraging. This post rounds out My Tuesday Three by reminding us of how we, depraved as we are, can nonetheless be justified before God through His grace. He starts with the Old Testament stories of Abraham and David that Paul points to in Romans 4. Neither Abraham nor David was perfect, but both were justified by faith in God. Loren points out that both of these men were perfect examples to cite to the Jews Paul was writing to, because no Jew would have argued that either was not justified before God.

But what did David claim was the basis for his Justification before God? Certainly not works or strict adherence to the Law. David had committed murder and adultery (2 Samuel, Chapter 11). Yet in Psalm 32 . . . he described the blessed man not as the one who was without sin, nor the one who had worked to earn God’s favor, but the one whose iniquities were forgiven and whose sins were covered.

In spite of our depraved heart and the sins we commit, we can be justified before God because of His abounding grace; because Jesus has forgiven and covered our sins. Our salvation is a gift from God and He alone is glorified when we are saved by grace alone.

Taken together, these three posts tell the whole story. Mankind is depraved and sinful by nature, and though we think we can hide from God or try to repay our own debt, the truth is that our redemption is only available because of the grace of God offered to those who recognize their sinful condition and need for a savior, and choose to rely in faith on Jesus Christ.

I know I cannot save myself, and neither can you. But God loves us anyway and has made a way for us to be redeemed through faith. Do you understand the wickedness of your own heart? Have you tried to hide from God or turned to Him for redemption and healing? Are you trying to earn your own salvation or do you know the joy of being justified by grace alone? I pray that, if you don’t yet know the grace of God, you will read these three wonderful posts and that the Holy Spirit will grant you understanding of the awesome truths they reveal.

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