Posts Tagged ‘Sin’

Have you ever considered how the idea of reformation is actually a very popular part of everyday life? Think about it. On the news, in the papers, and at school, we’re alway hearing about reforming this or reforming that.  Whether it’s education reform, tax reform, tort reform, healthcare reform, you name it. Reformation is a big deal. And it was the same way during the Protestant Reformation as well.

Toward the end of the middle ages, there was huge a push toward what can best be described as ‘moral reform.’ The fact is, people in those days (not so different from our own) were in the habit of misbehaving. And so Renaissance humanist leaders like Erasmus (d. 1536) led the cause for shaping people up. It was broadly understood that people’s main problem was that they were immoral and thus needed to be taught better manners. And although many of these humanist leaders were themselves part of the Catholic church, they didn’t want to focus on doctrine so much. Their great concern was to make sure people lived better, more upstanding, lives in society.

Cutting a sharply contrary line in the sand, the Protestant Reformation offered a radically different message.  The Reformers recognized that no matter how big man’s problems might be, no matter how messed up his social ills, no matter how bad his manners, indeed no matter how much social reformation may indeed have to be done, the greatest, most primary and acute problem for man in all the world is his sin before God.

This was as classic case of ‘cutting to the chase.’ Yes, man is a mess! But any and all attempts at fixing him are like putting a bandaid on a mortal wound. Before man can make any progress before God and with his neighbor, he must first deal with his guilt. His sin is a big deal — no, it is the big deal. And this was the storm center of the Protestant Reformation, the eye of the hurricane that would rock history. And it was forensic in character. Man needed righteousness before God his maker, and all he had was guilt.

Standing himself, with this question, too, before the face of God, the Calvinist was so impressed with the holiness of God that the consciousness of guilt immediately lacerated his soul, and the terrible nature of sin pressed on his heart as with an intolerable weight….

To the de profundis (Latin “out of the depths” from Ps. 130) with which, thirty centuries ago, the soul of David cried unto God, the troubled soul of every child of God in the sixteenth century still sounded a response with undiminished power. The conception of the corruption of sin as the source of all human misery was nowhere more profound than in Calvin’s environment. – Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, p. 55.

Guilt before man is bad enough. But guilt before God leaves no way of progress anywhere else. It is the cause of every evil and sinful thing. It is even the cause of our relative guilt before other men.  For, if we remember in the beginning (Gen. 3), after incurring guilt before God, Adam and Eve also felt shame between themselves.  Forensic, judicial, legal, guilt, therefore, is at the root of all other sin and the cause of every subsequent relational and social evil. If we have guilt before God, we cannot love our neighbor. And most importantly, if we have guilt before God, we cannot love and worship our Maker, who is to be forever praised. Amen!

And this, we see, is where the Protestant Reformation entered upon the scene proclaiming (with Paul and all those other faithful witnesses who had gone before) a righteousness that is from faith onto faith (cf. Rom. 1:17). A righteousness that is entirely a gift of God (Rom 5:16-18) by grace alone (Eph. 2:8), to be received through faith alone (Rom. 4:6), in Christ alone.

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Rom. 3:21-22).

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Anselm_of_Canterbury“Come, then, while life remains in you. In his death alone place your whole trust; in nothing else place any trust;….with this alone cover yourself wholly; and if the Lord your God wills to judge you, say: Lord, between your judgment and me I present the death of our Lord Jesus Christ; in no other way can I contend with you. And if he shall say that you are a sinner, say: Lord, I interpose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my sins and you. If he should say that you deserve condemnation, say: Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my evil deserts and you, and his merits I offer for those which I ought to have and have not. If he says that he is angry with you, say: Lord, I oppose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between your wrath and me. And when you have completed this, say again: Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and you.” – Anselm of Canterbury (1033- 1109) 

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I’ve been thinking a bit lately about justification as well as other doctrines which I believe are at the heart of the Christian faith and gospel.  One of these is the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ unto the believer.  This is where Christ’s perfect righteousness, shown in his perfect obedience to God the Father during his life on earth, is given (gifted) to those who believe in him.  All of Christs good works, get credited to the sinner, who hasn’t done any good works, but merely looks to Christ alone in faith.

“And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” (Rom 4.5)

Now let me ask you. Do you find this idea and easy one?  Is it something you would just pass by and say “Yeah, I’ve heard that along time ago.  It’s no big deal”?  Or do you find that you’ve overlooked this concept, and that upon further investigation find it a bit out of the ordinary?  Extravagant maybe?  Amazing grace, maybe?

So let me ask you.

If the Son of God, who is beyond all things glorious and beautiful, who’s life alone is worth more to God then all the galaxies combined, who’s one drop of blood was enough to pay for the sins of the whole world, who’s works of righteousness deserve glorious rewards of riches in heaven along with eternal life; if he offered to you, with outstretched hand, all the merit of his righteousness (though you have done nothing for it, and in fact have done everything to deserve the opposite); if he offered it to you, all of this, would you take it?  Would you accept it?

Or would you wait until you had offered up enough good works of your own – your own obedience?

Well Let me tell you right now, if you attempt to work towards righteousness yourself, your efforts will prove futile though you live to be a thousand years old.  Your righteousness will never work. It will always fail.  You may try and try again.  But it will be useless.  Why?  Because you’re a sinner.  I’m a sinner.  We’re all sinners.  And what’s that got to do with anything, one may ask?  It means we’ve been infected with a disease which makes all our efforts contaminated and faulty.  What’s more, most of the time we don’t even want to do good things, let alone doing them for the right reasons. And it’s a fatal disease, with 100 percent mortality rate,  which we’ve all been infected with from birth.  So basically, (I know it sounds fatalistic) but we’re doomed.  We’re hopeless and helpless.  All going to die!

But this is where Christ’s work comes in.  In the same way that Adam’s disobedience (when he ate the forbidden fruit in garden of Eden) infected all his children with with sin and thereby brought death to them all, Christ’s OBEDIENCE has been imputed to all his children by grace and thereby brings life to them all!

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5.17)

“The free gift of righteousness.”  WOW!  That is just huge!

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5.18-19)

So let me ask you again?  If Christ were to offer to you his obedience (with all it’s worth) free of charge — all of grace — and all you would have to do is accept the gift — would you do it?  Would you open and outstretch your hands to receive this precious gift? Or would you deny him this generosity.  Would you believe the Son of God, when he says he has “given up his life as a ransom for many,” rr would you turn away in unbelief, thinking there may be another way.  Would you recognize God’s righteous declaration that you are a sinner deserving eternal death in hell and that your only hope for salvation is in the righteousness of another — namely Jesus Christ, or would you scorn this free offer of salvation. Let me put it to you as seriously and yet as lovingly and yet as truthfully as I can… Your life depends on it.

The Word of Christ tells us,

“[T]o the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,” (Rom 4.5)

Paul later tells us,

“It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Rom 4.24b-25)

But now to you who have believed in Christ, who have trusted in him alone for your righteousness and salvation, let me tell you take heart.  For just as surely as in your physical birth you inherited your sin nature (which I’m sure you are somewhat familiar) with all it’s debts which bring about death, so too in your spiritual birth (upon believing in Christ) you have now inherited the righteousness of Christ with all it’s merits which lead to eternal life.

This is the gospel!  And this is the grace of God to us in Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

“Let us rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” and in this way glorify Him who has done these things for us, and who alone deserves praise forevermore. Amen.

open hands

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